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Mayor joins forces with cultural sector to strengthen volunteer base

13 June 2011

  • Plan for first ever citywide strategy for arts and cultural organisations revealed

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is joining forces with arts and cultural organisations across the capital to raise the profile of volunteering and enhance the status of volunteers working within the sector, with the development of the first ever citywide volunteering framework for the sector.

The profile of and demand for volunteering in London has never been higher, with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games creating large numbers of volunteering opportunities. Attention is now turning to the Games' volunteering legacy and what it means for the arts and cultural sector. The London Cultural Quarters, group, which bring together cultural organisations, business groups and local authorities across the city, have highlighted volunteering as one of their key legacy priorities for 2012.

82 per cent of cultural organisations in the capital believe their volunteering need will increase over the next two years, according to a survey of 90 not for profit organisations in the sector, commissioned by Greater London Authority and London Cultural Quarters. The survey reveals that the majority of them (78 per cent) believe this need will increase by up to 50 per cent. 54 per cent say they would not be able to operate without volunteers. 65 per cent of organisations already had a waiting list of people wanting to volunteer.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'Across London a hidden army of volunteers make a huge contribution to the city's unrivalled arts and cultural scene. Their enthusiasm, dedication and knowledge - front of house and behind the scenes - help our fantastic museums, galleries and theatres tick. My appreciation for their commitment cannot be overstated and it's about time they got the recognition they deserve. Our aim is to help cultural organisations of all sizes attract more volunteers and get the very best out them.'

The Mayor is now working with London Cultural Quarters, to develop a five year strategic plan aimed at providing a clear framework for volunteering in cultural organisations both large and small. It is the first time such a plan has been developed and will encompass the whole sector, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of organisations, policy makers, volunteering representatives, as well as case studies and findings from the GLA survey. This work will complement Team London, the Mayor's ambitious programme to get more people in the capital, which is officially launched this summer, as helping take forward the Mayor's strategy Cultural Metropolis.

Iwona Blazwick, Chair, London Cultural Strategy Group, said: 'Volunteering is a great way of getting involved in the arts sector, be it just for a day as a tour guide or as an experienced curator or a board member. Volunteers bring a wealth of experience and skills, and above all a real sense of enthusiasm and dynamism to organisations. It is important that there is a coordinated approach and understanding of volunteering across the sector.'

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director London, Arts Council England, said: 'Volunteering is perhaps not a term that is easily recognised in all parts of the cultural sector. Without a doubt, we should do more to celebrate those that give their time and energy – our Board members, our fundraisers, our amateur groups' leaders, our tour guides and leaflet distributors, our events stewards and the many parents who tirelessly support our youth groups. And we should do more to recognise the benefits that volunteering in the cultural sector bring - connecting people to their local communities, helping to extend the reach of amazing projects and often introducing a new generation to experiences which transform their lives for the better.'

The draft strategy and a newly published guide called 'Culture and Volunteering' will be unveiled at an event in City Hall on Monday 13 June from 4pm-7:30pm. The guide illustrates the wide range of ways that volunteers are active within organisations. For example:

  • Over 450 volunteers aged 18-60 took part in the Natural History Museum's 'Behind the Seen' scheme capitalising on their passion for the natural world, performing a performing a wide range of roles, from specialist science work and research through to interacting with the public a new exhibition.
  • artsdepot in Barnet has set up a youth panel for young people aged 11-19 who give advice on programming, marketing, access and education, and are involved in choosing some of the artists and companies that artsdepot works with, with the aim of attracting more young people to the venue.
  • The Museum of London's Junction youth panel was set up to enable young people to develop and co-curate a flagship exhibition in 2012 and advise the museum on working with 14-24 year olds. Fifteen young volunteers, aged 16-25 worked with museum staff on an ambitious exhibition project, Our Londinium 2012.
  • The Theatre Royal Stratford East's Open Stage programme got 25 volunteers of all ages to help it programme a season of work for 2012.
  • Studio 3 Arts on Barking established a training programme to develop learning and personal growth for local people, including vulnerable and marginalised individuals.

The 'Culture and Volunteering' guide is available from

Notes to editors

  1. Team London is the Mayor’s ambitious vision to get more people volunteering in the capital.  The programme, which will be launched by the Mayor later this month, will bring voluntary community organisations together and utilise the goodwill that is explicit across the city to tackle crime, increase opportunities for young people and improve the environment. With the support of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and founding supporter the Reuben Foundation,  London will be the first city outside the United States to have a programme based on the successful ‘Cities of Service’ model instigated in New York, which has been replicated by cities across America. 
  2. Team London Star The Mayor is calling on Londoners to help him to uncover some of the capital's unsung heroes. More than 70 per cent of Londoners volunteer their time and energy at least once a year and the Mayor wants to publically recognise this goodwill, which plays a valuable part in helping to transform the city and improve local communities. Londoners are being asked to nominate those who give up their time to help others to become a Team London Star.  For more information go to
  3. The London 2012 Games Maker programme is recruiting up to 70,000 volunteers to a range of roles in sporting venues, many of which are in the capital, and the London Ambassadors programme is recruiting 8,000 volunteers to welcome visitors to the city. For more information go to:
  4. London Cultural Quarters. Many of London's large and small cultural organisations, across the not for profit sector have joined together with local Business Improvement Districts and local authorities to form Cultural Quarter partnerships in the city: Kings Cross and Bloomsbury; South Bank and Bankside; Exhibition Road; Central London and East London. The Cultural Quarters recognise that culture can have a wide impact across all aspects of community life such as education, building stronger neighbourhoods, regeneration, community engagement, health and well-being.  They provide a forum to identify shared goals and priorities to overcome barriers and to take advantage of opportunities through collaboration and the delivery of new ways of working. The Cultural Quarters have identified volunteering as a key way in which they can support the 2012 legacy and also provide a unique offer for cultural organisations and volunteers.
  5. For more on Cultural Metropolis and the Mayor's priorities for culture to 2012 and beyond go to


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