Volunteering in the Arts

BY Deborah Simms


Hello! It has been quite a while since we have used this forum to let you know about the Centre. Therefore, we are relaunching with a new mission statement:

To educate and inform: to be a resource for information relevant to small businesses working within the creative sector.

We hope that this blog will provide not only updates and information on Manchester Craft and Design Centre, but also highlight reports and studies about our unique place in the cultural/ retail space and ways in which you can get involved.

Starting with getting involved, this blog is all about volunteering.

There has been much talk of volunteering over recent years, it’s use as a buoyancy aid for public services, contributing to charity developments and its influence on mental health. Here are some of the top facts about volunteering, last published in 2017:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4rJ3NWb0pY&w=560&h=315]

Though some of these figures are from as far back as 2015, I hope that they show the ever-increasing importance placed on volunteering within our economy and society. But what about the Centre? Why do we have volunteers?

We have worked with approximately eighteen volunteers over the past year, providing a range of opportunities including photography, creating resources, helping on practical workshops and much more. Our volunteers tend to be within a younger age bracket with many coming to gain practical work experience outside of their studies, which seems to be a national trend:

‘In 2015, 51% of those aged 16 to 24 volunteered for an average of 17.0 minutes per day, over the year. This was the highest of all age groups both in terms of participation and average time spent volunteering… Students are both more likely to volunteer and also spend longer per day volunteering than those in paid work.’ [1]


Why do we believe in volunteering?

‘Volunteers make a huge difference to our work at MCDC – as a small team the additional ideas and capacity they bring is really invaluable. I joined the cultural sector as a volunteer myself, and hope that by nurturing and supporting people to develop skills and experience, we give our volunteers the tools to succeed in the competitive arts sector.’ Kate Day – Director of Manchester Craft & Design Centre

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What do our volunteers say?

‘I wanted to gain some experience working in an arty environment, to do something that I would enjoy, and I liked that it was flexible around my time. It didn’t even feel like I was working, the events were fun and I got to meet different artists leading each workshop. I’ve also done photography for events, audience finder surveys, data input, helped with the wedding showcase and have volunteered at two exhibition launch nights.’ Kajal – Volunteer

Kajal is now going to study Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts in London (UAL), and noted, ‘I spoke about volunteering at MCDC in my personal statement when applying to uni, I think it was an important factor because I have gained invaluable experience and learnt about many different career options.’ 

The second of our volunteers that I spoke to Chiara, is now going on to study a master degree in lighting design in Copenhagen which will be focused a lot in the theatre and performing art environments. ‘This is one of my biggest achievements so far, as I’ve been admitted with 20 other young designers from all around the world to this cutting-edge Danish study programme.’

She said of her volunteering experience, ‘My first wish was to be actively involved in an art and design environment and experience creative work and processes, by being part of a team whose aim is to  enliven this beautiful space in many different ways. I mainly did office support, [for MCDC] doing research for blog posts as well as collecting information from customer surveys, developing my research process skills.’

If you would like to learn more about volunteering here at Manchester Craft and Design Centre, whether to enhance your career prospects, develop your skills, or else to meet people in a friendly and interesting environment, please get in touch at [email protected]

Deborah Simms

Creative Enterprise Officer, Manchester Craft and Design Centre

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/satelliteaccounts/articles/changesinthevalueanddivisionofunpaidcareworkintheuk/2015