Guest post #2: Hilary James reflects on music at MERL

Hilary James approached MERL over four years ago about the possibility of bringing folk music to the Museum, and with the obvious connections between English folk music and our collections, we welcomed the idea of a series of concerts, workshops and talks set against the backdrop of the Museum. As we prepare for ‘A Day with the Mandolinquents,’ the next event in the current series, Hilary James has taken time out to reflect on  ‘Songs, stories and traditions’ at the Museum…

I was strolling back up Redlands Road one afternoon, past my old University home, St Andrews Hall of residence, when I did a double take and read a new sign outside announcing the Museum of English Rural Life!

Hilary James

Hilary James

As a student in the 1970s I ran the University Folk Club. With the help of a University Arts Grant we had our pick of the finest up-and-coming folk musicians of the day, a list which included future luminaries such as Richard Thompson, Planxty, Maddy Prior and Christy Moore. This was long before MERL moved to its current home. Up until 2001 it was housed in a few tightly crammed huts on the edge of the Whiteknights campus. The folk club met for many years in a soulless cafe above the Students Union, a venue lacking the perfect atmosphere and charm of today’s MERL.

I’ve hosted Hilary James & friends: Songs, Stories & Traditions for four years – this time with the help of grants from the University Arts Committee.  MERL is the perfect home for such a project; it’s been a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the music and folk tales so closely entwined in the social fabric and history of rural England and to revisit the songs I first heard as a student at the University Folk Club.

It’s been a treat too to invite and collaborate with other like-minded musicians and storytellers. Here’s a look back at just some of the friends I’ve invited to join me as special guests…

Vocal and instrumental quintet, Magpie Lane  embodied the spirit of Thomas Hardy’s English village band with their well researched and extensive repertoire of traditional song and their engaging, unpretentious delivery. Five fine musicians all with strong voices filled MERL with the infectious joy of their vocal harmonies and clever instrumental accompaniments.

Magpie Lane at MERL

Magpie Lane at MERL

Karen Tweed, “Accordian Queen” packed in a concert, talk and workshop taking us on a whirlwind tour of musical styles and tunes visiting Scandinavia, Quebec and Wales before heading back home to England. She’s an inspiring musician – I didn’t realise so much lyricism and poetry as well as dynamism could be found in the humble accordian, but then it’s always down to the player, not the instrument.

Tim Healeysocial historian, freelance writer, record producer and BBC broadcaster, gave us an illustrated talk on the ‘Green Man’ in 2010 returning by popular demand in 2011 with ‘Sex, Drink and Death in 17th Century England’.  Simon Mayor and I provided the music to illustrate these talks – an intriguing project to research – the folk tradition is littered with tales of debauchery, tragedy and death!

Taffy Thomasthe country’s first Storytelling Laureate visited in 2012 wearing his splendid “tale coat”, elaborately embroidered with scenes from his many stories.

Taffy Thomas with Hilary and his assistant - March '12

Taffy Thomas with his assistant adn Hilary James – March ’12

Reading born BBC Young Tradition Award Winner, Luke Daniels had an eager group of musicians for his tin whistle workshop which took place in the heart of the Museum.

Simon and I joined Luke Daniels for a couple of songs and tunes from the north-east. We’ve known Luke since he was a nine year old wiz on the bodhran (Irish drum). His Mum, Sara is a well-respected singer of Irish folksongs and his Dad, Les was a fine whistle player. In 2012 Luke transplanted his young family to Glasgow where he’s continuing to enthuse children and young people with his love of traditional music.

Paul Sartin from Bellowhead (we couldn’t afford the full band!) and Paul Hutchinson were our guests as Belshazzar’s Feast in June 2010, blending dazzling musicianship on accordian, oboe and fiddle with some very quirky humour. They also gave an informal session in the garden – in the early evening sunshine!

Belshazzar's Feast in the MERL garden

Belshazzar’s Feast in the MERL garden


The two Pauls, along with Ed Quick, Richard Collins and Simon Mayor, had recently played on my album English Sketches, a collection of folksongs and poetry settings drawing on my first two years of the MERL project and a decade spent touring villages in far-flung corners of England for the National Rural Touring Forum.

My sketch pad or watercolour postcard book (brilliant for sending mementos) was always on hand to capture the views – usually from the car windows! The sketches became part of the CD project, finding their way into the booklet and disc. Having Belshazzar’s Feast as guests also offered us all a chance to preview some of these songs.

