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Interview with Mary Dykes at Craft in the Bay, Cardiff Bay, 18 September 2016.


The Chronicle Project is a community heritage project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and run by VCS Cymru with the aims to document the history of volunteering in Cardiff, from 1914 to 2014.

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MD = Mary Dykes, AN = Alexandra Nita, LT = Lara Taffer

[Introduction - 0:09 to 0:48]

MD: My name is Mary, I was born in London and lived in the southeast of England, during my childhood, went to college in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and then moved out to London, and then came to South Wales in 1974. So I’ve been here for a long time but I don’t think I really count as Welsh, but my both sons are Welsh. When I retired from my job, I decided I’d like to come and volunteer in Craft in the Bay, so I came here about 3 years ago now and I love it.

AN: What made you decide you wanted to volunteer with Craft in the Bay?
[Volunteering with Craft in the Bay - 0:56 to 1:47]
MD: Actually, a friend told me about it, and said they were volunteering opportunities, and Lynn and I used to work together at the hospital, and I trusted she knew what I would enjoy too, and so actually we started together, she had started and I joined her. Now we do different days because it’s nice to try and help the organisation by coming on days when they need somebody, so it works perfectly really because I look at my diary and decide which day I’ve got free and I can come, which days they need somebody, and so I do 2 or 3 days a month, sometimes a little bit more, sometimes a bit less, but it suits us both so it’s great.

AN: That’s perfect. What kind of activities and tasks do you do when you volunteer here?
[Tasks and activities while volunteering - 1:53 to 2:56]
MD: Actually, I do all sorts of things when I come here. It’s sometimes I mop the floor, sometimes I dust, which is lovely because you can touch things, you have to be very careful, because you don’t want to break anything, but when the makers come in, they pick up their own work, and I think ‘oh be careful you’ll break it!’ but no it’s a treat to actually do the dusting but we also lay work out, and what do I do? All sorts of things, we sell things, and wrap things up, give customers information about the makers, if the maker’s actually here, I introduce them to the maker which is lovely, and sometimes we help lay out the new exhibitions, because there’s a new exhibition about every six weeks here which is interesting.

AN: Do you have to do research for the exhibitions?
MD: I don’t, I usually - my research goes as far as asking Charlotte who is the exhibition manager, What’s going on? Or Cindy, or Simon. But no, I think some of the work experiences students do do internet searching and things, but I don’t like computers, I’m too old for that. I’m a dinosaur.

AN: So you help more with arranging exhibition and arranging displays?

MD: Yes, just tidying up because things get, and you know moved around and not displayed at their best, so I go around sort of just make sure everything looks good and fill gaps where we’ve sold thing and people haven’t had a chance to restock from the stocks rooms. There’s loads of things to do.

AN: What would you say are your favourite activities?
[Favorite parts about volunteering and alking with customers - 4:08 to 4:47]
MD: Actually, talking to customers, I like that. Sometimes I know the customers, some of the people I’ve worked with or who I recognized from Cardiff and so that’s a lovely surprise, but I love meeting the makers and working with them because they chat about what inspires them or how they make things. And it’s really interesting. It’s such a privilege sort of just hearing how they do things, and some of them are very very modest, and they shouldn’t be.

AN: Because they do wonderful things?

MD: They do yes. We can quite a lot of people who come in from London, who come down for say The Welsh National Opera or something and they come in here in the afternoon and they just think this is so lovely because compared with the gallery prices in London, the prices here are good. And they do seem expensive to some people because it’s you know it’s artworks, but you know that’s, well we get coachloads in sometimes, we get trips from different parts of the country, we also have visitors from all over the world, who call in, which is lovely that’s interesting, I always check up where they from, what they’re doing, if they’re enjoying Cardiff. And we’re quite a good service for pointing out where to go next?

AN: It’s lovely, do you help with any of the workshops that take place here?
[Workshops at Craft in the Bay - 5:55 to 7:11]
MD: No, I don’t. I wouldn’t trust myself to do much in the way of helping creatively. I helped with – I’m on the friends committee and we plan friends activities which is mainly, afternoon meetings for meet the maker, when we have a maker come and talk to us about how they got into it or inspires them, how they do it, that sort of thing. I usually make the cakes, we give up tea and coffee in this conference room here, that’s 3, 4 5 times a year, but we also do studio visits which are good to some of the locals makers, and just, the friends group is quite small, and we’ve always sort of tried to increase numbers, but it’s a nucleus of people, how many are on it? about 80 people are friends, so we were relatively small.

AN: Do you have regular meetings?
[Volunteer meetings - 7:13 to 7:28]
MD: We do, but just as when we need them really, just when we need to do some more planning, Simon usually calls it and Desmond the chair, we just get together up here usually

AN: Would you say that volunteering with Craft in the Bay, has made you closer to the community?
[Volunteering and the community - 7:41 to 8:18]
MD: Well, I used to be a social worker, so I was pretty close to the community then, and I worked with lots of volunteering organisations then, so when I first retried I actually worked Age Concern, and I think volunteering has just been part of, you know accepting that it’s a good thing to do, I enjoy it, I like meeting people, keeps my brain active, it’s really interesting, so yeah.

AN: What sort of activities did you do with Age Concern?
[Volunteering with Age Concern - 8:22 to 8:50]
MD: Oh, I helped them in a charity shop, sorting, sorting out things, selling things, it was - just because I knew what a lot of good work they used to do for some of the patients I knew, I just wanted to help out, and it’s just fun, I’m retired, I retired, so I could play full time. So I play full time as it were, doing volunteering work, and lots of others things.

