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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 when the clock ticks back around to 1 January, 2018.

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 when the clock ticks back around to 1 January, 2018.

“I don’t want it to end,” laughs Sara who, like many of the volunteers she has met during the past six months, has thrown “her heart and soul” into the City of Culture celebrations.

“I won’t know what to do with myself,” she adds. “It’s been such an amazing experience. I’ve got to do so many amazing things, meet so many people, that it will be a huge gap to fill when 2017 finally ends.”

Hull-born Sara, a PA at KCOM, is one of 2,500 volunteers who have signed up to be ambassadors for this north eastern renaissance city in its spotlight year.

In that time Sara and her fellow “scandalous blue” uniform wearing colleagues have been the face of Hull for the flood of visitors, tourists, performers and artists who have descended on the city.

They have provided a cheery smile and a leaflet as the trains decamp at Paragon Station each morning, ushered gig goers around the city’s music venues, engaged culture vultures in conversations about Rembrandt and Lorenzetti in the Ferens Art Gallery and marshalled mass audiences around open air spectaculars, festivals and exhibitions.

Anyone who has visited Hull in the past year can’t fail to have seen this army of fluorescent helpers out and about. Each one has the single aim of showing Hull off in its best possible light – but there are a myriad of reasons why volunteers have decided to join the party.

KCOM has 34 employees who are UK City of Culture volunteers – more than any other corporate partner. Since January members of the KCOM team have worked 224 volunteer shifts and contributed 647 hours to City of Culture events.

Away from the technical support KCOM is providing, such as connectivity services for the 2017 offices, the Humber Street Gallery and big outdoor events like the Radio One Big Weekend, it is the ordinary employees who are making a big difference on the ground.

Paul Dannatt, 49, a business analyst by day and music lover by night, has been with the project from the start.

As one of the initial “Pioneer Volunteers” he has been a City of Culture cheerleader since April 2016 when he joined the roadshows to recruit the first wave of ambassadors.

“Why did I join? I just thought it was a great opportunity,” says Paul, who’s lived in the city for two decades.

“It was the chance to do things that I would never normally do; things that sounded really interesting. I’ve got a ten-year-old son, Vivian, and I wanted to show him that you can get involved in new things and can be inspired. I wanted him to know there’s more out there to be enjoyed if you make the effort to find it.”

So far Paul has helped marshal 3,000 naked blue people as part of the Sea of Hull, helped as a production runner on the opening Made In Hull spectacular, acted as a roadie for the North Atlantic Flux music festival and been a “artist liaison” for the Where Are We Now? Event with Charlotte Church.

“That was a brilliant event,” he grins. “To be honest, I would never have thought of going to see Charlotte Church but she absolutely blew me away. Now, if I saw she was playing somewhere in the area I’d definitely go.

“I think the main reason I volunteered is because I wanted everyone to see Hull how I see it. Hull gets a lot of stick, a lot of it from people who’ve probably never been here. I’ve been here 20 years and I love the place.

“I thought if I could do my bit to show the outside world what a fantastic place it actually is I would have achieved something this year.

“The main thing I’ll take away from being a volunteer is the positivity. A lot of people wanted to showcase Hull and change perceptions of the place - and I think that’s already happening. Attitudes are already changing.  You’ve still got the moaners but I think a lot of people are finally embracing the city and realising what it has to offer.”

Among the many things marketing manager Rachel Constable never thought she’d be doing this year is throwing smoke grenades in East Park.

But such is the variety of life when you sign up for the blue all-weather jacket brigade.

As part of the Seven Alleys show, last June’s ghost walk through some of Hull’s more macabre urban legends and old wives tales, Rachel was part of the volunteer support crew that allowed the artistes to spin their fanciful yarns.

“I’ve never done anything like it before. I’ve never performed, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” says Rachel.

“It was hard work, we did 35 hours that week on top of our normal day jobs, but it was so enjoyable.

“I got to know people who I would never have spoken to ordinarily, people whose paths I’d never normally have crossed. But because we were together for five hours a day for a week, we came together as a team really quickly and it was brilliant.

“To be part of something that spectacular and to see the audience reaction – and know you helped make it happen – is something I will take away with me from this year,” adds Rachel, who also joined Sara and Paul as KCOM volunteers at July’s Pride in Hull event.

“I decided to become a 2017 volunteer because it’s such a huge thing for the city,” she says. “I really wanted to do my bit to make it a success. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“I didn’t want to look back afterwards and think ‘I wish I’d done that’.

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