Every day until Christmas we will be pointing you in the direction of a London Christmas gift that (with a bit of luck) you won’t already have on your list. Climb up onto our collective lap and we’ll see what we can move from our sack to your stockings…
Most of London's cultural institutions offer a friends or membership scheme of some sort. Funding cuts have sent arts and culture scuttling for new ways to shore up their activities and safeguard their collections. If your Christmas present recipient is mad about a museum, gallery, theatre, historic house, garden, society or activity, there's probably a gift membership that will make them happy — and they'll think you're incredibly thoughtful too. Here's just a selection of ideas:
Art: The ICA is free entry to anyone these days (best decision they ever made) but there is still a members scheme which is your ticket to special members-only events, 10% discount on shopping, plus entry to the new 'unselfconscious and experimental' ICA Studio space (£25 a year).
Tate Members is perennially popular, giving card-bearers access to the fab members' rooms at Modern and Britain as well as free entry to all exhibitions and some special viewing opportunities (from £60 a year).
Museums: Ian Visits has compiled an impressive list of London museums you could support this Christmas on behalf of your loved one. He's even got details of the obscure ones (London Motorcycle Museum is a new one to us), ones that are hard to get hold of and don't have an online shop, but the opportunity to go down to the institution and perform a face to face transaction also opens up gift shop buying possibilities! To help you make your choice, take a look at what's upcoming in 2012 at London's major museums and galleries here.
Conservation: Wild London manages over 40 wildlife reserves in London, such as Camley Street Natural Park at Kings Cross, Bellenden Road Nature Garden in Peckham, Isleworth Ait on the Thames, Saltbox Hill in Bromley and Mortimer Terrace in NW5. They also run city-wide campaigns like the Owl Prowl and the Stag Beetle survey. Membership of Wild London for an individual is just £2.50, but there's a special gift membership available at £31 which includes a handmade card, map and magazines (quick though, we suggest you ring them up today).
Film: The BFI offer gift membership for film lovers at £40 with a special edition DVD thrown in. Lifetime membership of the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square is just £50 and Picturehouse Membership starts from £33 (Brixton Ritzy, Hackney, Greenwich, Gate, Clapham and Stratford East).
Performance: Soho Theatre has had a fantastic year. Now running the basement as a cabaret style, late night venue alongside the main theatre and a studio space, the programme is packed with ace comedy, new theatre and work in progress. And the bar is positively bustling every time we go there. Buy a friends membership from £50 for priority booking, late bars, meet 'n' greets, supporters evenings and other special things to make you feel like a VIP. Call them about a gift membership today.
Can't get enough cabaret? Volupte styles itself as a decadent little supper club, putting on live performance while you eat and drink, in a discreet side street off Chancery Lane. Membership affords you you ten free tickets, discounts on food and drink and a bottle of champers on your birthday (£150).
For the dance fan, you can't beat Sadler's Wells for its incredibly broad programming, featuring international companies spanning ballet, contemporary, dance theatre, hip hop, flamenco - there's basically no dance they won't touch as long as it's top notch. It's also a beautiful modern theatre. Gift membership starts at £55 bringing booking discounts, free programmes and behind the scenes action.
History: Is the history geek in your life lonely and yearning for a fun, friendly group of history boffins to hang out with? London Historians will welcome them with open arms. Membership is £39 for an individual for a year and we're sure if you contact head historian, Mike, he'll sort out some kind of gifty package for you.
Got some more good ideas? Let us know in the comments.