Richard Westwood Brookes - Volunteer
Volunteer, The Firs
What's the best part of Volunteering at The Firs? Being able to meet the public who don't know anything about Elgar or his music and having the opportunity to inspire them to learn more and to listen to more than Land of Hope and Glory and Nimrod.
What’s keeping me busy at the moment?
As far as the Firs is concerned, I spend my time storytelling at the birthplace itself as well as putting shifts in at the visitor centre and particularly at the Elgar Study. I assume that is the point of this question as the question below takes care of my none volunteering activities.
What's my favourite part of The Firs?
The Study because it gives me more of a chance to talk specifically about the music and to introduce the public to the real treasure - the autograph manuscript of the 2nd Symphony.
What's my favourite story about The Firs?
Telling people that the myths they have heard about Elgar, his upbringing and his career are not true and being able to introduce them to the real Elgar, rather than the bumptious Major General figure his wife crafted for him.
What do I do when I’m not volunteering?
I am an author and journalist by profession as well as a historical documents and autographs expert, so I spend my time writing articles for newspapers, magazines etc, I am developing a blog for launch next year, as well as maintaining and enlarging my own historical documents and manuscripts archive.
What advice would I give anyone thinking about volunteering with the National Trust?
Sign up TODAY ! It is the most rewarding and satisfying thing you can do. I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the NT staff and their determination to produce an 'NT Product' [dreadful term I know but I suppose it is the parlance of today] which retains the culture, history and learning element of NT properties, but at the same time makes them available and accessible to the general public. History and its teaching is severely lacking in this country on account of the general running down of historical education in our schools, and the only way the general public are to learn and admire the achievements, culture, art and history of the past is through operations such as the NT.
More volunteers means more days NT properties can open, and for longer hours, so if you volunteer you are making a very positive and practical contribution to the cultural life of this country.
But if you are thinking of volunteering, don't just approach it with an attitude of 'doing your bit' or 'finding something to do in retirement which passes a few hours', approach it with an attitude of saying to yourself 'I want to immerse myself in the history and culture of this place - I want to learn all I can about the place, its history and the people who lived there so that I can impart that knowledge to those visitors who want to learn and be inspired.' If you do that, you will find that whatever place you volunteer for will not only be an inspiration for you but will also reward you a thousand fold by giving you something which will expand your own knowledge and lead you to seek more and more about the past.
What greater opportunity is there than to be able to spend days of your life in places where history actually happened, and to be able to impart your knowledge to people - particularly the younger generation - who know little or nothing about it ?