Glasgow 2014: Volunteer Recruitment

Tools of the Trade

As I’m wrapping up my contract as Volunteer Coordinator for Luminato Festival, I’ve started a series of roundtables with volunteers willing to share their feedback and suggestions to improve the volunteer programme. One great comment amongst many was how volunteering allowed people to come closer to the artistic experience than mere audience members and to make them feel that they’re playing an integral part in the festival team.

With a tagline such as “It’s not just athletes at the heart of the Games”, Glasgow Commonweatlh Games 2014 Volunteer Programme is positioned along similar lines of contributing and belonging. They’re looking for 15,000 Games Time volunteers and 400 pre-Games “frontrunners”.

Registration opened on 5th November 2012, and, as early as 20th November 2012, over 20,000 candidates had registered their interest in volunteering, coming mainly from Glasgow, but also “from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Stirling and even London”.  In the words of a London 2012 volunteer: “London 2012 set the bar, but Glasgow 2014 can leap over it.”

(Update!) After connecting with Glasgow 2014’s Head of Marketing on Twitter, I discovered the following record figures:

Martin Reynaldo Tweets

The Volunteering section of Glasgow 2014’s website is remarkably well developed, obviously trying to be as comprehensive as possible, detailing processes, timelines and roles, and there are quite a few lessons in volunteer recruitment and management to be drawn from it. For example, the volunteer journey page clearly outlines the steps and timeframe that apply to all Games Time volunteers selected for an interview:

April – December 2013: Volunteer interviews (some specialist roles also interviewed in 2014)
October 2013 – July 2014: Response
March – July 2014: Training (3 sessions, 4 for leadership roles)
April – August 2014: Uniform and accreditation
April – August 2014: Details of Games-time shifts

Registration seems to be closed at this time; it was accepted in person at the Volunteer Centre, by phone or online through the Volunteer Portal.

Volunteer Criteria

Volunteers are expected to be responsible for their travel and accommodation, attend training and volunteer at least 8 days during Games time (23 July 2014 – 3 August 2014), with shifts lasting between 8 and 12 hours. Break length (at least 30 minutes per 8 hours) and rest between shifts (a minimum of eleven hours rest between eight-hour shifts) are clearly stated.

Volunteers must be aged over 16, be eligible to work in the UK and speak and read English or British Sign Language.

They are also expected to take responsibility for their own uniform and accreditation and to be flexible about their role and the venue where they are based.

Security checks are part of the selection process, and for jobseekers, “time spent volunteering can also count towards up to 50% of (their) weekly job search commitments”.

Volunteer support

Financial and practical support is available to potential volunteers who wouldn’t be able to participate otherwise, thanks to £500,000 worth of funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the Scottish Government, to assist with the following needs (Scottish residents only):

  • Travel and accommodation costs for people on low incomes who live outside Glasgow
  • Additional costs of personal care for people with disabilities
  • Respite care costs to allow carers to be confident their caring responsibilities are being met
  • Additional childcare costs


Pre-Games volunteers, or frontrunners, assist with planning and delivering a range of activities between 2012 and 2014:

  • Volunteer Management (recruitment and scheduling), Training (around 50,000 training sessions and 250,000 hours delivered before the Games), Uniforms (17,500 Games Time uniform kits designed, produced and delivered to to volunteers, paid staff, technical officials and medal bearers).
  • The Queen’s Baton Relay  (from Buckingham Palace to the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony), Games Family Relations & Protocol (supporting the 71 Commonwealth Games Associations and athletes, team officials and wider Games Family).
  • EngagementDigital MediaMedia Communications & Broadcasting.
  • Venue OperationsCatering, Cleaning & Waste ManagementTransport (400 buses and 1,500 fleet vehicles).

Another page on pre-Games volunteers states that all frontrunners will be assigned a mentor from the department they’re working with, and that “previous Games volunteers have described their experience as life-changing and people who give up their time to volunteer for Glasgow 2014 can expect a wide range of personal and developmental benefits”.

Volunteer Interviews

With thousands of applicants, interviews are are huge undertaking for the Games staff, assisted by frontrunners. It’s also a potentially stressful time for would-be volunteers, and the Guide to Volunteer Interviews section of the website gets into a high level of details to cover all grounds and minimise anxiety.

A “Volunteer Interview Guide” video with frontrunner Robbie shows other pre-Games volunteers conducting 1-to-1 interviews in the Volunteer Centre:

Volunteer Roles 

Volunteers will assist in many different ‘functional areas’ (too many to list here!), ranging from frontline customer service to volunteer and staff support, First Aid, anti-doping tests, “brand protection” and more.

