12 May 2022
In Praise of Organisers
Three cheers for volunteers.
By Lynda Goetz
I’ve been on committees, of course I have. It started at school; there was the School Council, the Debating Society, the House entertainment competitions and of course the school magazine; at university there was the squash team to be organised, although not much else that I can recall getting involved in at committee level; later there were various Parent-Teacher committees; the local Twinning Group; several fund-raising committees for charities and most recently a gardening club. For some reason I usually ended up as Secretary, which as far as I could see involved the most work. Perhaps this was because my innumeracy meant I was clearly never going to be given or volunteer for the role of Treasurer and I deferred to the more obviously bossy who sought the role of ‘Big Cheese’. In spite of some cajoling I resisted the invitations and suggestions over the years to put myself up for election either at Parish council level or above. Too many at that level seem to love the sound of their own voice and unless there is a good Chair, meetings can be unsatisfactory and interminable. (I still have memories of an endless Twinning Committee meeting many years ago where the merits or need for a 52 or 48-seater coach were debated for what felt like hours).
Committees fall into two groups basically: one where the fewer people you have on the committee the more gets achieved; and the second where the more people you have on the committee the better because you all need to do only a small amount to achieve maximum results. The latter sort are perfect vehicles for fundraising, as the more of you there are to sell tickets or spread the word about an event the more money you are likely to raise. However, if you need to get decisions made, then the smaller the committee (or sub-committee) the less opportunity there is for endless opining and unproductive discussion.
The Jubilee has obviously thrown up the need, not just for professional organisers, who have to plan the official celebrations, but for organisers at local level – those volunteer organisers and committee members who are so vital; those local ‘busybodies’ who always feel the need to organise the village fete, the visit of Father Christmas to the village hall/square, the shoe boxes for Romanian orphanages or whatever the latest or current need happens to be. Currently we need festivities at local level to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne. Fortunately my village has such an organiser. She is a former head teacher in her 70s and she is very good at making things happen. She does keep trying to ‘retire’ and having organised everything in the village for decades (including the Millenium celebrations and the last three Jubilees – Gold in 2002, Diamond in 2012 and Sapphire in 2017), it is probably about time she was able to pass the baton on to someone younger.
Some take the view that with women working these days it is much harder in general to find people to volunteer to run things. I am not sure that is true. For many years now women have in fact combined a role as volunteer organisers with whatever other roles they have; high-powered executives, lawyers, doctors, mothers, carers, housekeepers and gardeners. There are also the male equivalents. They too have full-time jobs and roles as fathers and DIY builders which they manage to combine with volunteering to help drive the rescue boat at their sailing club or join the committee dealing with village hall issues. We should take our hats off to these people. Without them the myriad events which will take place across the country in towns and villages would just not be happening.
In our village of some 800 people, there will be events happening over three days at the beginning of June, including a curry night on the Friday, a ‘royal party’ in the village square on the Saturday with BBQ and street stalls (and wheelbarrow racing!) and a special church service on the Sunday followed by celebrations in the garden of the ‘big house’, including a Treasure Hunt for children, a dog show and a concert with local singers. In a nearby hamlet they will be lighting a beacon on 2nd June, one of many in elevated spots across the country, to initiate the few days of celebrations. All this has had to be organised. There will have been phone calls, texts, meetings and then arrangements to be implemented. Without those prepared to put themselves out and perform these roles none of these things would be happening. I for one am sincerely grateful not only for our wonderful Queen and all that she has done over the last 70 years to set an example of devotion, duty and diligence to her subjects, but to all those who are prepared to serve on committees to make things happen and to get things done. A toast!