In this Volunteers’ Week which runs nationally from today – June 1 – we meet four members of the cathedral community who give their time and talents in different ways, finding out what they do and why! The cathedral has a pool of some 400 volunteers and if you would like to find out more about joining them, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org In the first of our articles we asked volunteer journalist Tony Whiting to tell us about his own contribution.
Helping to get the cathedrals’ message across
By Tony Whiting
Strictly speaking, I didn’t volunteer to work for the cathedral; my wife volunteered me for it. She suggested quite firmly that as I had a degree of spare time (this was four years before the Coronovirus lockdown which gave us all so much more), I should offer my writing services to the cathedral.
I could hardly argue the point. A former journalist, I was working as a self-employed copywriter but I still had plenty of spare capacity and, furthermore, we looked across to the cathedral from the window of our kitchen in High St Agnesgate (a former clergy house) so its magnificent presence was never far away.
When I approached the dean, he was only too ready to accept my offer and I was soon engaged on my first assignment, a press release about the arrow slits in the battlements on the north face of the building. Was their purpose to enable archers to defend the building against rampaging Scots (who did indeed rampage as far south as Ripon in medieval days) or were they purely designed to be impress? An old friend and a military historian, Guy Wilson, climbed up to the battlements with a former colleague from the Royal Armouries who had a longbow. It became clear to us very quickly that there was certainly not enough room to draw a longbow and so their purpose must have been impressive rather than practical. It made an interesting story and got into the Church Times I think.
Since then I have moved away from Ripon but still enjoy writing press releases about other discoveries and newsworthy events. Most of them jolly; a few sad such as interviewing a lady whose husband had just died. My latest task has been to proof read the text of a couple of leaflets appealing for sponsorship.
Throughout it has been a pleasure to work with the permanent cathedral staff, particularly Michele Gee, the talented part-time communications officer. I join Michele and the media and marketing team at monthly meetings (virtual ones at the moment) and can’t wait for us all to get back in the familiar setting of Thorpe Prebend’ where a famous but non-rampaging Scot, James 1 of England, James V1 of Scotland, once spent the night. I have worked from home for a long time and human interaction with the team is something I treasure more than I ever realised before lockdown.
What do I get out of volunteering? Simply the satisfaction of knowing that whatever writing skills I have are being tested and put to use for a greater cause than self-employment.