Over 21 million people volunteer in the UK at least once a year, and this contributes an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy. Behind these big numbers is a big contribution, from people who are looking not for self-promotion but in-fact deserve the recognition of this seven day national celebration.
Here at Plymouth Arts Centre, our volunteers have a wide range of invaluable skills that help ensure our cinema, event and contemporary art exhibitions run as smoothly as possible. From Front of House, to Cinema ushering and exhibition installation, our volunteers get stuck in with a whole variety of different roles.
A recent study from The Arts Council has shown that culture volunteers are more likely than average to be involved and influential in their local communities, developing the skills and confidence that will make them more employable (and also 20% more likely to vote!).
We caught up with a couple of our volunteers who have gone on to do great things in the world of art and culture:
Abigail McKenzie, Founder of Dearly Beloved,
Abigail volunteered at Plymouth Arts Centre as a Visual Arts and Education Programme Intern in the summer of 2013. Working alongside the curatorial team she supported them in the organisation of exhibitions and events.
Her experience of working in the marketing team for a larger gallery was a great help for Abigail, and she quickly got to grips with the variety of tasks assigned to her,
“One day I would be researching the cost of custom signage and helping out with admin, and then I would be doing more practical tasks like helping with installation and designing promotional posters. It was a chance to see how the logistics of a smaller, more varied contemporary arts centre worked.”
Abigail now runs her own business, Dearly Beloved, which specialises in creating modern, illustrated wedding stationery and the occasional branding project. When asked how her time volunteering at PAC may have influenced the work she does now, she said,
“One of the most valuable things I developed was confidence. During my time at PAC although I was a volunteer I was involved in conversations and expected to use my initiative like any other member of staff. Not being afraid to just pick up the phone and ask questions has been great for me as a small business owner, and just being a fly on the wall to see how others approached problems within a creative organisation was invaluable.”
Discussing the importance of valuing the genuine exchange that should take place between volunteers and organisations, Abigail was passionate about ensuring volunteering should be mutually beneficial and not a one way street.
“Professionals within arts organisations are able to impart the things they have learned with people just starting out in their careers, and the people who want to give something back to the organisations. In these cases volunteering is so important, arts organisations form a huge part of our communities. So many of the good experiences I have had in Plymouth stem from the arts organisations we have here, and with current diminishing funding opportunities help from volunteers can enable places like PAC to continue their amazing work.”
Dearly Beloved was awarded the Wedding Styling Product of the Year 2016 at the Make Awards from Not On The High Street, and was also a regional finalist at the Wedding Industry Awards 2017.
Ben Cherry, Volunteer cinema usher and blog contributor
Ben has been a volunteer at Plymouth Arts Centre for 3 years, initially starting out as an usher in our cinema after graduating from UWE with a degree in Film Studies, and then also contributing film reviews to our online blog.
“I have been passionate about films for as long as I can remember. I had originally planned to apply as a volunteer on the front desk, but then an usher vacancy became available and I have been there ever since.”
Ben regularly puts his skills in writing and analysing film to use on the PAC blog, giving him the chance to develop his own style of writing and encouraged him to consider pursuing it as a career. Ben said, “It offers an amazing opportunity to write about a subject that you are interested in and for a recognised establishment.”
“Volunteering at PAC gives me the opportunity to work in an environment and an area I am interested especially in an industry that is notoriously hard to get into.”
Ben then explained that he feels volunteering offers him diversity and the opportunity to network with like-minded movie buffs, and for him that’s the most valuable part of the experience, “I get to experience all sorts of different films that I wouldn’t normally be exposed to, and meet people who are also as interested in art and film as I am.”
“Volunteering is vital to gaining experience in working within arts and culture as it shows that you are invested enough to go out in your free time to contribute to something you care about. It also is vital for people wanting to work within that industry who do not necessarily have the experience just yet.”
Speaking of his own experience, Ben recounts some of the events he’s been a part of through his volunteering at PAC, “purely through volunteering I have been able to attend and write about the Plymouth Film Festival, Open Air Cinema and I have had the opportunity to meet (or at least be in the same room as) Pulp band members and top British directors like Ben Wheatley.”
Ben’s favourite film he’s seen at PAC since volunteering as an usher at the cinema? “Good question and not an easy one to answer! I have to choose two, Boyhood and American Honey”.
To register your interest with any of our available opportunities, please complete a volunteer application form and return for the attention of Operations Manager, Manon Le Tual.
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