Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Youth festival appeals for more volunteers

Youth festival appeals for more volunteers

VOLUNTEERS are needed to help run next year’s Henley Youth Festival.

This year’s event should have taken place last month but was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now organisers are planning next year’s fortnight of children’s art, music, performance and sporting activities. Each year, thousands of children, aged four to 18, take part in the festival, which is run by volunteers, mainly parents of the participants.

The festival needs a new chair after Jo Dickson and Kate Swinburne, who had been co-chairs for six years, stood down after last year’s event, which finished just before the first coronavirus lockdown. The role can be split again.

Workshop co-ordinators are also needed as well as people with new ideas on how to tweak existing events.

Mrs Dickson, who is now a festival trustee, said this was a chance for newcomers to put their stamp on the event.

She said: “We’re looking for new volunteers to fulfil key roles and challenge our thinking. I don’t think we can approach the next festival with our tried and tested approach. Everything’s up for discussion at this early stage and newcomers joining now could help us develop a more flexible programme. Options to explore include switching to a selection of or all the workshops and competitions online, if needed.

“The pandemic has taught us to be flexible and we think the festival may need to adapt to changing circumstances quickly to deliver the 2022 programme.

“We may need to pare back events or take parts of the festival online to comply with any coronavirus guidelines that are in place next March.”

Mrs Dickson, who lives in Greys Hill, Henley, with her husband and two children, said the pandemic had highlighted the importance of the festival and the opportunities it offers young people.

She said: “Remote-learning has been a challenge for many young people who really should be outside interacting with their friends and having fun.

“That’s why keeping the festival 100 per cent live is our long-term priority — it’s what makes it so special or, in the words of the Henley’s young people, ‘fun’, ‘inspiring’ and ‘awesome’.”

Fellow trustee Suzanne Yeates said: “The future of the festival genuinely depends on the people of Henley coming forward to help take us to the next stage.

“We’re looking for new volunteers well in advance of the next one. We’re talking to a couple of people right now about possible roles but there are still opportunities to get involved and it will be an exciting time to join the team.

“It would be a huge disappointment for our youngsters if this unique event can’t continue but without new volunteers there is still a real risk that the festival will not be here in 2022.”

The festival is open to children living or at school in the Henley area. In recent years about 3,000 young people have taken part.

For more information, visit Henley Youth Festival on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or To register your interest in volunteering,

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