John Kirkpatrick (BBC Victorian Farm) was amazed to find he was singing about a cart…beneath a cart! John gave an inspiring hands-on folk band workshop for a wide range of musical abilities and instruments.

John Kirkpatrick workshop - small


I’d like to thank Alison Hilton for her enthusiasm and support in all aspects of planning and promotion, as well as all the staff and volunteers at MERL. And thanks too to my friends David and Helen Maggs at West Berkshire Brewery for providing the beer for the bar at each event. Thanks also to Simon Mayor who arranged much of the music for my contributions and collaborations.

‘A Day with the Mandolinquents’ – the next event in the ‘Songs, stories and traditions’ series takes place on Sunday 7th July. Join mandolin maestro Simon Mayor, Gerald Garcia, conductor of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble and Hilary James, for workshops from 1-5pm or just come and enjoy the ‘wit and sparkle’ of this eclectic ensemble in their evening concert in the MERL garden – bring a picnic from 6pm, concert at 7pm. For details, visit the MERL website…

The Mandolinquents

The Mandolinquents

Research tip #2: a secret MERL library resource …

Although they are known as the Classified Information Files, the MERL library’s collection of cuttings does not contain top secret information and is not kept under lock and key either, but is freely available for readers to browse in the Special Collections Service reading room! The collection contains articles and cuttings from local and national newspapers and periodicals, including some titles which the library does not hold. The cuttings are kept in folders in the filing cabinets in the reading room, and are organised by the MERL subject classification in alphabetical order. This scheme is used for objects and photographs: it is different from the MERL library classification scheme. A subject card index to the cuttings is available in the reading room.  The collection is currently being reorganised into the MERL library classification number order (with subject names added) but is fully accessible and available to browse during this work.

Exploring the MERL library’s cuttings files in the reading room

Exploring the MERL library’s cuttings files in the reading room

Although the collection is only added to occasionally, it is a useful way of retrieving information published in periodicals and newspapers which don’t justify the full cataloguing treatment and which might otherwise be difficult to find. Subjects covered by the clippings include material on agricultural machinery, farm livestock and rural crafts as well as articles and cuttings on more obscure subjects including ancient rural traditions such as ‘beating the bounds’, rural superstitions and the phenomenon of ‘will-o’-the-wisps’ in the countryside. When all else fails with a research query, a quick search of the cuttings files can sometimes yield an important snippet of information or perhaps you might come across an interesting subject for a piece of research. Have a browse and see what you can find!

Our Country Lives: Supporting You Day

written by Adam Koszary, Project Officer for Our Country Lives.

My mind has been focused on one particular question since arriving at MERL: how do you display rural life?

Other equally pertinent questions for us are: Who is our audience? How can we appeal to wider groups? What is the core message of the Museum of English Rural Life?

These are the main issues which we are grappling with in these early days of Our Country Lives. We began with a broad idea of what we want to do, and we are now gradually narrowing down our ideas and expectations, so that we can finish with a focused new display which keeps our current visitors happy but also entices new people to come and learn about English rural life, and participate with the museum in projects and events.

Family consultations at the MERL Village Fete 2013

Family consultations at the MERL Village Fete 2013

Determining those people and communities who would not usually visit MERL was the focus of a meeting with our consultants last week, but we have already been working with volunteers and our current audiences to find out who our visitors are and what they want. For instance, if you came with your family to the village fete this year then you may have been asked to complete a questionnaire. The results from this consultation are already having a real effect on the direction in which MERL is heading with Our Country Lives.

Another audience which we want to hear from is the student and staff community of the University of Reading. Myself and MERL’s Marketing Officer Alison will be at this year’s Supporting You Day, and will be available all day to let you know about the museum but also asking how we could do better as a service to university staff and students.

Whether you think we need more seminars and lectures, or should advertise better on campus, we would like to know what would make you visit MERL, or what is currently stopping you. We will be located in the Palmer Building, most probably in the Reception, so come and say hello!

5 minutes with… Rhi Smith

Rhi Smith is the Director of Museum Studies. She teaches our new undergraduate degree course, which students can combine with Classics or Archaeology, starting at Reading this Autumn. Find out about what she’s being doing this week in the run up to the University’s Open Days….


Rhi on holiday at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire

Rhi on holiday at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire

What have you been doing this week?

