SPHERE Curates: The Best Art & Culture Memberships for 2023

Words by
Honey Wyatt

13th January 2023

If you need to lift your January, and shape an inspirational focus for the year ahead, give yourself the gift of arts & culture with a carefully considered membership. London's cultural institutions offer something for every taste, from a cosy reading room in St James, to the Barbican and Royal Opera House, plus excellent podcasts care of Tortoise Media, and more. SPHERE discovers the most interesting memberships for 2023.

Slow Down and Wise Up with Tortoise Media
Sweet Bobby, the cult podcast from Tortoise Media

Sweet Bobby, the cult podcast from Tortoise Media

Sweet Bobby, the cult podcast from Tortoise Media.

Overwhelmed by the constant influx of bad news? Choose to be well-informed with membership to Tortoise, the slow-media outlet, and get access to an exclusive members-only app and unlimited digital ThinkIns (panel discussions with special expertise such as recent guests author Nick Hornby and journalist Michael Palin). Listen to their cult podcasts including Sweet Bobby, and more recently The Tavistock, ad-free with any membership. 

Tortoise Media’s membership starts at £36 for a three-month membership and £100 for a year’s worth of their Digital Membership. It’s £250 for a Newsroom Membership, which gives added benefits like early access to podcasts, four giftable digital memberships to give to friends, Tortoise Quarterly (the outlet’s short book of long reads) and 12 ThinkIn tickets (you can take a friend). Their Friend of Tortoise Membership is £450 and offers unlimited ThinkIn tickets, signed copies of speakers’ books and access to invitation-only events.

Tortoise Memberships

Get Cosy with the Latest Films at Curzon
Margot Robbie and Max Minghella in Babylon, directed by Damien Chizelle

Margot Robbie and Max Minghella in Babylon (dir. Damien Chizelle)

Babylon, with the captivating Margot Robbie and Max Minghella, will be on at Curzon from 20 January 2023

Lie back, relax and enjoy the best of cinema at one of Curzon’s 17 plushly furnished cinemas across the UK, or watch on-demand from the comfort of your own home. With 5 free tickets a year, 20% off home rentals and additional cinema tickets for you (and a guest) and 10% off food and drink in-cinema you’ll have no excuse for not watching the latest hits (or hosting the best movie nights). 

Under 25s can join for free to get cinema tickets for £10 at peak times and £5 off-peak. Classic membership is £50 a year for five free tickets a year, or become a Cult member for £285 a year to get five free tickets a week.

Curzon Memberships

Endless Books with the London Library
The Reading Room at the London Library

The Reading Room at the London Library

Sit where the great novelists (Joseph Conrad and Arthur Conan Doyle) have sat in The Reading Room at the London Library

Work your way through over a million books and periodicals in one of the four elegant reading rooms of the London Library. Borrow up to 15 books at a time direct from the 1841 premises in St James’ Square or huddle up in one of its 150 work and reading spaces, or take advantage of their postal loan service over the coming frosty months. Join fellow book lovers in one of the library’s research, reading or writing groups, and be inspired in the seats where renowned authors (such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Conrad) have sat before.

Membership to the London Library starts at £262.50 for applicants age 16 to 29, or for partners or spouses of life members. Standard individual membership is £525 a year.

London Library Memberships

Get Inside the Best Minds with Masterclass
Poet Amanda Gorman on Masterclass

Poet Amanda Gorman on Masterclass

Amanda Gorman teaches writing and performing poetry with Masterclass

Become the master of all trades with access to over 180 classes spanning business, writing, design and style, and science and tech. Whether you want to improve your cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi, or learn the power of resilience with Hillary Clinton or adopt a winning mindset with Lewis Hamilton, Masterclass has an impressive library of courses. Each course has around 20 short videos for you to watch at home, or download to watch on the go, throughout the year.

Masterclass memberships start at £14 a month for an individual on one device, £19 a month for an individual across two devices, and £22 a month for a family plan across six devices.

Masterclass Memberships

Be inspired at the Royal Opera House
The auditorium at the Royal Opera House

The auditorium at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

The grand auditorium at the Royal Opera House dates back to 1848

Get swept off your feet with priority access to world-class ballet and opera performers at Covent Garden’s Royal Opera House from £70 a year. Go behind the illustrious red velvet curtain with exclusive access to rehearsals, behind-the-scenes content and a subscription to the quarterly Royal Opera House Magazine. You’ll also be offered discounts to the Royal Opera shop, so you can buy gifts for the aspiring dancer or singer in your life and help to support the future of ballet and opera.

