A Day in the Life of a Newcastle Writers Fest Volunteer
First held in 2013, Newcastle Writers Festival has become unmissable for aspiring writers. Lucy Egan looks at what it takes to be a volunteer at the Newcastle Writers Fest
A week ago, I volunteered at the Newcastle Writers Festival for the first time ever. The festival returned after three years of being unable to run due to COVID restrictions.
It was very exciting to finally be involved in the inner mechanics of one of the biggest literary events on Newcastle’s calendar. Rather than just telling you what it was like from my perspective, I thought I’d outline my schedule, as well as two other UON students to share what we did in a day as volunteers over the weekend.
As volunteers, we were able to nominate our availability, what roles we would be interested in and if there were any potential sessions or artists we wanted to see.
We were then assigned shifts and were allowed to confirm or reject them. Lunch and snacks, as well as hot drinks, were kindly provided and each shift was allocated time for a break.
The diversity of roles, responsibilities and people was fascinating and it was overall a great experience, definitely one I would recommend! If you’d like to be involved make sure to keep an eye on their socials and website next year!
Nikitas: PhD student and volunteer
Worked both Saturday and Sunday. The below schedule is for Sunday 3rd April.
8 am: On the setup team – Set up the gazebo and information tables with chairs.
9 am-12 pm: Roving Assistant at the exterior of the City Hall, assisting people with directions and times of sessions.
12-1 pm: Green Room – Assisting writers and guests with their lanyards and giving directions and times for their sessions.
1-4 pm: Usher for the Hunter Room (room in City Hall), directing people to their seats (they were both ticketed sessions) and opening/closing doors for people.
4-5 pm: Final pack up of tables and assisting with final pack up.
Overall comments: I really enjoyed the whole festival, everyone was lovely… and largely everyone was where they were supposed to be!
Lucy: Honours student and volunteer
Worked Saturday and Sunday. The schedule below is for Saturday 2nd April.
8:30 am: The shift was due to start at 8:45 and work until 12:45 pm, I got to the volunteer’s room, met some fellow volunteers and caught up with some familiar faces. Got my badge, and shirt and signed on for a shift as a floater, which is basically doing a bit of everything.
For the next four hours, my fellow floater and I ran around City Hall, doing jobs like making up badges, guillotining paper, and running supplies to information tables. A large portion of our job was carting books for the Lismore Floods Library Appeal, for which there was a huge surge of donations, from the information tables to the volunteer room and then sorting them into boxes. This was a pretty cool job for a book nerd like me.
My shift ended at 12:45, I then went down Darby St to a cafe to finish an assignment that I was handing in late. I then went to City Hall for a 2:30 pm session called Sharing Your Truth. As a volunteer, I was able to gain free entry to what was an insightful session.
Afterwards, I headed to the bookshop and bought a book. Finally, I met up with my mum who was also volunteering until 4 pm before heading home buzzing but exhausted!
Hannah: BA student and volunteer
I walked through the Town Hall doors on the Saturday of the festival, still gleaming from Friday’s opening night of emotion, laughter, music and inspiration. After meeting with my fellow volunteers, we split into roles.
My role for all of Saturday was to usher.
9 am: The first session was in the Mullumbimba room at 10am. I counted the people coming into the room as it was a free event. My volunteer partner let them know to fill in from the front. It was a big turnout for Oceane Campbell & Cećile Barral’s segment on their new book The Silence Between Us.
Afterwards, we guided everyone out and prepared the room for the next segment, making sure the water had been refilled and the chairs placed back. We repeated this process until my shift ended.
During my break, I sat in the long-awaited sunshine, writing, and eating an Açai Bowl from Town Hall’s neighbour, Relish.
3 pm: For Hannah Kent’s session I was stationed in the Harold Lobb Concert Hall at the rear door. This session was for her new book, Devotion.
My job was to check people’s tickets and point them in the direction of their seating, which was a lot of fun. After letting everyone out of the session, I monitored the signing table and redirected the line to make more space.
I stood around watching until the line emptied and then got to meet her myself. I then repeated this ushering process until around 10pm when the final segment for the night finished.
I was able to listen to all of the sessions and meet some of the authors, including Clementine Ford, who is a big idol of mine. I was told I was able to go home at 5 pm but loved the day so much that I just had to stay!
I was exhausted but entirely fulfilled after my Saturday volunteering at the Newcastle Writers Festival. There was only one thing left to do: go home to rest up for Sunday!
Image Credit: Liam Driver via Newcastle Writers Fest