By Harry Mottram: It was 1978 and there was an exhibition of surrealism at the Hayward Gallery in London and a school boy in Derbyshire studying A-level History of Art bought a train ticket and headed south.
“It was unmissable,” said Jonathan Davis of Bath, “It was so exciting , new and fresh and I was really interested in DaDa and the surrealists.”
Retired graphic designer Jonathan Davis (pictured) is the chairman of the Friends of the Holburne Museum, an organisation that plays a supporting roll in championing the exhibitions, the various engagement programmes and events as well as organising fund raising events such as concerts.
The Grade 1 listed building dates to 1794, when it was initially a hotel, then a boarding house a home and finally a museum and an art gallery. The heart of the present-day collection was formed by Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793–1874) but as Jonathan says today the gallery ‘punches above its weight.’
“I was lucky to be able to retire and move to Bath ten years ago from London as Bath was a no brainer,” he said, “In London I supported the Tate, The National Gallery, The Dulwich and all the museums and so when we moved to Bath we supported the Museum of East Asian Art and the Holburne as it seemed a good thing to do. In 2015 I joined the Friends of the Holburne committee as they sent out a questionnaire seeking new members. I got the job of writing the newsletter.”
The Friends at the time was a separate charity but since then the Friends have merged with the Holburne as a single charity in line with the trend in the heritage industry as it was seen as more efficient.
Now the chairman of the committee Jonathan has been a key organiser of events that raise thousands of pounds every year – cash that is sorely needed when you consider the heating bills for the Georgian stately building.
“In the last three or so years the number of friends has grown, especially since we introduced charging for entry,” he said, “people think if they visit several times a year they might as well join so they don’t have to pay the entrance fee.”
He said the quality of the exhibitions which were ‘world class’ had also attracted new members citing the Tudors and the Rodin – Degas: Impressionist Sculpture exhibitions as recent examples.
Members get free entry to the Museum and exhibitions for an annual fee of £40 or £60 for a joint fee and they have access to events, activities and trips to other museums – and there’s an undeniable social side which attracts many people. Plus there is the annual plant sale in May, and a concert on the of 2023. Details on the website.