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Sponsored Swim FAQs

Why does the Garden Museum need money for core costs?

The Garden Museum is one of very few Museums to generate 100% of its income. We receive 30% from donations, and from subscriptions by Friends and Patrons. The remaining 70% comes from admissions, our shop, the Garden Café, public events, and venue hire.

The great majority of museums are funded by national or local government, or by host institutions, such as a University. The majority of those museums which are, like us, independent charities, were set up with Endowments by their founders, or with income from property assets. We have none of these sources of income.

Nevertheless, by our own efforts, we fulfill a national role as the nation’s only Museum dedicated to the history and design of gardens, as a hub for Londoners who care about green spaces, and for a more local community as an oasis of plants and learning.

The Museum is much busier. As one measure, admissions income has increased from £32,000 in 2007 to £214,000 in 2018: more than six times as much.

And much bigger. The Museum re-opened three years ago after an £8.2 million project (funded by donations and the National Heritage Lottery Fund) and we have achieved the Business Plan which under-pinned that investment. We have more visitors, and more community groups, than we ever expected. We never expected to win a prize for best Museum café in the world. Venue hire, which is the most critical source of income, has more than doubled.

It is working. But no Business Plan foresaw a pandemic, and closure in the busiest months of the year.

We are grateful that income from Friends, Patrons and donations continues: thank you.

But we need to replace the 70% we have lost.

How are you saving costs?

Since 16th March, the Museum and café team have been on furlough, with the exception of six of us, whose salaries have been reduced by 20%. We have negotiated payment plans with every supplier, from electricity to our coffee machine. The government has given a VAT holiday for this quarter, and Lambeth Council waived its rates. We have placed all projects on hold, except for the exhibition on Derek Jarman, which has been made possible thanks to a generous grant from The Linbury Trust. We’re building that now, so it will be ready as soon as we are able to open.

How else will you raise money?

We have a target of £270,000 to be received in donations by the end of our Financial year (31st March 2021), in addition to Friends and Patrons’ subscriptions.

During April, Trustees and supporters have already donated over £30,000, and without being asked. We are also applying to Emergency Funding schemes from the Arts Council, National Heritage Lottery Fund, and Historic England. Later this summer, when lockdown eases, Trustees, designers and Patrons will be opening their gardens on our behalf. Watch out for your chance to have a garden to yourself!

But we need to raise the first £100,000 of that total by the end of September.

Why this swim?

Christopher has done four sponsored swims inspired by the life, travels and gardens of John Tradescant, whose life and death inspired the setting up of this Museum. The Hellespont, then The Strait of Gibraltar, as Tradescant sailed with an expedition to Africa fight the Barbary Pirates (and collect plants). Then 100 miles from Oxford to London to re-trace the journey of his collection from Vauxhall to Oxford by barge in 1683, and in 2017 31 kilometres in the Arctic Circle to add a 17th-century whale, and a crocodile, to our re-creation of ‘The Ark’, Tradescant’s private Museum in Lambeth.

When you are swimming for several days in deep, cold water you need an inspiration to keep your shoulders turning. Having run out of adventures from Tradescant’s life, Philip Mould, gallerist and donor to the Museum, suggested Cedric Morris’s journey from the artists’ colony in Newlyn to the gardens of Tresco, on the Scilly Islands, seventy years ago.

Are donations to Benton End?

No. Every penny of this swim will go towards core costs of The Garden Museum.

We have exciting plans to work together with a family Trust to revive Benton End as a centre of art and horticulture, as you will read about in The Sunday Telegraph on 31st May. But we are not asking Friends to support this long-term ambition at this stage. The next step in that respect is an application to the National Heritage Memorial Fund towards acquisition costs, and that will be later this year.

What else?

We are very proud of our team of staff. As a snapshot: our Learning Department of three. Janine began at the Museum in 2007 when we had one school visit a year; last year, sixty schools came. And last year we had sixty visits by community groups. She has just delivered clay to the doorsteps of 12 people across London who suffer from dementia, so that our Clay 4 Dementia programme can continue on Zoom. Samia is a food scientist turned biology teacher who in our Clore Space and Sackler Garden entrances children with the lives of plants. It’s the only place in central London where children up to GCSE A-level can study plants as required by the National Curriculum. Finally, Ceri is our Food Learning Officer, the first in a UK museum, teaching people how to make delicious, nutritious meals from scratch in our kitchen, funded by The Rothschild Foundation and The BAND Trust.

That’s just one Department. But it takes years to build up a team who fit so well together. At present, all but six of us are on furlough, and the remainder part-time. We want to get back to work.

When do I need to donate by?

The swim cannot take place until September as Christopher cannot begin training until public pools re-open. The swim is fifty miles, and will take between two and four days, depending on weather and tides, with naps on the boat; you need to practice 4 miles a day for two months.

Our target is to raise £100,000 between today and the end of September. Every gift helps us get there.


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