This year (2014) I was the volunteer co-ordinator for Science in the Park. My role was to recruit, train and organize the volunteers for the day. I’m also a local committee member for the Nottinghamshire British Science Association branch, so I’ve seen this years Science in the Park develop over the last 12 months. I thought I’d write down a few of the backstage secrets of the day.
So, first, the day itself is the result of about 12 months planning. To be fair, we usually have a rest after the previous year and then sometime in Autumn suddenly realize we need to get everything sorted. This year the Science in the Park team were led by the ever calm (I have no idea how!) Susan Zappala. Through the year we need to book in the exhibitors, plan the layout (not trivial in a stately home), create the flyers and programmes and then tell everyone about the event. Personally it doesnt get real until the programmes are printed!
Susan and I arrived at Wollaton Hall at about 9am. At this stage we are basically just hoping and praying everything and everyone shows up. That said, it is a real privilege to be at the Hall before everyone else arrives. We also get to look at some of the non-public areas. For instance I saw some of the character costumes in an attic room whilst on a quest for coffee cups (top tip: Wollaton Hall will be putting on a Tudor Christmas later this year – get involved if you can).
We don’t have long to put the show together so the next couple of hours are a hive of activity. Exhibitors need to bring in their kit…and build it in many cases. Signs need to go up. Volunteers are signed in and briefed. I need to make sure that volunteers have access to tea and coffee. We can’t afford to fully cater for the volunteers – which always saddens me – but I do like to make sure there is a snack and a drink available. We take children’s activity packs to the cafe so there is no escaping our presence on your visit to the Hall.
We start welcoming visitors at 11. The first hour or so is always comparatively quiet (definitely the time to come if you want to miss the crowds). It is good to get a chance to breath! The next test comes when the talks start. This year I did a shout out as I walked around the site. Later on one of the visitors asked about the Tannoy announcement…..I always knew I could be a bit loud and tinny. Seems like it worked anyway. Next year we want to give more people chance to see the Physics and Chemistry Live shows.
By about 3pm, I start to relax and appreciate the day. The hall is full and each room is buzzing.
Finally I must give a shout out to Dennis Wilkinson who, with our Susan made our fabulous new donation box. This is what happens when science meets engineering.