Lunatic Asylum and Other Free Entertainment

Paid Reality

Everyone likes to have fun for free. Many get so irritated at the unforeseen contingency of having to pay for listening to or watching something that they apply considerable effort to sustain beneficial bonds with a network of useful friends who would occasionally procure a free pass for them, or else, they apply for a job that would enable then to be personally incorporated into the entertainment industry seeking free invitations to exhibitions, plays, and concerts. The above mentioned options would not suit those who rarely switch to free-riding mode.

If you want to be in the know of hidden treats and subtle moves in our disturbingly paid reality, first thing you must get into your head and keep there is: there is no 100% free entertainment. For instance, a free movie in a club entails the purchase of various beverages and snacks. At a free concert in a shopping mall, you will find a bunch of the singer’s CDs in your cart in spite of yourself. Even when you go to a cinema, you simply can’t help availing yourself of a bucket of popcorn, a vessel of liquid with a variable alcohol percentage according to individual predispositions, a promo t-shirt, etc. Thus there is no way the service providers could suffer a financial loss.

Free of Charge Values

Moscow museums remain the principle suppliers of full-fledged unpaid-for entertainment: a hefty dozen of them have free entrance, with excursions being the only paid-for services. It is noteworthy that the list is not exclusively underground or otherwise sub-cultural, e.g. the Russian Navy Museum at Admiral Makarov Street, an institution of impeccable repute and due patriotic bend, levies no admission fees although the museum’s collection features a wide array of most peculiar exhibits, ranging from 5th-10th-century anchors to Soviet shop-built ship models. The place is also equipped with a public library and a ship-modeling workshop. The Contemporary Museum of Calligraphy, Russia’s first institution of its kind dedicated to the art of beautiful handwriting, established in 2008, is also free of charge. Here you can treat your five senses with masterpieces by domestic and foreign calligraphy gurus featuring, naturally, Japanese, Syrian, and Israeli chefs d’oeuvre oozing with age long tradition, books on calligraphy, and even the unique handwritten copy of the Constitution of the Russian Federation created by the National Union of Calligraphers. Another must-go for all free-riders is the Alekseyev Moscow Mental Hospital #1, a.k.a Kashchenko or Kanatchikova Dacha’s History Museum. Only do not forget to contact the staff to make prior arrangements and remember that the museum is closed for summer. The place features old case histories, e.g. two pre-revolutionary bedroom charts; here you can learn about the tragic life of Nikolai Alekseyev, a soviet revolutionary activist, see the products of Moscow’s head asylum’s occupational therapy workshop. Other free-of-charge sights to see are: the Museum of Entrepreneurs, Patrons, and Benefactors at Don Street featuring, by the way, free consulting on essays, theses, and dissertations; Peoples' Museum of the Moscow Metro in the Southern Hall of the Sportivnaya Station; The History Museum of October Railway Moskva Station’s Locomotive Depot; the Sickle and Hammer Factory History Museum; and the Russian Forest Museum (the latter two are to be visited at preliminary notice). It is noteworthy that a number of paid museums have regular free days, e.g. the Fersman Mineralogical Museum at Leninsky prospekt has free Wednesdays, though one Wednesday would clearly not be enough to examine its thirteen thousand exhibits, but nobody said you cannot drop by every other Wednesday.

Once a year, on May 18th, people around the world celebrate International Museum Day marked by the free visit option at each and every museum. Even if the next May 18th happens to be a weekday, the museums never fail to attract multitudes incalculable and some institutions even have to introduce prior registration for the period. Museum Night has been introduced recently, timed to coincide with International Museum Day, when museums extend their open hours late into the night. On the night of May 16th, the Moscow Museum Night 2009 saw the State Tretyakov Gallery working till 10.00 pm and the Moscow Museum of Modern Art till 02.00 am, whereas the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts was opened only for free only within two hours in the evening, which provoked the crowds to assault it with the vigour of the 1917 revolutionaries storming the Winter Palace. The Moscow Kremlin ignored the night initiative although it had participated in the International Museum Day providing free access to all of its museums except for the Armoury, while the State Historical Museum connivingly posted an invitation to go on a virtual tour around the place but no actual admittance happened.

