Seriously? Christmas already? Oh yes.
It’s time to start weighing up those gifts that must be ritually exchanged at this year of year. But stuff the boxsets. Buy someone a gift that’s a piece of cake to buy and requires no thought whatsoever – while giving the impression of being the most thoughtful Christmas present in the world.
And think of it as your little gift to Liverpool: your friendly neighbourhood cinema, favoured organisation or treasured art gallery. They may not be around forever – and they’re not just for Christmas.
Give the gift of membership this season. And think of it as a little gesture for someone you like – and for something you like.
A perfect treasure in sleepy Woolton, the Picture House may give the impression of kitsch antiquity but it’s a working cinema showing blockbusters and classics alike on every day of the year (OK, not Christmas Day but even usherettes need a day off, eh?). A visit to the Woolton Picture House feels like a treat on any day of the year – go and see It’s A Wonderful Life at Christmas and you’ll feel like you’ve taken a trip to Bedford Falls. Support it all year round with a gift membership – it offers three free tickets plus discounts on showings and sweets. It arrives in a little black box too. Magical.
Memberships at the Phil start at £100, but there’s an embarrassment of riches for members including invitations to open rehearsals, access to the exclusive 1840 Room on concert evenings, invitations to intimate VIP events and priority booking. You also get the lovely Encore magazine and, if you’re so inclined, voting rights at Annual General Meeting. Of course, the nub of it is you get to marvel even more at the art-deco Grade-II listed Philharmonic Hall and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – the UK’s oldest of its kind. Following its stunning new refurb that’s surely music to anyone’s ears.
Films, installations, exhibitions – and (surely) one of the UK’s hardest film quizzes. FACT boasts it all, as well as the rather lovely Garden cafe and the bar upstairs (enjoy your film with a beer? Certainly!). Become a member at FACT and you’ll receive a discount at Picturehouse cinemas across the UK – there’s one on the third floor at FACT. Not only that but there are discounts at some of Liverpool’s bet and bars restaurants too, including the Berry & Rye speakeasy, The Italian Club and The Shipping Forecast. Memberships start at twenty quid.
Tate Liverpool might be the northern outpost, but this stunning building on the Albert Dock is partnered by three other galleries around the UK. Join the Tate’s membership from £70 (add a Liverpool card for a fiver to and receive invitations for you and friends to private views) and you get access to all four of them, including free and unlimited exhibition entry and access to Member’s Rooms. The links between Trace Emin and William Blake are currently under the microscope in Focus at Tate Liverpool, while the current paid-for exhibition looks at the work of eccentric sculptor and ‘happenings’ creator Edward Krasinski – that’s £11 saved straight away if you buy a membership.
Palm House, Sefton Park
The Palm House is a wonderfully restored Victorian treasure (thanks George Harrison) that showcases an outstanding variety of plants. Go on a bright summer’s day, look up and it’ll feel like you’re in the middle of a tropical forest on an island in the Caribbean; go in the winter and it will be a welcome respite from the chill outside weather. Either way the Palm House is a delight, particularly during events – many and varied, including film nights, gigs and craft fairs. Friend of the Palm House get invites to special events but fundamentally it’s about keeping this glorious gift to the city thriving. Prices start from £12.50
Wildlife, says the RSPB, is cornered and the United Kingdom is ‘one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world’. Simply put, wildlife is running out of habitats. More habitats certainly benefit the wildlife, but we don’t do too badly out of it either. Walk through one of the reserves in Merseyside in Spring – Burton Mere Wetlands on the Wirral is closest – and marvel at wading birds and carpets of bluebells. In Autumn the leaves turn to brilliant shades of red and you can watch the wintering birds arrive. Membership – from £4 per month – provides free access to over 170 RSPB nature reserves, quarterly magazine and a raft of local talks from wildlife experts.
When their cinema was closed in 1996 the people of Waterloo didn’t cry into their popcorn, they rallied round to save their local flicks. When it reopened in 1997 to a sold-out screening of Jurassic Park the dinosaurs weren’t the only things that had come back from the dead. Nowadays the art deco cinema shows everything from Hollywood blockbusters and classics to the best of British and World cinema. To see a film you don’t have to take out a small loan – but with a membership it’s even cheaper to enjoy a night and the picturehouse. For just a tenner a year the Plaza Community Cinema offers a quid off the already-low ticket prices and something you can’t buy: that fuzzy glow you get from supporting a worthy cause (OK, you can buy it – on the link below).
Ness is a beautiful botanic garden right of the western edge of The Wirral. And while there are events throughout the year, such as star-gazing and nature trails, it’s the finery of the flora that takes the breath away, whenever you go. Friends gets free access at selected times, plus free entry to a raft of other botanical gardens around the country – as well as free events, lecture and days out. Memberships start at £28, with family memberships from £38 – with all money going towards maintenance or new projects at the Gardens.
The Everyman & Playhouse do things a little differently, with a supporters’ scheme that is about encouraging philanthropic giving rather than offering benefits that incur VAT. E&P says it enables them to develop talent, provide opportunities for young people from modest backgrounds and nurture emerging plays and playwrights. There are three tiers, at £60, £120 or £240 annually depending on how much people want to participate and commit. Supporters are keep informed of news and given early notification of each new season’s performances and priority booking.