Volunteers Week: Meet Elaine!

1 June -7 June is Volunteers Week and we are celebrating the amazing contribution that our volunteers make at Storyhouse!

We have 175 volunteers who give up their free time to support the organisation. Their contributions range from stewarding to supporting Young Storyhouse and community events, assisting the wardrobe department, and even planting and growing the set at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre in 2021!

Elaine Macfarlane is one of our brilliant volunteers. Here’s a bit more about her.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a retired Fuel Scientist with 40+ years’ experience in the oil and gas industry. During this time, I worked extensively with young people via Year in Industry and STEM.  I also won two sponsored placements with Earthwatch, supporting research into acid rain damaged ecosystems in the Czech Republic and then climate change in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire.  In addition, I volunteered with the Energy Institute supporting accreditation for companies and universities; I am still an active member of the Energy Institute’s Fellowship Committee.  As you can see, I have used my professional skills to benefit others, particularly young people, for many years.

I wanted to keep giving back to my community in retirement and having enjoyed many magical seasons of Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, previously Chester Performs.  I have a real passion for the dramatic, visual and literary arts and can usually be found in a theatre, art gallery or with my head in a book!  Chester Performs allowed me to indulge my passions and I got involved in a diverse range of activities from childrens’ craft days to watching silent movies set to music.   When Storyhouse opened in 2017 it was a natural progression from Chester Performs.  It seemed too good to be true that most of my favourite pastimes could be found under one roof: theatre, cinema, library and eating in the restaurant!

How long have you been volunteering at Storyhouse?

I have been volunteering since it opened in May 2017.

What does being a volunteer at Storyhouse entail?

It entails learning new skills such as keeping abreast of the fire safety and evacuation procedures and performing tasks such as guiding audiences to their seats, selling programmes, clearing rubbish, etc. It also involves feeling part of an extended Storyhouse family and being appreciated and valued for your contribution.  It is a wonderful opportunity to make new friends, join social events and meet members of the local community.

What do you most enjoy about volunteering at Storyhouse?

I enjoy making a difference to the visitor experience.  For example, when partially sighted group came to the theatre, I collected and personally delivered their interval drinks, which was very much appreciated.  I also find it very rewarding watching audiences’ reactions.  For example, a group with learning disabilities were thrilled by a performance of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”.  It was so gratifying to see them singing the songs and having such a great time.  I also enjoyed gaining a much better appreciation of exactly how much work it takes to tell a story on stage often culminating in weeks/months of work by a large team of people.

Do you have any particular highlights?

There are so many highlights but there are three that come easily to mind. “Antigone” played by deaf actors offered new perspectives and surprises.  “Fallen Angels Dance Theatre: Acts of Recovery” was moving, thought-provoking and unforgettable.  One of the strongest audience reactions has been to “Things I Know to be True”, which left most leaving the theatre in tears; we could all relate to this story of family life.