Tried & Tested: The Art of Friendship
Webster, Sue, The Independent (London, England)
Charity may make you feel good, but mutuality feels better. It's a concept well understood by the charitable societies, often known as "Friends of. . .", which support many of the major museums, art galleries and heritage-related projects all over the country.
Becoming a Friend or member of one of the smaller organisations can imply something as simple as restoring a cemetery or making a donation, but as the larger societies become more soph-isticated, so do the benefits they offer.
THE TEST We decided to compare the benefits to members of some of the best known organisations. We found significant differences in incentives to join, which may help prospective members make up their minds. In addition to the factual information given here, opinions were solicited from current Friends, which space doesn't allow us to quote in full. Points were awarded not only for the monetary value of discounts, free admission and publications, but also for the number and quality of social or educational events organised. ****NATIONAL TRUST Annual membership pounds 26 Despite some controversy in recent years about the covert ambition of the National Trust to preserve Britain's heritage in aspic, like some giant theme park for visitors, the great majority of the public and, naturally, its 2.3 million members, regard the work of this registered charity as crucial to the country they know and love. On the one hand, it's not exactly an exclusive club, and its sedate interests - history, horticulture and hearty walks - appeal mostly to middle-aged, middle-class people. On the other hand, its attractions are truly national, with 550 miles of coastline, half a million acres of countryside from the mountains of Snowdonia to a stretch of Hadrian's Wall, and some 300 historic properties held "for ever, for everybody". Since admittance to Trust-owned countryside is generally free to all comers, benefits of membership revolve around the entry to the stately homes - as featured in admirable detail in the annual handbook (free to members) - plus receipt of the popular Week of Christmas Walks. Cookery demonstrations in old kitchens, traditional apple-tree wassailing, "putting houses to bed", children's workshops and ghost tours, concerts and lectures are some of the activities held up and down the land. Best use of membership is made by joining one of their local associations as well, which gives better information on events in your area. *****ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY Annual membership pounds 31 Having shed its early, battered-hat- and-woodbines image to become a sort of homespun stress therapy for yuppies, gardening is now Britain's most popular hobby. Of course, not every geranium fancier wants to join the (200,000 strong) ranks of the RHS, but those who do, cite early entry and discounted admission to the prestige flower shows such as Chelsea, Hampton Court, Malvern and Harrogate as major incentives. The county shows often combine rural crafts, identification clinics for apples or fungi, and displays of rural crafts alongside the horticulture. There are eighteen other annual shows. Admission to these is free to members, as it is to the Society's 19 gardens, ranging from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale to the steeply wooded ravine garden at Trebah in Devon. Some also allow free entry to an adult guest. The privilege of "free exclusive advice" on gardening problems is not exactly a 24-hour hotline to Alan Titchmarsh; it describes the advisory desks at RHS shows. On the other hand, the availability of free seeds from over 800 species of plants at Wisley is recognised as a piece of heart-warming generosity by anyone who has ever bought seeds commercially. The RHS's glossy journal, The Garden, is issued free to members monthly and is both serious and accessible. All in all, in what proved to be a very tough contest, the RHS was our favourite overall choice as a …
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Publication information: Article title: Tried & Tested: The Art of Friendship. Contributors: Webster, Sue - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 2, 1996. Page number: 79. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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