To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published November 21st 2012
Who Needs Friends When You Can Become a Friend of a Gallery?
We Londoners are lucky that many of our museums and art galleries are free to attend, although charges may be made for various exhibitions. Most of these cultural institutions would have to charge for admission if they weren't subsidised. One of the ways in which they raise funds is by running a Friends' scheme. This means that individuals can sign up to these programmes, pay a fixed annual membership fee and enjoy a host of benefits.
One of my friends is a Friend of the V&A. For £64 per year she gets an initial welcome tour and has unlimited access (with up to four family children) to all exhibitions. She can also take in one guest, or add an additional card to her own, and she enjoys previews of all new events and galleries. She has free access to the Members' Room, gets a monthly e-newsletter and the V&A Magazine. When you consider that entry to the current Hollywood Costume exhibition costs £15.50 it's easy to see how quickly you can recoup your membership fee.
Another of my friends is a Friend of the Royal Academy. Her £90 annual membership guarantees her admission with another adult or four family members under 16. She has taken me into exhibitions for free and we've also enjoyed use of the Friends' rooms: so much more relaxing with comfy chairs and no queues. Members also get the RA Magazine, e-newsletters and invitations to talks and Friends Events.
Other organisations (to which none of my friends belong unfortunately) include:
Annual membership at The British Museum costs £55 and includes free fast-track entry to all exhibitions, with no pre-booking required. Members have their own regular publications, lectures, exclusive evening events and members' parties as well as the use of a members' room with lounge, eating and study areas. In addition they can enjoy discounts at both the Museum's shops and cafés, as well as discounts from other organisations that have negotiated with the Museum.
Tate Gallery membership encapsulates all four galleries: Tate Britain and Tate Modern in London, as well as Tate St Ives and Tate Liverpool. Standard membership costs £60 and members enjoy unlimited free entry to all Tate exhibitions, use of the Members' Rooms at the London galleries, fast track entry and special viewing opportunities and free magazines and guides detailing exhibitions at the galleries.
If you become a Friend of the Museum of London for £40 you will get unlimited free entry to all ticketed exhibitions at both Museums, London and Docklands, invitations to private viewings, access to a special programme of Friends' Events, visits to sites across the City, discounts in the shops and cafés at both museums, and updates on all events.
The Lord Mayor's Coach (picture courtesy of museumoflondon.org.uk)
Finally if you don't wish to commit yourself to just one institution but like to spread yourself around museums, galleries and historic houses, there is the National Arts Pass. Membership starts at £37.50 and guarantees free entry to more than 200 places of interest across the UK. Plus they mail out a glossy magazine, Art Quarterly, four times a year. This gives a host of information about places you may want to visit using your card and reminds you of all institutions that will give you a discount when you book using your card. When joining the scheme you also become a member of the Art Fund and your fee goes towards helping to support other museums and galleries and providing finance for them to acquire more works of art.
Some of the museums and galleries have different tiers of membership, and prices may vary depending on how you pay your membership fee. Even if you've never considered joining any of these cultural bodies, I'm sure you have a friend or family member who would appreciate one of their membership cards in their Christmas stocking.