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Myself in Public

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My National Trust Volunteering Role & NT Filming on Diversity and Inclusiuon

My Role as National Trust Volunteer/Day Coorodinator.

National Trust Filming at Fountains Abbey for Diversity & Inclusion with Volunteers

of Which I was Part Of.

 o

09My wife and I have been volunteers at a National Trust property near to us. I say near a 98 mile round trip 2.5 hours of driving! We started in May 2016 and ended October 2018. I will give reasons later on this page. We both now volunteer at an independent historic house and feel much better for it. First, the positive roles of a man in a skirt whilst at the NT.

I telephoned the property a few days after visiting in 2016, yes I did visit in a skirt just like the photos on this site as I do at many other NT properties and other activities in my life. I asked if they needed volunteers. Yes was the reply and my appearance was not an issue. The National Trust is an inclusive employer and organisation. It embraces diversity across the board.

Six months later, opening in 2017 on a new day I put myself forward to be the Day Coordinator for10 that day. Basically I am the focal point for the volunteers of that day to coordinate those who can come in or not, either half day morning or afternoon or full day. Coordinate lunch breaks and cover. By the opening of the 2017 season the team was established with 6 full day and 7 half day, not including myself. Around 80% of this team were completely new and I met them all at an earlier volunteer recruitment day and yes I was in a skirt and yes not one of made any reference to my appearance even though I was to be their coordinator. Four volunteers from our previous years volunteering followed myself and my wife on to this new day. There has been an odd isolated visitor to the property who has questioned me to a member of my team the worst being how could you work along side the likes of him. On these odd occasions my team member replied in a very positive, supportive and proactive way about respect, diversity and the fact that I am a great guy to work along side. These incidents are in the handful. Quite often visitors do not want to speak with a volunteer but I am aware of again a small handful who made it obvious they were not going to interact with me. The worst was a woman who each time she entered a room I was in immediately left having on first contact made very obvious laughter. What she didn't know was my role and my role moves me around providing temporary cover ie. tea, lunch breaks even to cover for a "convenience" break. I also help out where we have a bulk number of visitors going through at a point in time. This was one such occassion and I was upstairs. She missed most of the upstairs rooms. I provide lunch covers having my lunch break either ahead or after the team. This day I was after so by the time she got to the kitchen area I was in there and yes she immediately walked out. Her loss not mine. She spoilt her day, not mine. I do get far more compliments than negative looks, usually at least one a week whilst volunteering, mostly several. On the whole I see thousands of visitors in the season and it is as usual just the small minority who make negative overtones or looks and yes 99% women in their modern freedom of choice in clothing and appearance. As, when I was full time stereotypical and society expected male only clothing, I have those who wish to talk to me, interact with me, laugh with me and many a time digressing off the property information and talk about various aspects of life especially if you have something in common.

01In May 2017 I was approached by my line manager and she asked if I would be interested in participating in the National Trust filming “Diversity in Volunteering”. Filming took place on 1st June 2017, at Fountains Abbey, along side 6 other volunteers from North England. Five volunteers from South England had been filmed the day before down South making 12 in total. I obviously said02 yes.

Extensive filming took place with numerous stills both as an individual and as a group. A filmed question and answer session as an individual describing his role as volunteer and day coordinator was also undertaken. The first screening of this film took place at the National Trust Convestival 2017 while further projects from the stills and filming are to be used as advertising for volunteers, training of NT staff and volunteers and other areas where the NT needs to promote its inclusive image.

I had a lot of fun with the filming, a very intuitive day and have said I will be available for future such events. I have learnt from this involvement that the NT are moving away from the word “project” with Diversity. The NT has created a new senior manager role at the National Trust Head Office, a Head of Diversity and Inclusion. This is to take effect from the end of August 2017.

