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400 miles for Shakespeare - one volunteer's journey

Kate Phinn is one of our dedicated volunteers at Mary Arden's Farm. Kate is so passionate about engaging visitors with Shakespeare that she travels up to 400 miles each way to be involved with our volunteering activities! Read about her journey and why she loves volunteering.

Emma Birks
Volunteer at Mary Arden's Farm
Volunteer Kate helps out with the Tudor dinner at Mary Arden's Farm

Shakespeare first became an obsession when I was 14 and was taken from school to see Hamlet on stage at Dundee Rep theatre. The obsession has continued to now (and I won’t tell you how many years that is).

Since then I’ve studied Shakespeare and the honours part of my OU degree was in Shakespeare Studies. I’ve completed a History of Theatre course at Cambridge, attended summer schools and winter schools and everything in between. I’ve acted in Shakespeare plays at Dundee Rep Theatre and basically continued my obsession. I’ve been attending a Shakespeare class at St Andrews University for 10 years, reading the plays and discussing them.

Life intervened and then in 1992 I started holidaying in Stratford. At that time, I visited all of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust houses, Hall’s Croft being my favourite, and thought the guides were so knowledgeable. I really envied them working in the houses.

I came to Stratford every year after that, sometimes two or three times and really wanted to be involved but didn’t know how. Then there was a bit on the website for people who wanted to volunteer, I followed that up, but thought that there wouldn’t be much I could do on such an ad-hoc basis. There was an open evening on for prospective volunteers, so I managed to get my holiday from work to coincide with that meeting, and found out that I could be a volunteer even on such a casual basis.

Palmer's Farm
Wonderful vistas at Palmer's Farm

My first stint at volunteering was at the Shakespeare Found – a Life Portrait exhibition. Another volunteer and I were there at the opening day of the exhibition and met some fantastic people from all over the world.

I was invited by the Volunteer Officer at the time, to be a room host at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which I did for about 3 years. I enjoyed this, but wanted a bit more involvement, so it was suggested that I come to Mary Arden’s Farm. 

So to the Farm I went and I’ve loved every minute of it and still do. Though I don’t mind where I volunteer as long as it’s about Shakespeare.  My friends couldn’t believe I was volunteering at a farm and enjoying it as I’m really not someone who likes the great outdoors.

It is a long drive to Stratford, around 400 miles + each way. It’s become a bit shorter over the years as the roads have improved. It’s the only way I can do it as the train would be too difficult with changing Stations at Birmingham, with two dogs and trailing the wardrobe! I can’t tell you just how important to me being part of the Trust is, even in a very small way. 

A couple of months ago, I was asked if I would mind sending my measurements as the Trust was going to make a dress to my measurements. I was over the moon as that has made me feel a part of things.

My ambition is to come to Stratford for the whole season and spend it volunteering on a regular basis.

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