To celebrate Volunteers Week 2020 we wanted to take this opportunity to create a record of how amazing our award-winning volunteers are. They help us everyday in all aspects of The Lightbox, from Learning & Engagement activities, to managing our heritage collection, making our courtyard garden look beautiful, and invigilating our exhibitions. We are extremely grateful for the time they dedicate to our organisation and would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our volunteers, past and present, for all they have given to us.

We asked some of our current volunteers to share their top memories of volunteering with us here at The Lightbox. Here are their stories:

Anne Harwood

“One of the perks of volunteering is that we get to meet many interesting visitors. One older gentleman came to visit ‘The War Horse’ Exhibition. On the way out he stopped to chat speaking of his love of horses and something of his life as a Polish Cavalryman in WW2. On leaving he held out his hand and I offered mine expecting us to shake hands. But, no. He bent forward and kissed the back of my hand! I had only ever seen this in movies and costume dramas on television! A once in a lifetime experience.”

Valerie Marsen

“I loved volunteering one afternoon during Book Festival week 2019 for the Bear and the Piano, a time for very young children. It was certainly a very lively afternoon with cushions on the floor for the children and chairs for the grown-ups whilst the story was told by the author and friend dressed up as animals and playing musical instruments. It certainly got everyone involved and a marvellous way for children to learn that books can be fun. I do hope that this will be repeated in future literary festivals and I should be delighted to volunteer for this again!”

Richard Freeman

“While on duty at The Lightbox I have met many interesting people and learnt a lot about art. Most recently during the Scottish Colourists exhibition, telling a couple about the artists, I pointed to a painting which I told them I particularly liked. It transpired that the painting belonged to them as did two others in the exhibition. For me a fascinating discussion about collecting art followed. It also transpired that their family were well known in Australia where I grew up and knew about them. I left The Lightbox that day feeling that volunteering often had many plusses but not often as many as the time spent with the couple whose paintings were in the exhibition.”

Caroline James (Now a member of staff, Caroline volunteered with the Learning team for a year before applying and getting the job with the Marketing team!)

“One of my favourite volunteering memories was with the Education team last summer. We encouraged families to take large, jigsaw-shaped pieces of cardboard, decorate them with felt tips, crayons or coloured paper and slot them together so that they formed a giant sculpture. That was the moment I realised how beneficial art is in bringing communities together.”

Sarah Dyson:

“I started volunteering at the Lightbox in the very first week and just walking into the building gives me so much pleasure. Talking to staff, fellow volunteers and visitors is great. I have learned over the years to never judge visitors by their appearance. Some are extremely knowledgeable or have quite different and unexpected reactions to exhibits. Am a little saddened by people who think 'art' is not for them, or who can look around from a doorway and dismiss the gallery, when I know how much care and thought has gone into the curation.

We had an exhibition of paintings lent by the National gallery of Wales and one visitor was extremely moved by seeing a painting of the place she had lived in as a child, she hadn't been back and said to me that now she wanted to return. The smaller exhibitions in the Upper Gallery seem to make people more chatty. The exhibition of old photos of Woking had some very interesting comments, especially people trying to identify relatives. One man recognised his Grandfather's milk delivery cart and brought his family back to see it. He was so excited and touched to feel that his family was part of an exhibition.

When I first started there were some negative reactions, one woman said that the building 'did not fit in with the rest of Woking'! Several people complained about part of their rates going towards the Lightbox. Haven't heard anything like that for years, I think we are really part of the fabric of Woking.”

Richard Langtree:

“I have always enjoyed talking to and listening to visitors either in galleries or meet and greet.

The one event which I really enjoyed was meeting and directing all the dignitaries for the Surrey launch of the Poppy Appeal last year.

I stood halfway up the stairs to direct them to the Ambassadors Room. I did not know who the mayors were but they were happy to tell me who they represented and to have a short chat.”

Brigette Wasdell:

“I can remember an incident a couple of years ago when I was stewarding in the top gallery. There was a large abstract painting by Terry Frost with a lot of white space on it. A couple came in with their young grandchild. While the couple walked around the exhibition, the child amused herself. Suddenly, she ran over to the Frost with a pen in her hand, ready to add her own handiwork to his. I froze, but fortunately, the grandfather saw what was happening and yelled "Stop". The child froze, and the Frost remained untouched.. Phew!”

Richard and Rosemary Christophers:

“For us our most exciting moment was when we were invited to join The Lightbox team at the presentation of the Art Fund Prize in 2008. There were four shortlisted museums and galleries and we had been visited by the judges on several occasions, for the long list of ten, and then for the shortlist - both for incognito visits and for discussions with staff and volunteers.

The event was at The Royal Institute of British Architects in London, and we travelled up with some of The Lightbox staff. When we arrived we mingled with other competitors and some well-known faces of the art world: Sir David Attenborough, James Naughtie, Andy Burnham, then Minister for Culture, Sue MacGregor, the Chair of the judging panel, and Grayson Perry (as Claire). 

Short video presentations were made for each gallery and we awaited the result that, Sue MacGregor announced, was from an unexpected place - was this the Shetland Isles or Woking?  The radio announcement had apparently been made earlier, but live proceedings were running later as the Minister had been delayed. 

We couldn't believe it when The Lightbox was named as the winner. There was much hugging and considerable surprise and joy. We felt like celebrities, having our photographs taken, talking to people from other galleries and Andy Burnham.  Then off to a celebration pizza for most of us, while Marilyn and Chris Baker went to the more formal dinner. As we passed RIBA again on the way to the tube we saw Grayson Perry hailing a taxi, but then walking down the road. An evening we remember with great pleasure: it was wonderful to be part of it.”

The Lightbox and our volunteers have won a number of awards over the years:

In 2007 two of our volunteers, Richard and Rosemary Christophers were nominated, and awarded Man in the Community (Awarded by the Rotary Club of Woking) and Woman in the Community (Awarded by Soroptimist International: Woking and District Club) The Soroptimists gave both of them a dinner at the Wheatsheaf and the Rotary presented their award in the summer when they had a barbecue and a train ride at Mizen's Railway. 

In 2012 The Lightbox was awarded the Big Society Award in recognition of our community work, and particularly the work of our volunteers, without whom The Lightbox wouldn’t exist in the first place.

Congratulating The Lightbox on the award, Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:

”The Lightbox shows what the Big Society is in so many ways; from volunteers giving their time and expertise, to winning the support of the whole community for their plan, to generating millions of pounds in donations to make it work. Even now more than 150 volunteers are putting in their time to provide this service to others in the community.”

In 2012 The Lightbox was awarded the Queens Award for Volunteering. Some of our volunteers were invited to go to a garden party at Buckingham Palace in recognition of winning the award.

For more information about volunteering with us here at The Lightbox visit our volunteering page.