Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I am Volunteering & Community Involvement Manager at National Trust Birmingham, based at Back to Backs in Southside
Describe your job in a few words.
Connecting people and places
How did you first get into your career/ what’s your background?
Originally from the Midlands, I started work as a civil servant in London, where I balanced my time between work and volunteering for a homeless charity.
In 2003 I relocated back to the Midlands to look after my elderly mother who became ill. I left the civil service, re-trained as a community researcher/youth worker and started working for the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council. I worked with some of the most deprived communities in Birmingham, supporting them with access to funding, training and well-being provision.
In 2009 I was offered a role at the National Trust. I couldn’t turn it down – it was more challenging and more importantly, I could see so much potential in connecting the communities and networks I knew so well to the National Trust.
What does your average day involve?
My days have a nice routine. After the daily school run, I head to Back to Backs, pick up all my messages and make an all-important tea round.
Emails and planning come next, and then it’s to work on ongoing projects and wider community engagement, sometimes on-site, sometimes out at a community venue. This could be our summer school, partnership work with other community groups, schools open mornings or dozens of other things.
Luckily, I have Pure Gym right on my doorstep, so I squeeze in 30 minutes of cardio every day before kicking off my afternoon.
Running welcome sessions and inductions for new volunteers is a key part of my role – it’s great to impart some wisdom, tips and ideas with a new batch of volunteers who are keen to share the history of the National Trust sites.
After all the admin is wrapped up for the induction sessions, it’s usually time for telecoms with colleagues at other sites, sharing best practice and any news. I wrap my day up by scanning plans for the next day.
What has been your favourite event hosted at Back to Backs over the years?
It has to be our “Trust me I’m a tour guide” young people summer challenge https://youtu.be/8p0Q629s7VA
It started as a one-off pilot, but due to its success we’re now we are in year 10 of the programme.
The aim of the Summer Challenge is to engage with and bring together young people aged between 15 – 20 from across the Midlands and connect them with the National Trust backgrounds. Ultimately, we recruit 15 young people and get them excited about and interested in history and heritage/conservation.
The programme assists young people to build their confidence, make new friends, learn new skills and ensure they feel equipped with delivering a guided tour to friends, family and NT members on the last day of the programme.
A lot of the young people involved take up long-term volunteering positions within the National Trust.
What has been a personal career highlight?
I was excited to have simply just been shortlisted in 2018 for the Inspiring Leadership Award especially as my organisation is full of so many inspirational leaders.
On the night of the awards, hearing all the reasons why the winner had been chosen made me realise just how many amazing things the National Trust is a part of and what a difference we do makes. Hearing my name read out and being recognised by my peers was the best feeling ever.
As a site, we are the only location in the entire National Trust to have been shortlisted for 12 National/Regional awards. To date we have won eight of these awards, which is a testament to our dedicated volunteers and staff. We are also the number 1 site on TripAdvisor for Birmingham.
What would you recommend to us from the famous sweet shop?
We stock more than 180 varieties of sweets. Our best-selling sweet is rhubarb and custard and we would highly recommend this to everyone.
What are your favourite things about working in Southside in particular?
Our area of the city is a vibrant location, full of character and interesting places, people and stories. I particularly love that everyone around here is so proud to be part of the Southside community.
Where are your favourite local Southside hotspots to spend time?
There are a lot of Southside businesses that I utilise on a regular basis. I head to Pure Gym nearly every day, we use the Dragon Inn for our team lunches and we like the Green Room for our staff and volunteer events.
What excites you about the future of Southside?
The continued developments across Southside are not just great for the Southside but all of Birmingham and the Midlands.
As part of a local visitor attraction that has hundreds of volunteers and over 30,000 visitors, seeing how hard the Southside BID team work is exciting for us all. The team is professional, exceptionally switched on, and their presence is attracting more and more people to the area, which is great for all businesses here.
For more information on Birmingham Back to Backs including how to get involved, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birmingham-back-to-backs