What’s it like to volunteer?

Just like every year, the 44th Steel City Beer & Cider Festival was organised and staffed entirely by volunteers who kindly donate their time to make it such a success. As well as the organising committee who started planning in earnest back in January, we had more than 160 volunteers who helped out on at least one day during the festival while we were open. Thanks so much to everyone who gave up their time, whether it was a few hours or a whole week – we couldn’t have done it without you!

We asked a couple of volunteers to share their experience of working at the festival:

The experienced hands

The 44th Sheffield Beer & Cider festival has gone into the archives. There may be a used beer token or two which has been missed by the team who tidied on Sunday blowing around the museum. They may be the only visual signs left of the festival. That said, myself Steve (Millowners bar manager) and Kay (tokens manager, based in the marquee) have plenty of memories.

We arrived at the Museum on the Monday morning to a relaxed atmosphere. It felt a little strange as at previous festivals there was a bit tension in the air. Our job for the day was to take delivery of the beer. A job more than just making sure the deliveries were right. Are the allergens listed? Very important these days, even more so with what has been in the press of late. Have we got pump clips? Have the casks been sent to the right bar?
Out of over 200 casks only three initially went to the wrong bar.

Tuesday was a far different day, making up the tokens. Everybody’s favourite job! Tearing up and stapling tokens into £10 and £5 strips, there must be an easier way of doing them. Yes there is, rewind to two years ago when it was a case of rip up and fold. So much easier!

Wednesday tea time the gates opened, the beer was flowing and food munched. One concern was the weather on Friday, rain was forecast all day. Around 1pm the rain started. This was supposed to be the busiest day of the festival! Would people turn out as they had in previous years? The rain lasted about half an hour. Barring a couple of short showers that was it and any worries disappeared with the showers. The KeyKeg bar all but disappeared on the Friday night, with only about a gallon of beer left at the close. Prior to the festival starting me and Kay had gone through the beer list looking for beers to try, we found around 35. If we managed to try 10 of those, we did well due to our work loads and responsibilities.

On the Saturday night, as the beers ran out, the taking down began (a brilliant idea as it takes a lot of the work load out the Sunday take down). As the last of the festival goers left the venue, take down continued until after midnight. Eventually, those involved were forced to stop. Time to sit down, relax and enjoy beer and pizza.

Take down continued on Sunday morning, pleasantly interrupted by a bacon butty and coffee. Somebody must have held back the rain which had been forecast for Friday, as it came down by the barrel load. The last of the equipment was returned to storage towards the end of the afternoon.

Between the two of us we put in the best part of 140 hours during the week. Why? Because we love doing it. I was talking with a couple about CAMRA and beer festivals; he asked me why I put so much time in to the festival. “So people like you can enjoy beer”, I replied. He thought for a few seconds and said, “I feel appreciated and appreciate you for putting in so much time.” Throughout the festival the senior festival and branch managers got their hands dirty, nothing seem to be below them. Previous fests have run well, but this one seemed to have run even better.

A big thank you to all who worked the fest no matter how little or much you put in, whether you were volunteers, security, stall holders, museum staff or sponsors, and to those of you who enjoyed the festival.

Steve Cook & Kay Firth

The first-timers

We are a British and Spanish couple in our thirties who have been living in Sheffield for more than two years now. Neither of us are from the Steel City, but it is definitely a welcoming city, especially for beer lovers. This was our first time volunteering at the Steel City Beer Festival. We had previously attended the event, having a good time and wondered about the experience of working behind the bar in such a great setting as the Kelham Island Museum. We regularly checked the CAMRA website for announcements requesting volunteers to work at the festival and as soon as we had the opportunity, we signed up. There are lots of jobs and times to choose from depending on your availability.

When we arrived we went to the staff area where we registered and collected our T-shirt/glass. The people at the registration were very friendly and explained everything about working behind the bar as we had limited experience. When we got to the bar we started serving straight away and it was quite exciting. We were both very busy throughout our shifts, although we still managed to find time to try some beers, which made it a really good experience that didn’t feel like working. Everybody we served and worked with were having a great time and the atmosphere was very good.

Overall, we had a really enjoyable time and will definitely volunteer again next year. We would both recommend giving it a try to those who like beer/cider and chatting with people across the bar.

Christopher Whiteoak

It may be almost a year until SCBF45, but the planning meetings start just after Christmas, and even by then some planning will have already begun! If you want to know more about how our beer festival is organised, come and join us. Check the Sheffield CAMRA website, our social media and the diary section in Beer Matters for the dates, times and locations of the planning meetings.

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