Thursday 25th August, 2011
Nearly three months and no blogging. It’s been good to have that break, but September is drawing ever nearer, my big summer plans have all been fulfilled, and it’s time to take stock of what all that was about. Looking back at these last few months, it seems to me that there’s one very clear recurring theme: balance.
Probably the most significant moment this summer was my great grandad’s death at the end of July. More important than the death itself, though, was that it happened the night before we were due to celebrate his 90th birthday. That coincidence meant that all four generations of his family were able to gather from three countries in two continents and see him one last time. That day, and the weekend after when we gathered for the funeral, demonstrated to me more clearly than ever the strong family values that my great grandparents have been able to instil in their descendants. The funeral service itself didn’t feel sad; the atmosphere was one of optimism, celebration, and often humour. A lot of hope and happiness came out of what on the surface was a bad situation.
A huge chunk of my summer has been spent volunteering at arts festivals. 374 hours and 45 minutes, to be precise. I’ve been an extra in a live and immersive Doctor Who episode at Manchester International Festival; I’ve managed a sometimes hectic Manchester Jazz Festival box office; I’ve helped the Gruffalo onto stage for his dance off with Elmer at the second annual Just So Festival, and I’ve done a whole lot more. The decision to do all that hard work while my bank balance gradually dropped will seem foolish to some – myself included during some of my less exciting volunteering episodes – but if it’s made me more employable then it was the right decision. I’ve worked hard, but I’ve been appreciated, trusted and helped by the people I’ve worked for; I’ve worked long hours, but I’ve had a lot of fun; I’ve worked for no money, but I feel significantly more prepared for a proper job than I was three months ago.
When Manchester, like other UK cities, was hit by riots on the night of 9th August, I felt disappointed. I was annoyed at myself, even, thinking I was naive to have had so much faith in Manchester and to have given so much of my time to two of its biggest festivals. I wasn’t naive, though, because the subsequent wave of defiant, proud hope completely trumped the disappointment I had felt. The crowds of volunteers clearing up the streets the next morning; the ‘We Love MCR’ campaign that has culminated in today’s celebrations – these events are proof of what Manchester really is, really means, is really capable of.
I can identify that same sense of balance in each of these areas – my family, my career (-to-be), and the way I relate to this city – and I think there’s something in that. In our roles as relatives, employees, students and citizens, it’s a valuable thing to a) be able to see the good in the bad and b) to see potential for good and play our part in making it happen. It seems a bit lofty to claim that this summer has changed my life, but I really do feel enlightened to some degree. Balance is good.
On work experience, volunteering, and why this blog will be infinitely better when I get my new phone
Saturday 9th April, 2011
As I write, the sun is shining (a rare treat in this city) and I’m finally on the train back to Hull after my fifth of nine terms at the University of Manchester. So my mind naturally wanders to thoughts of a future that is only a couple of months away but – if all goes to plan – will affect how (and how quickly) my career begins.
My plan is to devote all three months of my summer to gaining work experience in the arts sector. I struggle to find space in my hectic music student diary during term for voluntary or part-time paid work, and while I do plenty of orchestral management and arts marketing through the Music Society and the University Chorus, I need to be able to show employers that I know how proper, ‘grown-up’ arts organisations operate.
So my summer is (hopefully) going to be spent volunteering for the Manchester International Festival, the Manchester Jazz Festival, the Just So Festival and the Manchester Camerata. Combined, these different experiences should set me up with a lot of useful new skills and contacts. This isn’t just career-mindedness, though: I’m also hoping to have a lot of fun!
Oh, and since I’m told the most attractive kind of work experience to employers is that which is self-generated, my housemate and I are organising a concert for the Teenage Cancer Trust in Glasgow next week – more to come on that, I’m sure, but if you can’t wait then there’s more information available here.
P.S. You’d have been able to read this blog a whole two hours sooner if I’d had my shiny new phone on the train…