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23 October 2017
David Boughey, Managing Director at EnV (Coventry) C.I.C

EnV (Coventry) C.I.C is a registered Community Interest Company (CIC) that includes managing and sustaining the award-winning Coventry Ambassador volunteer programme. Coventry Ambassadors, inspired by London 2012 Games volunteer programme has provided over 30,000 voluntary hours supporting over 90 events since 2012.

I visited this year’s UK City of Culture Hull to find out what being a City of Culture felt like, and if it really could make a positive difference to our communities and what that could mean for our volunteers.

EnV left in envy

Rather than experiencing the local wayfinding of Coventry Ambassadors, the trust was placed into the wayfinding of the SatNav as we made our way to the current City of Culture. For various (mainly family) occasions I had visited the likes of York, Doncaster and Leeds but I had never been across to Hull. I should know better as a visitor from Coventry to pre-judge a place I have not experienced, but my expectations were to arrive in a very industrial place that had been left behind by a more modern world (like quite a few of our more coastal towns in the north). However, I was pleasantly surprised and was soon struck by a vibrant and busy atmosphere with a variety of stunning older buildings containing a variety of history, art and culture. Most striking for me was Queens Gardens – a fantastic green space in the very centre of the city, and the Docks that had street-upon-street of attractive restaurants and bars that left me in envy that an attractive quayside provides. I would describe in detail the event experiences that included being led by Korean role-play that included technology, tradition and escape-room type challenges, as well as moving funk music by bicycle and hundreds of local people dancing together in sync, but that’s all for another time.

Envy turning to hope, turning to excitement.

Soon the earlier envy turned to hope for our city, after conversations with many local people on the huge impact becoming City of Culture has been for Hull. This included speaking to bar owners who spoke of a 60% rise in trade and a 50% increase in footfall following the award of the bid. Soon, my hope began to turn to excitement.

And so, to the most important part about being a City of Culture; the local community and of course the local volunteers! How would they greet me? How knowledgeable could they be? Why were they volunteering? What roles had they experienced and most importantly what colour was their uniform?! All questions buzzing through my mind as I went undercover to experience (from the other side) the impact of a host city volunteer programme, and I was not left disappointed. I was in fact left inspired to find smiley and happy (they must have read my briefing notes!) proud volunteers, who were pleased to speak about their experiences.

I was also left encouraged in the similarities of their experience and felt the familiar buzz of being at the forefront of hosting and supporting a large historic event in their city. So, the real test to leave Hull is that I will still be greeted in the same way, by the same (and more recently recruited) volunteers, at a major event in five years’ time. Oh, and the uniform colours apparently are known locally as ‘scandalous blue’, ‘ludicrous purple’ and ‘deep mischievous pink’ – those of the City of Culture logo.

We can do this!

Safe in the knowledge from the most important people involved in all of this – the people who live, work, study and volunteer in a bid winning city; that the award has made a positive impact on them and their city. I return to Coventry in hope and excited anticipation that we can experience that and once again show how Coventry has the best resource; our communities and the people who make them; to deliver a major event with great success and once again we can welcome the world to our city. But more important that that – we can show like with EnV and our Coventry Ambassador volunteer programme how together we can take the opportunity to create a lasting legacy for local people.

We can do this!

#ThisIsCoventry

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