The Volunteer Experience - Q&A with Adam Nichols

The Volunteer Experience - Q&A with Adam Nichols

We rely on our amazing volunteers to steward events, host and drive artists and spread the word about the Festival by distributing brochures and posters. Our annual Volunteer Briefing is on Wednesday 15 February 2023 from 14:30 to 15:45 at Reeth Memorial Hall.

Would you like to volunteer? Find out what you could get out of it in this interview with Adam Nichols.

1) Why did you become a Festival volunteer?
That’s an easy one. Once I’d discovered that the Festival was dependent upon volunteers to the extent that it was given the Queen’s Award for Volunteering in 2018, it hit me that without volunteers, there would be no festival. In the ‘noughties’ I took for granted the quality of the performers, often unknown names to me, until my London-based sister pointed out their pedigree and what you’d have to pay to hear the same performers in London. Bringing world class musicians to the Dales at affordable ticket prices depends upon volunteers offering time, transport, accommodation and sponsorship of an event as an Angel among other ways to help. So, if you value the Festival, find a way to support it!

2) What do you most enjoy about volunteering for Swaledale Festival?
You know that you are a component in a great organism which is a structural triumph! The work goes on all year to create it and most volunteers join the team late in the process but are essential for the delivery of the events at each venue. The lovely people, both Dales-based and visitors, make it such a sociable festival. I have friendships with local, national and international people as a result. Some even build their annual holiday around Swaledale Festival and it’s a real pleasure to spot them at an event and welcome them back for another year.

3) Can you describe what you do and who you have met through your role? 
I really enjoy stewarding at events for two reasons in particular. The musicians turn up early to rehearse, test the acoustics and try their equipment which for me is a real insight into what goes into the preparation for a concert - you see that they are all human and happy to chat with you about… anything, really! And after their performances, they drop back into ‘normal’ rather than ‘star’ mode, to chat to fans and sell their CDs. That’s a real privilege to experience. 
Of the performers I have most admired, I would mention Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Kathryn Tickell, Peter Donahoe, Aurora Percussion Duo, … oh, this is pointless because some of the most outstanding performances have been at the little venues with musicians you would be hard pressed to find on BBC Radio 3 (or other). That’s the real brilliance of this festival and Malcolm's programming. It’s full of surprises. Each year, I am blown away by the astonishing diversity of musicianship that can open doorways for you into new musical genres.

4) Would you recommend volunteering to others, and why? 
This is a no-brainer. Volunteering is managed by Maria Laybourn who is simply brilliant at matching up what volunteers can offer with what’s needed. This is not a commitment to two weeks of flogging yourself around Swaledale and Wensleydale. You offer what you can and Maria tries to distribute those 'assets' equitably around the venues and events. Believe me, if you go along as a volunteer to an event that hasn’t tickled your fancy, you will come away gobsmacked and feeling blessed!

5) What’s the most memorable Festival event you have attended?
Crikey. So many in the past decade! The walks have been fantastic for someone too lazy to read up on local guides (Foxglove Covert, especially), but a gig that blew the socks off the audience was Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening, what a transformation from her usual stuff. Antonio Forcione’s cool guitaring was a highlight too, but some of the most enjoyable and eye-opening events are in the afternoons, the little church events. Never turn one of these down!

6) What are you looking forward to in 2023? 
The Festival is now the highlight of my year. Holidays, travel, DIY etc are planned around it nowadays. I feel as if I don’t want to miss anything. It is obviously an important festival in many music-lovers’ lives: important for local Dales’ residents (with recognisable faces!) and visitors who either plan to come or discover it by chance. They don’t leave disappointed. 

If you'd like to volunteer, come along to the Volunteer Briefing to meet our friendly Volunteers Coordinator and register your interest. For further information, please email

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