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Manchester International Festival volunteers praised as ‘great ambassadors of our city’

By Linsey Humphries

Volunteers involved in the Manchester International Festival were praised as ‘great ambassadors for our city’ by an executive member for culture and leisure at Manchester City Council today.

Councillor Michael Amesbury recognised the hard work of over 400 volunteers who have supported the festival over the last two weeks.

The biennial festival, which is now in its third year, has featured over 20 commissions, premieres and special events covering a range of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture.

Councillor Amesbury said: “The volunteers to many visitors are the public face of the festival team and they have added to the success of the Manchester International Festival.”

Speaking of the opportunities available to volunteers, he said: “The festival has been an opportunity to build confidence and gain new skills, opening doors to further training education and job opportunities.”

Gaining international recognition for Manchester, the festival places a special focus on engaging with the Manchester community through volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer Coordinator for the festival, Carolina Birnie, said: “We try to engage with the people of Manchester by encouraging them to volunteer during the festival as it’s the joining in and helping out that’s important.

“We wanted people to know that everyone is welcome to get involved. People sometimes think that art can be elitist, but we wanted to bring people together to get involved with art.

Ramsbottom based volunteer Philip Sykes, 27, said: “I really enjoyed the festival and getting to meet and greet people at Festival Square.”

Philip, who has learning difficulties, also volunteered at the festival in 2009. His mother Susan Sykes said: “The good thing about the festival is that it’s allowed Philip to do want he wants, which is to get out there and meet people and do something meaningful.

“Whatever your skills and talents, there’s something for everyone and it gives people the opportunity to learn new skills too.”

One volunteer who has benefited greatly from volunteering at the festival is 32 year old Tanya Smith from Stretford, who has been able to use her volunteer experiences at the festival during a recent successful job interview for a researcher position with the BBC.

Ms Smith said: “I’ve been in and out work for the last two year following redundancy, I had some free time so thought it would be a good challenge to volunteer as a team leader.

“During my interview with BBC Learning, I was able to talk about my experiences as a volunteer and I really think it helped me to get the job. It has certainly helped me to get my confidence back.”

Speaking of the success of the festival in providing opportunities for the community, Ms Smith said: “The volunteer programme is fantastic as it offers opportunities to people of all ages from a variety of backgrounds.”

Festival Square meet and greet volunteer, Terry Cranfield from Woodley, 76 said: “I’ve been retired for 13 years and volunteering opportunities like this give me the opportunity to get out there and meet people.”

The Manchester International Festival comes to an end today.

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