When I started these ramblings, I promised myself that I would try to keep work out of this. However, I am about to break that promise because work is the reason that this is my first post this month!
You may know that I work in a Volunteer Centre, one of a UK-wide network of independent, and very different organisations that serve as hubs for organisations that involve volunteers and for people who want to be volunteers. OK, there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the short version.
Every year, 1st – 7th June is designated as Volunteers Week. There’s a national “day” “week” or even “month” for almost everything, so why not? It’s been around for years and most Volunteer Centres try to do something to recognise the contribution that volunteers make, to raise the public profile of volunteering and to recruit new volunteers. For most of us, most years, this is pretty low budget and therefore pretty low key. This year we broke the mould in Nottingham because we forged a partnership with the Community Development team at Nottingham City Council that planned and ran two very high profile events.
We took over Old Market Square on Saturday 7th June and set up about market stalls and invited a diverse bunch of more than 40 organisations to come along with information for potential volunteers, activities and even some food tasters. We also had about 100 volunteer entertainers; singers, dancers, Tai Chi and more along with an all-day outside broadcast by 97.5 Kemet FM, a local community radio station providing a reason for people to come to the square and to stay and walk round the stalls.
The following day, we pitched up at Nottingham Playhouse where more than 120 volunteers entertained an invited audience of volunteers from organisations across the city.
Although both of these events were great and feedback from participants and the public seems to have been positive, the whole thing could easily have become a nightmare for me.
That partnership that I have already mentioned originally involved three key members of the Volunteer Centre team. However, during the run-up to the event, two of the three moved on from their jobs, leaving me to pick up all of the Volunteer Centre’s side of the planning and organising. It could have been a disaster, but was saved by the support of a fantastic bunch of people from the council. Staff from more than one team within Community Development worked really hard to support me and make sure that between us, everything came together for the weekend. Even so, it was still the most stressful time I have spent at work in a long time.
It’s not quite all over even now, we are going to produce some kind of evaluation and we have already talked about doing it all again next year.
And I want to be part of it.