OPINION: Behind-the-scenes volunteers are needed as things open back up - Karen Weaver, Harrogate and District Community Action
Reading last week’s paper it was great to see reports from various community events taking place over the Bank Holiday weekend and details of more planned in September. These are a welcome sign of things getting back to something like normal, and everyone involved should be congratulated on taking these big steps forward.
Behind the scenes, organisers will undoubtedly have spent hours pouring over risk assessments and preparing event plans that participants are happily unaware of for the most part.
On the day after the Bank Holiday I was over in Wharfedale for the Kilnsey Show and it really was special to see so many people gathered on the Show Field beneath the brooding Kilnsey Crag, meeting up with family and friends and enjoying the competitions, displays and stalls.
The day before I’d watched the TV programme celebrating 70 years of the Edinburgh Tattoo, sadly not happening this year, and unexpectedly found myself welling up at the sight of so many performers from all of the world coming together in the spectacular setting of Edinburgh Castle. I was lucky to be taken as a child and remember feeling like we were suspended in mid-air above Edinburgh in the amazing grandstand seats. The scale of this annual event is huge and, somewhat like the Knaresborough Bed Race, if it was proposed from new now it would probably never get off the ground, literally. Let’s hope this wonderful collaborative celebration of artistry, creativity and performance can go ahead in 2022, as well as the many fantastic local events that share the same spirit at their heart and that we have missed so much over the past eighteen months.
All these activities can only happen if there are people willing to get involved and do the legwork required to organise everything safely and securely. Dealing with health and safety, licensing, risk assessments, marshals, permits and insurance was already challenging before COVID, and there are now many added responsibilities to bear in mind.
Two years ago, you wouldn’t have expected to find security guards manning the entrances to the WI and produce tents at Kilnsey Show, but there they were last week, making sure there weren’t too many in the marquees at any one time and ensuring a well spaced-out flow of people keen to see the award-winning exhibits and rosettes. Strange times indeed but all requiring a lot of planning and organisation by the Show Committee.
Just as things are starting to open back up charities and community groups are finding that there is a shortage of volunteers, in the same way that some businesses are struggling to recruit staff. There seems to be an ongoing shakeout from the lockdowns, with some deciding not to return to previous roles, or catching up on delayed holidays, visiting families and friends or reviewing their priorities.
Volunteers are in some cases urgently needed to ensure that activities re-start, for example our voluntary car driving services in Harrogate and Ripon. The pandemic has accelerated a trend of reducing numbers of older people volunteering; a ticking timebomb which could have serious implications for so many community groups and events.
If there is no-one prepared to do the behind-the-scenes roles then it’s inevitable that there won’t be a return to the full range of community activities we enjoyed before lockdown.
If you see requests for help please think about how you could get involved, even in a small way, and if you’re stuck for ideas visit our online Volunteering Directory to search through over 200 current roles: https://hadca.org.uk/volunteer/opportunities