Every single one of these functional areas is presented in a way that helps applicants assess the scope of the role and evaluate their suitability, as per the example below.

Spectator Services

Your Role:

You will be the face of the Games and among the first and last people spectators and guests see during their Games experience. You’ll provide a variety of services, inside and outside our venues, to visitors from all over the world, from giving directions to monitoring access.

Role Highlights:

You’ll have a truly authentic Glasgow 2014 experience. You’ll be part of the team of friendly faces who shape the experience of everyone who comes to see Glasgow 2014.

You’ll be on the ground with a smile and good cheer, interacting directly with spectators and other volunteers.

Is This You?

You will possess excellent communication skills, have a strong focus on customer service and most importantly a positive attitude. Some roles will also require leadership skills.

Please note roles in Spectator Services start from 21 July 2014.

Your Impact on Glasgow 2014

As part of the Spectator Services team you will be in a position to shape the atmosphere of Glasgow 2014. Your good humour and friendly service will be one of the things that will stand out in the memory of everyone who comes to the Games.

While it’s quite clear that Glasgow 2014 has put a lot of time and effort into their organisational structure and development, they haven’t neglected the more emotional side of the preparations, as this great video created for the 500 days countdown demonstrates. To the sound of “I Would Walk 500 Miles” by the Proclaimers, it’s complete with sweeping city sights, hundreds of cans of Irn-Bru, a community choir, construction work and even a cheerful lollipop woman. It’s a lovely celebration of the community involvement: volunteers, fans, local shopkeepers and workers who will, together, create the Games experience.

Additionally, although I’m not usually too keen on Olympic-type mascots, I want to mention the short animation film about Glasgow 2104’s Clyde Thistle, because it’s animated (always a bonus) and because it’s available in a subtitled and British Sign Language version.

London 2012: Legacy Report

The Long Read

Just published on the Arts Council England website: Reflections on the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, which combines a summary of the Cultural Olympiad‘s achievements and legacy by its director Ruth Mackenzie (Manchester International Festival‘s first General Director) with an executive summary of the evaluation report conducted by Dr Beatriz García of the Institute of Cultural Capital, a Liverpool-based research centre that builds on the Impacts 08 evaluation model.

It’s a great read, packed with evocative descriptions of artistic creations and plenty of facts and figures. The introduction by the Chair of the Cultural Olympiad Board, Tony Hall, sums up nicely the ambition of the project: not art for art’s sake, but art for the sake of more art for more people.

We all hope that the legacy will be more chances to enjoy the fruit of that infrequent marriage of ample budget and unbounded imagination.
– Tony Hall, CBE

Ruth Mackenzie’s “summary of learning points” surveys a wide range of categories, from artistic innovation to cultural tourism legacy.  I have summarised the summary below:

  • National scope: the Cultural Olympiad engaged communities across the UK for 4 years and it has now handed off the cultural torch to both Derry-Londonderry 2013 City of Culture (Northern Ireland) and Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (Scotland).
  • Participation: mass participation projects, such as Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, and large-scale learning programmes, such as Tate Movie, a collaboration with Aardman Animations engaging 25,000 offline and 9,000 online, helped raise the participant numbers to nearly 6 million.
  • Skills development: informal and formal learning opportunities were built into the programme, with for example a Creative Jobs Programme managed by the Royal Opera House offering 40 paid apprenticeships to unemployed young people in London.
  • Diversity
    • Cultural diversity: an inter-nation event such as the Olympic Games is a good pretext to present culturally diverse artistic creation, whether it is by bringing together UK-based artists of diverse origins, inviting projects such as Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, composed of musicians from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries, or giving a new twist to the Africa Express collective of western and African acts by putting them all on train for a national tour.
    • Ability diversity: the London 2012 Festival created the world’s largest ever commissioning fund for disabled and Deaf artists, which culminated in the Unlimited festival-within-a-festival at the Southbank Centre, featuring 29 new works, some of which are now touring internationally. The excellent Liverpool-based DaDaFest – Disability and Deaf Arts Agency and Festival – have a few videos on their website about their Unlimited commissions.
  • Large scale innovation: with a strapline promising ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences, innovation was highly encouraged. Amongst other feats, the festival managed to get Big Ben to divert from schedule and West Midlands Police to tweet about  Stockhausen’s World premiere opera, which involves 4 helicopters and a dancing camel.
  • Free: admission to National Museums is free in the UK, and many Cultural Olympiad events and experiences were also free of charge. As the report states, “Audiences are more generous with their time and more willing to experiment with unfamiliar art, if they are not paying to attend.” This was also a bonus for international visitors.
  • Unusual venues: whereas “The use of the public realm, parks, streets, squares, shopping centres, has long been a traditional audience development policy especially for local authorities”, London 2012 Festival also invested natural and heritage sites, such as Britain’s coasts for Peacecamp.
  • Cultural tourism partnerships: the overt goal was to not only encourage domestic and international tourism in 2012, but also in further years. Visit Britain – the national tourism board – and Arts Council England are stated to carry on working together on joint initiatives.
  • International partnerships: co-commissioning with international partners is both a way to diversify and enhance the national cultural offer by bringing together British and international artists – and to showcase featured British artists in partner countries.
  • Digital: finally, under the Digital heading are filed diverse initiative such as digital marketing (with successful use of social media), digital communications (i.e. broadcast) and digital arts (such as Yoko Ono’s Serpentine programming and North-West-based Abandon Normal Devices festival). A free, on-demand digital archive of all the works created in 2012 called The Space, a partnership between Arts Council England and the BBC, which paves the way for the Digital Public Space currently developed by the BBC.

