Hundreds of opportunities to get involved behind the scenes at a huge range of arts and cultural events across Teesside have been announced. 

The initiative launched by the Tees Valley Festivals network offers the chance for anyone aged 16 years and older to sign up at to volunteer at any of a diverse range of over twenty festivals that take place each year across the region, alongside a free training and accreditation programme. 

A wide variety of events is involved, including festivals that celebrate music, dance, performance, comedy, contemporary arts, maritime history, creativity and making, sustainable living, multicultural food, arts and crafts, LGBTQIA+ culture, family-focused storytelling and adventuring and literature.   

The Northern Echo: Hartlepool Tall ShipsHartlepool Tall Ships (Image: Press release)

As part of the scheme volunteers can access a schedule of free training, from customer service, front of house and confidence building, to event management, music and lighting production, artist liaison and collaboration and individual artistic practice and development. 

Volunteers can also earn a series of prestigious official digital accreditation badges from Badge Nation and Navigatr, backed by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), to add to CVs. 

The idea for a central volunteering portal was born out of the Tees Valley Festivals network, originally set up by Stellar Projects, organisers of the craft and creativity Make and Mend event and the spectacular Nightfall light trail, to enable festival organisers across the Tees Valley to get together and share expertise which now has twenty-one events involved. 

Dominic Somers, Creative Director of Festival of Thrift, which hosts the Tees Valley Festivals Volunteering operation, said: “It is now easier than ever to be part of something exciting and fun that’s on your doorstep. The Tees Valley Festivals Network has representation from festivals right across the area, including Billingham International Folklore Festival that has been running since the 1960s, Middlesbrough Mela, Hartlepool and Saltburn Folk Festivals, Taste of Africa, Last Train Home, Tracks Darlington and Festival of Thrift, to name but a few, so there’s something to suit most interests. 

The Northern Echo: Stockton International Riverside FestivalStockton International Riverside Festival (Image: Press release)

“It’s a fabulous chance to meet new people, access some free training, learn some new skills, build self-confidence and self-esteem and enjoy the sense of well-being that comes from giving something back. The RSA accredited badges are also perfect for adding to CVs and LinkedIn profiles.” 

At a launch event for Tees Valley Festival Volunteering many of the festival organisers shared their own experiences of being volunteers and the benefits it gave them. 

Liam Slevin, co-founder of Middlesbrough Arts Weekender, the North East's largest contemporary arts festival, said that volunteering after graduating had led him to be introduced to a network of artists and that it was a fantastic way to experience the “joy of being part of something.” 

Laura Wigham, a second-year textiles degree student at The Northern School of Art in Hartlepool, said that she thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at last year’s Festival of Thrift. 

“When I was eight, I went to one of the first Festival of Thrift events and really loved it, so when I saw an email about opportunities to volunteer last year I signed up straight away,” she explained. 

“It was really exciting as I helped with the creation of the large-scale Ackroyd & Harvey grass artwork by sowing the grass seed and then saw it grow and be installed on the wall of Kirkleatham Museum where it was a real focal point for visitors. 

The Northern Echo: Festival of Thrift is one of the events seeking volunteersFestival of Thrift is one of the events seeking volunteers (Image: Press release)

“At the festival I was also offered the chance to run paid workshops which I have carried on and now do regularly. It was great as I met lots of people and the atmosphere was fantastic.  It has also helped me to decide that I want to work in community arts when I graduate. I am still happy to keep volunteering as I enjoyed it so much.” 

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Annabel Turpin, Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Creative Place Advisory Group Chair, said: “Our fantastic calendar of festivals is already built on a deep foundation of collaboration, and this programme will only get more people involved to deliver our exciting and diverse events. 

“In helping fund this scheme, we’re boosting opportunities for those looking to break in to our cultural sector and gain the skills and contacts they need for a successful career. It will help us nurture existing talent, add capacity for our festivals to grow and attract even more visitors, while bringing people together in welcoming and creative environments.”  

Tees Valley Festivals Network Volunteers is funded thanks to support from Arts Council England and the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority