If in doubt, ask a volunteer. Whether you’re a visitor to Hull or you’ve lived here for years; you need directions to your hotel, or just want to know what’s happening this week, the Hull UK City of Culture volunteers are on hand to help.
And they really do get asked everything, says 52-year-old volunteer and University of Hull lab technician Debbie Mowforth, from “do you know what time my bus is?” to “why do you volunteer?”.
Debbie was inspired to sign up after seeing the friendly faces of the volunteers at the London 2012 Olympics. Making her think “I could do that”, she wanted to help provide an initial positive impression of her city. Since then, she’s made lifelong friends, partied in the streets at Pride (pictured, with Debbie on the right), performed as an extra in the Hull2017/Slung Low live outdoor play, Flood Part 2 – “Where else could you get artificially rained on for a week and actually look forward to it?!” – and danced in Freedom Festival 2017/ Southpaw performance Rush – “I’d do it again in a heartbeat”.
She says: “My favourite city centre sights that everyone should see are: The Deep; all of the museums are worth a visit and have their own unique experiences – Streetlife Museum, Wilberforce House, Ferens Art Gallery and the Maritime Museum.
“But my personal favourite is the marina area and Humber Street Gallery. Before I became a volunteer, I knew very little about contemporary art. Humber Street Gallery opened my eyes to a whole different side of art and culture for me (with the added bonus of a great bar!).”
For 24-year-old Rhys Plater, who volunteers in his spare time in addition to working as a marketing officer at East Yorkshire Coaches, the buzz from volunteering at large-scale events is second to none.
Rhys says: “My main reason for volunteering was to give something back to my city in its biggest year. It was important City of Culture was a success and for that to happen it needed as many people as possible to get behind it – that’s exactly what the volunteering programme did. I had previously volunteered at Hull’s Freedom Festival for numerous years, so I knew the excitement and buzz you get – I didn’t want to miss that with the vast range of City of Culture events.
“My highlight so far has got to be Land Of Green Ginger Unleashed. Over 2017, the mysterious story grew, engaging everyone in the city in some way. The build-up with thousands of people eagerly anticipating the unexpected was something that doesn’t happen in Hull every day, then as the procession passed, you could hear the joy and wonder from all ages in the crowd.”
Rhys says the most common question he gets asked by tourists is where to find the nearest pattie and chips – a must-try Hull delicacy for sure.
Ask him where to find the best sights in Hull, however, and like each and every one of the volunteers, he also has some great tips.
“Trinity Square is a must,” he says. “Its new mirror pools are stunning and unique, emphasising the fantastic Hull Minster. Sitting out there on a summer’s day with some food and drink is just fantastic. The refurbished Trinity Market alongside it is great too, with its choice of produce and street food.”
Luckily for visitors and residents alike, Debbie, Rhys and their thousands of fellow volunteers have no plans to stop any time soon.
“People always ask us for directions to events or activities,” says Rhys, “and that’s why having volunteers around is great – it’s a reassuring presence offering that extra help and support.”
“Why wouldn’t I do this?” asks Debbie. “It’s becoming one big family. I get sheer pleasure from telling the world ‘this is Hull’, come and experience it for yourself! Hull volunteers are the friendliest people you could hope to meet.”
Click the link to find out how you too can sign up to be Hull UK City of Culture volunteer.