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Hear it from The Volunteers

Written on September 30, 2019
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To celebrate all the fantastic volunteers who have supported Invisible Cities we wanted to share some of their stories. We asked three previous volunteers to tell us about their experiences and what they gained from being part of the team.

Alice - Student who volunteered to help write Danny’s book ‘Off the Cobbles’ in Manchester

Working with Danny was a thoroughly rewarding experience for me, if a little daunting at first. I liked Danny's poetry from the start. In particular, how eloquently he framed his life experiences and - in doing so - bridged the gap in understanding, empathy and compassion between England's divided social structures. His work seemed very special to me. But because our lives and backgrounds have been so dramatically different, I didn't feel I had any right to criticise, analyse and edit such personal and moving creations from such a removed and - relatively - inexperienced perspective. I wanted 'Off The Cobbles' to be Danny's, and only Danny's. In getting the book print-ready, I didn't want to shift or shape Danny's story into a narrative he never intended.

Having said that, Danny was an inspiration and a joy to work with. Knowing very little of me or my literary and creative abilities, he welcomed me into his world with his usual disarming charm and discerning frankness. In my eyes, it was our mutual desire for respect and understanding, and our emotional investment in and connection with his poetry that allowed us to work so well together. It is this unique and thought-provoking exchange of knowledge and experience, delving into wells of emotion, humanity and compassion that are so often left untouched in modern life and discourse that made this project so special to me, and why I'm so thankful to Danny for allowing me to have been a part of it.

Millie - Graduate who volunteered with Invisible (Manchester) and now works part-time

I started as a volunteer at Invisible (Manchester) in January 2019 and this led me to become the part-time Guide Support Officer in Manchester. I cannot explain how fulfilling and inspiring this role is, every day I am learning new skills, finding out new things about people, relationships, and myself. I know wherever I go, this experience I have had will stay with me and lead me to many other opportunities in working with people from all backgrounds and places in the world.

My Guide Support role is not just supporting the guides, through regular meetings and phone calls, training and activities, it consists of teaching each other. My involvement with Invisible (Manchester) began by attending Danny’s tours, chatting to Danny and the tour goers! I have always loved the North and the spirit of Manchester, but I did not find out how much spirit the city and its people had until I started to work with Invisible (Manchester).

We then took on another guide, Laura, we built her tour together, both teaching each other and both encouraging each other. Laura taught me to look up, and always see the best in everything and everyone. Laura and Danny helped me to become a Guide Support as much as Invisible Manchester helped then be tour guides. I have never felt more part of a team than I have with Invisible Manchester.

Starting as a volunteer and now a member of staff I have built individual and unique relationships with each of the guides, getting to know their passions, their stories and their Manchester’s.

Martin - Tour guide who volunteered with Invisible (Edinburgh) and now works part-time

I emailed Zakia early 2018 to offer my services as a volunteer with Invisible (Edinburgh) as I felt I could use my own experience of setting up a tour to help others. I was delighted to meet the guides and am happy to say that nearly a year and a half on, two of them are still guiding. I worked particularly closely with Paul on his History of the Trainspotting Generation tour from start to finish. We started by discussing his ideas on its content and the route, making the most of his encyclopaedic knowledge on the subject and the area. I learned so much about Leith at the same time! Paul's enthusiasm was infectious and, over a period of a few months, I had the pleasure of watching him develop his tour into the finished and successful article that it is today.

It was through my experience with Invisible, that I decided to return to university to do a Masters in Career Guidance after nearly 20 years of finishing my first degree. During the course, I was fortunate enough to get more experience with the guides under my belt this time assisting Angus in producing his The Royal Mile - A Work in Progress tour. I've also had the opportunity to meet with a number of other initiatives that have worked with us to broaden my understanding of the Social Enterprise community as a whole. Finally, I accepted a part-time position a few months ago looking after our administration whilst I'm also now a Careers Adviser working in schools helping the next generation.

If you have been inspired by these stories to volunteer with Invisible Cities, please email info@invisible-cities.org.

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Image of Alice and Danny working on the book together.

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