One of the best presents I was ever given was ‘Friends of the Royal Opera House’ membership. Now, I realise that Opera is not everyone’s thing. But, it just happens to be one of my passions. With my Friends membership I get priority booking, the chance to apply for rehearsal passes and advanced notice of what is happening, plus a lovely magazine. The priority booking means I can generally get the seats I want – and since I’m just a bit vertically challenged, that’s quite important to me. I’d like Friends membership of English National Opera too…so if Santa is watching…
I have one other Friends membership, for the Royal Academy. Originally I bought this for my mum each year. But as she got too old to make any use of it, I took it over for myself and at her request I’ve carried on with it. It gives me free admission to all their exhibitions for myself and a guest and use of the friends lounge. It also means I get some preview evenings for things like the Summer Exhibition. And this one is quite special to me, partly because it reminds me so much of my mother and partly because I know the Royal Academy gets no public funding and relies entirely on the money generated by its own activities.
It’s a present that will last for a whole year and it’s something that can be intensely personal. You could buy membership of the ICA, of the Southbank, of the RSC or anything you know the recipient is passionate about. How about the World Wildlife Fund, the National Trust or the Royal Horticultural Society ? For most Arts Organisations and Registered Charities you will be providing a lifeline at a time when funding is really difficult.