Volunteering Story of the Month – Lloyd Cunningham

I joined Chickenshed to gain new working experiences and new skills which I could later on apply to other places. After meeting with Jenny and Zeeta, I started off volunteering backstage on the 2015 Christmas show, The 12 days of Christmas. I met fellow Volunteers, Sue and Edward who I would go on to volunteer with on other shows. During this time I learned a great deal about Stage Management and the work that goes into making a show run smoothly. The one continuing challenge we have, is reminding performers to stay quiet when they are waiting to go on stage, as the doors and walls are not sound proof!

In the 2016 spring show Sharing Stages I started to see more of Chickenshed’s own storytelling and style. I would later that year spend a few days helping backstage at the Lyric Theatre for the Kensington & Chelsea team and got to see how they worked.

During the summer of 2017 when The Midnight Gang was playing, I volunteered for the first time with George. We had to push one of the props, the front part of a yellow car, onto the stage through two hospital doors that pushed open. To prevent us being seen by the audience, George had the idea of putting on something yellow. He saw a yellow balloon which had burst and so put it on his head! (see picture below)

In the summer of 2018 there was a call out to all Volunteers to help Front of House on Mr Stink as many people were away on holiday. As I was not needed backstage for this show, I offered to help. Gill and Richard quickly trained me up as a FOH assistant and I soon learnt that it involved constantly reminding the audience about turning off their phones! Through Volunteering Front of House, I have got to know many more Volunteers so when I went along to the Volunteer nights in the summer and winter, I recognised and knew more people than before.

From September 2019 I joined the new Chickenshed Café team with Gaby, Roxy and Elena and volunteered behind the counter on a Thursday taking orders, making drinks, helping with deliveries and cleaning. It has been interesting to see how it all works. Some customers leave such a mess after their meal - it’s on the table, the chairs and the floor! Did they eat any of the food?

I also took on a new task in the office, supporting Frances and the building team with health and safety, updating the COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) cupboards. It requires me to fill out forms and to catalogue all products such as cleaning liquids, paints, glues etc for the Café, Building Supervisors and Production. This has been an eye-opener and a good learning curve for me as I didn’t know much about health and safety in the workplace. It is interesting.

In the 4½ years of being a Chickenshed Volunteer, I have seen the huge amount of work involved in bringing together people of all ages, abilities and social backgrounds to learn and perform together. Of the areas I have so far volunteered in, backstage has to be a favourite of mine!