i Editor's Letter: So much on our doorsteps

  • @stefanohat


Half term. Classic weather for a rare day off. It was miserable; British-school-holiday dreary. Like Pageant Day. Only, swap the Thames and hordes of soggy day-trippers from Orpington for the Natural History Museum and hordes of sodden vacationers from Orvieto.

Shamefully, other than for corporate events, I had not been for years, but at least my memory didn't fail me for once and I skirted the 45-minute main entrance queue in the rain for a five-minute side-door line. There, I had an all-too-rare modern experience. As I reached for my wallet, my daughters' friends reminded me it was free! Free? Of course, we do that here.

Free museums, like the Natural History, the Science, and the British, or the wonderful MOSI, which hosted our last i party in Manchester. Free galleries like Tate Modern and Tate Britain (£6.50 in St Ives), the National Portrait Gallery, the National, or Birmingham's IKON Gallery, where we also held a party. The National Galleries of Scotland are free too.

One forgets how unusual this is. New York's Metropolitan museum is $25, MoMa the same, the Guggenheim is $22, although Washington's fabulous Smithsonian is free. The Louvre costs €11.60, the Prado €12, the Uffizi is €9.50 and St Petersburg's Hermitage around €8. Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum is €14.

We have so much on our doorsteps, we take it for granted. I am not just talking about London. It is part of the privilege of being British that we can experience so much culture for free; visit free libraries too. Education beyond the classroom for all. It's worth defending. A simple way to do so is to visit, enjoy and donate willingly, whatever you can.