Kate Samuelson is a freelance journalist and the founder of CHEAPSKATE London, a free weekly newsletter curating the capital’s best free events including film screenings, plays, gigs, talks, workshops and more. At 26 years old, Kate came up with the concept of CHEAPSKATE London, and since launching the newsletter in May 2019 it has been featured in the Guardian, Time Out and the Evening Standard. CHEAPSKATE has grown to have over 4000 subscribers, with many finding it an invaluable resource that allows everyone to get the best out of London without breaking the bank. Kate Samuelson spoke to Roar about CHEAPSKATE London, her recent collaboration with Thrive LDN, and winning this year’s Print Futures Award and the Rising Star Award.
Roar: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
Kate: I’m a freelance journalist, I write for places like Stylist, TIME Magazine, where I used to work as a reporter, and I also work for the charity ActionAid. Last year I set up CHEAPSKATE London with a friend as a freelance project. Then, when I had the opportunity to move into a different role at ActionAid and go part-time, I decided to put a lot more effort into the newsletter to try to make it more than just a side hustle.
R: Is it just the two of you running the entire company? Is it difficult?
K: Yeah, and it is hard. There’s a lot to do, and also managing it with our other jobs can be time-consuming. But actually, because it’s our own thing and we really love it, it gives you that push to do it – so you don’t mind doing it on the weekend or in the evening, because you’re really passionate about it and what you put into it you get out of it.
R: Can you explain to our readers what CHEAPSKATE London is?
K: CHEAPSKATE is a free weekly newsletter that lists free events happening in London for the upcoming week, so it’s perfect for students. Events include film screenings, plays, workshops, talks, live music, comedy, and then quirky one-off events as well. That was the format of CHEAPSKATE for about a year, and then lockdown happened… so we decided to pivot and just focus on virtual events. It was a fairly smooth transition, and we got some really nice feedback from subscribers who were saying “it helped them still feel like their weeks had a purpose.”
R: How did you come up with the concept of CHEAPSKATE London?
K: I was living in London and not earning very much money, but still wanting to make the most out of the amazing things that the city has to offer. But London is also extremely expensive, and I found myself searching for information about free events but not really finding that much. I spoke to my friend about it and she thought it was a great idea, and it went from there. The idea is to make London more accessible to people. There are so many free events happening, but it is really difficult to find one single source listing that information. Also, some existing sources often promote events that sell out really quickly, but the idea of CHEAPSKATE is that when the newsletter arrives on a Monday, every event is still available to attend.
R: What would you say is your connection to the city? Why did you decide to promote free events in London?
K: That’s a really good question! I’m a Londoner, I was born here and grew up here, went to school here – so I absolutely love the city. I love that it’s so enormous, it’s almost like you have constant FOMO in London because there’s going to be amazing things happening all the time, but it’s hard to find out what they are at times. Hopefully, one day we’ll franchise, which is why it’s called CHEAPSKATE London and not just CHEAPSKATE, because the idea is to achieve world domination! And have CHEAPSKATE Amsterdam, CHEAPSKATE Manchester; that would be the dream.
R: In June, during loneliness awareness week, you collaborated with Thrive LDN, an organisation that seeks to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Londoners. Why did you decide to take part?
K: It felt like a really natural synergy with CHEAPSKATE when we were promoting virtual events, because during lockdown these events were a really positive thing for a lot of people, particularly those who lived alone, because it enabled them to feel part of a wider community. So, we suggested doing an Instagram takeover, and I contributed a blog to their website, which they were really receptive to. They were great to work with; they were so collaborative and enthusiastic. It was a really cool thing to be doing and Thrive do amazing work. They have lots of information about mental health, so they felt like a really natural partner for us.
R: I’d like to congratulate you on receiving this year’s Print Futures Award and the Rising Star Award. What do you think it means for CHEAPSKATE?
K: Thank you! It was great because both things happened at the beginning of lockdown, so it was a really nice motivation boost. The Rising Star Award was really nice as well, and that was after a public vote so it was a bit nerve-wracking… any kind of recognition from an external body really helps build trust in what is such a new company, and seeing it being recognised by places like the Printing Charity and WeAreTheCity helps give it press coverage, and a sense of trust and recognition.
R: What are the most memorable events you promoted, or activities you collaborated on in the past?
K: I’d definitely say the live event that we ran, which was our first own event with Brixton Life Drawing in May. Another really great free event that I went to that’s still running is the Mushrooms exhibition at Somerset House… that was really popular. And a few months ago, there was a free CBD maze in Covent Garden that had a lot of interest. Generally, the quirkier events tend to do well. The ones that make people think: “What? That sounds really cool!”
R: What plans do you have for CHEAPSKATE London in the future?
K: This year is all about growth, getting the word out there and getting more subscribers. Next year is going to be about bigger plans – but I don’t want to give too much away!
R: What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to start their own company?
K: I’d say, definitely do it, because why not? You’ve got nothing to lose. I think, be prepared to put lots of time into it, because what you put into it you get out of it – but there’s nothing more rewarding than doing your own thing and working for yourself.
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