Volunteers' Week 2024: Amanda's Story

National Volunteers' Week is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is a chance to recognise, celebrate and thank the UK's amazing volunteers for all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector and society as a whole. For Volunteers' Week 2024, we'd like to take the opportunity to profile one of our fabulous volunteers, Amanda, who is Family Learning and Front of House Volunteer at Broadway Gallery. We met up with Amanda last week for a chat...


What were your reasons for becoming a volunteer at Broadway Gallery?

I started thinking about volunteering because of the opportunity to get out and meet people and to reduce the sense of isolation that is often experienced by artists working from home. It was over a year ago now when I was also working on job ideas and volunteering was a gentler and easier way to build confidence. If you’re not in a shared studio or with a group, then volunteering at an art gallery is a great way to meet other artists. I knew I needed a bit more confidence in myself and meeting other people, sharing ideas – both with artists and the public visiting the gallery – helped me with this.

When you started volunteering what did your role involve?

I started doing the Front of House Volunteer role, providing a welcome to visitors which is particularly important. It was during the summer, and younger families who might have been to the library, and to the splash park then visited the Gallery to do creative activities in our Family Arts Studio. I’m also a Family Arts Volunteer, helping families to make the most of the creative space, materials and resources that we have freely available. There’s also plenty of sorting and tidying up of the space, organising of art materials and putting together new creative activities.

Have you been involved in helping with the exhibitions?

Yes, for example, during the Letchworth Open I welcomed and assisted artists who visited the Gallery to deliver their work for the exhibition and it was a great opportunity to meet so many other artists – you don’t normally get that chance. I also had my own work included in the exhibition which I subsequently sold, which was very pleasing. After this there was the “Letchworth: Lives and Landscapes” exhibition which attracted lots of visitors from the local area including people who I recognised, which made for a really nice community atmosphere.

How would you describe a typical Family Arts Workshop?

A local artist plans and runs the sessions, assisted by two volunteers. The workshops starts with an introduction to the activity for the groups of families, who are seated at their own tables with all the materials they need. Often the parents join in too so it’s a great way to have creative family time, and being a one-hour session, there’s no chance of anyone getting bored! The topic varies for each workshop according the artist, it could be painting, collage, using dyes and inks, working with clay and other sculptural materials or a combination of different techniques.

What has been one of the highlights of your volunteering?

One particularly memorable experience was when I was sitting at a table with a very young child and an older child. The older child was making a decorative crown whilst the younger child was using a paint brush to paint with the brush cleaning water – so I showed her how to use the brush to pick up the paint and mix the colours to make new ones. She was even able to say the names of the different colours as she was learning how to paint with them for the first time, which was really rewarding.

Has volunteering helped to develop your own skills?

Being involved as a volunteer has developed my confidence to then go on to run a Family Arts Workshop myself as the Art Facilitator, which I wouldn’t have done a year ago. For my session I organised a butterfly collage and painting activity. The age range is typically from 3-10 year olds so the younger children did printmaking and the older children made more complex butterfly designs using different paints and materials.

Why would you recommend volunteering at Broadway Gallery?

It's very rewarding and gives you confidence and you learn new skills. You can be part of a team and feel valued which is good for mental health. Plus, you can meet people from all age groups and backgrounds. Welcoming and assisting visitors to the Gallery often leads on to creative discussions, the sharing of ideas and experiences which is really important – gaining other people’s perspectives is so valuable for creative work.

Have you met other volunteers as part of your role?

The social events for all volunteers are really good to feel part of a wider group, including those who volunteer in other areas of the Heritage Foundation’s work such as at the Garden City Collection and with environmental projects. Recently we went as a group to see a live broadcast of Swan Lake at Broadway Cinema, and there have been many evening events at Broadway Gallery such as previews of new exhibitions and opening receptions. Volunteers are also involved across the range of events at the Gallery, such as talks and symposiums, which is very educational – so volunteering also provides the opportunity for artists to progress with their own creative learning.

Are there any challenges when volunteering?

Occasionally with IT when, for example, there’s a research task to do using the laptops that are available however there is always support available from the Gallery team.

Is there ever time to do your own artwork when volunteering at the Gallery?

Yes, I bring all my drawing things and sketchbook with me and it’s a nice environment to do my work when it’s a bit quieter in the Gallery. For example, I’m currently working on illustrations for a children’s book which include pictures of butterflies and this provided inspiration for the Family Arts Workshop activity.


To find out more information about volunteering with the Heritage Foundation, visit the Volunteering page on our website.