Guest blog: Celebrating Volunteer Week 2019, Heather Morris, reflects on being a volunteer and concert manager at Wiltshire Music Centre

 

Wiltshire Music Centre
photo credit: Ryan West

Wiltshire Music Centre was founded over 20 years ago by a group of local people who realised that there was a serious need for top quality performance and rehearsal areas in the area. Since then, the Centre has built a reputation as a professional, 300-seat concert hall presenting over 150 concerts a year, involving more than 1,000 professional, community and young musicians. We provide a permanent home for local orchestras, choirs and music groups, and work extensively with young people locally through a vibrant and varied Creative Learning Programme in Wiltshire and beyond.

Volunteers setting up the Foyer for a packed concert
photo credit: Ryan West

It’s a lively centre and supporting everything we do here are a committed and loyal volunteer force. Almost 100 people make the team and form an integral part of our concert delivery. The team cover almost all the front-of-house roles on concert night; they welcome the audience, check tickets, run the bar, sell programmes and merchandise, look after the visiting performers as well as fulfilling essential fire safety roles. The volunteer’s commitment to the centre never ceases to amaze, some have volunteered since the centre’s inception and over the past year we estimate we have benefitted from circa 5000 hours of volunteer effort. As any organisation which relies on people giving their time for free knows, attracting, keeping and rewarding volunteers can be a huge challenge and is one which WMC take very seriously.

I have been a volunteer at the Centre since 2014 and have, more recently, joined the (paid) team of Concert Managers, so I have experience from both sides. People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons – love of music (and the opportunity to hear some great concerts for nothing!), a desire to contribute to a valued community resource, enthusiasm for supporting young musicians and the social benefits of joining a vibrant team. Enjoyment has to be the key to retaining and motivating volunteers as we have none of the normal sticks and carrots of paid employment. If volunteers don’t feel their contribution is noticed and valued, they will vote with their feet.

Part of the key to this is good organisation – making sure volunteer rotas are agreed and circulated well in advance, being flexible when circumstances change (as they inevitably will), trying to ensure everyone has a fair chance to do all the various roles, including the less popular ones. Sitting backstage by the stage doors in the semi-dark isn’t everyone’s idea of fun!

Communication is also crucial. One of the challenges for an organisation like this is that the day staff work hard programming all the events but don’t always experience the results on the night. Conversely, the team on the night, including the volunteers, may not fully understand all the effort that has gone into setting things up. Bridging that gap so each appreciates the work of the others and we all have a chance to address any issues, is central.

One of the ways we do this is by organising social events, often around a performance, where we can meet each other informally and exchange ideas and feedback. This is in addition to more formal channels for reporting back on how an event has gone. On-going training is also vital, both to meet fire duty legal requirements but also to ensure that the whole team remains consistent and professional and we bi-annually run compulsory fire training alongside bar and general volunteer training.

Managing an organisation dependant on volunteers for its very survival may seem easy from the outside, but that is far from the case. The issues are different from running a large team of paid employees and, in some ways, even more challenging but maybe also more rewarding. We’d like to take the opportunity this Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June) to say thank you to all our volunteers past and present and to anyone in Wiltshire who gives their time to be the life of so many organisations in the county.

A volunteer’s eyes view of Courtney Pine
photo credit: Ryan West

That the Wiltshire Music Centre continues to thrive into its third decade is a testament to the fact we must have got something right.

Have a passion for music, want to meet new people and get involved in a professional music venue with world-class musicians? If you are interested in joining the Volunteer Team at Wiltshire Music Centre, please get in touch by email: volunteers@wiltshiremusic.org.uk or simply call 01225 860110 to speak to Chloe Edgell or another member of our team.

We are currently recruiting for a full-time Box Office Manager and Volunteers Coordinator, a key role in ensuring the smooth-running of WMC and its excellent Volunteer Team. For more information about this job and to download the application forms, head online: www.wiltshiremusic.org.uk/jobs

Heather Morris, volunteer and concert manager, Wiltshire Music Centre

Editor’s note: Volunteers Week takes place 1 to 7 June every year; more details at https://volunteersweek.org/

Pound Arts, Town Hall Arts and Wiltshire Creative as well as a whole host of there arts organisations in Wiltshire also welcome volunteers. A list of some of these organisations can be viewed on the Council’s arts service website pages

Wiltshire Council also welcomes volunteers to support the delivery of services; more information on our website

More information on volunteering opportunities is also available on Community First website

Wessex Community Action and Wiltshire Council are hosting events at Salisbury Library on 4 June and County Hall Trowbridge on 5 June 2019 where the Voluntary and Community Sector Organisations and Wiltshire Council will display information about their organisations alongside a Recruitment Board that will be specially erected to promote Volunteering opportunities in Wiltshire.

The launch of a Volunteer Co-ordinators Forum takes place on 7 June 2019, 10am to 12 noon at the offices of Wessex Community Action, Salisbury; email info@wessexcommunityaction.org.uk if you’d like to attend

 

 

One thought on “Guest blog: Celebrating Volunteer Week 2019, Heather Morris, reflects on being a volunteer and concert manager at Wiltshire Music Centre

  1. Pingback: Season’s greetings | The Arts in Wiltshire

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