Thousands of volunteers are playing their part in revitalising a County Durham market town – and there is still time for more to get involved.
Figures released to celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2017 (June 1 to June 7), show that 1,700 people are already making their mark in Bishop Auckland by volunteering regularly with Eleven Arches and Auckland Castle Trust.
Both charities are working hard to transform the town into a world-class visitor destination, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and creating countless opportunities for employment, training and skills development.
In the past 12 months alone, volunteers have given almost 220,000 hours to help bring this vision to life, turning their hands to everything from gardening and sewing to unearthing hidden treasures.
Ruth Storey, who has been volunteering for both Auckland Castle Trust and Eleven Arches for more than a year, said: “Volunteering has given me the chance to work alongside and meet some really interesting, talented and diverse people from all walks of life here in Bishop Auckland.
“I have made many friends, regained my confidence and put my existing skills to good use, while also learning new ones. Anyone can volunteer, whether it’s alone or with their family, and I would thoroughly recommend it.”
Auckland Castle Trust, which launched in 2012, is currently investing £70m to transform Auckland Castle into a faith, arts and heritage destination of international significance.
This includes the restoration of 900-year old Auckland Castle, as well as the creation of a new Welcome Building, Mining Art Gallery, Spanish Gallery and Walled Garden, complete with contemporary glass restaurant.
Even while this work is ongoing, the charity’s 250 registered volunteers are still making their mark, leading tours of the Market Place and Castle, working alongside Durham University on two archaeological digs and greeting visitors at No.42 Market Place, which houses a shop, gallery space and Collections Display.
Opportunities for hundreds more volunteers will be created over the next three years, with current vacancies including roles in gardening, events support and visitor experience at the forthcoming Mining Art Gallery.
Michele Armstrong, Head of Volunteering at Auckland Castle Trust, said: “Since its launch in 2012 Auckland Castle Trust has worked with a growing number of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who want to play their part in revitalising Bishop Auckland.
“Those already involved have been able to enjoy new experiences, make new friends and develop new skills and we are always happy to welcome more people on board.”
Auckland Castle Trust’s sister charity, Eleven Arches, is responsible for the open air spectacular ‘Kynren – an epic tale of England’. In its first year the show was brought to life by a cast and crew of 1,000 volunteers and attracted more than100,000 visitors.
This year the show promises to be even bigger, better and brighter, with 500 additional volunteers, as well as completely new scenes, more characters, extra animals and added special effects.
Kynren volunteers, affectionately known as Archers, are involved with the production in many different ways; making props and costumes, looking after the animals, setting up lighting and pyro effects, performing in the show itself, welcoming visitors and managing and maintaining the site during performances as well as out of season.
The volunteers all receive professional training from leading experts in their respective fields, which can range from combat skills and choreography to World Host Training, ensuring the highest levels of customer service.
While the cast is mostly full for 2017, Eleven Arches is still on the lookout for a handful of volunteers to join the Experience Team greeting visitors, the Go Team (show and cavalry) helping with stage management and a select number of roles for men within the show team
A waiting list has also been started for anyone wanting to be on stage in Kynren 2018. To register your interest, visit the website at www.elevenarches.org/get-involved/join-us
Jayne Appleby, Volunteer Casting Coordinator for Eleven Arches, said: “Without the commitment and dedication of our volunteers, we quite simply wouldn’t have a show.
“We have families that volunteer together, some spanning three generations, as well as volunteers that travel from as far as Kent and Cardiff and, new for this year, more than 80 teenagers.
“All of our volunteers give up hundreds of hours of their time to be part of Kynren and to receive so much support and enthusiasm from such a small catchment area is testament to the spirit of the community that all want to play their part in regenerating the area.”
‘Kynren – an epic tale of England’ returns on 1 July 2017 and tickets are available on the websitewww.kynren.co.uk. More information about volunteering at the show can also be found atwww.elevenarches.org/get-involved/join-us.