If you’ve decided to skip the gruelling hours in the gym and the salad-based diet and go straight to the resolution relapse this January, don’t judge yourself too harshly. We reckon a new year is just as good an opportunity to challenge ourselves in an entirely new way – and with that in mind, we’ve come up with a selection of ideas for how to expand your horizons, with everything from embroidery to survival, skiing to flying…

Capture the moment

Bristol Folk House

In this world of smartphones, Instagram and instant editing, traditional photographic techniques have fallen out of the limelight. But Bristol Folk House, home to seemingly limitless courses in every discipline, has recently opened a purpose-built darkroom and now offer a series of five or 10-week film photography lessons. Create black and white, gum bichromate and cyanotype prints to rival even the most exotic snapchat filter – and if you already know your way around the camera, book an assisted session in the darkroom to develop your snaps.


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Stitch up a storm

Royal School of Needlework

Bristol Embroidery is enjoying a resurgence of popularity both in interior design and fashion at the moment, so why not learn the ropes yourself? If cosying up with your own fledgling project sounds like your thing, the Royal School of Needlework is the place to go, given its international reputation as a centre of embroidery excellence. The wide range of short courses includes appliqué, silk shading, metalwork and a number of other traditional techniques. Students can then go on to study for a certificate and diploma in technical hand embroidery.


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Go wild

Survival School Bristol

The idea of living alone in the wilderness has become increasingly appealing over the last 12 months, and luckily we know just the people to prepare us for life in the great outdoors. The folks at Survival School run a weekly adult evening class covering all manner of skills including foraging for edible and medicinal plants, fire lighting, string and rope making, trap setting, weaving and shelter making. Once you’re confident in the basics, you can make like Bear Grylls and put them to the test with an overnight stay in the wild.


Bristol Courses and WorkshopsImage © Base Camp Festival

Fly high

Bristol Flight School

Alternatively, you could choose to fly away from all the trials and tribulations – we’re not quite promising a move to Mars, but taking to the skies might just be the perfect shake-up during the grey, post-Christmas lull. Bristol Flight School offers a trial lesson to get you started, and from there you can work towards a private pilot’s licence through lessons in the air and on the ground with highly experienced tutors. It’s not for the faint-hearted (or perhaps the easily nauseated) but thrill seekers will be hard pushed to find a more exhilarating hobby.


Hit the slopes

Mendip Snowsport Centre

The lure of the black slopes is strong, but any good skier knows it takes a lot of practice to work up to the more demanding routes ­­­– unless you want a Bridget Jones-esque disaster. Thankfully Mendip has a number of centres across the South West, offering ski, snowboarding and tobogganing lessons from the absolute basics up, with specialist trainers also on hand for disabled participants. It won’t be long before you’re getting some serious air – Eddie the Eagle, eat your heart out.


Get cooking

Little Kitchen

So you’ve nailed the omelette, cheese on toast and – wait for it – beans on toast, but if it’s time to expand your culinary repertoire, Little Kitchen offer a variety of hands-on courses to get you started. Weekly ‘Kitchen Classics’ sessions include beef stroganoff, chicken filo pie and sweet and sour pork, while the street food series takes you to the Caribbean, India, Vietnam, Morocco and Mexico. Craving more? There’s a whole host of one-off evening lessons and school holiday courses for little ones and teens too – farewell, ready meals!


Bristol Courses and WorkshopsImage © jimmyimage.uk

Put pen to paper

Bristol Write Club

“Would this make a good book…” we ponder most days, with little knowledge about how to transform our illegible scribbles into the next Game of Thrones. Bristol authors Alison Powell and Emily Koch would be sure to know, with their monthly writing workshops, dedicated to sharing useful strategies, discussing ideas and thinking creatively to help tease your would-be novel onto the page. Kick-start a new project this month with their all-day writing retreat on 14 January.


New Skills

Strengthen your core

Soul Pilates

Limitless chocolate and endless roast dinners are the order of the day during the festive season, so if you’re in need of a wellbeing boost, we thoroughly recommend an energetic pilates session. Soul Pilates go beyond the mat with specialist machines, props and ballet barre sessions for all abilities, the latter combining the elegance of ballet with the precision of pilates. Founder Nic also focuses on rehabilitation for long-term pain and injury, with private tuition available for specific needs and a strong ethos of finding ‘pain-free movement’ for all ages.


New Skills

Roll up, roll up


If the thought of swinging upside down and flinging yourself through the air pushes your buttons, why not start the new year by quite literally running away to the circus? Total beginners can start off with the static trapeze or hoop, offering the perfect introduction to aerial skills, then progress to drops, tumbles and poses on the ropes and silks. Once you’ve honed your skills and built up your confidence, take to the grand volant for more exhilarating tricks. If the daily grind has lost its appeal after your descent, Circomedia offer qualifications from diplomas to a full master’s degree – who said ‘don’t quit the day job?’


Make a statement

Make It

There’s nothing cooler than an eye-catching, statement piece of jewellery to jazz up any outfit, and Kim at Make It offers the chance to create stunning pieces unique to you. Her small group workshops include stacking rings, earrings, pendants and beaded necklaces, offering students the opportunity to use specialised tools and learn new techniques in her contemporary silversmithing studio. Looking to tie the knot in the near future? You and your partner can also sign up to her best-selling silver wedding ring session.


New Skills

Find your inner artist

Paper Arts

Usually relegated to risqué comedy sketches, life drawing isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. And we’re not sure why, because we think celebrating the human form can only be a good thing – plus it allows budding artists, designers and even animators the chance to practice quick studies and observational skills. Paper Arts runs a weekly session for any ability, led by industry professional James Alexander from 6pm-8pm each Thursday.


Learn the lingo

International House Bristol

School hours spent reciting past participles and different ways to ask for cheese may seem like a lifetime ago now, but if you fancy speaking like a local on holiday, it’s never too late to learn. International House offer a range of familiar European language evening lessons including French, German and Italian, as well as Welsh, Arabic, Japanese and Russian, with discounted 10-week courses for GCSE and A-level students and over 65s. There’s also the chance to study abroad, allowing you to immerse yourself in the culture and try out your new catchphrases.


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Fire up the furnace

Creative Glass Guild

Freshen up your home and prepare for the glistening sunshine of spring with handmade stained glass and glittering ornaments – the perfect substitute for those boxed-up Christmas decorations. The folks at Creative Glass Guild lend their expertise as you take on traditional methods of glass painting, fusing and engraving, or try your hand at copper foiling – the technique used to create Tiffany glass lamps and trendy terrariums (a geometric plant-pot alternative, don’t you know).


New Skills

Put your best foot forward

Salsa Souls

The Strictly Come Dancing team may have hung up their glittering costumes for another year, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Spice up the winter months with Salsa Souls, who offer weekly lessons to beginners, improvers and advanced dancers of any age. Nail the bachata, mambo and back step and get those figure of eight hips working, then show it all off during the freestyle sessions at the end of each class. Can’t get enough? Their Friday salsa parties are second to none, so don your dancing shoes and show ’em how it’s done!


Bottoms up

Wine and Spirit Education Trust

We know we’re not the only ones who fake our way through descriptions of ‘oaky flavours and fruity notes’ when asked to taste a wine, so if you fancy yourself a dinner party aficionado, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s Clifton branch is happy to hone your skills. Learn to recognise the sights, smells and tastes of different types, identify key characteristics such as acidity, sweetness and tannin levels and discover the basics of wine production, with qualifications up to a Level 4 Diploma available.


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Featured image © jimmyimage.uk