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Jillian Derbyshire

Slough

I noticed advertising for volunteers in the library last year. At the time I was looking for opportunities to get involved in local activities and it seemed like a good fit for me. I’ve always been involved in creative activities, but I never thought about it as being part of the arts. I’ve never been involved with an organisation like HOME before, so I just thought I’d give it a go. 

The first meeting I went to was about the Sparks Festival. On the day of the festival my volunteering duties involved data collection about four new light installation pieces which were exhibited in The Curve Building and also sang with The Curve choir. Afterwards, they opened the back wall of the building and outside were people waiting with their lanterns. We paraded out through the building and down the High Street. 

I also got involved with Streets Alive. On the day, I was asked to do data collection again. So I spent a sunny Saturday approaching people to find out what they thought about the street performance. I don’t know of a similar event having happened in Slough, not the way this was done. There was Parkour; a comedy road-works theatre event and we had dancing bodyguards which were really popular. They had a samba band and a New Orleans jazz band, and an event from France which involved spraying streamers of blue biodegradable tape all over the High Street. The children were thrilled and played in like it was sand or snow. Not all of the events were performances I would normally watch and I was so pleasantly surprised by the brilliant audience reaction. 

I took the view that my role was as much about representing HOME as it was collecting data. I was equally as interested to point people in the right direction and encourage them to get involved. The very first person I spoke to was someone who was a multi-media artist and was astonished that there was something going on in Slough that he could get involved with. So I gave him one of HOME’s cards to sign up. That felt like a real success.

Photo: Stephen King

I also sat on a bursary panel recently for HOME. I would like to think I was asked because I am unbiased and I look at things from a broad spectrum – whether I personally like or dislike something is not the criteria for whether you’re going to fund it. I had never done anything like that before. It was a real challenge and as an analytical person I found that satisfying on a personal level; I enjoyed doing that.