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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

A lot can happen when your charity opens it doors to the public

This opinion piece is over 6 years old

Kelly Donaldson explains how some organisations managed to double their membership numbers by taking part in Voluntary Arts Week (6-15 May)

To say they are the unsung heroes of the voluntary sector wouldn’t be quite true –because for many of them, singing is exactly what they do. I’m talking about the voluntary arts sector – the choirs, the am drams, the knitting groups, the potters, the amateur orchestras and the many thousands of others who enrich the cultural life of their community.

For some, it’s all about participation – turning up at their local community centre, church hall or school each week to get creative, share skills, make friends and, more often than not, laugh. But behind every group, there is a team of people making it happen – and recently, they went the extra mile to take part in Voluntary Arts Week.

A lot can happen when your charity opens it doors to the public

Many of them have had their profile raised and, most importantly of all, attracted new members

Kelly Donaldson

Each May, we at Voluntary Arts Scotland encourage cultural groups across the country to open their doors, welcome in newcomers and share the wonders of participation. We know from countless studies that being creative, especially as part of a group, has a positive impact on physical and emotional well-being – so we want as many people as possible to discover ways to express themselves in their local area.

This year’s Voluntary Arts Week was a truly magical affair. Groups throughout Scotland (and the rest of the UK and Ireland) were generous with their time and resources, inviting people in to take part in special workshops and taster sessions. Some of them benefitted from modest funds which, thanks to the Spirit of 2012 trust, Voluntary Arts Scotland was able to disseminate. These covered refreshments, printing costs for flyers and other small items which helped make taking part in Voluntary Arts Week easier.

Hundreds of events were held as part of the week, as diverse as the voluntary arts sector itself. Visitors to the ‘Woollen Woods’ in Aberdeenshire enjoyed making and seeing knitted creations jazz up the gardens at Woodend Barn. A fabulous swing dance event in Glasgow, where a derelict building site was turned into a dancefloor for an afternoon of taster sessions, was described by one participant as “joyful”.

In East Lothian a ‘CraftBomb’ brought vibrant colour to local trees and railings, with reports of faces “lighting up” and “plenty of smiles” as people happened upon them. While a photography exhibition in a disused shop in Glenrothes, featuring local cultural groups, was a fun way to show shoppers how much Fife had to offer.

The benefits of Voluntary Arts Week spread far and wide. Not just for the people who attend events and discover a new pastime, or re-ignite a former passion – but for the groups who run them. Many of them have had their profile raised in the local press, seen significant boosts in their social media presence and, most importantly of all, attracted new members.

Voluntary Arts Week may be over for another year, but the groups on the website – – are open to new members year-round, so check out who took part. Or contact [email protected] and we’ll help you find a nearby outlet for your creativity.

And if you’re thinking of getting involved next year, this quote from Iain Johnston of Glasgow-based singing group, Crescendo might inspire you:

“We had an amazing event and really enjoyed taking part in Voluntary Arts Week. We doubled our numbers, we turned the ‘audience’ into performers, and we might have three to four new members coming along regularly as a result.”

Kelly Donaldson, is communications manager at Voluntary Arts Scotland.



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