Despite not knowing much about beer at first, Angela has found volunteering at the Cambridge Beer Festival to be a lot of fun
I think the first year I volunteered at the festival was 2012. I did just one evening and really enjoyed it. I came back the next year on more evenings, and I’ve been volunteering every year since, to a greater or lesser degree depending on my commitments. I generally try to do at least a few lunchtime sessions and an evening or two during the week. I manage to fit volunteering around my job, taking extended lunch breaks and coming along for the lunchtime sessions. Or, like last year, I got to the festival at 6pm on Friday after a full day at work and went through to the end.
I’ve always worked at the Foreign Bar, mostly serving customers. I started there because I know one of the bar managers through a book group. We got talking about how I used to go to the festival as a member of the public and they said ‘Why don’t you come along and help out behind the bar?’. I had been volunteering for things like the science festival and was looking for something else to do in my spare time, so the beer festival appealed.
It’s been a real learning experience. I didn’t really know much about beer at first, but each year I come back I remember things I’ve learnt the previous year. Volunteering is a great opportunity to get behind the scenes and see what goes on. You meet a lot of people who love beer, and get to learn the ropes and do different things – there are other roles besides working on the bars. It’s very well managed, from the people who sign you in when you first arrive right through to those you work with. You’re well looked after, and there’s always someone you can ask for help if you need it.
I enjoy the camaraderie. Last year on Friday night the bar was really busy, but you all pull together and I found it a lot of fun. It’s a supportive environment, and it’s nice to talk to the customers as well. I deal with the public in my day job and I enjoy those customer-facing aspects, so it’s an extension of that. What keeps me coming back is that I get to meet new volunteers each year, but also catch up with those who return. You don’t often get to meet so many different kinds of people; it’s a nice thing to be able to do.
Interested in helping out this year? The benefits include free food, some free beer and cider, a volunteer T-shirt and the chance to meet old friends and make new ones. Find out more.