When Lucy, the Heritage & Culture Warwickshire (HCW) Volunteer Coordinator sent out a request for volunteers for an event to be held at the County Record Office (CRO), it presented a good opportunity for me to see more than I can as a volunteer popping in for just a few hours a week. I knew it would be interesting, and also an opportunity to be able to contribute to the work of the record office in some small way.
Despite the unforeseen road closures of the Leamington Marathon, I arrived at reception just ahead of the scheduled time. Karen (one of the lead organisers with a smile as bright as her lipstick) and Richard, along with the always helpful Ella and Jo, aka team ‘Meet and Greet’ were there to direct the likes of me. The CRO team had obviously been working very hard and the meticulous planning and organisation was in full view.
With my bug friendly hi-vis vest, badge and cold water provided, I was dispatched to the main entrance to complete the first of two one hour duties as a marshall, with some very entertaining and knowledgeable partners. After the first stint was over I was keen to see what was actually happening at the event. I was immediately distracted, by Jack (one of the team at the CRO), resembling something between Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and a circus ring master in a rather warm but fetching outfit. He was in charge of the ‘Test your Strength Machine’ and I had to have a go – as an average, not particularly well coordinated 12 stone person it didn’t bode well. Jack assured me that my 70% result on the strength machine was one of the best at that point. As I smiled smugly to myself devastation soon followed, as a young boy about half my size (I guess about 10 years of age) scored 5 x 100% … I scuttled away anonymously into the crowd.
There were a lot of people having a really nice time but not just in the ‘Fete-like’ fun atmosphere occupying the approach to the main building but inside as well where the ‘business is done’ – the scene was one of a great family occasion. After a relatively speedy first gander around the stalls, I went to get a quick flavour of the action inside before my second marshalling duty. I couldn’t fail but be impressed by what was being provided by the staff and volunteers via informative chats, interesting displays and guided tours and activities. The atmosphere was warm and wonderful and definitely the product of some considerable creative effort by the whole team.
Now it was time to eat, so I managed to get a rather hungry Ben Earl away from his good work at the ‘Our Warwickshire’ table. I know he likes to eat, so a little time was spent consuming Caribbean food on the lawn where I demonstrated the art of messy eating. Happily only the sunshine prevailed on a slightly sticky day…all in all a very good thing.
Over too soon?
After my final marshall’s turn I was able to spend some more time delving into the record office ‘menu’. This was when I realised how much more there is to explore and enjoy and how little I know as yet. I met a number of staff and volunteers who I had never seen or met before, all of whom are involved in a variety of fascinating projects. A bit like a good party it was all over a bit too soon with the caveat that the glorious heat meant that for many it was actually time for a well deserved rest.
As a volunteer and an observer there is no doubt in my mind that this was a highly successful event with a good footfall. A great taster for the local community and most likely a lot of good seeds have been sewn. On a personal basis this was a good knowledge building and networking event which I hadn’t really anticipated. Plenty to follow up!