V is for Volunteers: Valued, Vivacious and Vital to our Vitality

Over the years we have been very fortunate to attract a huge number of helpful, dedicated volunteers who devote their time and their energy to make sure that each of our events run successfully and smoothly. They’re the folks who greet you with a smile, check your ticket, hold the mic for Q&A’s, and look after a dozen other little details to ensure that a positive experience is had by all in attendance. Anyone who attended the Emma Donoghue event in The Printworks last Saturday would have been greeted one of three volunteers: Elizabeth, Dorothy and Philip. Their professional and courteous conduct helped to make the afternoon’s event a great success. Afterwards they very kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions to let us know why it is they choose to volunteer and what attracted them to the Dublin Writers Festival specifically.


DWF: Had any of you volunteered before at other festivals/events?

Philip: 10 Days in Dublin, Dublin Theatre Festival, Dublin Beatles Festival, Bram Stoker Festival, Dublin Book Festival, First Fortnight, Temple Bar Tradfest, Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Dorothy: At the Dublin Theatre Festival last year.

Elizabeth: I was a volunteer bookseller at the Dalkey Book Festival last year for the Gutter Bookshop. It was just one day, but I sold books at one event and then in the pop up bookshop after that.

DWF: Had you volunteered with us at the Dublin Writers Festival in previous years?

Dorothy: No.

Elizabeth: I have never volunteered for the Dublin Writers’ Festival before this year.

Phillip: 2014 will be my third year volunteering at DWF

DWF: Why do you choose to volunteer?

Philip: I find that volunteering has been a great way for me to catch up with what’s happening in the Arts. DWF is a great opportunity to get up close with writers and their work.

Elizabeth: I don’t volunteer for many things; I volunteer when I am interested in the event, campaign or issue. I think it’s important to be involved in what’s going on in the city, whether that is a book festival or something else. To be connected to the heart of the city, its culture and heritage is important for a sense of belonging, for both the volunteer and the attendees. So I volunteer for cultural events like the DWF to ensure that we don’t lose occasions like this and in the hope that with more people attending and talking about Emma Donoghue or Anita Shreve, more people will venture into their local bookshop and peruse the fiction section or, dare I say it, the non-fiction corner.

Dorothy: I was interested in the possibility of working in a more creative field and I thought of it is a good way of getting an idea of how these events are run. My main reason though is the social aspect of the events.

DWF: And why did you choose to volunteer at the Dublin Writers Festival specifically?

Philip: After I retired in 2012, DWF was literally the first volunteering opportunity I became aware of – I think I read a small piece in the Irish Times Weekend magazine – and I thought, why not? That proved to be a very enjoyable experience – I even got to meet author Jeanette Winterson at Brooks Hotel and walk with her to the Gate Theatre for her reading there.

Dorothy: One of the volunteers at the Dublin Theatre Festival said he had volunteered at the DWF last year, and it was very enjoyable and excellently run, so he recommended I volunteer this year.

Elizabeth: I was at an event last year, at Smock Alley (Kevin Powers and Ben Fountain), and I really enjoyed it. I was looking out for the festival this year and when I saw that the festival needed volunteers I thought I would put myself forward. I work in publishing at the moment (part time) and like to get involved in cultural events in the city, and I would also like to hear the authors speak about their books and careers and the inspiration they need in order to sit at their laptop for months on end to finish their manuscript. Volunteering seems like the perfect way to do just that.

DWF: How did you find volunteering at the Emma Donoghue event on Saturday, any favourite moment(s) that you’d like to share?

Philip: I thought this was a very good pre-Festival taster and I have no doubt the standard will be maintained throughout the Festival. I enjoyed the event on Saturday – Emma Donoghue is an excellent and very engaging speaker and the Q&A session was particularly lively.

Dorothy: I can’t pick any particular favourite moment. I enjoy dealing with the public and am always happy to help with the roving mikes, so I enjoyed the whole afternoon.

Elizabeth: I really enjoyed the event on Saturday. I enjoyed hearing Emma Donoghue talking about her writing process and her previous books. I haven’t read any of her books yet, but I would be inspired to pick up a copy of Frog Music after hearing about it. I thought the Q&A was wonderful. The questions covered a range of topics and the author was quite happy to go into detail about whatever was asked.

DWF: Would you recommend volunteering at the Dublin Writers Festival to other people?

Philip: Yes indeed! One gets to know other volunteers and recommendations are passed back and forth. I know that two of this year’s volunteers have signed up on the basis of my recommendation.

Dorothy: Maybe too early to say from my own point of view, but I am doing it on someone else’s recommendation and I was delighted to hear it is well run.  Easier to volunteer with a well organised festival.

Elizabeth: Would I recommend someone volunteer at the festival? Absolutely. Someone who has an interest in books (of course) and the writing process would benefit from participating in the festival. It wasn’t a very stressful event for me and the attendees were lovely. And I got to hear a very successful writer speak about her writing process. It was perfect.

DWF: And finally, what books are you reading now or what was the last book that you read?

Dorothy: Last book I read was David Norris’ A Kick Against the Pr**ks. Very interesting to learn about his early family life.

Philip: That’s a bit complicated as not so long ago I had several books on the go! I’m currently involved (as a volunteer) in a Trinity College History Project called Letters of 1916 (if you’re interested in learning more about this project, click here) which involves uploading and transcribing letters written circa 1915/1916 and donated by the public or certain archives. This work has given me an appetite for history so I have been reading up on WW1 and the 1916 Rising. My current reading is All in the Blood by Geraldine Plunkett Dillon and next up is 1916 What the People Saw by Mick O’Farrell.

After that it’s back to Midnight in Sicily by Peter Robb and The Boys by Christopher Fitz-Simon.

At last Saturday’s event I bought a copy of Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music for my wife as a Mother’s Day treat – I hope she finishes it quickly because I think I’ll slip it in to the queue ahead of some of the others!

Elizabeth: At the moment, I am reading American Rust by Philipp Meyer. His second book The Son was nominated at last year’s Irish Book Awards. This one, American Rust, is equally as wonderful and bloody. I can see why he is being compared to Steinbeck. The situations the characters find themselves in are painfully desperate. The American Dream certainly is dead.

After that, I will start Dave Eggers A heartbreaking tale of staggering genius‘. I can’t wait!


Well, Elizabeth can’t wait for her next book and we can’t wait until the festival kicks off on May 17th, which is only 6 weeks away now! Anyone attending any of our events over the nine days will be greeted by Elizabeth, Dorothy, Philip or one of our many other faithful volunteers. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers through the years for their commitment and also those who will be dedicating their time at this year’s festival.

If you are interested in volunteering for this year’s festival and would like to get in touch then you can send us an email to volunteer@dublinwritersfestival.com.

2 thoughts on “V is for Volunteers: Valued, Vivacious and Vital to our Vitality

  1. I’m certainly keen on getting involved in this year’s Dublin writers festival in some capacity. I’ve worked with charities’ previously. Whilst event fundraising and promotion end successes are always rewarding, true enough, it’s getting things together beforehand and the planning that goes in to these that very often satisfies the most.

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