volunteering

Guest blog: Becky Latham, work experience student

Becky is a student at Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College and spent a busy week with Cox Bank Publishing, with a packed diary!

My week spent at Cox Bank Publishing has been exciting, memorable and an invaluable experience. I’ve been lucky to have landed a week with so many meetings and events, especially because the weather has been lovely so escaping the office for an hour was well appreciated by Peter and myself, and I have met a broad range of interesting people with much to offer.

On Monday I was greeted at the Dudson Centre, Hanley, by a very welcoming group of VAST staff members who have been helpful and approachable all week. My day began by being introduced to the Cox bank Publishing office and I was happy to be given some time to read through recently received Sporting Stories for the website. That gave me a very good insight into the kinds of inspirational stories I would be hearing and reading about all week, such as Andy Baggaley’s which I enjoyed reading very much. This has given me a much greater appreciation for sport considering dance has been my only ever link to the sporting community, as I lack the appropriate strength and stamina to be any other kind of athlete. I was also enthused to read through the ‘comic strips’ a primary school class had contributed illustrating their first lessons learning to do gymnastics. Some took a bit of translation but the fabulous drawings bought their enthusiasm for learning to life, which was exceptionally rewarding to witness.

Throughout the rest of the week we have been busy darting round to various meetings with people from the council, to primary schools, to local artists to a group of teenagers completing their National Citizenship volunteering qualification. One of the most memorable experiences, however, was the visit to the Karvan, a colourfully decorated caravan on the edge of the city.  See more about the Karvan here.

The beautiful KARVAN (c)

The beautiful KARVAN (c)

It was lovely to meet Emma Dawson Varughese, who owns the vehicle and takes it around to various festivals and schools for people to explore literature. As an English Literature student myself, and hoping to study it at university next year, I found her method of teaching and dedication to the encouragement of reading particularly influential. Stepping into the Karvan was an experience in itself. The floor was covered in plastic grass and I was dazzled by the array of colours from the flags, walls, posters and cushions which represented many cultures and countries. Bells hung from the ceiling and there were exotic ornaments dotted around the room. It is easy to understand why she manages to capture attention and interest from all her visitors because it is so easy to become absorbed in such a beautiful place. I especially liked the Urdu and Arabic lettering when she explained it “lets people associate that culture and religion in a positive way” because of everything happening in the world right now, and particularly helps groups from ethnic minority backgrounds be in a comfortable place which unites all communities.

and the lovely interior of the KARVAN (c)

and the lovely interior of the KARVAN (c)

We discussed how the Karvan could have multipurpose in benefiting Cox Bank Publishing as well if we rented the space to be used at sporting events to encourage athletes to come and tell their stories.

Another useful meeting was with the local entrepreneur and artist, Andy Cooke, who we met to discuss a range of opportunities including creating the primary school comic strips I mentioned earlier into real life publications. As creative as the original drawings were, we thought they may need some neatening up by an artist to combine all the ideas and create an overview.

En route to 'Entrepreneur' - Andy and Becky by his City of Sport mural off Cheapside

En route to 'Entrepreneur' - Andy and Becky by his City of Sport mural off Cheapside

Halfway through the meeting we decided to visit his shop around the corner and explored the gallery space he owns on the first floor, with all walls covered in modern, urban art. He revealed the space was open for rental which produced another opportunity for Cox Bank Publishing as possibility for a launch venue for the next book or collect city centre sporting stories. Meetings like this held throughout the week showed to me how important it is to make links with people because there is no limit to the opportunities and possibilities it opens up.

Today, the final day, we met up again with the teenagers doing NCS. To complete the NCS programme, they need to do a week’s planning of a volunteering event followed by a week completing the volunteering activity which they worked in partnership with Stoke City Community Trust and Cox Bank Publishing. Their focus was on sporting within the community and have decided to go into places such as care homes, disability centres and every day sporting centres like Fenton manor to teach, coach and chat to the groups about sport through their lives. Through these interviews, they will be taking notes and providing the sporting stories to Cox Bank Publishing if the individual would like to share it with us, which can benefit the business by providing us with many more sporting stories to share and inspire, as well as giving the NCS group guidance with their project. Today was an example of that. We organised it as a practise run to give an insight as to what their activities next week may be like. For a part of this I held a mock interview with an employee from Go Outdoors, called Tom, which was good practise for myself to try a new skill and also benefited the group because they learnt how to take down brief notes from fast chunks of information.

NCS 1.jpg

 

Overall the week has been extremely rewarding and exciting. I have learnt how publishing works; how professional meetings can not only solve the situation at hand but lead you in many directions you may not have considered, as well as skills such as drafting emails, website page editing and how to lead a successful interview. I am very grateful for Peter Hooper for giving me the opportunity to work at Cox bank Publishing for the week and will definitely keep checking up on the website and keep in touch to watch this project excel as I’m sure it will do extremely well and keep on growing.

Guest Blog: Katie Pickering, work experience student

Katie Pickering, a student at Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College currently studying A Levels including English Literature and Media Studies, is one of a number of students doing work experience with Cox Bank Publishing this summer. During her week with us Katie visited Bentilee Volunteers to chat to the community groups there.

 

It was a fascinating day in Bentilee collecting sporting stories from community groups at Bentilee Volunteers, where there was an instant welcoming atmosphere. Prior to our visit, Janet Mason, a volunteer at the centre, had spoken to the members about what to expect and whether they had any sporting experiences, to help direct us towards some of the individuals with intriguing stories to tell.

Once members were approached and prompted to relate any outstanding memories of sports - that they either participated in or simply enjoyed watching - the stories rapidly appeared. Although not all were relevant to sport - there were very detailed explanations as to why some of the women enjoyed knitting or baking - within the stories there were the obviously cherished and memorable experiences of sport, whether dating back to their childhood years or just the previous week watching Wimbledon or the Euros. It seemed that the people that you would least expect to hold such interesting stories were the ones that delivered the most entertaining tales, and without encouragement to delve back into these memories, they might easily have never been told.

Engaging conversations...

Engaging conversations...

From the individuals who I spoke to, the majority of whom were elderly women, I got the sense that sport did not appear to have a great impact on their lives. The most common response that I was given was that in the days that they were at school, they had never been exposed to sport or given the opportunities that children now are provided with. Many thought that if they had had that same access when they were young, sport may have played a more prominent role in their lives.

Some revealed that they did not have the access to sports equipment and therefore would resort to making their own entertainment such as hopscotch or playing marbles. Others had more personal reasons for not participating in sport, including one woman who said that as a child she had very thin legs and was given the nickname ‘Olive Oil’, so she hated playing sports due to self-consciousness.

Within the group, I managed to find a couple of sports-related interests that they had, from watching ice-skating on TV to having pursued a hobby in cycling, riding from Stoke to Wolverhampton. Another aspect of the day revolved around encouraging those with stories to tell to develop a piece of writing to contribute to Sporting Stories, and advising them on how to write it in order to capture the importance of sport for them. 

Moving on from the centre, we then went on to the other volunteer centre and charity shop in the hope of more stories. Although there weren't as many people, every effort was made by Janet to encourage and point people with a history in sport in our direction. In the end, various sporting stories were collected from this outing, ranging from existing pieces of writing, to fantastic quotes pulled from the stories that were told, or a general insight into the impact that sport had on someone's life.