Exploring the real world… volunteers

January, 2019

It’s that time of year. Our Christmas tree is lopsided and the fairy’s fallen off. The decorations are pulling paint off the walls, our pots and pans are charred and ruined, black bags are filled with body parts, guests cower in the shadows looking lost and frightened, ravens peck at carcasses, wolves howl, and there are the remains of a bonfire on the dining room table. I will never invite the sewing circle to tea again.

Sally navigated Christmas and New Year’s Eve unscathed but something happened to me. I changed shape. I am now round. A blob. And all my clothes have shrunk. This phenomenon occurs every year so fortunately I know what to do: I clear a space on the sofa and sit down with a pen and paper. It’s time to make my 2019 resolutions. First of all, obviously, I will never drink alcohol again. Right. What else? Oh yes, I will lose two stone, take up lacrosse, read medieval poetry, play the tuba, embrace veganism, run a marathon, learn to speak French and publish a bestselling novel.


I screw up the paper and throw it at the Christmas tree. I make the same list every year and nothing changes. I need better resolutions, resolutions that aren’t just about me living somebody else’s life. Let’s face it, I don’t know what lacrosse is and if I tried to run a marathon my skeleton would disintegrate. Thinking about disintegrating skeletons reminds me of the Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust – I wrote about their need for volunteers last year – and in turn that reminds me of something I want to ask you.

You know where the Tithe Barn is, and the Coffee Barn? Well, part of that cluster of impossibly old buildings is the West Barn. I love the West Barn. They say it was once a porch for a much bigger structure. A porch! It’s over 700 years old and looks fabulous, although in fairness, after lying fallow for a while after a fire in 1982, it’s had a bit of a makeover. But even so. It’s a tough little thing, proud and resilient despite starting out as a place for people to wipe their feet and hang up their coats.

These days the West Barn hosts concerts and recitals, exhibitions, weddings and all sorts of other functions. And it’s usually open to the public on Wednesdays and Sundays between spring and autumn. These regular open days are run by volunteers – people who give up a couple of hours of their time to sit in the West Barn and be on hand should a visitor have a question. It’s important work.

And that’s what I want to ask you. Last year I made a resolution that I kept: Make a Choice; Be Involved. Now I’m a volunteer coordinator for the West Barn open days and we need more volunteers. So I’m reaching out from this article to you, to ask if you would join us and give the occasional two hours to sit in that beautiful building on a Wednesday or Sunday, and be part of its living history? If you would, then please email me or the Preservation Trust at jamesauthorellis@outlook.com or hello@bradfordheritage.co.uk.

I suppose I should look for that fairy now. But before I do, may I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year – and watch out if the sewing circle knock on your door. (Author’s note: any resemblance in this article to the aftermath of tea with an actual sewing circle, existing or otherwise, is purely coincidental.)

Categories: The Gudgeon

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