"I like this place & willingly could waste my time here!" (As You Like It, act 2, scene 4)
This is me and my colleague, George, at the gatehouse of Shakespeare's New Place.
We volunteers seem to have started something of a Mad Hatter's club, as our purchase of these 'Dead Man's' hats resulted in the appearance of a Russian fur hat (Phil) and a Stove Pipe hat (Zack).
However, tourists from across the world like the appearance and take our photos on a regular basis. Our photo is even on Trip Advisor! On our regular weekly stint at New Place we have developed something akin to a double act with the visitors who clearly enjoy two old geezers teasing each other.
Meeting so many people from around the world is a pure joy. There is no end to the number of questions that can be asked, but we have a good working knowledge of Shakespeare's New Place, and these questions give us the opportunity to put it to good use. Of course the more involved questions can be passed on to our excellent period interpreters whose depth of knowledge is a daily surprise. On the subject of staff, those at New Place are really interesting people of all ages. Despite this being their job, you will find, at quiet times, any two of them talking in depth about New Place and its sculptures or Shakespeare's life, plays, and sonnets—these people are happily Shakespeare mad!
Although I only began volunteering mid-way through 2016, it has been a fascinating time for me. As people age, their social circle seems to dwindle, and this has a knock-on effect on their confidence. Volunteering for the SBT has worked wonders for my self-esteem, and I'm amazed by how many people I've come into contact with just from this experience. The staff make sure the volunteers are involved in everything, making us feel valued and at home. The social interaction with both staff and visitors has contributed immensely to my sense of well-being.
If anyone is contemplating volunteering for the Trust, they should simply jump in, the water's warm!
Find out more about volunteering at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.