Volunteering helped me develop new skills and find a direction

Alnwick International Music Festival 2014
Alnwick International Music Festival 2014

Alnwick Town Council is hosting a Volunteers Job Fair on Saturday, June 27, to try to match organisations with volunteers with the right skills. In the run-up to the event, we are running articles highlighting some of the voluntary organisations in the town.

With each new year, Northumberland, the country’s largest county with the smallest population, hosts a wide variety of events in its towns and villages, some quirky, some specialist, all interesting, to a wide age group.

Attracting people from all over Britain, Europe and further afield, these events showcase not only the beauty of Northumberland, but also the friendliness of our region.

Alnwick makes a contribution each year to the major events calendar by kicking off with the Shrove Tuesday football match, followed by the Spring Show, the International Music Festival, the Food and Beer Festival, the fireworks display celebrating Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot, with its Percy family connection, and ending with the Christmas lights switch-on.

In between, there are many other specialist events such as, this year, the Booksellers Fair in June, numerous craft fairs, open gardens events, all contributing to making Alnwick a great place to visit and to live.

With all of these events, there is a common thread. They would not be possible without volunteers.

Events do not happen just on the day. Volunteers of all age groups contribute time throughout the year in planning, preparation and, in many cases, fund-raising to ensure they are enjoyable and successful.

What do the volunteers get in return?

If you ask any of them, they will say friendships and fun, but also an opportunity to apply existing expertise or to learn a new skill.

One such volunteer is Matthew Slack, who is involved with the Alnwick International Music Festival.

“This festival means a lot to me,” he said. “I get to do what I love doing.

“I became involved with the music festival at the age of 16.

“I was approached at a wedding by a committee member who had heard about my work for the Olympic Torch Festival.

“This itself had followed on from volunteering at Alnwick Playhouse.

“Music and media is my thing. I have always been a techie and I learnt a lot of my skills from simply hanging round the Playhouse working with Tim Swinton, the Playhouse’s in-house tech.

“I was asked to provide sound and stage management for the music festival, initially alone, but I soon recruited a valuable and dedicated group of volunteers.

“This festival has allowed me to do what I love doing.

“I am now a committee member and have an input to the overall planning and preparation of the festival (right down to the making of beds).

“This has had a direct effect on what I do now.

“Involvement with the festival opened up new connections and provided me with valuable skills in communication, teamwork and technical ability to a high standard.

“More importantly, it has given me direction.

“My future was in the balance of taking a work-based placement to learn or trying something new and going for a degree.

“I have just finished my first year studying music and media management at the University of Gloucestershire. Best decision I have ever made.”

Volunteers are the lifeblood of events such as these.

A Volunteer Fair is being held on Saturday, June 27, from 10am to 2pm in the Northumberland Hall where these and other community organisations will be trying to attract volunteers.

Alternatively, if you have an idea for a new event, but don’t know how to organise it, why not pop along and get advice from seasoned volunteers?

The event is being hosted by Alnwick Town Council and if current or new event organisers want to showcase their needs, they should contact the clerk on 01665 602574 or email clerk@alnwick-tc.gov.uk

l In last week’s article about green and environmental volunteers, Sue Allcroft, was referred to as secretary of Alnwick in Bloom. This was incorrect as Mrs Allcroft is no longer in that role.

Also the Alnwick in Bloom hanging baskets are supplied by Northumberland County Council and ordered through Alnwick in Bloom.