Penarth locals and avid theatre goers were looking for a new 'theatre experience'. Here's how a morning coffee run led them to volunteering...
Why did you decide to volunteer?
Tony: We actually found out about volunteering while grabbing a coffee here. The staff mentioned the scheme and we thought we'd give it a go.
I became involved to see more shows. I saw over 100 shows in 2018, both paid for and through volunteering, which would have bankrupted me if I was still working! But I also get a real buzz from attending the shows and being around people enjoying themselves.
Andy: It’s a great way to interact and socialise with people, especially if like me, your used to working on your own. Getting to go to a packed theatre full of people (who are generally really nice) and from all walks of life is a great way to socialise.
Why did you choose this theatre?
Tony: I’ve lived in Penarth for 30 years, so I know the building well. I see plenty of shows in a lot of different theatres but this is still the nicest one I’ve been to.
I’ve also done some of the technical tours here too and standing on the Donald Gordon Stage makes you realise how amazing it must feel to actually perform here.
Andy: I like the fact that the Centre puts on longer production runs, so if you’re not into something the first time around, you get to see it again and you might find that it grows on you (like Matilda did with me). I ended up doing seven shifts for Matilda!
What are some of your highlights?
Tony: By volunteering you get to see each production from a different perspective. During Miss Saigon, I was able to get really close to some amazing acting by being downstairs, but I also got to see the incredible choreography from the very back of the theatre.
Most productions are here for a while too and as it’s such a good technical theatre to work in, you get to see the ‘proper show’, complete with helicopter in the case of Miss Saigon.
What’s surprised you about volunteering here?
Andy: I didn’t realise that there was more than one theatre here, that the Centre is a charity and that there are so many family activities taking place here.
Tony: The first time I walked into BBC Hoddinott Hall I had no idea it was there! I’d obviously heard of it but after seeing the lovely space inside, I had to step outside of the building, to work out how it fitted inside.
How do you think volunteering helps?
Tony: Nowadays people spend a lot of time just staring at their phones, so I think being forced to regularly interact with people is hugely beneficial. By volunteering you spend a lot of time exchanging pleasantries with people, but you always get something back from it too.
Andy: I’ve always worked on my own so just talking to people in general about everyday things is good for me.
Tony: I always like to ask people leaving the auditorium if they’ve had a good night and people will always smile or tell you how much they loved the show.
Andy: It’s those minor interactions that make you feel good though and just being a part of someone else’s positive experience.
What would you say to other people thinking about volunteering?
Tony: Definitely give it a go. You get to see things you’d never normally pay to go and see.
Andy: It’s really flexible too, the portal to book your shifts through is simple to use, and you’ll find you notice something different in every single performance you see.