The Great Exhibition Road Festival Volunteer Experience 2024

Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea was approached by Imperial College to help recruit and deploy volunteers to support guests during The Great Exhibition Road Festival, a weekend-long celebration of science and the arts. 

Ana, the Volunteer-Co-Ordinator for this event, shares her experience organising volunteers for and at the Great Exhibition Road Festival in June 2024!

“Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea was approached by Imperial College to help recruit and deploy volunteers to support guests during The Great Exhibition Road Festival, a weekend-long celebration of science and the arts. 

I never thought I would be part of an event organised in honour of the Great Exhibition of 1851 and led by Imperial College and the museums in South Kensington. It was even further from my imagination to think that I would be coordinating a group of volunteers who were as excited as I was, to be part of this amazing weekend in South Kensington.

In total, 31 volunteers helped cover the information tents in 4 shifts over the weekend. One volunteer commented “It was good fun volunteering even though the weather was inclement and not as sunny and warm as I expected. All in all it was a very positive experience, and my shift allowed me to catch up with the festival events afterwards” (VCKC Volunteer)

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was that Imperial made an effort to make the festival inclusive and accessible to everyone. This was evident in the sensory maps they created, the set-up of a protected area for those who needed a quiet space away from the crowds, the emphasis during the briefing on guests wearing hidden disabilities lanyards in case they needed support, and a special event specifically for neurodiverse families.

The theme of this year’s festival was “flourish”, and testament to this, the volunteers flourished in their role in a matter of hours. As one of our volunteers said “I thought it was great! I’ve never been to the festival before, so I didn’t know a whole lot about what my role was, but I caught on pretty quickly. Communication was good beforehand, so I had no problem finding where I was supposed to be for the briefing, and the briefing itself was helpful (…) Overall I thought it was a great experience.”.

While I accompanied the volunteers, they shared their stories and motivation to join us as volunteers at the festival, and it was a very fitting reminder of how volunteering helps as flourish as human beings.

  •   2 volunteers were looking for work and wanted to do something for the community and their CV
  •   2 volunteers came to London only two months ago to study, and they still came to help people find their way at the festival and to enjoy their new city
  •   Another student volunteered to overcome their shyness to speak English
  •   Another person volunteered at the festival as a way to keep active and occupied in their retirement,
  •  One of the volunteers came for the second consecutive year as this is their favourite volunteering activity. They stayed with us all weekend!

We were truly blessed with this amazing group of motivated volunteers, coming from all walks of life, who very proactively became a team in a matter of hours. It really made for a unique opportunity for intergenerational socialising, and also a mixer for students from different universities: including London School of Economics, Brunel University, University of West London, and of course Imperial.

As volunteer coordinator, the highlight of the whole experience was seeing the last group of volunteers enjoying and sharing some food, kindly supplied by Imperial, with their newly acquired friends. They did not want to leave, even though they were tired and some had been volunteering all weekend!

For me it was a very beautiful experience to see people wanting to donate time out of their weekend to help others enjoy the event, navigate the area, and just help each other out. All great examples of how we can help our community flourish, which I believe is what this event was about. Until next year!

Ana and some of the volunteers!
Festival volunteering in action!

Volunteer Reflections From The Festival

“Ana made the whole experience very easy and it was a super fun time – I will definitely be volunteering in the future, thank you!!”

“I am really glad to be part of Volunteer Centre Kensington and Chelsea today for the Great Exhibition Road Festival as a volunteer. It was my second experience with the festival and I enjoyed being there. A massive thanks to you and the team at VCKC. You gave me a chance to do something for the community”

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If you want to hep your community flourish, expand your skill set and meet new people, click here to find a volunteering opportunity in Kensington and Chelsea that fits you!