This summer I was very lucky to get a job working on one of the most exciting events in the East Midlands as part of the London 2012 cultural olympiad. Joining the stage management crew, I was involved in the three outdoor shows which took place in Loughborough, Northampton and Derby. The show itself remained the same at each location but the volunteer participants were from the areas we performed in respectively, meaning there was a real sense of community amongst the cast.
Games Time was a colourful choreographed battle with incredible costumes, performed by people of all ages (from individuals to dance schools and community groups), with giant video projections, pyrotechnics, and the best fireworks displays I have ever seen.
The main reason I was offered the position was because of my experience volunteering. When I was in my final year of secondary school I did a week’s work experience at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod – an annual festival of international music and dance in North Wales. After a shaky start (running around the field in the pouring rain, wearing uncomfortable shoes and lugging a silly amount of chairs here, there and everywhere) things picked up and I enjoyed the week. So much that I went back. For the next seven years. Committing one week per year to being a stage manager of a small outdoor stage gave me a fantastic understanding of working on outdoor performance, communication and people skills, organisation, problem solving and smiling in the face of adversity (mostly weather-related!). Without this experience I would never have been considered for the role on Games Time and I would have missed out on an incredible opportunity.
Volunteering can be whatever you want it to be. Do something you love – I’ve always been interested in the arts so that’s what I put my time and effort into. And eventually it paid off. It certainly doesn’t guarantee a job, but there’s no doubt that the skills I gained, the people I met and the experiences I had combined to give me a good chance of being taken seriously as a candidate for this type of work.
I’ll never forget the goosebumps I felt watching the final Games Time fireworks in front of over 16,000 people as I thought about the hard work everyone – the volunteer participants, the professional artistic team and crew – had put in. Seeing people from all walks of life come together, giving their time to weeks of rehearsals to create an exciting free event for the people of their community was truly magical.
For me, that’s the power of volunteering. And if Team v Derby City can achieve anything like a small scale version of this sense of community cohesion then I will be a very happy volunteer.
(Photo credits – my Dad)