Paid-for things they've made FREE – audiobooks, box sets, fitness classes, wellbeing apps and more
To help the millions of people stuck at home, one of the uplifting aspects of the current crisis is a number of companies have made stuff free that you normally pay for, for kids and grown-ups. Here's a round-up of some of the best we've seen, starting with a couple of new ones we've added:
1. New. Watch Lloyd Webber musicals for free, incl Cats
If you're missing nights out at the theatre, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is putting recordings of some of his biggest West End musicals on a new YouTube channel for anyone to watch for free.
A different show is released at 7pm each Friday, but is only available to watch for 24 or 48 hours (so you can catch up at the weekend). Previously there's been Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies. Keep an eye on the channel for announcements about future shows.
While you can pay to watch recordings of shows online for a few quid, (eg, Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall is available to rent via Amazon for £3.50), you could normally pay £100+ for a decent seat in the theatre. So under lockdown conditions, when streaming is as close as you can get to a live theatre experience, this is a decent freebie to take advantage of.
Similar to the above, the National Theatre is releasing full-length performances for you to stream on YouTube, every Thursday, and available to watch for seven days.
The current show is Frankenstein, which was directed by Danny Boyle, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. See the National Theatre website for full details.
Our Cheap Theatre Tickets guide has more ways to watch online for free, including Broadway shows such as Kinky Boots, and performances from London's Hampstead Theatre.
Amazon has put together a selection of free shows for children* on its Prime Video streaming service. You don't need to be an Amazon Prime member to view them, but you will need a (free) Amazon account.
There are shows for pre-school children, up to age 11. They include Amazon Originals such as Bug Diaries, Creative Galaxy and The Dangerous Book for Boys.
Until Wednesday 3 June, secondary school students can learn to code for free with Amazon Future Engineer (in partnership with Fire Tech, which normally charges £300 for similar courses aimed at teens).
There are 20 hours of free content (including how to control a drone), covering computer programming aspects in line with key stage 3 and 4 of the national curriculum. Amazon says by the end of the course, students will have solved problems of an equivalent level to GCSE computer science courses.
Amazon is offering an extended trial of its music streaming service for those who haven't tried it before. It's a decent freebie that lets you stream as much music as you like from more than 50 million tracks – for a whole two months longer than the standard 30-day trials we're more used to seeing.
To get it, sign up at Amazon Music* (newbies only), before the offer ends on Thursday 30 April. Make sure you cancel if you don't want to continue, as it's £9.99/month once the trial ends (£7.99 if you've Prime).
Roll out of bed and straight into hip-hop bootcamp with a 90-day free trial of fitness app Peloton (normally £12.99/mth). The company's known for its pricey exercise bikes, but you don't need one to get involved. Its app features thousands of studio-style classes such as yoga, bootcamp and cardio, live or on demand.
Sign up on the Peloton site. You can download the app on your iPhone, iPad, Android device, Fire TV or access the workouts on the web. See its app page for full details. Though don't forget, after your trial ends, you'll automatically be charged £12.99/mth – so remember to cancel if you don't wish to keep it.
7. Listen to 100s of kids' audiobooks, incl Harry Potter, Beatrix Potter and Winnie the Pooh (normally £11-£15)
With the majority of schoolchildren across the UK now learning from home, Audible has released a collection of audiobooks for free, which it says will be available 'for as long as schools are closed'.
Books include Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh and Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter.
If you (or your kids) prefer to read rather than listen, see our 11 cheap Kindle book hacks, including how to get any book from the Harry Potter series for free.
Every weekday at 9am, Joe Wicks (aka 'The Body Coach') is live-streaming a 30-minute PE class on his YouTube channel for free (his normal fitness plans are £97 for 90 days, though are currently on offer at £50). If you can't tune in then, don't worry – you can watch them back whenever you want.
If your kids are getting restless, this is a great way to get them burning off some energy while they're stuck indoors, and a fun way to start the day if you're home-schooling.
These popular meditation apps normally cost £50-£60/year for a subscription, but they've both released free content specifically to help those struggling with anxiety and stress at this time.
- Calm is offering 'soothing meditations', a 'calm masterclass', 'calm kids' and mindfulness resources. They're available via its website – see Calm's free content.
- Headspace has a collection called Weathering the Storm, which includes meditations, sleep and movement exercises. It's available on the app (for iPhone or Android), or you can access some of the content via the Headspace website.
The BBC has added loads of new content to stream on iPlayer, aimed at helping those stuck indoors. These include classic box sets, such as all 10 series of popular spy drama Spooks, plus Wallander, French & Saunders, Waking the Dead and The Missing.
This is all on top of its existing collection of box sets, including Killing Eve, Fleabag, Luther and Sherlock. Plus there are some decent films available, eg, Paddington 2, The Damned United and Source Code. So you may find there's no need to shell out £6-£12/mth for a Netflix subscription or similar.
While iPlayer is free, you'll need a TV licence to watch it. See our TV tricks guide for more ways to watch for free, and to cut the cost of streaming.
To help kids who are learning from home, educational software company Rosetta Stone is offering schoolchildren free access to its popular language courses for three months.
This is a decent freebie, as it normally costs £50 to sign up for three months. There are more than 20 languages to choose from, including French, German, Italian and Spanish. Rosetta Stone says that if you have more than one child you can sign up multiple times, you'll just need to use a different email address each time.
Carol Vorderman has announced that access to her maths school The Maths Factor will be free while schools are closed (normally £2/week). It's aimed at 4 to 11-year-olds and is matched to the national curriculum.
You can also access popular spelling app Sir Linkalot for free until 12 June 2020 (normally £6.99/mth). You'll need to sign up to its mailing list and you'll be sent a code for free access.
- Peter and the Wolf, The Royal Ballet, 2010
- Acis and Galatea, The Royal Opera, 2009
- Così fan tutte, The Royal Opera, 2010
- The Metamorphosis, The Royal Ballet, 2013
- Gloriana, The Royal Opera, 2013
- The Winter's Tale, The Royal Ballet, 2014 (available from 7pm, 1 May)
If you've more time on your hands (and access to a guitar), now could be a great time to learn a new skill. Guitar maker Fender has made its online guitar courses free for three months – but you'll need to nab a code. It's now increased the number available due to demand, and there were 300,000 left when when we checked on Thursday 23 April. The offer ends 31 May.
You can choose acoustic, bass, electric or ukulele, plus a variety of music styles (eg, blues, pop and rock).
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