The iconic City of Culture volunteering programme has received funding for a further three years from Spirit of 2012.
The programme, which was fundamental to the success of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and has continued to be run by Absolutely Cultured since 2018, will now be hosted by Visit Hull and East Yorkshire (VHEY) as part of plans to increase its impact in the wider region.
Around 2,500 volunteers have been part of the programme since it began in 2016. A total of 94,347 volunteering shifts have been completed, equivalent to 53,913 days of volunteering.
Councillor Daren Hale, leader of Hull City Council, said: “The volunteers are iconic. They were the warm, welcoming faces of our incredible year as UK City of Culture and have become proud ambassadors for our city – they embody all that is fantastic about Hull and our region.
“The volunteering programme is one of our greatest legacies from 2017, so I’m delighted that their work and their impact will continue to resonate throughout Hull, and the wider region.”
The move to VHEY follows a consultation process which focused on the future potential of the programme and involved volunteers, staff and stakeholders. This included identifying an appropriate host organisation that can enable the ambition of the programme to be achieved.
Spirit of 2012 have agreed to continue funding the programme for a further three years from September 2021.
Jane Gibson, chair of Spirit of 2012, said: “We’ve seen what a well organised, motivated, engaged volunteer network can achieve, both as cultural ambassadors as part of a pre-planned event such as the City of Culture and in providing emergency support in unexpected circumstances. There is enormous potential to scale this up into other areas, providing a boost to business and tourism in the region.
“The famous blue-coated volunteers are a proud legacy for Hull, but time moves on, and Spirit of 2012’s grant will help Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council develop the scheme to respond to the needs of the region and the people of Hull and East Yorkshire for years to come.”
Visit Hull and East Yorkshire is a unique partnership between Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, working together to promote and develop tourism.
As sectors and communities emerge from the pandemic, volunteers will be as important as ever in welcoming people back to shops, theatres, galleries, museums and outdoor spaces.
Lee Corner, chair of Absolutely Cultured, said: “We are delighted that not only is this important programme secure for another three years but that its regional reach will create an even wider variety of opportunities to volunteer.
“The programme will retain its strong connection to the cultural sector, and volunteers will still have an essential role in enabling and encouraging cultural experiences across Hull’s communities. These are the things that make up the unique DNA of the Volunteer Programme, and we know how important they are to our volunteers.
“Absolutely Cultured continues to be committed to the success of the Programme, so we will join with colleagues from across the region as part of a cross-sector advisory group, and volunteers will continue to be at the heart of our forthcoming projects.”
Through the programme, volunteers have taken part in over 32,000 training opportunities to help develop skills and knowledge.
The programme makes an important contribution to volunteering more broadly, and to other organisations and communities across the area.
In a recent survey, almost 61% of volunteers said they had gone on to volunteer for other organisations outside of the programme and a further 10.7% had initiated or become actively involved in their communities. 44% said they would not have considered doing so if it were not for their involvement in the programme. Only 32.75% had volunteered elsewhere in either the five years prior to joining the programme, or at all.
Councillor Jonathan Owen, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “We are thrilled that further funding has been awarded for the volunteering programme as those who have volunteered have, since 2016, given superb dedication and service to both Hull and East Yorkshire.
“Consistently, volunteers in the East Riding have given up their time to help promote our tourism industry, and the further three years of funding will open up more opportunities for more residents to take part in this wonderful programme, with VHEY proud to host this step forward.”
The volunteers have been vital to Hull’s Covid-19 response, completing more than 4,000 hours of support directly through the programme and many more through referrals to other organisations. Many remain involved in supporting the city’s vaccination efforts.