I’ve just come back from a holiday so it’s been hectic. The University has two Open Days this week and I’m trying to organise our contribution. The new Museum Studies programme is starting in October and I’ll be talking to potential students and their families. We offer a joint programme so I’ve been liaising with colleagues in Classics and Archaeology to get everything running smoothly. I made the foolish decision to smarten up the cases in the Archaeology foyer at the last minute. It’s been so humid that all the adhesives are failing! Luckily my colleague Alexandra who runs the Lyminge excavation blog  is helping me. That excavation has found some of the earliest evidence of heavy ploughing in the UK so it’s got a nice link back to MERL.

Archaeology Department case

Archaeology Department case

I’ll be in the Ure Museum as it’s a little bit closer to the main hub than MERL for Open Days. I’m taking out a handling collection so I’m sorting out security and conservation with the staff there. I’ve just found out they have a new app so I’m also going to nab an iPad and let people have a look. The apps were designed in collaboration with University of Reading students and local schools. It’s a really nice way to show how much students can get involved with what the museums on campus are doing.

How are you involved in Our Country Lives project?

To get a bit academic for a moment my research is on the re-interpretation of abbeys (hence the picture above!)  In the USA the National Parks interpreters have talked about ‘compelling stories’ told ‘in compelling ways’. I like that idea of not just transmitting information but telling stories that make people think about the world in new ways.  My research also examines how communities may contribute to the decision making process. So I’m generally sticking my oar in at all the meetings we are having about the project.

On a more practical level, my students do a lot of work in the museum galleries and stores. When I first heard about ‘Our Country Lives’ I thought “where am I going to teach while the work takes place?” Once I calmed down I realised that this is actually a fantastic opportunity for students to be working in a museum while it is being refurbished. I am talking with staff and our consultant team about including students in the project and activity plan. If the Ure project is anything to judge by, I am sure they will have lots to contribute.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what I’m up to, you can follow my Museum Studies Reading blog 

Focus on collections #2: Collecting your #muscake (and eating it!)

Sit back with a cup of tea and a piece of cake (of course) and take a few minutes to read this fascinating post by Assistant Curator, Dr Ollie Douglas, on the little known cake-related collections at MERL (and elsewhere)…


Here at the Museum we’ve been eating rather a lot of cake. The frenetic activity of the annual MERL Village Fete was fuelled largely by cake, either produced for the baking competition or purchased along with cream teas. Add to this a flurry of summer birthdays and a series of project successes and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we do little other than eat tasty confectioneries all day long. I hasten to add that this is, of course, not true and that we not only work extremely hard but only ever eat cake at a safe and conservator-approved distance from our collections!

Winning Victoria Sponge Cake in the children's baking competition at the MERL Village Fete 2013

Winning Victoria Sponge Cake in the children’s baking competition at the MERL Village Fete 2013

If you are tucking into a piece of Victoria sponge right now and muttering that a museum dedicated to rural life should have no reason to acquire cake-related objects then I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint. Not only do we have extensive collections on the theme of cake but we probably have sufficient holdings to fill all the cake tins of Mary Berry herself. Inspired by my colleagues and their growing addiction to baked goods as well as by a recent discussion concerning cake and collections I set out to investigate what interesting nibbles I could find in the storerooms of MERL.

In the archive we have several photographs of Princess Marina’s bridal cake, as taken by local photographer Philip Collier (1881-1979), shortly before the royal wedding in 1934. The cake was made by the local firm Huntley and Palmers, who were better known for their biscuits but evidently dabbled in cakes as well. Collier’s work forms an important strand of a new collaboration with Reading Museum entitled Reading Connections.

Princess Marina's wedding cake on display in Reading, 1934 (MERL P DX323 PH1/E150/222)

Princess Marina’s wedding cake on display in Reading, 1934 (MERL P DX323 PH1/E150/222)

Elsewhere in the archive we also hold trade records relating to the production, promotion, and distribution of cake-breaking equipment, including a cake-breaker promoted by Alexander and Sons of Cirencester. This refers to a different, altogether less appetising, sort of cake. Oil cake was made from the material that remained after oil was extracted from crops such as oil seed rape and linseed. The resultant blocks were sold as animal feed but needed to be broken up before being fed to livestock. Cake-breakers were used to grind up larger chunks into pieces that animals could then eat.

Cake breaker made and advertised by Alexander and Sons of Cirencester, 1870s (MERL TR SCM P2/B15)

Cake breaker made and advertised by Alexander and Sons of Cirencester, 1870s (MERL TR SCM P2/B15)

As far as the object holdings go, we have further items relating to animal cake, including an actual cake-breaker (MERL 53/197) from Langley, Warwickshire, which would have been used to prepare animal feed in just the way described. However, let me now return to items connected with cakes intended for people rather than animals. The collection of Lavinia Smith yields a rich seam of cake-related objects. Smith was an American-born collector who gathered items to characterise life in the village where she lived, East Hendred.  Her collection forms another strand of the Reading Connections project. She was concerned as much with life inside the farmhouse or cottage as she was with work in surrounding fields and hence the objects include numerous items of hearth furniture and cooking utensils such as a girdle plate (MERL 51/520) that would have been suspended over an open fire and used to bake oatcakes, scones or cakes. She also collected a so-called ‘salamander’ (MERL 51/751) given to her by the local blacksmith, which comprised an iron bar ending in a flat plate that pivoted on a stand and was heated in the fire until red hot whereupon it was used for browning pastry, mashed potato and cakes.

Gingerbread mould, as collected by Lavina Smith and bearing a striking resemblance to a Biddenden cake mould (MERL 51/536)

Gingerbread mould, as collected by Lavina Smith and bearing a striking resemblance to a Biddenden cake mould (MERL 51/536)

Although it’s not strictly speaking cake-related, Smith also acquired an object described by John Denniss—the baker who passed it to her—as a gingerbread mould (MERL 51/536). Denniss’ family had reputedly been bakers in East Hendred for 200 years and it had presumably been used by them. My colleague Laura recently retrieved it from the store in preparation for a visit by an overseas researcher interested in biscuit, cookie, and gingerbread moulds, and on closer examination I realised that it bears a striking resemblance to the design of the Biddenden cake. These were handed out as part of a charitable dole at Biddenden, Kent, which is said to have been founded by the conjoined twins Eliza and Mary Chalkhurst in the 1100s. Although the story has been largely discredited, it is a potent example of how cakes are easily incorporated into powerful local traditions.

A piece of artwork (MERL 2009/28) purchased through MERL’s recent collecting project, offers a slightly different take on the link between cake and tradition (MERL 2009/28). This picture by well-known cartoonist Norman Thelwell (1923-2004) offers a wry comment on the invention of tradition. At the centre of the image some rustic-looking yokels appear to be hitting a cake with rough-hewn sticks. This is a reference to cake-based customary practices and to the tradition of beating the bounds, here combined in a characteristically comical, mystifying, and Thelwellian take on English culture.

Norman Thelwell, 'The age-old custom of beating the balm cake at Abbots Dawdling', 1960 (2009/28)

Norman Thelwell, ‘The age-old custom of beating the balm cake at Abbots Dawdling’, 1960 (2009/28)

This image harbours a subtle air of poking fun at folk revivalists and at people who enjoy pastimes that form part of this movement, such as Morris dancers and mummers. Just for the record, MERL remains extremely pleased to be able to host Morris dancers at its Village fete every year, and here at the Museum we warmly encourage links between cake and tradition, though perhaps in a less violent-looking way than Thelwell’s portrayal!

Having delved deeper into MERL’s own slice of cake history I should confess that I have a soft spot for collections that relate to cake. I began my career at the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford, which houses an extraordinary collection of ceremonial cakes. I think you can still view some of these objects, packed into a drawer on the ground floor. I like to think that these items were left by early curators to slowly desiccate, no doubt offering a tempting distraction from other more scholarly activities. However, these early custodians resisted the urge to snack and the items were preserved to stand as testimony to the inventive baking skills of our forebears, to the rich multiplicity of food-related cultural practice, and to the (sometimes surreal) interests of anthropologists and folklorists of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

In the course of my own PhD research I came across references to a collection of ceremonial cakes of the British Isles that was exhibited during the International Folklore Congress of 1891, as held at Burlington House, London (see this list of items exhibited, as published in 1891). This collation of so-called ‘feasten cakes’ was coordinated by a member of the Folklore Society called Alice Bertha Gomme (1852-1938). Gomme was the wife of folklorist George Lawrence Gomme (1853-1916) and was a significant figure in her own right, serving as Secretary to the Entertainment Committee of the 1891 Congress and going on to become a leading expert in the study of children’s games as well as traditional food.

