Arts and culture
Arts and culture are an important part of life in Exeter. The city is home to a diverse and dynamic arts and culture scene that sets it firmly on the map as the cultural centre of the South West; it’s what makes Exeter a vibrant place to live and study. It also plays a vital role in maintaining Exeter’s reputation as a thriving, flourishing and creative city.
As well as numerous independent theatres, the city centre is home to two multiplex cinemas, plus a pair of smaller independent cinema venues. There's an award-winning museum of national importance, plus a number of independent galleries dotted around the city, and a sizeable arts centre and creative hub right in the city centre.
The Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) was awarded Museum of the Year 2012 and has a wonderfully diverse collection of more than one million individual objects and specimens from across the globe, including over 8,000 objects in its Fine Art collection; an eclectic mix of paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints and sculpture by important British artists while also celebrating the Museum’s location in the South West of England.
RAMM collections contain items of local, national and international importance, and many are of outstanding historical or cultural significance. Its collections include antiquities; ethnography, which has achieved Designated Collection status; natural history; and decorative and fine arts. Within the museum visitors can explore collections that teach them about local history; local and overseas archaeology; world cultures; zoology; geology; conservation; and botany to name just a few.
Recently refurbished in spectacular fashion, the Museum has added a new gallery running parallel to the Roman Wall that has provided more space for temporary exhibitions. This has allowed Exeter to bring major national touring exhibitions to the region. Past exhibitions include ‘Faces of Conflict’, an exploration of the influence on artists and surgeons of the facial injuries suffered during the First World War, and ‘Selling Dreams: 100 Years of Fashion Photography’, exploring the range of approaches to fashion image-making from 1911 to 2011.
The RAMM also hosts the annual Express & Echo Local Art Show, which gives art groups and societies from Exeter and the surrounding area the chance to display their members work in an exhibition at the Museum. Shortlisted entries are featured in the Express & Echo and readers invited to vote on their favourite. The competition recognises, rewards and fosters creativity in the city.
The Exeter Phoenix is the city's principal cultural venue. Right in the heart of the city centre, it puts on hundreds of events each year, spanning all genres of music, art, film, theatre and comedy as well as a whole host of learning activities.
Housed in the former home of the University's Law School just off Gandy Street, the Phoenix includes a print workshop, radio station, digital hub, dance studios, a large auditorium for gigs and film screenings, and numerous exhibition spaces, as well as an excellent café bar.
The facilities, location, sound, bar, food, plus the diversity and quality of the acts The Phoenix attracts are all first rate, making it a cultural beacon for the South West.
The city centre is home to two large chain cinemas showcasing the usual blockbusters, but also offers plenty of alternatives for those wanting something a little different.
The Picturehouse is the place to go if you want to see arthouse films, world cinema, family and independent films, mainstream and cult movies. Every month E4 (www.e4.com), in partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas, screens a free film exclusively for students as part of their E4 Slackers Club. The club includes previews of the biggest new blockbusters to old-school classics, showing the best movies around.
The Bike Shed Theatre provides an award-winning programme of new work from emerging companies in the local area. Located in the heart of the city centre, the theatre includes a 60 seat subterranean auditorium and vintage cocktail tavern, which serves the most exquisite cocktails, local ale, cider, wines, as well as tea, coffee, and home cooked food made from locally sourced produce. You can also enjoy an eclectic range of live music, or one of their favourite electric DJs from across the South West.
Located in the historic Southernhay part of the city centre is the Exeter Barnfield Theatre, one of Exeter’s best kept secret! Run by a registered charity, it offers exemplary entertainment from theatre (local and international), comedy, and dance to the best in live music.
Situated on the University’s Streatham Campus, the Exeter Northcott Theatre is a 460 seat venue offering a mixed programme of touring theatre productions, contemporary dance, opera, music, comedy and family shows. The theatre is a creative leader for Exeter and the rest of Devon, offering a highly regarded platform for the best work by emerging and established local, regional, national and international artists.
The Exeter Corn Exchange, with its 500 capacity main hall, is one of the largest multi-purpose venues in the city centre. It runs a regular and varied programme of entertainment throughout the year including concerts, dances and comedy, from well-known stand-up comedians such as Jimmy Carr, Al Murray, and Rich Hall. The Exeter Corn Exchange is also host to the Exeter Record & CD Fair, a must for all music collectors, lovers and bargain hunters. The Fair’s hard earned reputation means it regularly attracts dealers from the UK, Europe, Canada and Japan.
Exeter’s Rougemont Castle and Gardens is the ideal location for outdoor events and has hosted the likes of Coldplay and La Roux. The courtyard and the backdrop of Northernhay Gardens provide an intimate and impressive backdrop for big names and local talent alike. The Castle also hosts an annual Oktoberfest event, which includes a wonderful weekend of live entertainment with a wide selection of locally produced beers and ale.
Spacex offers a diverse programme of exhibitions includes new commissions, projects and activities. A significant part of their programme is artist-led projects, events and research, taking place outside of the gallery, which has given them an international reputation for presenting ideas from some of the most daring and exciting artists working today. Gallery-based exhibitions span artists’ film and video, painting, photography, sculpture, installation and performance; with their learning programme providing ways for visitors of all ages to explore and engage with contemporary art.
Just off the high street on South Street, the South Gate Gallery is an independent family-run art gallery and picture framers offering a wide selection of affordable original, limited and open edition art, both framed and unframed.