If you’re aged 16-30 you can become a Young Friend of the Royal Opera House from £70 a year to get priority booking and one rehearsal ticket. Standard adult friend memberships start at £115 a year and Friend+ memberships at £215 for extra priority booking and two rehearsal tickets. Premium memberships go up to £2550 for earlier priority booking, up to four rehearsal tickets and acknowledgement of your support on their website.

Royal Opera House memberships

Indulge in Art History at the V&A
Maria Callas in La Traviata, 1958

Maria Callas in La Traviata, 1958

Maria Callas in Verdi's opera La Traviata at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 1958. The DIVA exhibition will open at the V&A on 24 June 2023.

Sit back and marvel at views of the Sackler Courtyard from the V&A’s original 1909 (Grade I listed) gallery. Go on family days out, with up to four children under 16 allowed to exhibitions. Or, expand your mind from home with priority booking for any courses from the V&A Academy, including ‘Couture Hand Sewing: Make a Dress in Quarter Scale’ (starting January 14) and ‘Jewels of Love, Romance and Eternity’ (from January 13). Members also get a 10% discount at V&A shops and a subscription to their quarterly magazine. 

V&A memberships start at £50 a year for people under 26 (£85 with a guest). A standard membership for one person starts at £74 annually (up to £119 with a guest) and goes up to £170 for two membership cards and two guests.

V&A memberships

Explore the World of Tate
Kudzanai Chiurai, We Live in Silence IV, 2017.  Courtesy the Artist and Goodman Gallery

Kudzanai Chiurai, We Live in Silence IV, 2017. Courtesy the Artist and Goodman Gallery

A World In Common: Contemporary African Photography will be on at Tate Modern from 6 July 2023

Climb the winding staircase at the Tate Britain or gaze at the latest installation in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern as many times as you like in 2023 with the Tate Membership. Starting from £72, you’ll get free entry to all Tate exhibitions and special Members’ events. Revel in the peace of exploring the galleries during dedicated Members’ morning hours, or unwind after a day of exploring in the Members’ rooms. Tate members also get 10% off all Tate shops and a free subscription to their magazine, Tate Etc. Free delivery is available until December 19.

Tate memberships start at £72 for one person, £114 if you want to take a guest, and £156 to get an extra card and to take up to three guests.

Tate Memberships

Culture that Keeps Giving with Barbican
Britten Sinfonia orchestra

The Britten Sinfonia orchestra

The Britten Sinfonia programme will be on at the Barbican from 10 February 2023

Leave no cultural stone unturned with membership to the largest performing arts centre in Europe. From classical to contemporary music, theatre and film, the Barbican centre has it all. Stroll through the tropical conservatory and fit in a drink at happy hour in the cozy Members’ Lounge with up to 5 guests before a show. Get 20% off select tickets, beat the crowds with priority bookings (and no booking fees) and save on food and drink at any of the centre’s restaurants and cafes from just £59 a year.

Barbican membership starts at £59 annually and goes up to £114 for further benefits, including extra priority booking and up to three guests.

Barbican memberships

Support Emerging Art with the Royal Academy
The Academicians' Room at the Royal Academy

The Academicians' Room at the Royal Academy

The delightful Academicians' Room in Keeper's House at the Royal Academy

With Royal Academy membership you get unlimited, free entry to exhibitions and members-only preview days, but you’ll also be able to enjoy the Keeper’s House, a member’s only space where you can sink into velvet mohair chairs in the Belle Shenkman Room, sip on a cocktail in the Shenkman bar, or soak in the buzz of conversation in the Academicians’ Room.

Anyone aged 16-35 can become a Young Friend of the RA from just £65 a year (and take a family member). Standard adult Friend memberships are £135 (for one person plus a guest) and Joint Friend memberships are £195 (for two cardholders and two family members).

Royal Academy memberships

Have Options with the National Art Pass
Art Quarterly, the Art Fund's seasonal magazine

Art Quarterly, the Art Fund's seasonal magazine

The National Art Pass comes with Art Quarterly, the Art Fund's seasonal magazine, to guide you where to use your pass throughout the year

If you’re not devoted to any one place, why not choose a membership that gives you free entry to over 250 museums, galleries, and historic houses across the UK? You’ll get 50% off major exhibitions, an Art Map that guides you where to use your card, and a subscription to Art Quarterly, the Art Fund’s magazine with exclusive features on artists and current or upcoming exhibitions so that you’re never out of the loop with the cultural scene. Order up until December 21 for free express delivery. 

The National Art Pass is £45 for under 30s, £75 for a standard membership (for one person) or £110 for two adults living at the same address.

National Art Pass memberships