Some of the early collections amassed by curators at MERL sought to offer a comprehensive and regional overview of the whole of England; these include the wagon holdings (as discussed in a previous post) and perhaps most famously the smocks (also mentioned in an earlier post). Much like these later examples, Gomme’s vision for the cake display was clearly one that was comparably inclusive. As this map shows, with the exception of Ireland the coverage was relatively comprehensive and the the provenance of the ceremonial cakes featured is clearly indicative of a desire on Gomme’s part to be as representative of the United Kingdom as possible.

Map showing distribution of British ceremonial cakes exhibited at the International Folklore Congress of 1891 (Oliver Douglas, 'The Material Culture of Folklore' - unpublished DPhil Thesis, p.87)

Map showing distribution of British ceremonial cakes exhibited at the International Folklore
Congress of 1891 (Oliver Douglas, ‘The Material Culture of Folklore’ – unpublished DPhil Thesis, p.87)

The temptation of this edible display was such that it was not simply illustrative and a significant number of these delicacies were purchased by the Entertainment Committee in order to be served to hungry delegates attending the Congress. As the historian of the folklore movement Richard Dorson later put it, the Congress offered “a feast for the eyes, the ears, and even the mouth.” I wonder if perhaps the staff at MERL should take a leaf from Gomme’s recipe book and begin to think more carefully about the foodstuffs we serve at the Village fete and why we serve them. What can different types of cake tell us about English rural life? Are ceremonial and feasten foods still important markers of who the English are and what it means to be a part of a rural way of life? Are we contributing to the continuation of rural cake-baking traditions that the Women’s Institute would be proud of and are we helping to reinvent traditions in a way that Thelwell might have found amusing? I hope so.

Finally, and far more importantly, I wonder whose turn is it to bring in the baked goods (and who ate the last slice of the chocolate cake I saw in the staff room?!).


My favourite object #1: a Yattendon Guild copperware vase

The first in our series of favourite objects chosen by MERL staff, volunteers and visitors, is written by Fiona Melhuish, MERL Librarian.


In my work with the Special Collections rare books and MERL library I get lots of opportunities to spotlight my favourite items from our wonderful book collections through exhibitions and Featured Items on the Special Collections website, so for this post I am going to choose one of my favourite objects from the Museum’s collections – a Yattendon Guild copperware vase (MERL 2009/24).

The vase pictured in an article in The Studio journal

Yattendon Guild Copperware vase (MERL 2009/24)

This vase was purchased by MERL in 2009 as part of the Collecting Rural Cultures project which aimed to acquire material to build a picture of the countryside in the twentieth century. It was made at the Yattendon Metalworking Class, or Yattendon Guild, an evening class for local men and boys, organised by Elizabeth Waterhouse (1834-1918), the wife of the architect Alfred Waterhouse, whose buildings include the Natural History Museum in London.  Alfred designed several buildings in Reading including East Thorpe, a Grade II listed building, which is now the home of MERL and Special Collections. The Waterhouse family purchased the Yattendon estate in West Berkshire in 1878, and Alfred built Yattendon Court (now demolished) as their family home.

Between 1890 and 1914, the class met weekly at Yattendon Court and developed into a thriving village industry. The class produced items in repoussé brass and copper mostly from Elizabeth’s own designs – she also taught her pupils how to beat the copper and brass. The metalworker Colin Pill (who has an interesting website devoted to Arts and Crafts metalwork) has pointed out that “the handle construction on [Yattendon] vases and tankards as well as the shallow nature of the repoussé and background punching or grounding are very distinctive”. Yattendon metalware does not appear to have been stamped with a maker’s mark but some pieces occasionally bear pen inscriptions.

The class became affiliated to the Home Arts and Industries Association (HAIA) which was established in 1884 to increase skills in craftsmanship among the working classes and to promote the revival of rural craft industries. Similar metalwork classes were set up in Newlyn in Cornwall and in Keswick in the Lake District.

The Yattendon Class established a reputation for good design, and produced items including plates, jugs and lanterns in an Arts and Crafts style. The decorative motifs were inspired by plants and flowers, whilst others featured peacocks, fish, deer and leopards. The class produced over 5,000 items and sold their wares in a local shop, whilst other items were sold at Liberty’s in London. In 1895 the art and design journal The Studio praised the Yattendon Guild’s “fine show of repoussé copper, excellent in its design and thoroughly characteristic of the metal”. This vase was featured in an article in The Studio in 1899.