The second part of ‘Reflections’ is the executive summary of the evaluation report, which full version is available on the Institute of Cultural Capital website, with additional insights in the appendixes and case studies on Arts and Disabilities, Youth Projects, Stories of the World, Creative Jobs, Tourism and Social Media Analysis.

Cultural Olympiad: A Primer


Elegantly chaotic”; “bloody brilliant”; “at once subversive and sublime”; “a people’s ceremony”: this is what the world thought of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony (source: BBC). For the Guardian’s art critic, Charlotte Higgins, it was the “cultural highlight of 2012”.

An estimated audience of one billion viewers worldwide tuned in to watch Danny Boyle’s spectacular celebration of everything British, from free healthcare to art, music and fashion.

It felt like a culmination; and it was indeed only the tip of the iceberg compared to what went on in the country over the previous 4 years.

In 2008, as London won the bid, the BBC retraced the history of the cultural wing of the world’s biggest sports event, recalling that the founder of the modern Olympics, Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, had a vision of celebrating the union of the mind, body and spirit.

“The games between 1912-48 held arts competitions with the victors awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Spoils were up for grabs in architecture, painting, literature and music, usually with sport as inspiration. (…) From 1952, a series of cultural events to complement the sporting action was launched. (…) It was in 1992 in Barcelona that the Cultural Olympiad became a four-year event, marking the city’s entire tenure as games host and promoted local gems including the Picasso Museum. In 2000, the Sydney Olympics cultural component paid close attention to Australia’s Aboriginal peoples through an arts festival which began three years before the sporting action. The organisers of the Beijing Olympics put on a huge show for the Cultural Olympiad, with five festivals – one for each year of their tenure as games hosts.” (Source: BBC).

The official website for the Olympic Movement states its commitment to creating sustainable legacies, and a factsheet available for download gives details of improvements observed in host cities since 1992, with the Summer Games in Barcelona and the Winter Games in Albertville.

And then came London, logically the biggest Cultural Olympiad of all times – as often with festivals, growth is the only viable option.

There’s a lot to say about the objectives and outcomes of cultural planning on such a grand scale, and its mid- and long-term effects will be fascinating to study, but for now here are a few facts and figures taken from the official London 2012 Cultural Olympiad website.

Between 2008 and 2012:

– More than 16 million people across the UK took part in or attended performances;

– More than 3.7 million people took part in nearly 3,700 Open Weekend events [a nationwide series of sports and culture events taking place on the last weekend of July in 2009, 2010 and 2011, to mark the countdown to 2012];

– Some 2,500 cultural projects have been awarded the London 2012 Inspire Mark [an accreditation awarded to projects that have embraced the inspiration of London 2012 and the values of the Olympic movement, assessed by London 2012 and the International Olympic Committee].

The Cultural Olympiad was made of different strands and programmes:

– The official London 2012 Festival, a UK-wide 12 week-celebration from 21st June to 9th September, bringing together more than 25,000 artists in over 12,000 events all over the UK and drawing a total of 19.5 million attendances, including 16.5 million participating in free events;

Unlimited, a festival of 29 major commissions celebrating arts and culture by Deaf and disabled artists, of which an online archive is available on the Southbank Centre website;

– A £40 million national and regional legacy programme supported by Legacy Trust UK, a dedicated funding body managing national and regional projects “to ensure that the benefits of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games were felt by diverse communities across the entire UK.”

And beyond numbers, what about the art? Here’s a quick round-up by the Guardian, with the best, the worst, what will stay and what’s still available to watch online.

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I am interested in the research around London 2012 and cultural events of a similar scale and will be posting follow-up articles on evaluation methodologies, regional impact, programming for large and diverse audiences and digital outreach.