Wednesday, 3 June 2015

In praise of volunteers

This is National Volunteers Week. Volunteering is big business nowadays. Literally. Volunteers' hours keep many businesses and organisations afloat, from money making concerns to charities, from heritage to education. Volunteers' generosity of time and spirit can be set against match funding for grants and support from funding bodies. The voluntary sector has changed considerably since the North Mill opened to the public in 1995. Like many of the other heritage attractions we now take for granted in Derbyshire and throughout the country, the Mill was a vision and a risk, made real by the dedication of a group of volunteers who cared about its significance and history. With the support of Amber Valley Borough Council they were able to combine a Visitor Centre with a museum. All along the Derwent Valley the heritage that gained recognition as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001 was similarly supported by committed and passionate people who recognised the significance of the buildings and heritage on their doorstep and couldn't bear to see it disappear, unacknowledged. This month the North Mill celebrates its twentieth anniversary. The volunteers have created an exhibition to share this particular aspect of the North Mill's history, as significant as any other period of its past. There are photos of past events, press cuttings, familiar faces and old friends. The building may be fireproof but it hasn't always been flood proof. There are images of working parties, clearing up after flooding from the wheel pit in the basement. The North Mill continues thanks to those efforts as well as the day to day work done to welcome and inform visitors, maintain the Mill and its exhibits and all the other behind the scenes work. The Mill needs more people to volunteer, to get involved, to take it into a new phase. Each month there is news of significant funding for different organisations along the World Heritage Site, confirming the importance of this area and the confidence the funders have in these voluntary organisations to deliver. A new Fundraising and Volunteer Support Officer has been appointed to work alongside the part time museum manager for nearly two years.This will be a great time to be a volunteer.

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