03This role will be to develop and deliver an overall strategy for the change the NT needs to make. This includes in the make-up of staff and volunteer teams and the values and behaviours they demonstrate. It is expected to include a programme of training, plus refreshed content for staff and volunteer inductions, so that at the start of their journey, all staff and volunteers receive clear messages about what’s important to the NT with regard to Diversity and Inclusion and what that means in terms of expected behaviours. The new Head of Diversity and Inclusion will be working to04 a sub Board of the Trustees and the Director General is the personal sponsor for the work.

On the 23rd June 2017 you will know from elsewhere on this site that I had one of what was to be two interviews in 2017 on BBC Radio York. The National Trust drive of Diversity and Inclusion was mentioned and a warm acknowledgement by the station presenter was made for the NT Diversity and Inclusion and on the “front line” of general public interaction.

 

 

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During 2017 the Hall continued to increase the number of days open to the public. Pre 2015 it had been reduced to one day only due to circumstances beyond this article, but a new management team were put in place in early 2016. In August 2017 I made a formal request to move to the new day for 2018, I would continue as Day Coordinator. Another Day Coordinator wanted to step down and so after discussions the thr08ee affected days were sorted, and I was moved as I had asked. This really upset my team, knowing I had made this request. The team of varying ages, mixed gender although mainly female, with differing out looks on life really did gel as a team but my wife and I had good reason to make the request. I also pointed out to the team that any one of us at any time could have to change our day even remaining as a volunteer due to circumstances. To my suprise by mid September, the team let me know that they were all to follow me bar three and two of those simply couldn't due to personal commitments. One knew if she moved the other two elderly friends of hers would stop the weekly swimming and so she felt duty bound to continue as their third member of their swimming club. The other even asked her husband to change his day of work at home to allow her to move but moving an independent companies working practice was a bit too far. The third person was to be a Day Coordinator on another day. Now that to me was a massive vote in confidence and respect for me. Remember, this is a team of volunteers who are guided and coordinated by a man in a skirt! A long standing volunteer has moved from one day over to my team for 2018, with the day being more suitable for him. Four new volunteers joined my 2018 team, 2 women and two men, all interreacted with me with ease from the start.

The team had an end of season get together organised by myself by using the Halls cafe as a venue at the end of the 2017 season. We met over the winter periods in varying group sizes and had a pre 2018 season get together again by using the Halls cafe. I coordinated 4 days out for the team during 2018, independent of the Hall. I went to all bar one. The days I attended a good 80% of the team went, the one I didn't only 5 went. We held our team end of season gathering again in early November 2018 even though my wife and I have decided to leave. 10 of the current 14 members came, 3 had personal commitments for the day but the team felt the gathering needed to be the day of volunteering in the week after the season close. Based upon feed back in early 2017, by August of that year my team coordination took a further step. Unlike other volunteers I realised my team would like to know the days details the evening before. I had by then a detailed spreadsheet covering the whole season allowed me to predict known absences long side potential last minute abscence, which room volunteers had been lunch times, cover etc. By then the 2017 team kept me informed of any known absences without me asking and half day volunteers where possible came in or stayed on half an hour extra to provide lunch time covers for the full day volunteers. I always had cover. If I knew I had a mass absence situation in peak holiday periods I only had to mention it and half day volunteers would swap AM to PM and vice versa even do full days subject to availability but the team always provided its own cover. Noting the preference of adanced notice to them on the eve of each volunteer day I would text/email the room location and for full day volunteers lunch time. I was the only day coordinator to do this. Other days were planned on the day, lunch time as and when! Each of my volunteers were told who was relieving who on the half day shifts, so they knew especially if one was a few minutes late. This made my role on the day so much easier. I also made an effort, and if not possible due to low volunteer attendance, I would speak to each and every volunteer during the day. The morning shift always got the management debrief but the PM shift always missed out. I use to debrief them on arrival as I realised that they were missing out. Once this was known I was told off for doing a mangement role. I stopped, the PM shift were not debriefed. I made several requests for them not to be missed out which didn't happen so I went back to debreifing the PM shift. I was reminded again but I said, start doing your job otherwise the team will adjust for your inadequaces. The team of 2017 and the same for 2018 were very loyal and respectful toward me and they knew I returned the compliment. Its called volunteer management. If a team member gleaned new information about the hall for visitor interaction, it was shared throughout the team. It was easy for me to circulate with email.

