The Life Of A Professional Volunteer

Having settled in Australia as a thoroughly retired old man, I had to find something to do which would interest me and make a good change from the house building I was doing and would keep my brain alive.

So, I discovered the life of a volunteer………

Since about 2011 I have been a very active volunteer in a very wide range of enjoyable activities, ranging from doing all the computer work for a local farming group to working on a wide range of festivals in Brisbane, such as the French Festival, the Writers Festival, the World Science Fair and a number of that sort of event.

I have also worked (as a lavatory cleaner) on the Woodford Folk Festival, which was not as bad as it sounds.   We didn’t have to deal with blocked lavatories or similar horrible things, but simply make sure that the lavatories and showers were equipped with paper and so on, and clean.

Since this work entailed starting at about 5 am and finishing at about midnight, we in our team divided the days up between ourselves, which meant that we were able to attend any concerts, talks or demonstrations we particularly wanted to, which was pleasant and rewarding…  We were part of a team of people doing the same work all around the Festival and its huge camping grounds – up to 100 000 people attend this festival, and there are about 3000 volunteers who make it all happen.   Our group were officially called The Intergalactic S-bend Warriors, and we had T-shirts that proclaimed that name.

We have also worked on The Planting, which is a much smaller Festival in the same place, but more about planting trees, vegetables and similar, but it also has lots of talks, so there both Lotty and I were working as Stage Managers, in separate venues.

One of my favourite “jobs” was at the Brisbane Jazz Club, where I worked for about 4 years setting the club up for the night’s show, looking after the patrons and tidying up after the show was finished.    This one I worked on about 2 nights a week, and absolutely loved the huge range of jazz that came our way.. everything from Big Band Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, dixieland and every sort of jazz you could imagine, and all of a very high standard…  Good folk to work with too.

However, after those years, I became a bit tired of the work, so I stopped and started working at La Boite instead.   This is a moderately experimental theatre attached to the Technical University Of Queensland, where shows are put on at, curiously enough, a theatre called The Roundhouse, so I have sort of come full circle and am ending my life and starting my life working in a theatre called The Roundhouse.

Here we have all manner of shows, ranging from wildly experimental shows to relatively low key productions, as well as regular student performances..  All good fun though.

Woodford Folk Festival – I Clean Lavatories

A couple of weeks ago Lotty and I spent a strange week working as volunteers at the Woodford Folk Festival, the largest such festival in Australia.   We were two vollies (as they are called here in Australia), among about 3000 others all of whom work their little butts off to make this festival happen.

To be honest, neither Lotty nor I have any great interest in folk music, but many of our friends have worked in this festival for years and had told us it was great fun, and anyhow, it seemed to us to be an essential part of our education in living in Oz, so we signed up as soon as it was possible – about 6 months before the actual festival occurs.

S-Bend Warriors
S-Bend Warriors

One signs on via the web, and all manner of information is required from prospective vollies, among which is the burning question of what sort of work does one wish to do in the festival.  This is accompanied by an imposing list of possible areas of work – publicity, stage hand, selling stuff and so on – we had no idea what we might best do, so we simply selected the “do anything” button, and sat back to wait and see what would happen next.

What happened next was an extremely enthusiastic email from a bloke called Alan who would be our chief for the festival, as we had been placed in one of his teams and would be glorying in the title of S-Bend Warriors.   This meant that we would be one of many teams of Inter-galactic S-Bend Warriors who would be charged with cleaning and provisioning a load of showers/lavatories in one of the many camping areas in the festival.

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