Katy Armitage: Volunteering at Square Chapel Arts Centre

Fri 7 Dec, 2018
This post was written by squarechapel

I first heard about Square Chapel Arts Centre after the Piece Hall was renovated in 2017. Having never visited before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after watching a theatre production that a family friend was performing in, I instantly fell in love with the building. Everything from the new auditorium to the geometric ceiling design was fascinating to look at for the first time, and experiencing theatre was just as fantastic as I’d seen it anywhere else. The new cafe is warm and inviting, and anyone can eat or drink before and after performances.

Applying to become a volunteer is easy, with one simple email I had been invited in for a small interview. Two practice shifts were arranged – where I helped out the other volunteers who had signed up for events. One took place in the new Copper auditorium (usually used for films and smaller theatre productions) and the other in the original Red Brick auditorium (used for large theatre productions, music, and film). As with anything new, the nerves were high, but as soon as I was warmly welcomed into the green room and offered a cup of tea by the other volunteers, I knew that everything would run smoothly. Before each shift, the Duty Manager of the event briefs the volunteers and explains all of the details of what will be happening and assigning roles to each volunteer – such as whereabouts in the auditorium you will sit and who will be collecting tickets. There is then time to chat with the other volunteers on the shift with you, and it’s always lovely to find out more about them. Everybody I met was willing to answer my questions and greeted me with a warm smile. As the event begins and doors open, the volunteers take their places; taking tickets, giving out leaflets, or welcoming the audience into the theatre and showing them to their seats, and afterwards, enjoy the show. There’s always a wide range of films or theatre productions available at Square Chapel, some of my highlights being I, Tonya and Lady Bird. The season brochure is a great way to find out the upcoming events, and the season launch highlights the shows to look out for. After the show, volunteers thank the audience for coming and then they return to the green room, where they receive a free ticket for a film of their choice, and a free drinks voucher to be used at the bar.

 

The volunteer rota is available online or on the whiteboard in the volunteer green room and has all the information about the shows coming up in the months ahead. After a quick email to Andrew stating the time and event you would like to sign up for, your name appears on the rota and he’s always happy to answer any questions. The rota online is very simple to navigate and is organised by months. Updates about the rota comes through emails from Andrew, commonly speckled with uplifting jokes and puns – the highlight of many people’s week!

 

I usually apply for two shifts a month, looking on the rota for shows I want to watch. One of the first pieces of advice I received when I began volunteering was to sign up for shows or films that I wouldn’t normally see. Doing this has opened me to new genres of films that before I wouldn’t normally be interested in. Especially since Square Chapel shows some films that wouldn’t be shown in mainstream cinemas, I’ve found myself signing up for, loving, and recommending to my friends films that I would never have thought about seeing without being at Square Chapel.

 

After 7 months of volunteering at Square Chapel, I am now doing a week of work experience. Being able to experience a different department each day, I can get a better understanding of how Square Chapel runs, how and why each film is chosen and the sound and technical side of setting up a show. I’m having a great week so far, and everybody has been very kind and quick to help me out if I get confused. My week began with a quick induction, but since I was already familiar with the building I was able to get straight into learning about each department. I began by finding out about how each film is chosen to be at Square Chapel and how it is scheduled to play in each auditorium. It was really interesting to see the thought process behind choosing the films, especially since I am such a big fan of going to the cinema. One of the most interesting parts of my week was learning about the back of house – specifically the sound and lighting in the Red Brick auditorium. I never realised how much goes into a production and I found this really fascinating as it is a part of theatre I am interested in working in in the future. I have also been part of the outreach team, which involved handing out leaflets about an upcoming Rock School to local shops in Halifax. I also visited the Orange Box, where the Rock School is taking place, and learnt all about what activities they run there and the help they give to young people. Learning about Gig Buddies was really interesting, as I had little knowledge of the scheme before this week. I think the work that Gig Buddies does with people with learning disabilities to help build their confidence is really nice and a lovely scheme to be a part of, and would love for more people to learn about what they do and how they can help. I am also going to be working with the marketing team and shadowing a Duty Manager – which will be very exciting to see the other side of my volunteering shift. This week of work experience has been a really good opportunity for me to learn more about the Square Chapel and has been a lovely place for my first ever work placement. I hope to continue to volunteer here at Square Chapel after my placement and continue to learn, get involved and find new interests.

Katy Armitage

 

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