Before I retired 5 years ago, I was a medical secretary in a local hospital and also a large GP surgery. I had no real idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I knew it would involve some voluntary work. Firstly, I started volunteering at the hospital where I’d worked, and then also at my local Credit Union Office.
My first involvement with the gallery, apart from as a visitor, was when my husband gave me a Friends of the Gallery membership as a gift. From attending Friends events, I learn about volunteering opportunities. After a period helping to man the Friends information desk, trying to recruit new members, I heard about the Audience Surveyors role, and knew that it was something I would really enjoy.
There are 5 or 6 of us surveyors and between us we generally cover Monday to Saturday. We approach people as they’re leaving the gallery and ask questions about their visit: was this their first visit; what was their main reason for coming; how long did their visit last; would they recommend the gallery to others; where do they live; what age are they etc etc. Amazingly, after a year of surveys, not one person has declined to tell me their age!
Today was a typical day, lots of people coming and going during my 2 hours near the main entrance. I surveyed 8 people, which may not sound many for 2 hours, but at least 2 people wanted to chat about the gallery and stayed for 20 minutes each.
I’m always amazed at the wide diversity of visitors. Today, among others, I spoke with a lady who was on a 2-day Art Fund coach tour which included a guided tour of the gallery; a musician/workshop teacher who was interested to hear about the Gallery’s mindfulness sessions and was going to find out more; a young Swedish man staying in Manchester for 4 days; a film and TV Casting Director; and a man from Swindon visiting with his granddaughter for the second time that day as she’d loved The Imitation Game so much. Florence is 6 and was happy to be mentioned in this blog, so I hope she reads this and keeps on loving the gallery.
I can honestly say that I feel better leaving the gallery than I do when I arrive, having travelled by tram from Sale and battled my way across the tramworks in St. Peter’s Square. The people I meet are interesting, knowledgeable, enthusiastic about the gallery and unfailingly polite.
My favourite place is the Pre-Raphaelite gallery. Three paintings I especially like looking at are all by William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, The Shadow of Death and the Hireling Shepherd.
Carys Walker, Audience survey volunteer.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer visit our website and fill in the form. We’ll get into touch when the next opportunity comes up.