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Volunteering in the arts

Volunteering is a great way to get into arts work. But how can you get the most out of it?

Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people, learn new skills and gain useful experience.

For some people, volunteering is the crucial first stepping stone to getting paid employment in the arts. For others it is a way to share non-arts skills and experience, built up during their career, with an arts organisation. Volunteering in the arts has the added bonus of enabling you to take part in, or contribute towards something that you have a passion for.

Alex Davis, literature development officer for Derby City Council, started his career in the arts through volunteering, and has some top tips for making volunteering work for you:

“I myself came from a background of volunteering, working at festivals in both Derby and Nottingham as well as numerous events in between. I also ran a writing group on a voluntary basis for two years. All of this led to my first paid arts employment in Nottingham and then to my current full-time post".

The key to making a success of volunteering is that you have to stand out from the crowd. But how do you distinguish yourself from the other volunteers around you?

"Be pro-active. Keep in contact with your local arts officers- don’t just expect them to come to you. Arts officers love to see enthusiasm so demonstrate it!

"Work on initiative. The worst thing for a volunteer to be doing is nothing! If you take tasks on without being asked and pitch in it again shows enthusiasm as well as initiative.

"Be prepared for anything. My first piece of volunteering was playing in a samba band…no, seriously. Be ready for anything and don’t be shy to take on unusual tasks. Equally be ready for something far more mundane like serving tea and stacking chairs.

"Be punctual. It usually helps to be early for an event as there is setting up to do. Leave plenty of time for travelling and be ready to lend a helping hand before the event begins.

"Keep at it! There are times when volunteering is tiring and ultimately frustrating, but it can pay off in the long run. Keep adding things to your CV, working away and keeping yourself in the memory of your local arts workers. The process will take time so be patient.”

To find out about volunteering opportunities near you, visit the website of your local volunteer bureau:

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