During Volunteers’ Week we continue our Volunteer Spotlight series with an interview with Brighton Festival volunteer Katy, who talks about the shows she’s enjoyed most, Billy Bragg’s very particular request and why she returned to volunteer for a second year.
What’s your role?
I’m a Festival Greeter which involves a bit of setting up, welcoming people when they arrive at a venue, helping to seat them and answering any questions during the show. I make sure everyone has a great time basically! I love working with people – the audiences, the paid staff, producers and performers sometimes. It’s very different from my day job in an academic library!
Two years ago I volunteered as a Literature Assistant and I wanted to volunteer again.
What did that involve?
Getting to the sessions early, meeting some of the authors at the station to get them to the hotel or the venue – particularly if they were late. One speaker arrived 15 minutes before the show so it was a bit of a mad dash from the train station to the venue! Jenny Murray was great. I didn’t get to watch her talk because I was looking after her dogs - she had three chihuahuas who are tiny and amazing! I also met Billy Bragg. He asked me for a pencil with an eraser because he wanted to rub out something he was presumably composing or writing at the time!
So what shows are you volunteering at this year?
I volunteered at Sam Sweeney's event at All Saints Church in Hove, which is a beautiful venue. I love it that you get to see lots of different places – churches, the Theatre Royal, Brighton Dome. I’m volunteering at events at the i360 and at Black Rock this weekend. There are such a variety of places you could find be!
Flight at the King Alfred Leisure Centre in Hove was really different. I had to wear a radio which was quite exciting! You watch it solo sitting in your own little booth with headphones. It was about child refugees travelling from Afghanistan across Europe to London so it was quite harrowing in places. The audience goes in one by one and it starts minute, after minute telling the story to each person as they watch little 3D models going around in a barrel drum. It’s so clever and really immersive and intense. I got to see that because someone didn’t turn up. That’s always a nice perk of volunteering.
Do volunteers often get to watch the shows they work at?
It depends on the show and the role you’re doing. You might be in the auditorium during the show – or you might not be – but the staff will try to get you to see it if they can. You’re volunteering your time so they want you to have a good experience.
What’s been your highlight this year?
I worked at The Nature of Why, by the British Paraorchestra. It was on at Brighton Dome with a small audience of about 150 who were up on stage with the performers.
You were on stage?!
Yes. It was just electric. There were dancers who moved, with some of the musicians, among the audience. Everyone had such a brilliant experience. It’s lovely to hear the feedback at the end – if people experience a show that thrilled them, that took them away somewhere, that mesmerised them - they really want to share that with you.
Has it been easy to fit volunteering around your life?
Yes. I’ve got two kids and work full time and it’s been easy because you can pick your availability – they're really accommodating and understand if you can’t make it. The Festival staff have generally been so welcoming and friendly and made it such a positive experience.