It's National Volunteers Week and Darlington Culture Volunteer Pam King has kindly wrote us a blog sharing her experiences volunteering at the theatre:

Culture. What a loaded word. What does it actually mean? Am I cultured? I don’t think I’m clever enough to be cultured…and frankly is ‘culture’ not a little bit worthy but boring?

Well despite these thoughts I became a volunteer for Darlington Culture Volunteers (DCV) a few months before lockdown number one. (Was someone trying to tell me something?) The group is linked to several local organisations - I’ve helped out with Halloween crafts and meeting Santa at the Head of Steam, guided people to their seats and made tea for Green Theatre, seen Handel’s Messiah performed beautifully while helping out, and done some painting - no, not watercolour or oil, but slapping emulsion on the walls of a building in Skinnergate which is to display artwork.

However the focus of my volunteering has been on the Hippodrome, a venue I feel we are so lucky to have in Darlington and an absolutely stunning building since the restoration and reopening in 2017. There are varied roles available to volunteers; I’ve helped out with craft sessions and supported guided backstage tours for the sight-impaired, as well as being a guinea pig for volunteers learning the role of a theatre tour guide - VERY interesting. Many volunteer opportunities are on an ad hoc basis although some can be reasonably regular commitments. I very much enjoy weekly archiving sessions, when a small group of us get together to catalogue or scan old theatre files about past shows, for example. It is fascinating to read some of the letters written by audience members to the theatre manager in the 1970s…and the replies. The contents of some of the files are an absolute pleasure for the nosey, like me!

I also get a lot of enjoyment from being a ‘welcome host’ at the theatre. Welcome hosts are an add-on to the professional Front-of-House staff, who are always happy to help out if we don’t know the answer to a question. For each performance one or two welcome hosts are on duty. We stand near the doors and greet audience members as they come in, checking they know where to go for their seats when the auditorium opens, letting them know which bars are open, how to order interval drinks, and generally if it is appropriate having a bit of a chat and perhaps complimenting them on their costumes for something like ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, or admiring the children coming dressed up for a children’s show. (And it can be useful, I confess to asking the occasional woman where she got her dress/shoes from, people tend to be flattered and I don’t need to trawl round the shops…)

There are regular training sessions and always the opportunity to shadow an experienced volunteer in a role for as long as it takes to feel comfortable  - we are very well supported. And if suddenly life gets in the way and personal commitments start coming in thick and fast, we just need to let DCV know that we will need to take a break from volunteering until life gets back on track.

So in summary, if you’ve been thinking about volunteering and are interested in anything to do with the arts in Darlington, I highly recommend having a look into DCV - something for everyone!

By Pam King - DCV Volunteer

If anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer please visit to register your interest or keep an eye on our Facebook page for volunteer drop in dates to speak to one of the volunteer coordinators and meet other volunteers.