Saturday, 4 August 2012

Friends united in love of their Museum

A recent survey conducted among Friends of Fairlynch has made for encouraging reading.

"We're really grateful as Museum Trustees to all the Friends who took such trouble in answering our recent questionnaire," said Chairman Roger Sherriff.

Thoughts about the Museum's role in the community have been stimulated by the recent abolition of admission charges. The decision to allow free entry has been approved by virtually all those involved with Fairlynch, particularly in view of the fivefold rise in visitor numbers.

Confirmation of the benefits of the new policy came at a recent meeting of the Museum's General Committee with Roger Sherriff's announcement that shop takings had doubled. "Taking into account all cost factors we found that income for a set period before free admission amounted to £740, and for the equivalent period after abolition charges the figure was £800," he said. "So far it's clearly been a success."

Wanting to know why people had joined the Friends of Fairlynch was a key question in the survey. It produced some gratifying answers.

"I love the fact that we have a local museum with information about Budleigh. I wanted to support it and not lose such a valuable resource," was one enthusiastic response. "Wishing to support a lovely museum in a beautiful building," was another which recognised the uniqueness of the Grade II listed building, one of the few thatched museums in Britain.

Among the areas at the Museum of particular interest to Friends was the Local History Room with its impressive archive resources.

But the richness of Budleigh Salterton's heritage in general was recognised, with one Friend suggesting that there should be more "Drama type activities to tell the story of Budleigh and its famous people of the past."

The educational value of Fairlynch and its resources including some fascinating exhibitions was also emphasised, with the belief that there should be enhanced links with local schools.  

The Museum is keen to encourage more Friends to become more involved in its work. "Not everyone has time," was one understandable comment. "Friends should not be made to feel they have to be involved further. Perhaps a listing of actual jobs needed to be done would give a more definite purpose to helping in an area of someone's expertise."

A museum offers so much in the way of cultural variety - from fashion to fossils, from lacemaking to literature and from art to archives - that shared interests between local residents can lead to lasting friendships.  'Become a Friend and gain Friends!' was one suggested marketing slogan for a campaign to recruit more followers of Fairlynch.

In view of the abolition of entry charges at the Museum there has been some agonising over how the move would affect people's view of the benefits of being a Friend. Membership had previously included free admission.  What benefits could now be offered? was one question.  The majority of respondents wanted more special events, with the possibility of a first call for Friends.

But while some thought that the financial benefits of membership might be attractive, the majority weren't interested. 

Clearly the best answer to the question of how one might gain from membership of the Friends of Fairlynch was: "Nothing - it is my privilege to help the Museum"

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