By Marcus Leach
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is joining forces with arts and cultural organisations across the capital to raise the profile of volunteering and enhance the status of volunteers working within the sector, with the development of the first ever citywide volunteering framework for the sector.
The profile of and demand for volunteering in London has never been higher, with the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games creating large numbers of volunteering opportunities.
Attention is now turning to the Games' volunteering legacy and what it means for the arts and cultural sector. The London Cultural Quarters, group, which bring together cultural organisations, business groups and local authorities across the city, have highlighted volunteering as one of their key legacy priorities for 2012.
82 per cent of cultural organisations in the capital believe their volunteering need will increase over the next two years, according to a survey of 90 not for profit organisations in the sector, commissioned by Greater London Authority and London Cultural Quarters.
The survey reveals that the majority of them (78 per cent) believe this need will increase by up to 50 per cent. 54 per cent say they would not be able to operate without volunteers. 65 per cent of organisations already had a waiting list of people wanting to volunteer.
"Across London a hidden army of volunteers make a huge contribution to the city's unrivalled arts and cultural scene," the Mayor of London Boris Johnson said.
"Their enthusiasm, dedication and knowledge - front of house and behind the scenes - help our fantastic museums, galleries and theatres tick. My appreciation for their commitment cannot be overstated and it's about time they got the recognition they deserve. Our aim is to help cultural organisations of all sizes attract more volunteers and get the very best out them."
The Mayor is now working with London Cultural Quarters, to develop a five year strategic plan aimed at providing a clear framework for volunteering in cultural organisations both large and small.
It is the first time such a plan has been developed and will encompass the whole sector, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of organisations, policy makers, volunteering representatives, as well as case studies and findings from the GLA survey.
This work will complement Team London, the Mayor's ambitious programme to get more people in the capital, which is officially launched this summer, as helping take forward the Mayor's strategy Cultural Metropolis.
"Volunteering is a great way of getting involved in the arts sector, be it just for a day as a tour guide or as an experienced curator or a board member," Iwona Blazwick, Chair, London Cultural Strategy Group, said.
"Volunteers bring a wealth of experience and skills, and above all a real sense of enthusiasm and dynamism to organisations. It is important that there is a coordinated approach and understanding of volunteering across the sector."
Moira Sinclair, Executive Director London, Arts Council England, said:
"Volunteering is perhaps not a term that is easily recognised in all parts of the cultural sector. Without a doubt, we should do more to celebrate those that give their time and energy — our Board members, our fundraisers, our amateur groups' leaders, our tour guides and leaflet distributors, our events stewards and the many parents who tirelessly support our youth groups.
"And we should do more to recognise the benefits that volunteering in the cultural sector bring - connecting people to their local communities, helping to extend the reach of amazing projects and often introducing a new generation to experiences which transform their lives for the better."
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