In Ireland’s festival city, volunteering at the Galway International Arts Festival is a popular choice for many during the summer. This is the biggest, two-week affair we have to offer, so young and old, from a variety of educational backgrounds, show their appreciation for the Arts and welcome audiences from around the world by volunteering as ambassadors, general volunteers or for behind the scenes roles. Having signed up last year through their website I got the chance to be thoroughly in the know of the entire programme during their training sessions for ambassadors. I learnt what shows were selling out quickly and how to give recommendations. I also got to participate in the assembling of cardboard boxes for the People Build, a renowned international architectural project by Olivier Grossetete that comes back to GIAF this year featuring a new iconic Galwegian building.
This year, I decided to take a backseat and apply for the Behind the Scenes role of Press Assistant. This position fits particularly well with my chosen discipline, journalism. As with all Behind the Scenes roles at GIAF, an interview with each candidate takes place with the relevant people in charge in order to choose the best person for the job. Undoubtedly, one of the advantages of volunteering with the Arts festival is the flexibility in working hours; general volunteers in particular can build their own schedule according to their availability and interests via the online volunteer portal or alternatively have one made for them. Of course, there are the added perks of a free official t-shirt, wristband and food vouchers for those who sign up and you all touch base at the Hub located on Market Street next to the Connacht Tribune and the festival gallery.
I was located at the Black Box theater office on the second floor and I worked office hours every few days, depending on the need. My duties consisted mainly of sorting through national and regional newspapers of the day, then carefully cutting out any festival-related articles and ads. These are glued onto sheets and filed by date and publication in a folder for future reference and presentations, say, when they apply for funding. I’m also on GIAF main line phone duty which is a busy job as people ring in regarding tickets, shows, interviews or as Friends of the festival. I generally transfer their call to the appropriate office extension line. On my first day here, I made reminder notification calls to volunteers whose shifts had changed, directed them to the Hub or answered general questions. On occasion, I am asked by my supervisor, Kathryn, to deliver packages to the Post Office or Hub, cut out other information tables for lamination, fill and label envelopes for the free festival bus transport or staple together show handouts. Brushes with show directors are possible.
The atmosphere at the office is friendly and amicable, but also productive. There’s a lot going on, even downstairs in the hall where a performance takes place and the sounds of music or chanting drift through. There’s marketing, merchandise and producer gift baskets organised in the office adjacent. The walls are adorned with festival posters through the years with some amazing artwork. Since this month has been so hot, we have fans by each desk to help us cool down. Although unpaid, this is definitely a worthwhile occupation during the holiday break if you want to be part of the festival and add some capable experience to your CV in Arts admin and event management. If you’re lucky, you might even make your way to the top organising positions in time and earn yourself some cash. This is particularly suitable for upcoming artists who need some work on the side while they focus on their main passion.
For the general volunteers, it’s always a great opportunity to sign up with your friends, and of course make new ones. So why not support the fantastic talent from around the world and this great cultural city? Join the large army of reliable workers that each year the GIAF just can’t do without.