Festival volunteers project to expand

Following a successful pilot in 2017, National Lottery funding will enable city residents to share their passion for Edinburgh and get behind the scenes of the festivals.

As part of last year’s celebrations marking 70 years of Edinburgh as a Festival City, the Festival City Volunteers programme was born, with 40 participants from all over Edinburgh involved in welcoming and assisting visitors in August. In turn, participants gained certified training and developed confidence, experience and a range of skills. The programme has received funding of £140,000 from the Big Lottery Fund Scotland for 2018 and 2019 and £50,000 from Spirit of 2012 for this year. This will allow the initiative to expand to 120 volunteers in 2018, with plans to grow further in 2019.

Last year’s diverse group of volunteers were aged between 18 and 81, lived right across the city representing 16 wards - all except the Almond ward - and came from nine different countries. As the programme scales up, it will keep this balance of engaging people from a mix of social, ethnic and generational backgrounds, to include communities and groups from across Edinburgh - many of whom may not currently be involved in the festivals.

Councillor Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Culture and Communities Convener: “The Council was glad to support the successful pilot last year for the city’s 70th anniversary celebrations and we are pleased to see the project continue thanks to funding from the Big Lottery Fund.First Minister meets Festival Volunteers 2017

“This initiative provides local people with the chance to be part of the beating heart of Edinburgh in August, and last year’s volunteers have played an active role shaping the scheme. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many saying their time spent being an ambassador increased their pride and self-confidence. It really is a good example of how such schemes are able to work positively in partnership with volunteer organisations to promote skills development and career opportunities.”

One of last year’s volunteers said: I have lived in Edinburgh my whole life, so being a festival city volunteer was quite special, because it gave me a chance to participate in helping people see the city, not just for the festivals but also other places they might want to go…it’s a really great opportunity for the people of Edinburgh to participate in what’s going on, and also to share their knowledge.”

Another of last year’s volunteers reflected on what they gained from their experience, commenting: “I am a lot more confident after being a Festival City Volunteer. I never thought I would be able to do the training but I did, and it taught me to always keep trying. I was expecting it to be difficult but it was enjoyable…I was part of something that was so special to Edinburgh.”

Edinburgh-based funders are also supporting the project including Edinburgh Airport and Lothian Buses. In order to reach out across the city, the festivals are working closely with partners, including Volunteer Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh Council, EventScotland and Edinburgh College, as well as community groups who support people with health and social barriers - with a focus on local charities Into Work, Access to Industry, The Thistle Foundation and The Welcoming.

The scheme has been designed as a special opportunity for people who want to volunteer, working in close collaboration with Volunteer Edinburgh as the city’s specialists in best practice.

Based on the 2017 model, with feedback from last year’s volunteers, the 120-strong group will have access to fourteen hours of certified training - learning about the festivals, cultural attractions, city navigation and customer service skills.  During the peak festivals season in August, volunteers will complete a minimum of six four-hour shifts.  They will spend their time offering a local welcome and assisting visitors, with hands-on support from the festivals and Volunteer Edinburgh throughout.  As part of their training, volunteers will also be invited to a range of festival events and special behind the scenes experiences.

To secure long-term impact for volunteers beyond August, there will be year-round support for participants to help realise their ambitions, whether that be involvement in future festivals, community connections, or education and training. Plans to extend the project further in 2019 have also been boosted by the funders’ commitment, to ensure the Festival City Volunteers remain a vibrant and important feature of Edinburgh’s peak festival season.

Maureen McGinn, Chair, Big Lottery Fund Scotland said: “Congratulations to Festivals Edinburgh on securing this National Lottery funding to expand their Festival City Volunteers project. This project will provide rich volunteering experiences to a diverse range of people living in Edinburgh. With additional support and training available from Volunteer Edinburgh, volunteers will be able build resilience through arts and culture and also increase their skills and confidence.”

Debbie Lye, Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012 said: “As a funder of other major events volunteering programmes including the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and Hull City of Culture 2017, we know the multiple benefits of such schemes,” said. “Volunteers develop new skills and confidence, which boosts their physical and mental wellbeing, while their impact is also felt more widely in better-connected communities and a renewed sense of civic pride. Volunteering can transform towns and cities, which is why we’re very proud to support Edinburgh’s Festival City Volunteers programme.”

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