To mark Volunteers’ Week we’re highlighting the work of the committed volunteers at Alexandra Palace. People from all walks of life who donate their time and expertise to help ensure the Park and Palace remain open for all.
Jeannie and Sally have been volunteers at Alexandra Palace since 2014, assisting on everything from scanning the archive to tours and fundraising. This is their story about how they became a volunteer and made friendships at the Palace.
To find out more and see how you can get involved, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 20 years I’d been on nodding acquaintance with Ally Pally – popping up to see the annual Fireworks spectacular and taking my daughters to weekly dance lessons or for the occasional skating session.
I was intrigued when I spotted that volunteer-lead tours of the derelict Victorian theatre were being offered in 2014, after the regeneration project had been announced. Entering the theatre foyer for the first time through the East Court’s insignificant-looking, shabby doors, the blancmange-pink paint that someone had helpfully used to brighten it up was hard to ignore. The big reveal was the vast, imposing theatre – crumbling plaster, tatty, original frayed stage curtain into the bargain – that had once accommodated 3,000 entertainment-hungry Victorians. It was frozen in time and I’d had no idea it was there.
I felt I’d witnessed something special and unique. I was captivated, and so much so, that I signed up as a volunteer soon afterwards
My activities have been from the practical to the inspirational such as vital admin. support and contributing to policy development to guiding park and theatre tours, fundraising at the Farmers’ Market and other events and promoting the theatre to local businesses to raise awareness and secure donations.
I feel privileged to watch the emergence of this truly magical ‘found space’, from the original auditorium floor-boards carefully numbered and set aside for cleaning and re-installation to the mysterious arched dwarf support walls and various Victorian paraphernalia found underneath them.
My memorable experiences have ranged from shinning up scaffolding (scary!) to see at close quarters the plaster ceiling as it’s been expertly and lovingly restored, to hearing tour visitors’ special stories of just why Ally Pally and Park are held so dear to them.
I’ve met many lovely volunteers who I now count as friends, like Sally, my fellow tour guide and theatre enthusiast and I’ve enjoyed working with them in so many varied situations as we contribute in all sorts of ways, but mostly in our own, individual style!
I’ve learned so much about the palace and park’s history and gained insight into truly colourful characters who’ve been part of its quirky and special past.
The essential support and help that we provide as volunteers is truly appreciated by the palace staff, whilst I feel I’m also gaining from the experience. It’s a great arrangement.
I can’t wait to see the time lapse recordings of the theatre’s re-awakening over these past few years and I look forward eagerly to the East Court and Theatre’s Grand opening and the fantastic entertainment programme that’s launching in just a few months. See you there!
I think I can claim to be an original Muswell Hillbilly as I was born in the foothills of Alexandra Palace and have lived in North London my whole life. In fact, Ally Pally has been part of the view from everywhere I’ve lived! I have happy childhood memories of the Palace from weekend rambles, feeding the ducks, the BEST tobogganing in London and more recently times spent there with my children and our dog.
Encouraged by the news of the Heritage Lottery Bid in late 2014, I applied to be a volunteer at the War on The Home Front Exhibition where I was immediately welcomed and made to feel like a valued team member. Every Thursday I would open up the exhibition and wait to see who walked through the door to discover the story of how Alexandra Palace had been used as a refugee and internment camp during WWI. It was a privilege to listen to people’s often moving stories recounting their connection with and memories of Alexandra Palace. One of the exhibition highlights was being able to introduce several visitors to each other whose grandfathers and great grandfathers had been interned at Alexandra Palace.
Having thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at the exhibition and learning so much about this poignant chapter in Alexandra Palaces history, I turned my hand to fundraising and another Ally Pally gem tucked away at the back of the Palace, the Victorian Theatre. It was a good move as I was lucky enough to team up with Jeannie, and together we can be found doing anything from enthusiastically shaking buckets at events, guiding tours around the theatre and East Court before and during restoration work, supporting our wonderful donors and maximising all opportunities to show the theatre to anyone who is interested! We’ve set up stalls at the Farmers Markets to promote our fundraising campaign, visited businesses in Muswell Hill to talk about the theatre and encouraged volunteers along to the Farmers Market for a spot of carol singing. I think it’s safe to say we will talk about the theatre to anyone who is happy to listen!
It has also been a privilege to work on the first phase of the Google Cultural Institute project, establishing an archive and building a collection for Alexandra Palace which is growing by the month, helping to interpret and catalogue images and documents hidden away for so long that are finally seeing the light of day.
Alexandra Palaces future looks bright and I’m delighted to be part of the local team encouraging audiences from far and wide to visit, as well as ensuring that this beautiful, majestic place is at the heart of our North London community.