I’m not sure how accurate or comprehensive Pubs Galore website is? Whatever, they list ‘The Volunteer; as being the 165th most frequent British pub name with 28 of them currently operating. Apparently the pub with one of the longest name in Britain is The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn in Stalybridge (like most largest, smallest, oldest pubs the title has been disputed over the years). You can also find reference to Naval and Rifle Volunteers and probably many others, by all means add your local variant in the comments section.
I’m fairly certain the Volunteers referred to were soldiers or sailors, whether they were celebrating specific local heroes, regiments or acting as an incentive to recruitment, or both, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is, like the armed forces of yesteryear, the concept of volunteering is still very important today to many organisations, even around the modern beer scene.
A good example is the recent Tour de Yorkshire where the vast majority of course officials were volunteers. There are literally dozens of opportunities out there. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) who champion and support volunteering, are a good first port of call for anyone interested in donating their time. In a couple of weeks NCVO are coordinating Volunteers Week, 1st – 7th June, which aims to celebrate and inspire volunteers.
So, what if I want to volunteer to do something connected with beer? That’s dead easy. Most beer festivals rely on volunteers, from the big CAMRA festivals down to local events in village halls. Leeds CAMRA recently held an after party to say thank you to all the volunteers who had helped out at Leeds Beer Festival. A cracking afternoon out it was too. Two barrels from Kirkstall brewery, a decent buffet and a lovely sunny afternoon at Meanwood Valley Urban Farm.
The venue was chosen as the Farm were the festival charity and it seemed a good idea to hold the event in the Epicentre, their iconic and architecturally interesting HQ, and at the same time present them with a cheque for £365 which had been donated by people attending the festival. If I’m honest, I thought the after party was a little under subscribed. There were far more people who had helped at the beer fest than turned up for the subsidised event.
I’d driven past Meanwood Valley Farm lots of times, but never actually visited it. Hidden away, less than 100yds from the busy Meanwood Road in Leeds 7, it’s a suburban oasis of peace and tranquility, and donkeys, and ducks, and chicks, and goats and Mums and Dads with kids in prams, and a group of CAMRA die hards stuffing their faces and drinking top quality beer from plastic glasses. I’m not a fan of plastic glasses, but was happy to conform with the child friendly policy. As well as lots of young visitors looking at the animals and wildlife habitats, the farm also has a more formal educational role, promoting organic and sustainable practice. They’ve got a café on site and it’s only a couple of quid to visit. The charity relies on donations to continue their work with disadvantaged kids and adults with learning difficulties. They also do a bicycle recycling scheme, along with recycling lots of other things into even stranger things!
I don’t need to comment on the beer. Porter or Pale, they were both excellent. Beer and sunshine always go well together. Add a few sandwiches on home made organic bread and everything gets elevated to a higher plane. Considering it only cost a fiver, then the two days I spent on the door at Leeds Beer Festival didn’t feel like volunteering at all.
As well as most of the bigger festivals having some sort of event to say thank you, you’ll also be able to reasonably sample a few beers on the day(s) of the festivals which is no bad thing. If I’m honest, any fringe benefits are purely incidental. Just being there, getting involved, having a laugh and some good craic is the main prize. Remember, the help needed at festivals isn’t necessarily just working behind the bar. Lots of people and different skills are needed at the set up and take down stages, as well as all doing all the stuff like taking the money, glasses, tombola, and all the behind the scenes admin.
It’s not just CAMRA festivals who embrace volunteers. I’ve done events like Indy Man Beer Con where, although it’s classed as volunteering, the remuneration of free entry to a session and a generous amount of free beer tokens is a decent incentive.
So how do I go about volunteering? The best thing to do is to keep your eyes and ears open. A lot of opportunities are promoted on social media and I see that SPBW are still requiring volunteers for Wood Fest. To volunteer at a CAMRA festival you need to be a member and there’s a section on volunteering on the CAMRA web site, your local branch will also be able to help. Checking the festivals section in What’s Brewing? and then looking at the festivals web site for any opportunities is a good one. For our local festival we just advertise in the village magazine for volunteers.
So what you waiting for, get volunteering!