Free Cinema

Here the list features a unique event: on June 5th, the World Environment Day, at 07.00 pm, Sparrow Hills and Poklonnaya Hill will simultaneously premiere Luc Besson and Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Home movie dedicated to those parts of the Earth that are facing destruction. Free of charge, of course. In general, cinematic free-riders have two options: if they want to see the hottest stuff, they would have either to establish the right relations that would add your name to the right VIP list, or to avail themselves of a considerable stock of insolence and good luck; whereas if they just want a place to go to to see a movie and have a good time, they will have no problem with that. Usually, these are city clubs, ranked as intellectual and featuring, apart from the usual alco-musical menu, creative events, lectures, and movie showings.

For starters, Bilingua, Gogol, Apshu, Artefaq, Apartment 44, and Without Cause often participate in the Cinema Lounge project. The project’s website says you can watch a movie ranging from the Intellectual to Unfading Classics categories four days a week. The Jiao Da the Chinese Pilot restaurant has its own Cooker Cinema featuring Jan Voss, a journalist and cinefile, as host to his Sunday Unconventional Movies show. FAQ-Café also manages to provide quality showings at Tuesday midnights, which is an indisputable benefit to a certain class of cinema-goers. Free showings with unbelievably cheap popcorn (50 RUR per portion) daily occur in the Republic store at the 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya Street from 03.00 pm to 11.00 pm. The store’s official website announces, “If you are running late for a showing, no worries, just give us a call and perhaps others would consent to wait for you or to start watching the movie from the very beginning as soon as you arrive.” Finally, free cinema hunters should absolutely catalogue the contact details of all embassies' culture centres featuring regular national movies showings, e.g. the Korean Cultural Centre under the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Russia organizes 06.30 pm Friday showings while the German-Russian House has come up with cinema Thursdays.

Free Music

There exist three and a half ways to listen to live music for free in Moscow excluding the above-mentioned VIP-passes. The first one is free of charge in the full sense of the word: going to respectable concert halls without paying a penny. The Big and the Small Halls of the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory host free performances of its students and pupils from other music schools, while the Music College under the Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatoire’s concerts are always unpaid for. The same holds true for the Gnesins Russian Academy of Music and its College. The second one is pseudo-free of charge: going to clubs for the events marked as free. In this mode, you won’t be able to save all your money for you’ll find the temptation to catch the waiter by the sleeve and order a beer or something. Apshu’s Jazz Thursdays, B2's Jazz Hall, and Jiao Da the Chinese Pilot’s Monday Tandem really do provide free live music, and, having studied the show programmes of other Moscow clubs diligently, you’ll find something like that almost in every single hang-out. The transitional halfway is all about digesting promo concerts by young and not-so-young Russian artists at the Gorbushka Shopping Mall fighting the temptation to fish a CD or two from Gorbushka’s boundless audio-video seas and going to various theme clubs' gatherings. The latter seems to be closer to falling within the definition of a 100% free event; however, some of them bear certain extreme and alternative dressing. Nonetheless, some events retain peaceful and non-violent nature, e.g. the Dark Horses. News Russian Songs: Chicken and Horse’s Choice party was successfully held at the Red October factory on Museum Night. People got a free show hosted by media activists Chicken and Horse (disguised reporters) and featuring three bands proclaimed to be the Russian anti-folk stars. The organizers have promised to rock the place next year and urged us to follow latest online announcements.

The third way, which is a bit of a cheat but 100% legal: settling somewhere in the vicinity of a concert or festival venue where you could get in good earshot or even sneak a good peak at the event. For instance, each time a concert occurs at the Hermitage Garden, you can enjoy it at the neighbouring Tea House #1. You can equally enjoy open air jazz performances by choosing an advantageous location outside the Arkhangelskoye Estate. However, this technique is not applicable to indoor events.

Source: Dengi magazine, Kommersant PH