KCOM volunteers throw themselves into City of Culture celebrations
We may only be halfway through Hull’s reign as the UK’s City of Culture – but Sara is beginning to wonder how she will replace the buzz of being a 2017 volunteer.
Hull 2017 would be nothing without its volunteers. Since Hull became UK City of Culture, this army of culture vultures have been the face of Hull.
Since fireworks rang out across the Humber on 1 January, signalling the start of 12 months of artistic endeavour, this army of “scandalous blue” uniform wearing culture vultures have been the face of Hull.
Their smiles have been the first thing to welcome visitors arriving by train at the city’s Paragon Interchange. Their infectious enthusiasm has helped tourists find their bearings, ushered art lovers around the city’s many museums, offered crash courses in art appreciation at the Ferens and provided the backbone that has allowed Hull to enjoy its cultural renaissance.
In June, a new batch of almost 500 volunteers were freshly minted to see the City of Culture home in its final six months.
An entire floor of KCOM’s Prospect Street offices was turned over to the 2017 team as they transformed it into a volunteer selection centre.
This fourth and final wave have now joined the 2,000 volunteers who are already out and about, bearing the torch for the city.
For Colin Renshaw, 2017’s volunteer programme officer who saw the first three waves of recruits through the selection process, the energy and dedication on show has been remarkable.
“It’s been a pleasure to be part of,” says Colin who previously organised volunteers for both the London 2012 Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
“Hull has taken a lot of flak down the years, but to be actually living in the city and seeing just how proud its residents are of it - and how they transmit that pride to the visitors – has been incredible.
“Our volunteers’ pride and passion have taken us to that extra level. I’ve worked with volunteers for 16 years on some big events and usually you train them, turn them out and it’s a short, sharp shock, lots of excitement, and the event’s over.
“But with City of Culture it’s been really rewarding being able to work with our volunteers for a whole 12 months, seeing them get so involved in the programme and also upskilling too, doing things they’ve never done before.”
KCOM’s offices were transformed into a selection hub for a week while the latest volunteers are put through their paces, given the lowdown on the next two City of Culture seasons and sized up for uniforms.
It’s the latest event KCOM, which is a Principal Partner for City of Culture, has collaborated with the 2017 team on after providing Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) for BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend so the world could watch the stars perform live at Burton Constable Hall. KCOM has also provided ultrafast broadband connectivity to the new Humber Street Gallery and the epic outdoor Flood spectacular on Victoria Dock.
And as the partner that can boast the most City of Culture volunteers as part of its workforce, it’s an endeavour close to many of the KCOM team’s hearts.
Cathy Phillips, KCOM’s chief marketing officer, said: “We’re delighted to be supporting the City of Culture again by providing a base to select the next wave of 2017 volunteers.
“Our team has being hugely inspired by City of Culture and, with a large number of KCOM colleagues volunteering to take part in 2017, the feedback so far has been incredible.
“Such a massive programme of events, concerts and exhibitions couldn’t happen without the thousands of dedicated volunteers involved and KCOM would like to join the rest of the City of Culture team in thanking them for making it such a fantastic year for Hull.”
As well as informing recruits in the “nuts and bolts” of volunteering such as health and safety and engaging with visitors, learning other - more abstract - skills has also been part of the training process.
“It’s essential that they feel comfortable talking about things like art,” says Colin. “Being able to have a discussion with a visitor about something like the Blade in Queen Victoria Square is really important. Is it art? Is it engineering? It’s up to you to decide.
“It’s been a huge bonus for us working with KCOM because they’ve been so easy to deal with. They’ve been so positive and so easy to get a yes” from - ‘You want to do that? Yes, let’s make it happen.’ – that it’s taken a lot of the stress out of it.”