Yattendon Guild copperware vase

The vase pictured in an article in The Studio journal

The vase is one of several items with a Waterhouse connection held by MERL and Special Collections. The Museum also has a tankard made by the Guild (MERL 68/506) and Special Collections holds books written by Elizabeth, correspondence and watercolours by the Waterhouse family. Neither the tankard or the vase are currently on public display in the Museum at the moment but please contact us if you would like to visit to see them!

Yattendon Guild copperware tankard (MERL 68/506)

Yattendon Guild copperware tankard (MERL 68/506)

Objects made in the Arts and Crafts style have always appealed to me, with their designs drawn from natural forms. However, what I think is particularly special about this object is the numerous links it has with different parts of our collections, from the building in which our collections are housed to local history and to the rural life and craft traditions which the Museum seeks to document and celebrate. The design of the vase has a simple beauty and a very satisfying symmetry, with the stylised plant/seed head motif gradually reducing in size as the vase tapers upwards – it would look wonderful in an Arts and Crafts-style fireplace filled with teazels!

Picture of the Month #1: The John Tarlton Collection

written by Caroline Benson, Photographic Assistant.

The current temporary exhibition at MERL features the work of the photographer John Tarlton. This wonderful collection came to the museum in 2004 and  now, on the completion of the Rural Images Discovered Project,  we are ready to promote its full commercial potential.

A 'typical Essex college interior'

A ‘typical Essex cottage interior’

These two photographs showing domestic scenes & farmhouse interiors are quite a departure from Tarlton’s usual images. They are both quarter plate glass negatives and are amongst only a very few glass plates in the Tarlton Collection. I am often asked for interior shots by picture researchers and so I was particularly excited to find these – I was also pleased when the fireside image was used in the recently published Pitkin guide “Life on the Farm”.

'Typical Essex farmhouse kitchen showing C16th beams'

‘Typical Essex farmhouse kitchen showing C16th beams’

Little is known about the two photographs. The fireside image is described on the negative envelope as “Typical Essex cottage interior; farm bailiff & his wife” and the other as “Typical Essex farmhouse kitchen showing C16th beams.” I feel the longer I look at these two photographs the more I see, until I can almost hear the tick of the clock, and certainly the smell of pipe tobacco.

Volunteers’ Voice #2: National Volunteers Week

written by Rob Davies, Volunteer Coordinator.

The year has swung round once again and it is already National Volunteers Week. Every year from 1st – 7th June organisations who work with, involve or are entirely volunteer-run, celebrate all the hard work, dedication, enthusiasm and laughter that volunteers bring.

Volunteer Coordinator Rob Davies gets the opinions of a couple of volunteers

Volunteer Coordinator Rob Davies gets the opinions of a couple of volunteers

I believe it is important to recognise and celebrate volunteers, not only does it show volunteers that we recognise and value them but it also encourages people to continue volunteering. Organisations up and down the country are holding a variety of celebrations for their volunteers, and this year we have opted for a garden party. As the weather is currently providing us with glorious sunshine, I could not resist a garden party and the opportunity to wear my white blazer.

As well as recognising the contribution that volunteers give during this one week of the year, I believe it is important to be constantly thanking volunteers. We also hold a Christmas party and this year we had a choir along with Father Christmas. We also have an annual outing which is always well attended; this year we visited Portsmouth City Museum and the D-Day Museum. Along with these grand gestures we hold tea parties to celebrate the end of projects, provide thank-you and birthday cards, and most importantly we say thank you. There are of course cost implications to these forms of recognition, as during these days of budget slashing it can be difficult and even feel impossible to provide any form of celebration. If you’re looking for a way to fund an event to recognise volunteers here are a few ideas: you could include volunteer celebrations in funding bids that include working with volunteers, visit a free local site for the day, use your organisation as a venue and buy the refreshments only. Think outside of the box, talk to volunteers to see what they would like to do and whatever you do, volunteers will appreciate it.

Our fantastic volunteers in the MERL Garden this week

Our fantastic volunteers in the MERL Garden this week

Volunteers are the life and soul of this country, and without them many services would not be delivered, and millions benefit from people willingly giving their time. Now is your chance to say thank you.