I‘ve recently found myself deliberating over whether to become a member of this or that creative society, institute and/or gallery. It’s an odd concept, befriending a venue or organisation in order to receive more information, free things, more schmoozing; but I suppose in a society where money makes the world go round, it’s what has to be done.
The main factor behind my consideration is down to trying to squeeze every last drop out of my final year as a student; both in terms of discount and free time. I’ve always subscribed to arts and culture magazines, such as Frieze, Dazed & Confused, and Corridor8, so spending a little more to gain a little more doesn’t really strike me as much of an issue.
I feel my options of membership can be split in to two simple categories, to join specific venues (theatres and/or galleries) or to join umbrella organisations such as The Contemporary Art Society, or the Art Fund.
With regards to the former, joining venues, I’ve frequented the Cornerhouse a lot over my two years in Manchester. It seems an obvious choice when you gain so much while spending so little (£25 annual payment); reduced cinema and event tickets, guaranteed previews, and of course discounted food and drinks. You’ve also the knowledge you’re supporting a genuine local, national and international institute as Cornerhouse invests so much back in to all three communities. So yes, that’s a no brainer I’ve already convinced another friend to commit to, ensuring I’m not going to the cinema on my own. I feel the other places I make use of fail to offer me enough further benefit if I joined their membership schemes, other than this feel good factor (Selfish, I know). The royal Exchange Theatre already offers great under 26 and student offers, Manchester Art Gallery, Whitworth Art Gallery, etc. all offer a programme that is widely free and readily available.
It’s that second option (joining societies) that causes much more need for deliberation. Living in a specific region, although travelling, I’d like to join something that suits a person with rooted interest in the arts and culture, something like The Contemporary Art Society, yet also offers options to the culture vulture in me, such as the Art Fund. It seems very much to be a competition between these two and no more, but with the former sitting around £25/£35 and the latter at under £19, why is this such a hard decision?
I feel the former is leading by a country mile in terms of benefits at the moment; with a much more integrated network, covering many galleries and venues throughout the Northwest, and England as a whole. However, the latter, although more sporadic in terms of its offerings, has a greater feel good factor of supporting the creative industry as well as offering satisfaction in the form of a quarterly publication, something I’ll miss as I sacrifice a publication subscription for a membership.
When I return to Manchester on the ninth of Septmber, I’ll be joining the Cornerhouse as a member for definite. Maybe, by then, I’ll have decided which of the two socities/membership schemes I’ll join. Scrawling this down and publishing it on my blog is really just a way of helping me decide, weighing the pros and cons, as well as opening the conversation to others that may have experience with this kind of decision.