Volunteering in 2020

Jen Blackwood, from the Palace’s Creative Learning Team, and a number of our wonderful volunteers reflect briefly on how this most unusual year has impacted our volunteering scheme.

Jen says: As a charity Alexandra Park and Palace relies on the work of hundreds of dedicated volunteers to deliver our activities and events. This includes volunteers working on various exhibitions, theatre performances, Creative Learning projects and much more. All of this in-kind support provides visitors with an extremely warm welcome and also helps to save the charity thousands of pounds each year.

As with almost every other cultural organisation, this year has been a massive challenge for us. We have missed having our volunteers onsite incredibly. We know that many of them have had to face personal challenges and that it has been difficult for them not to be as actively involved as they usually are. We have managed to stay in touch through monthly zoom calls, weekly newsletters and a small number of events. Some volunteers were also able to continue to work in the Fundraising, Creative Learning and Collections, Interpretation and Archive departments. We’ve even managed to set up a brand new volunteer led project transcribing historic Ally Pally event programmes. This is invaluable in making sure our collections are searchable and easy for all to enjoy.

As we reach the end of 2020 would like to take the opportunity to say a massive thank you to all of our fantastic volunteers. Thank you for the support and belief, your voice in the community and for giving us something to keep going for. We’re keeping fingers, toes, well everything crossed, for a packed programme of events and activities next year that we can deliver together.

Volunteer Jeannie Bushell: Since May, I’ve helped the Palace’s Development Team, by summarising the Ally Pally emergency appeal donor data – the value, patterns, donor details for special thanks – that sort of thing. The absolute best bit of this weekly exercise has been reading donors’ heartfelt messages. Typical examples include: ‘’The park at Ally Pally kept me going this year and watching the view and the changing seasons as 2020 went by was the highlight of the COVID year’’ and ‘’ Please go on looking after my beloved park. Good luck!’’

There’s plenty more where that came from!

This strength of feeling and appreciation has been moving and is testament to just why the Alexandra Palace team has ventured on with the Herculean task of keeping the place going despite the massive income shortfall. Thankfully, the Culture Recovery Fund‘s welcome award recently will help, to the benefit of us all. I feel now more than ever, as things remain uncertain, us volunteers are part of something significant, aiding in whatever way we can. I’m happy to play even a small role. 

Volunteer Pat Brearey: Although I’d read about occasional interruptions or changes to usual activities during Alexandra Palace’s long history, I didn’t expect to witness any myself. On a normal day in early 2020 it was suggested I look at images of historical items on the Palace’s digital asset management system, locating those relating to the Theatre in the 1920s. Here are many images spanning the history of the Park and Palace, and Theatre information is sometimes within items of another topic. Not a quick job then, but I made a start on this at the Palace. That is until Friday 13th, the March date I realised it might be best continued at home for a while. Currently the task is progressing to completion and includes a wider date range. On a personal level it’s given me a welcome regular focus during these unusual times. More broadly, hopefully it aids interpretation of the Theatre. Recently I came across items which appear to list “artists appearing in television programmes” in the 1930s. The artists include Gracie Fields and Henry Oscar; both performers in the Theatre a few years earlier. The Second World War followed and the world changed. But afterwards, much that had been familiar was still there, including Alexandra Palace, Fields and Oscar.

Volunteer Rose Slayden: Among all the difficulties and things we have all missed associated with Covid I have missed volunteering at the Theatre. I’ve felt privileged to be involved since the Theatre reopened and I was enjoying meeting and working with new people as part of a team in a warm and supportive organisation, in such a historic and atmospheric building. I’ve always found audience members receptive and interested, and the opportunity to see so many varied productions and shows that I may not have considered going to is a great perk. Little did I know when I did my last shift in February that the Theatre would have to be closed for so long.

The public reopening with a production of The Gruffalo’s Child in December was such good news. I volunteered for an afternoon shift and it was great to see so many excited children first enjoying the festively decorated space in the East Court, and then getting involved in calling back to the characters and clapping along to the songs. Despite the social distancing it seemed like a step along the road to normality, so the news that everything has to be cancelled again has come as a great disappointment.

Fingers crossed for better news in 2021.


More information about volunteering at Alexandra Park and Palace is here