The Great Exhibition Road Festival Experience

Etty, our Wellbeing Programme Officer, shares her experience organising volunteers for and at the Great Exhibition Road Festival in June 2023!

“I feel incredibly privileged to have worked on this inspiring event. As volunteer coordinator I was in charge of a fantastic team of volunteers who supported partners from the Science Museum and Imperial College London to engage with the vast array of exciting talks, workshops and performances that brought together the incredible institutions on Exhibition Road. 

The Saturday Team met in our volunteer base inside Imperial College London in the morning for our first briefing. We adorned our flattering pink high vis vests for the first time and set off for a walk-through of the site and split into sub groups to support the information tents across the site. The sun was beaming and there was a buzz of excitement as members of the public began to explore the festival. A rousing walking band with a Sousaphone, Claranet, Trumpet and Drum kicked off the morning’s musical festivities, connecting the site as they entertained wondering guests. The music across both days of the festival was fantastic, with crowds gathering around the main stage to dance in the sunshine. Some of the highlights were Royal college of Music Brass Band, Jally Kebba Susso, The Albert’s Band, Sam Eagle and the Tee Peters and the Working Class who serenaded us through sunshine (and rain on Sunday). The Smart Cells (Awe and Wonder) also performed in the centre of exhibition road over both days. A dance troop made up of local school pupils, members of youth groups and professionals collaborating to bring to the street a moving and intellectually stimulating dance inspired by blood cancer research. While the Moon Symphony on Saturday took us on a six-part musical journey. 

Over both days, our volunteers worked in shifts on the information desks, and as roaming volunteers, greeting members of the public as they arrived, providing them with maps and helping to navigate and answer questions. 

“I had an amazing experience volunteering at the Exhibition Road Festival. It had several activities ranging from science to culture. The live music throughout was great, I learnt a lot as the volunteers rotate different posts. The other volunteers were friendly and easy going and (the volunteer coordinator) was very supportive and kind. I hope I can volunteer with them again next year” (Sunday Volunteer) 

On Sunday we donned our florescent pink high vis vests again for day 2 of the festival. Some volunteers returned as experts in their role, along with some fresh new faces too. After another briefing (that also warned of a chance of rain) we ventured back out into the festival for another day of exciting sights and opportunities. Inside the Imperial College London main entrance guests could explore and engage with researchers to find out about incredible developments in the future of medicines, where mathematical models, new tech and public involvement take centre stage in fighting illness and disease. At the V&A, the Our Universe and the Force Within, offered a talk that explored the hidden forces of change and how even something small can have a massive impact. The V&A story lounge explored the Last Butterfly of Summer, and the idea of what stories future generations will have to tell about the creatures of our planet. Britain’s first Astronaut, Helen Sharman, came to the Royal Geographical Society to deliver a talk about submarines, drones and other technologies that keep us exploring where no human has gone before. The Natural History Museum guided tour took us through the ground-breaking work of women in palaeontology.  

Not only were the fantastic Science Museum members of staff supporting our volunteer at each of the information tents, but the Museum offered the public some incredible opportunities across the weekend, including a chance to talk to people who work in science and tech to discover if that is the career for you. The Family fun zone in Princess Gardens was an oasis of workshops, shrieking during the science museum sound experiments, building robots and discovering the inner workings of a tiger toilet and it’s wriggling inhabitants. 

These are just a tiny selection of the wonderfully creative, scientific and inspiring offerings available at this years Great Exhibition Road Festival. It was a pleasure to be a part of and we are incredibly proud of the work of our volunteer team across the weekend, particularly when it started to rain at the end of Sunday and, just as the bands continued to play, our volunteers put on their clear plastic rain ponchos and continued to smile talking to festival guests. 

We can’t wait for next year. We hope next time, you can join us too!”

Etty Dunn-Howe, Wellbeing Programme Officer