18th May 2017
The success of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is down to the dedication of its pool of enthusiastic volunteers who each play a vital role in helping to create everything from the very special atmosphere in the period interiors of the House to the lovingly re-established Victorian gardens inspired by the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House youngest volunteer at 16 years old is Rana. Originally from Indonesia, she is in her last year of high school and also has a part time job at Lyme Park. She decided to start volunteering at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House because she has a keen interest in history and period dramas (her Instagram account dedicated to period dramas has over 30,000 followers). She fell in love with the House when she visited for the first time. She believes all the volunteers provide a unique experience at the House by having in-depth conversations with visitors about everything from the Gaskells to Manchester to music. Working on the front desk, she is usually the first person visitors see when they walk in and always greets them with a smile. It has made a difference to her too. She loves meeting people and learning about Manchester, Victorian England and the Gaskells and this experience has helped her to develop her social skills and as well as helping her in English and history lessons.
Robert is in his 60s and previously worked at Manchester Airport. He has volunteered at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House for 6 months. He relishes the opportunity to combine his interest in music and local history and to impart his massive enthusiasm for these subjects. Although not an expert on the literature of Elizabeth Gaskell, he loves to convey how the House served in her life and work, its history and how it survived over the years until it was restored and reopened in 2014. A keen pianist, Robert loves being able to play short piano pieces on the Broadwood boudoir grand (similar to the one Elizabeth’s daughters learnt to play on) as part of a tour of the house. He believes it helps to bring the place to life for visitors as well as creating a lovely atmosphere for visitors and volunteers. Music was a part of the life of the Gaskell family and his contribution is to add that element to the story.
Dianne is in her early 60s and a retired biochemist with a PhD in Clinical Pathology. She first visited the house in 2015, about a year before she retired, and saw a notice in the exhibition that mentioned volunteering. She always wants to enhance the experience for visitors and send them away wanting to read more Elizabeth Gaskell or look into Unitarianism or even into industrial Victorian Manchester. She herself has already learned a lot about Elizabeth Gaskell, Unitarianism as well as about the local area. Importantly, she has also made new friends. She feels privileged to spend a day a week in such a delightful house. One of her favourite activities as a volunteer is opening the House up in the morning. As Dianne said: “I always think about Elizabeth saying in 1850, ‘I must try and make the house give as much pleasure to others as I can.’ I like to think that, although she would never have envisioned the House as it is today, she would have approved of all the activities and the pleasure they give. All visitors are different so I always ask whether they want me to tell them about the period rooms. Some like to just quietly soak in the lovely atmosphere. Whichever it is I hope that I have helped them have a pleasant day.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House you can find out more by clicking here