In January 2017 I took part in the Halls volunteer recruitment day and I secured a number of volunteers for my team. I took part in January 2018 volunteer recruitment day which were needed for other days as 3 days were low, one especially. Remember, my team came with me, although I could do with a couple to cover the two who cannot come over. Remember, all prospective volunteers had no idea that one person at this event was a man in a skirt but only two young girls had an issue at the 2018 event. I have not seen them since but other new members joined the team.

So, why did my wife and I decide to leave National Trust volunteering at the end of the 2018 season after 3 years, two successful years of team coordination. It had absolutely nothing to do with my appearance. The NT is a diversity and inclusive organisation and at no time did they as an organisation make me feel any different within that subject.

In a nutshell we both became very disillusioned with the National Trust. On the front line, visitor experience it is fine. Going behind the scenes we were disappointed to note that, for us, our perception, it was not as professionally run at local levels as we thought for the NT. With a 98 mile round trip and 2.5 hours driving for 37 weeks plus adhoc trips we felt it was all too much. My wife and I are very organised, plan and if we decide that something needs to be done, we implement it with enthusiasm, completely. Our perception at our hall, events were basic, much said, little implemented, encouraged feed back at Listening Meetings but dismissed hence only 1 or 2 would go. Little information, nothing to indicate to visitors that this is a place of conservation not a hands on museum. We just felt management lacked professionalism in our perception, embraced some volunteers, side lined others with no regard to assetts of volunteers who were gifting their time. The NT promotes Volunteer Management making the volunteer feel valued, respected, involved in recognition of their gifted time and talents, we did not see this. A lot of negativity from other volunteers meant my wife and I kept our distance at combined events and my team felt the same, remaining as our own nucleus, a team nucleus. Our group had issues with the halls running but remained positive, bubbly and interacted with each other regarding activities in our private lives. On our team days out we as a team received compliments on how enthusiastic and happy the group was. The teams moans were limited, once expressed within ourselves moved on. Several on the team are reflecting their positions and since our departure more so. However we all have our own guidelines to follow. For many it is the travel convenience, a holding role whilst employment seeking, a preference to that type of volunteering, a retirement occupation where they can come in for x hours, keep a low profile.

They know what happened, witnessed much of it. All are very sad of our departure and some since leaving openly talk about their frustrations and annoyed at the managements reaction towards myself and my wife simply because we said we would go at the end of the season and stated why. Their reply was do not come back in for the last 3 weeks. I have repeatedly said  to those who have talked to me since our departure they must do what is best for themselves. Several in the team have said my team organisational skills made them feel valued, respected, management do not. I have trained many new volunteers on my two teams over 2017 and 2018 by an Introduction Pack of information I designed to help them learn. They said my friendly, relaxed, positive enthusiasm of the role made them feel at ease, at home even on their first day. One since we have left, we have only know for about 4 months, has said to us both, it feels like they have known us for years.

We also felt we needed another challenge within the role of volunteering, this time via another Hall with a different history and story to learn and portray. We feel independent Halls may offer opportunities more suited to our style and expectations.

During 2018 I had been making discreet enquiries at independent historic houses, talking volunteer to volunteer. We have moved to one and they welcomed us gladly and yes my appearance is not an issue for them either. Nothing is perfect in life but with our official visit of applying to be volunteers and already doing a day before their season closed it is already very evident that the running of this Hall is far far more professional. Yes friendly, relaxed but very organised and as a volunteer we are not left with any doubt of any questions or how we will be updated. Value, respect and nurturing of volunteer individual talents is already very apparent. The grass is and can be much greener on the other side to utilise that traditional saying.

We miss our previous team but we are already having a group gathering and many individual meets are planned.