Darren Edwards is the Customer Services Manager at Swindon Theatres and as a part of his busy schedule he looks after a huge team of volunteer ushers. We caught up with Darren at one of his regular drop-in sessions for a quick chat about volunteering with Swindon Theatres…
Thanks for this Darren. First off, tell us a little about your personal history with the Wyvern Theatre & Swindon Arts Centre?
I started working in theatres in 1998 when I took a part time job initially working as a Casual Box Office Assistant at the Wyvern. Since then I have worked in just about every department of the venue with the exception of the technical side. When HQ Theatres took over the management contract for the Swindon Arts Centre I was working as the Theatre Manager of that venue and was able to oversee the takeover and then subsequently was lucky enough to return to the Wyvern team in 2014 after an 8 year absence and it felt like coming home. I’m now working as the Customer Services Manager which gives me plenty or interaction with our patrons and our team of volunteer ushers.
- 6th October 2015 HQ Theatre Summit Awards @ The Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe, UK PH: © Tom Horton
How have you seen the venues evolve since you became involved?
The Wyvern in particular has changed so much since i first started working here. I have worked under 5 different Management companies over the years, each has their own ideas and bring in there own change, it certainly keeps things fresh. The one constant factor has always been the passion for the venue that the staff have, everyone is very proud of their job and the part they play in keeping the Wyvern going. I am very fortunate that I am in a job I love, no two shifts are ever the same, dealing with the public literally anything can happen and that keeps me on my toes.
And what have you got going on this morning?
Every couple of months I organise a coffee morning for all of our volunteer ushers to attend. It’s a great opportunity for them to get together informally and enjoy a coffee and a chat and they also have the chance to mix with members of the Wyvern Management team who they might not normally get a chance to talk to and exchange ideas and suggestions. It’s one of many events we have throughout the year, our next event is a games evening, there’s always something different going on.
Why are volunteers important to Swindon Theatres?
We have a fantastic 200 strong team of volunteer ushers and they are very much the face of the venue, they are the ones who welcome people to our venues with a smile. They carry out such a vital and varied role, from checking tickets to customer service and on the rare occasion it may happen they are a key part of our emergency procedures. They are fantastic ambassadors for our venues. If someone has a bit of spare time, a good personality and a passion for theatre then we are happy to talk to them and welcome them to our team of Volunteer ushers.
What do volunteers get out of the experience?
It’s a very social role, a great way to meet new people and give something back to the community. I think all of our volunteers have a real love of theatre and they get to see some fantastic shows that ordinarily they might never have thought about watching.
And finally, do you have any stand-out favourite moments at Swindon Theatres so far?
At the end of last year the Wyvern team won the venue of the year award at the HQ Theatres annual awards ceremony, that was a very proud moment for all of us and certainly a memorable one. I have two favourite times of the year, they are the annual Summer Youth Project and the Christmas panto, these are the times when the venue really comes to life and is buzzing with excitement. I have been lucky enough to meet many famous faces over the years but only once did I really get star struck. As a big fan of Neighbours I was thrilled when I had the chance to meet Madge Ramsay herself, or in real life, actress Anne Charleston. She was a lovely and very down to earth lady and I state my claim to fame as the fact that I carried her suitcase for her!
For more information about becoming a volunteer usher at Swindon Theatres see: http://bit.ly/VolunteerUshers.