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Historic City Thanks Unsung ‘Heritage Heroes’

During national Volunteers' Week (June 1-7) the historic City of York celebrates its thousands of passionate tourism volunteers – from tour guides and train enthusiasts to Vikings and visitor centre staff. The annual awareness campaign, organised by Volunteering England, marks the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK in all walks of life.

York is estimated to have more than 3,500 tourism volunteers, each contributing an average of 200 hours every year, an equivalent economic value in excess of £10m. The city’s visitors are estimated to benefit from almost three quarters of a million (700,000) volunteering hours annually.*

Gillian Cruddas MBE, Chief Executive for tourism organisation Visit York said: ‘York’s heritage volunteers bring to life the city’s rich history. Their enthusiasm knows no bounds and their dedication and passion for the city makes it a more vibrant place to live in and visit. Their involvement ensures York’s precious past is cherished for future generations to enjoy.’ the official website of Volunteering England offers all volunteers the chance to get involved.

York’s Tourism Volunteering in Action:

• Living history...being a volunteer Viking
An army of dedicated volunteer re-enactors bring York’s history to life. This includes volunteer Viking Colleen Davanney from York – better known as JORVIK Viking Centre’s ‘Frigga Boardotter’. Colleen has been a re-enactor for Jorvik and also Barley Hall in York, telling tales of the Vikings & Tudors for over ten years.

• Treks and the City
York’s Association of Voluntary Guides has operated daily city tours every day (except Christmas Day) since 1951.
90 trained volunteers last year alone guided more than 12,500 people from over 82 countries around the city leading two hour tours up to three times a day in the summer months. The city’s most recent volunteer tour guide recruits include a policeman, an archeologist, a councilor and a train guard.

• Behind the scenes at the city’s museums
In a city that has more museums than any other of its size, volunteers are often central to the visitor experience.

For example, the National Railway Museum has more volunteers than it has trains – 310 volunteers compared to 290 rail vehicles. Last year volunteers gave 34,979 hours of their time to the museum.

David Thomas, the Volunteer Co-ordinator at the museum has been involved with the museum for over thirty years (since 1969). As volunteer co-ordinator he has inducted over 700 people into the museum’s volunteer programme.
Dan Goldsbrough, at just 20, is the youngest volunteer and began volunteering at the museum last year after a lifelong interest in trains.

Eric Foster, despite also having a long-term fascination with the railways, is the museum’s oldest volunteer at almost 87 years old and has been volunteering for 17 years, ever since he retired. Eric and Dan may be separated by generations but they share the same enthusiasm for the museum and its volunteer programme.

York Museums Trust has over 300 volunteers working across its key attractions across the city (York Castle Museum, Yorkshire Museum & Museum Gardens, York Art Gallery & York St Mary’s). In the last 12 months, their volunteers gave just over over 10,800 hours of their time in total.

Volunteers are involved in everything from demonstrations, cataloguing, opening up York Observatory and the Yorkshire Museum library to the public and even helping to repair the water mill on the banks of the River Foss at York Castle Museum. One of their main tasks is running the Hands On Here spaces at York Castle Museum, where they get out objects for visitors to hold and learn about. In the Kitchen Studio they also make food to original recipes to talk about, for example, the history of curry, the mince pie or simply making Victorian sweets.

At the Yorkshire Air Museum & Allied Forces Memorial, more than 140 volunteers offer support across nine departments; fire service, grounds maintenance and gardening, to aircraft engineering and archives and collections.

• In the city’s historic buildings
Iconic York Minster has 500 volunteers who help out with everything from bell ringing and flower arranging to taking tours and archiving historic exhibits.
York Archeological Trust’s ‘Barley Hall Servants’ are a group of costumed volunteers who showcase the late medieval life of the servants of the hall which dates back to 1360.
Many other attractions across the city are supported by volunteers including the Treasurer’s House, the Mansion House and York Theatre Royal.

• Visit York Information Centre
The Visit York Information Centre has over 30 volunteers who contribute to welcoming York’s visitors to the city every year. Visit York’s volunteers speak a range of languages including French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin, Chinese and Japanese.

• Cultural experience
Thousands of volunteers are involved in theatrical productions and community based cultural activities across the city. In addition the ‘Friends of the York Theatre Royal’ offer support from administration to fund-raising.

Young volunteers are also encouraged and York’s annual TakeOver Festival is completely run by more than 100 under 25s year olds. York Theatre Royal also offers around 50 placements each year to young people.

Councillor Sonja Crisp, City of York Council's Cabinet Member for Tourism in York, said: "People don't automatically think about tourism in connection with volunteering but in York we have a wealth of opportunities for the talents of our heritage heroes. Each makes a contribution to the success of the tourism industry which benefits the city as a whole."

Anyone interested in finding out more about volunteering at one of York’s many tourist attractions or at the Visit York Information Centre, should contact Visit York on 01904 550099 or email ENDS

For further press information please contact:

Kay Hyde – Head of Communications – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07961 828092

Katie Parsons – Senior Communications Executive – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554436

About Visit York

• Visit York is supported by the City of York Council and over 700 tourism businesses and works in partnership with Visit England.
• Visit York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure and business visitor, and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York. Visit York is responsible for leisure and conference marketing, visitor services (running the city’s Visitor Information Centre), training and ensuring a quality visitor experience.
• Visit York is the driving force of the city’s tourism industry. Key facts:

7.1 million visitors
£443 million total visitor spend
23, 000 jobs

* Calculated as follows:
Top 10 York attractions – average 100 volunteers each
Remaining 50 members – average 50 each.
Total volunteers estimated: 3,500
Average 200 hours per volunteer = 700,000 volunteering hours
@ £15.00 per hour = £10.5m equivalent economic contribution.