National Volunteers’ Week: Beth and Laura’s story
With over 196 acres of parkland and 7 acres of building, it takes a small army to keep Alexandra Palace running and open for all to enjoy. Central to our work at the Palace is our team of dedicated volunteers. During Volunteers’ Week we wanted to share their stories and celebrate their work.
Volunteers are involved in all aspects of life at the Palace, from helping maintain the award-winning Park and conducting tours to stewarding and assisting our Creative Learning team. Once a fortnight Laura from our Fundraising Team receives mentoring from Beth – a volunteer at the Palace and Civil Servant. Their story demonstrates how volunteering benefits all involved.
I am a Senior Civil Servant at the Cabinet Office. I’m also a proud Crouch Ender with a passion for the arts. Ever since I was a child, coming through Finsbury Park on the train from Newcastle, I have felt a thrill when I catch a view of Ally Pally up on the hill. I had the privilege of a hard hat tour of the Theatre one wet weekend in early 2017, led by the wonderful volunteers Jeannie and Sally. I felt inspired. The chequered history of the theatre, its beauty even in decay, and the team’s vision for how it would be brought back to life.
When I enquired about volunteering opportunities, I was impressed with the professionalism and thought that went into recruitment and tailoring opportunities to fit individual skills and interests. My availability is limited to my day off work when my children are at school. Mentoring the new addition to the restoration projects team sounded like a perfect fit. I could bring my corporate experience to someone starting out in their career as a way of contributing to the restoration of the Palace.
Laura was recruited shortly after, and we meet every 2 or 3 weeks. We have worked on various projects focused on supporting the Theatre restoration in particular. I have been so impressed with Laura’s commitment to developing a career in heritage, her instinct for bringing people together across different teams to get the best possible outcome, and her readiness to develop and deliver new initiatives. I mentor colleagues at work in the Civil Service, but one of the unexpected benefits of mentoring in a completely different sector is how much I learn from Laura about making a historical palace resonate in a modern community.
Volunteering here allows me to contribute in a small way to the ongoing story of Alexandra Palace and gives me experience in a sector I may want to move into in the future. The opportunities are so varied – I would recommend it to anyone.
I am a historian and Museum Studies graduate with a passion for museums and heritage. In the summer of 2017 I was finishing my Master’s degree and placement in the Creative Learning team at Alexandra Palace when I was lucky to gain a paid job in the restoration projects team, starting September 2017. Whilst having undertaken several internships, volunteer placements, and casual jobs, this was to be my first position in the ‘real world’.
In my current position I engage with supporters who have donated to our East Wing Restoration Project, manage the donor database, organise and deliver tours, help with the delivery of some events, and have continued providing some support to the Creative Learning team. No two days here are the same; my job is varied and I never know what might crop up. It is also an exciting time to be working at Alexandra Palace with the completion of our current Heritage Lottery Funded project happening at the end of this year. The Palace has such a varied and eclectic history and I enjoy sharing our enthusiasm and excitement with the public.
Beth and I meet around once a fortnight and it is a chance to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas. We have worked on how to structure my thoughts, visions and goals into work-plans and job-review documents, have discussed how to manage conversations in the workplace, and shared thoughts on how I can progress in my chosen career path – how I can identify and develop necessary skills.
There are many reasons why I value this mentoring scheme and would therefore recommend being mentored. It provides the chance to talk to someone with an unbiased viewpoint and fresh perspectives – the value of Beth being from a completely different career and organisation is key to the success of this scheme. It also gives me the chance to take a break from ‘normal’ work for a couple of hours every fortnight. Away from all of that, it forms a friendship.