Volunteers Week – The Guild Chapel

Although The Guild Chapel is currently closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we know that when we are able to safely reopen its doors, we will rely once again on the valuable role played by our committed volunteers.

We asked volunteer Pam Devine to share her experience of volunteering at The Guild Chapel for the last four years and how it has led to her writing a book.

“I was about to start the final year of a history degree with the Open University and had been looking for some voluntary work for a while. When I saw the call for volunteers from Stratford Town Trust, I was interested immediately as so much of the history of the Guild Chapel tied in with my studies.

Essentially, I am a visitor guide – I welcome people to the Chapel and try to bring the history of the building and its fabulous medieval wall-paintings to life. With a fellow volunteer, Janet, I also deliver more formal presentations to groups such as the U3A, National Trust Association and university students.

Behind the scenes, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in the planning and staging of the many events that our brilliant team leader and coordinator, Pippa, comes up with, from activities for schools and families, to concerts, memorials and so on.

I get to meet people from all over the world!

I love history and have loved finding out about the Chapel – it still has so many secrets! It’s been wonderful to be part of the project to reveal the wall-paintings, and help bring the Chapel the recognition it deserves. I get to meet people from all over the world and talk about something I’m passionate about! It’s given me the confidence to do things I couldn’t have imagined myself doing a few years ago.

One of the best things about volunteering at the Chapel is being part of a fantastic team of people who share my love of the building. I have learnt a great deal from them over the years and have made some lovely friends in the process, many of whom I socialise with outside of the Chapel.

Many of our volunteers are doing their own research on aspects of the Chapel that are of particular interest to them. Sometimes we learn things from our visitors which can send us off in a whole new direction. One such chance meeting several years ago led me to look at the Chapel’s historic graffiti and I have written a book about it called Writing on Shakespeare’s Walls, which I hope will be available in the next couple of months. I have used the historic graffiti in the Guild Chapel to tell the story of the building and its famous neighbour, William Shakespeare: the graffiti reveals the thoughts, beliefs and concerns of the people who have come and gone from the building for over five hundred years.

The beauty of volunteering at the Chapel is that you can do as much or as little as you like

I can quite honestly say, becoming a volunteer at the Guild Chapel has changed my life. You don’t, however, have to devote quite as much time to it as I do! The beauty of volunteering at the Chapel is that you can do as much or as little as you like, and, even if it’s only a few hours a week, it will still be hugely appreciated, especially if it involves making cake for our monthly meetings!

Full training is given – you don’t need any previous experience – the only requirement is that you enjoy talking to people. You’ll be teamed up with other more experienced volunteers to start with so don’t worry about not remembering things or getting things wrong – even us ‘oldies’ still make mistakes occasionally.”