"The essential diversity of volunteering" - CEO blog
Our Chief Executive Crispin's latest blog is inspired by our 2015 Volunteer of the Year Awards...
"At CCT’s annual volunteering award ceremony last week we saw the diversity of people who enjoy supporting heritage and making things happen in their local area. Supported by the Marsh Christian Trust and held in the wonderful London Transport Museum we also saw how the diversity of volunteers’ interests crosses the artificial boundaries of organisations and reflects how people like to spend their free time. As I said in my welcome speech: ‘trains, churches, cycling and real ale’ are a heady mix for a thoroughly enjoyable day out and for the same reason are examples of how it’s often a range of things which inspire people to volunteer, not just one area of interest. If the event reminded us of anything it was that volunteering has to be fun, otherwise why would anyone do it?
"Of course there’s more to it than that and sometimes it can be a lot of downright hard work before a corner is turned and the satisfaction kicks in. I’m sure that’s how it felt sometimes for the fantastic ‘volunteer team of the year’ who were recently formed to open up CCT’s lovely St John at the Wall in central Bristol. Some days when not enough people show up and it’s cold and grey, the fun part may seem a long way off.
"But what we were celebrating in the auditorium below 60 tons of historic steam engines and buses were the good bits: some of the highlights and the achievements of CCT’s 1800+ volunteers over the past year. Our young volunteer of the year, William, (16 I believe) who created and published a walking tour of historic CCT sites in Oxfordshire, all off his own back. Harriet from Somerset whose ‘pop-up operas’ are always packed and which bring in much-needed funds for CCT’s charitable work. Jim who leads groups of people on highly-informative heritage tours in Lincolnshire, all in his own time. And Kenneth who - a volunteer himself- manages a large group of volunteers to open and make things happen in our churches in Herefordshire. That’s just a taster of the diversity of CCT heritage volunteers and the things they enjoy doing to help us each year.
"Of course there’s still a long way to go to make heritage volunteering truly representative of the diverse communities that make up the UK. To ensure that young people and people from minority and disadvantaged communities get just as much opportunity as anyone else, to contribute their time - and benefit from the advantages volunteering brings. Those advantages are many: new skills and experience, empowerment, new friends and stronger community links, amongst others.
"We know from Heritage Lottery Fund’s recent report on ’20 Years in 12 Places’ that less engaged groups are more likely to benefit from heritage projects which involve a higher degree of activities and a strong sense of local and cultural identity. The very local, quintessentially community nature of historic churches is a very good place to start. At CCT, with our 347-strong collection across England we have the opportunity and, increasingly, the experience to make this happen.
"We’ll be doing even more to realise the essential diversity of volunteering in the months and years to come. That will give us something to really celebrate at our next Volunteer Awards event, surprise venue tbc!"