As a Fine Art undergraduate I was actively involved in volunteering, either as part of my course or out of choice; preferring to work behind the scenes with artists and practitioners. Volunteering and working at a variety of institutes over the past ten years provided me with so many opportunities, and gave me the confidence to re-enter education later in life. I chose the MA in art gallery museum studies as the options available really interested me, with the main area being a work placement.
As a former artist, I wanted something a bit different than a regular museum or gallery. Manchester is famous for its cultural institutions, but I felt that I would gain much more from my time spent outside of these settings. I did not want to work alone or in a small office environment, favouring working with the public and with the chance to be physically active, so I was excited to begin my placement at Hulme Community Garden Centre.
Hulme Community Garden Centre (http://www.hulmegardencentre.org.uk/) is a quiet haven in a busy multicultural area of Manchester, a place where you can get away from the grind of the city and relax in an area of green bliss! I fell in love with it as soon as I arrived; it’s quirky, welcoming, friendly, and later I found out provides great work for the community. Their busy schedule means they have up to 100 volunteers assisting each month, work closely with schools and colleges, stage large events, provide training, and run health and wellbeing activities for adults with mental or physical health issues.
Over my 20-day period I work shadowed each member of the team, exploring the land whilst discovering how they work. I’m not a gardener by any means, and so I was taught the basics to assist with sessions for toddlers, volunteers and adults with learning disabilities. One day I would be building dens out of recycled material with a group of 25 toddlers, cook food on their wood burning pizza oven, building a stage, assisting home education kids to plant sunflowers, or helping maintain the centre’s produce. Every day was different, and that’s what I really enjoyed!
The team are each extremely passionate about their roles, and how they impact the wider community, knowing that their works help improves lives and the environment through a variety of different ways. The centre is a place where you can learn, interact, heal and feel part of a community. I was provided with an opportunity to learn and develop my skills and grateful for my time spent there. After the completion of my work placement, I chose to stay as a volunteer, member and offered freelance employment working on case studies for funding bids and interactive food demos using produce they grow on site. If you have a chance, I recommend you visit as you won’t find anywhere else like it in Manchester!