South of the River – where people volunteer


Compass-SouthComment logo 2It’s one of those weeks where I’m frightened that my head is going to explode.

I’m pulling together two big projects and my main survival strategy seems to be writing to-do lists to make sure I don’t forget anything. I’m still at the stage where the lists are getting longer rather than shorter, but hey, it’ll be alright on the night.

Project number one is Beeston Festival. If you’re a regular reader I would hope that you know all about this by now. Cross Flatts Park, Saturday 14 June, 12-5pm, bands, dance groups, stalls, sports, fun fair, inflatables, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I should explain: yadda, yadda, yadda is a technical term meaning don’t you miss this great event – there’s fun for all the family, it’s the highlight of the Beeston social calendar. In fact Leeds List have made it one of their three ‘must-do’ events in Leeds for June.

Entertaining 5,000 people in a park on a summer afternoon doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work. A group of us have been working all year on the planning and then on the day we are joined by up to eighty volunteers who beaver away all day to make things run smoothly and safely. It’s a wonderful sight to behold and as one of the organisers I’m immensely grateful to them for giving up time to help.

Project number two is what you are reading, South Leeds Life. Specifically it is the first print edition of South Leeds Life. We are producing a 12 page tabloid newspaper and over the last few weeks I’ve been taking a taking a crash course in newspaper design and layout. We’re nearly there and I don’t think I’m jinxing anything to say that the paper will make its debut on our stall at Beeston Festival.

Without giving too much away, the paper will have a focus on volunteering. So it’s appropriate that it will appear at an event organised by volunteers and it’s appropriate that I tell you this today, in Volunteers’ Week.

South Leeds Life is run by volunteers. One or two of us get paid for specific pieces of work from time to time to time, but the blog is kept going by volunteer power. There are the writers of course, but behind the scenes someone has to look after what little money we have, someone has to organise meetings, people will need to distribute the paper, help us with marketing, design and advertising. You get the picture – there’s lots to do.

If you look around you in South Leeds many organisations run on volunteers. Whether it’s sports coaches or cooking meals for the elderly, preserving our local history, or the environment, an awful lot happens round here because people give of their time and skill. The newspaper will be celebrating volunteering and encouraging those who don’t volunteer yet to find something to get involved with.

The thing about volunteering is not what you’re giving, it’s what you get back. It might be something very practical such as experience to put on your CV. It might help you make new friends. Depending on your point of view it’s either good for your soul or improves your mental health. If you feel isolated or your self esteem is at a low ebb, being part of a communal project can really lift your spirits.

Volunteering is part of a virtuous circle. People comment about the great community spirit in South Leeds. I think that’s about volunteering. People care about their community because they get involved in their community. Their involvement makes more things happen, creating more opportunities for others to get involved.

Jeremy Morton Aug13Of course there are frustrating days when you wonder why you do something that you don’t even get paid for (or you think your head is going to explode). But these are more than made up for when you see people reading your newspaper or having a great family day in the park.

I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.