Whether helping people experience theatre as CFT Buddies, audio describing shows or assisting with our archive, our volunteers play a crucial role in our community-driven mission. We’re extremely lucky to have volunteers of all ages, from various backgrounds and from all over the South Coast. Some have been with us for a month, while others have volunteered faithfully for over 30 years!
We dropped in to chat to four members of our largest volunteer group, the Heritage Volunteers, who meet weekly to assist with the upkeep of our ever-increasing archive. Noel, Verita, Phil and Fiona talk about the role they play at CFT and what volunteering means to them.
How did you become a CFT Volunteer?
Fiona: I moved to Chichester two years ago and made a beeline for the Theatre as I knew of it by reputation. I really wanted to work as a volunteer in some way and saw on the website that volunteers were needed so I applied and the rest is history! I work as an archivist in the Heritage Department and I feel very proud to be part of the team.
Verita: My husband and I retired to the South Coast and joined The Arts Society Lavant Valley. In 2013, they teamed up with CFT’s 'Pass It On' archiving project to create a Heritage Volunteering Project. As I very much enjoy the theatre, I decided to join.
What’s been your favourite experience?
Phil: My favourite experience has been going through all the artefacts relating to my time working in the stage crew at CFT between 1973 and 1981. So many memories came flooding back to me.
Noel: I have thoroughly enjoyed having CFT staff from all different departments talk to us about what their roles are, how they came to work at CFT, what their aspirations were before coming into the Arts. We're incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to hear from them and I have found it very useful as I want a career in the Arts myself. Helping to put together the Noël Coward exhibition for The Vortex was very gratifying as well.
Fiona: Without doubt there have been two highlights for me. First is being involved in the PenPals Project, a joint research project between CFT and Stratford Festival Theatre in Ontario. A group of volunteers were ‘palled’ up with a counterpart in Canada and together we worked to mark the Theatre's 60th Anniversary. It was so thrilling! The other highlight was meeting Daniel Evans with Antoni Cimolino, Artistic Director of Stratford Festival Theatre, when he visited Chichester last year.
What do you get out of being a volunteer?
Phil: I really enjoy the camaraderie amongst the whole team.
Fiona: It has given me such enjoyment working each week with like-minded and fun people. I have gained more knowledge about CFT, its history and its valuable and varied work with the wider community. It has provided a healthy boost to my self-confidence, self-esteem, and general life satisfaction.
Verita: I have very much enjoyed being part of a team, and when I was new to the area, making friendships. I enjoy doing something purposeful with my time.
Noel: Being a volunteer at CFT has been a dream come true for me. CFT is home for me and being able to volunteer at a place that I love and creating something that people throughout the community will be able to access is truly special.
What would you say to others interested in volunteering?
Noel: If you want to volunteer at CFT then go for it! I remember being very anxious around my time applying and starting as I'm a quiet person and I wasn't sure what it would be like, but everyone is beyond welcoming.
Fiona: Do it! You are doing good for others as well as the community and it provides a real sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer gives you a sense of pride and identity. Someone once told me the following and I have never forgotten it:
“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
- Festival Theatre foyer
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