Chronicle Blog: #justdoitVolunteer

The Chronicle’s Volunteer Blog features blog posts and articles about what it’s like to be a part of the Chronicle Project and is written by our volunteers.
This post is by Rob Jones, a volunteer who led the creation of the project’s exhibition at the Pierhead Building in October.

Hi, my name is Rob Jones, and I’ve been with the Chronicle Project since October 2016. I’ve been asked to muse about my involvement with the project, and in particular my involvement with the setting up of the exhibition at The Pierhead building in October 2017. I’ll come onto that later, but first a few ramblings about the Project in general.

I think the first thing to say is that my eyes have been opened to the depth, breadth and sheer scale of the volunteering that goes on, and has always gone on, in the community. I’m sure that a lot of people who don’t volunteer themselves are aware in some vague way, that volunteering happens, but I’m equally sure that they may not always be aware of the huge contribution it makes to society. Even those who volunteer in a particular area may not appreciate the varieties and forms that volunteering takes elsewhere. I hope that one of the outcomes of the project has been to raise the awareness of volunteering in a historical context and perhaps make people reflect on how volunteering could be a part of their lives. It has also of course given a voice to those volunteers who have already given so much.

Now for the selfish bit. I think that anyone who volunteers for a project like this will inevitably come out of it with new skills and increased self-confidence about using those skills. Before this project I had never co-written a radio documentary; I had never done a video interview or edited the result; I had never videoed a live event. I’ve now done all of these thing (to a lesser or greater degree of success and competency). I can now confidently create and edit digital images for a variety of uses. And finally, I can, much to my surprise and with a lot of help from others, stage an exhibition.

The Exhibition, oh, the Exhibition. I remember it well …

I had been with the project for almost a year, getting in deeper and deeper every month, every week, every day – hour by hour I was being sucked in, drawn into the centre of the vortex where volunteering for things seemed … normal.

The team had been on an excellent course about the dos and don’ts of exhibitions, presented by the staff of The Firing Line Museum. It was the final session and I was pretty confident that I had a grasp of it now – not the details maybe, but the Big Picture was there in front of me: I could see myself helping out when we came to do our own event. But nothing had prepared me for what came next.

Klavdija glanced around the room (I say glanced, but the effect was more of being brushed by the Eye of Sauron), and asked if someone would care to take the lead on the Exhibition. Survival training kicked in, I broke eye contact and quietly leant back in my chair to break line-of-sight, but to no avail. As the tumbleweed rolled across the room, I heard “Rob, what about you?”, and my fate was sealed.

It’s been hard. It’s been fun. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s been hard fun. None of us had done anything similar before but we all believed in the art of the possible – that, and total ignorance of just how much could go wrong, carried us through. So many lessons came out of the exhibition, but I’ll mention a few that I feel were important.

Ideas – lots and lots of ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, laughable ideas. At first it doesn’t matter about the quality of the ideas, it’s quantity that counts at this stage. If you have ten ideas and only one of them is viable, then you’re in trouble – if you have a hundred ideas, then …

Detail – you need someone whose good on detail. Broad sweeps are all very well, but it’s the detail that makes something interesting, different and effective. Also, getting the invoices paid, the emails sent, the services booked – that kind of detail too.

Prioritise – decide on the core of the exhibition, both in terms of subject and the physical media. Once you have that sorted, then you can add all the extra bits of fluff designed to entice and delight. Use media that engages all the senses don’t be exclusively visual.

Don’t procrastinate – once you’ve decided to do something, or buy something then do it. Don’t wait until two days before the exhibition opens to go get that perfect thing you saw three weeks ago, only to find that it’s out-of-stock, that they can’t guarantee when it’s coming in next, but it may MAY be the morning that the exhibition opens, so you queue up with early morning Swedish meatball enthusiasts and hope for the best, cursing the god of flatpack furniture … sorry, got a bit carried away there. The basic lesson is Don’t Do Your Homework On The Bus To School.
Promote, promote, promote. Get the news out there by any means possible. From social media to old fashioned printed leaflets. Tattoo pigs and set them loose in Queen Street (ok, we didn’t use that one). Different people access information in different ways – try to cover as many of them as you can.

I’m sure there are others, in fact I know there are, but this isn’t Exhibitions 101 and it’s going on a bit now.
After this experience I would urge anyone reading this to get out there and volunteer. Perhaps try something you already love, or something outside your comfort zone that stretches you a little. There will be support, there will be training, there will be Welshcakes. Always Welshcakes. You’ll get so much out of it, honest you will – #justdoitVolunteer!

The Adventure Playground, a model hand crafted by Rob himself.