Blog – The Inside Life of a Marlborough LitFest Volunteer by Ellen Prockter

Monday, September 11th, 2017

The Marlborough LitFest is a charity run by unpaid volunteers. The principal volunteers are the nine members of the organising committee led by Jan Williamson, who, to an outsider like me, appear to be working flat out for most of the year. My involvement with the LitFest began in 2010. I belonged to the same book group as Jan (then just a committee member) and she promptly ‘persuaded’ the whole group to volunteer. To be fair, we didn’t need much persuasion – we were thrilled with the idea of a Literature Festival in Marlborough, and couldn’t wait to help.

I was happy to do anything and tasks undertaken in the early years included shifting furniture, opening bottles of bubbly at the launch, chairing a session of local, published writers, running the bar, driving an author to Swindon, and lots of washing up. I can honestly say that every job was rewarding – there is such a buzz in being involved.

Last year there were approximately 60 volunteers involved, many coming back year after year, but new volunteers are always welcome. The Festival this year will have approximately 35 events in seven venues – the Town Hall, St. Mary’s Church Hall, The White Horse Bookshop, Katharine House Gallery, The Bear and two venues within Marlborough College.

You can choose, to a certain degree, where you volunteer and for how long. The minimum useful time is two hours and this could be spent delivering posters and leaflets in the run up to the Festival, stewarding an event (this includes taking tickets at the door and using the roaming microphone for the question sessions at the end of each talk), serving at the bar or helping in the café. Working in the busy café as part of a team can be great fun – serving tea, coffee, soft drinks and plenty of delicious cake and keeping on top of the mountainous washing up.

Age is no barrier. There are teenagers and octogenarians all working well together.

And, as if the pleasure in being involved isn’t enough, volunteers can go to one event free of charge. They are also invited to the programme launch party in July and to a thank you party in November. The only downside to volunteering could be on your finances if, like me, you are unable to resist the temptation of buying books signed by the authors.

Ellen Prockter