Reflections on volunteering by Paul Andrew Boden

My name is Paul. I first started volunteering for Navigator North and the Make It More Middlesbrough project in September 2023. I found out the need for volunteers through my volunteering for Teesside Archives. For which I have volunteered for 15 years. In the Archives I know what to expect and what I need to do. This was something different. I was given instructions on what I needed to do.

Image above – Love Letter to Middlesbrough, a Pride of Place project by Annie Cury of Health & Arts

So, I walked in on my first day put on my volunteer lanyard and I was handed a clicker from the volunteer I was taking over from. There was an event led by Annie. It was making something in embroidery about what the person loved about Middlesbrough. I didn’t take part at first as I didn’t want to take a place that a member of the public could have. I just sat next to the participants chatting and encouraging them in what they were doing. I felt really good that day and wanted to do more. I volunteered regularly from then on. I did participate in the embroidery during the following weeks. I found a lot of people just want someone to listen to them without judgement.

Image above – Paul during The Last Orders! exhibition at The Masham

Another project I was heavily involved in was Last Orders, The Lost Pubs of Middlesbrough. For this some of the volunteers attended a training session to be able to interview members of the public about their memories of pubs that no longer exist. In the end 12 people were interviewed in total. Out of the 12 I interviewed 5 of them. I really enjoyed listening to their stories as I am very interested in social history. I think it helped enormously that the event was held in The Masham. Going on from the interviewing I was asked to lead a skill sharing session about what I did and what I learned from doing the interviews. The skill sharing session went very well.

The next event to take place in the Masham was called Mind Over Matter. As well as volunteering for this event I participated in one of the activities. Which I enjoyed enormously. This was a very interesting event. Again, as with previous events I chatted to a lot of people. The final event was called Pubs, Prints and Plants. This event was over 15 days. I volunteered for 12 of those days. One of the jobs I was asked to do was to wrap the prints in tissue paper. I felt that I was trusted to carry out this important job. One of the activities was plant pot weaving. I helped several people to start off with making the pot and encouraged them until they completed the pot. I had transcribed one of the interviews I did. This along with several others was put on display for people to read.

Image above – wrapping of screenprinted maps of Pubs of St Hilda’s produced with volunteers, artists and the community.

The last event I was involved with was over 2 days in Navigator North’s Unit 7 space, inside Hillstreet Shopping Centre. This was a very varied exhibition with lots to see and do. Both days were busy but the second day saw nearly 250 people come into the exhibition. Everyone that attended over the 2 days was welcomed by the volunteers and staff. On the second day I took part in an activity. I am not very good at drawing but I am really pleased with the piece of work I made. There was a real buzz in Unit 7. Everyone was enjoying themselves and having a good time.

Image above – Match Box Memories, a Pride of Place project by Phillippa Worthington. Work shown created by Paul.

I along with the other volunteers and staff were welcoming faces to all the artists and participants and members of the public that attended the various events at The Masham and also in Unit 7 in the Hill Street Centre. I am very pleased to be involved with Navigator North and look forward to volunteering for them in the future and also to Make It More Middlesbrough.

Image above – Paul with his portrait in Unit 7, created by Miki Rogers as part of Illustrating Volunteering

Blog post by volunteer Paul Andrew Boden about his thoughts and experiences volunteering for Navigator North.

Paul was involved in the Make It More Middlesbrough programme between September 2023 and May 2024 across Navigator North and Teesside Archives venues.