AN: What are the voluntary works do you do?
[Other volunteering projects - 8:53 to 9:01]
MD: Nothing, just looking after my grandson once a week, that’s voluntary work too but its lovely.

AN: Have you volunteered with other organisations in the past?

MD: No, because I’ve always been extremely busy. No, I think when you are a social worker, you work sort of ten hours a day, you don’t feel you’ve got anything left, you’ve got to recharge your own batteries really, and look after the children in the house and everything, so…

AN: In the charity shop, with Age Concern, what would the day at the charity shop look like?
[Volunteering with charity shops - 9:39 to 10:49]
MD: Oh, gosh. Well their shops are closed now, because they were having to regroup and some things, but what would it look like? Actually, when you are volunteering, the days aren’t routine, that part of the joy of volunteering, everything is very different, and you could be asked to sort of sort out bags of donations, or you could be sorting books, or you could be arranging - I quite enjoy, the laying out of the window displays. That was a bit of me that I haven’t really explored before, just looking the colors and sort of shapes, doing a window display that was eye-catching out of stuff we’d been given, which was quite challenge sometimes you’re never given quite the right things, but it was nice to find things that worked and caught people’s eyes.

AN: Was that in anyway similarly to the work you’re doing with Craft in the Bay?
[Comparing volunteer experiences - 10:56 to 11:19]
MD: I suppose the sort of colours, yes, I check the thing that things go nicely, there’s a slightly artistic element about that, but probably that’s the most. We’re very careful to wrap things up very beautifully in Craft in the Bay, you don’t get the chance to wrap things up, particularly in a charity shop.

AN: It’s true yes. What about memories of volunteering, which would be the best moments that come to mind or events you’ve taken part in?
[Best memories of volunteering - 11:31 to 12:11]
MD: Some of the makers, who’ve been in the, to meet the makers sessions had been so interesting, I’ve really - I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed any of those, I’ve really really enjoyed them all. But bumping to people here and to get chatting and discover if you have friends in common, you know anything, whoa, what a small world it is. I just enjoy everyday when I’m here.
AN: That’s great. Could you tell me also if volunteering has affected in other areas in your life, so family life or maybe, I wouldn’t say career because this is...


[Volunteering and other aspects of life - 12:28 to 12:32]
MD: Certainly not career, I’m too old for a career, thank you.
AN: Have you inspired any other members of your family to volunteer as well?
MD: No, because they’ve got their hands full for small children, but I suppose talking friends in my book circle, my ladies who lunch group, things like that, they’ve not realized Craft in the Bay do take volunteers, and so, you know, that sometimes thought – I’ve explained how it works, that you don’t have to commit to one or two day a week regularly, that you can fit in with how you’re needed, so I think that does attract people, I don’ t know whether it’s actually resulted in people joining the organisation and coming in.

AN: It has made it better known?
MD: Yes, oh yes, I’m always, I do actually email things on to people to say we’ve got a meeting, come and meet the maker…

AN: Would you say volunteering changed you in anyway?
[Volunteering and impact on one's perspective - 13:56 to 14:38]
MD: Changed me, oh gosh. Probably, I suppose it broadened my horizons, because when you are in a career, life-long carrier, you have, you know, it takes you down certain paths. And, so it’s brought me into a much more creative world and when people have wonderful imaginations and creativity, so I suppose that….. so it’s broadened my horizons.

AN: Do you think your volunteering impacts the wilder community, or contributes in one way or another to society?
[Volunteering's impact on community - 14:51 to 15:34]
MD: Do you know – when I was working, I thought, the newly retired actually kept society going because so many organisations relied on volunteering staff to do the all the extras that will be lovely to do if you, professionals would like to do, but don’t have time to do. And cutbacks certainly in local authority services and some of the public services, you can’t do the all things that you used to do, or people would like to do. So volunteer organisations add that sort of extra which is so lovely.

AN: When you are a social worker, you mentioned you worked with couple of authority organisations and volunteer organisations. Could you describe some of those collaborations, give examples?
[Other examples of volunteering - 15:51 to 17:45]
MD: Oh gosh, I worked in a hospital setting, so we used to have people come in who were homeless or who had a drug dependency or who needed linking up with all sorts of organisations. We also had people who were frail and elderly who lived on their own so we’d link them up with Age Concern. And I worked with a group of people who had haemophilia and other viral problems so there were a lot of organisations that we linked in with. Actually, if you’ve got a wide range of voluntary organisations in your head as a social worker, you can link people up with all sorts of services that might help and do some of the things that you haven’t got time to do yourself. So I just think that adds to the quality of the service you can offer, to signpost people to other services.
There are loads of medical charities and I mostly worked in the health setting, linking people in with the MS Society, or Parkinson’s Disease Society, or any of the organisations that support people with health problems and their carers. Could be useful, it didn’t suit everybody but it did suit some.

AN: What does volunteering mean to you?
[Defining volunteering - 17:52 to 18:31]
MD: What volunteering means to me? I think probably I’m sort of fairly socially aware and you just want to do a bit that will help.
It will actually help you as well as helping other people. But its, I enjoy sort of… huh… what, no it’s too difficult! I can’t answer that!

AN: Can you give examples of how volunteering helped you? Day to day examples.
[How volunteering can help one personally - 18:38 to 19:28]
MD: When you retire, you go from being extremely busy, full-time, 50 hours a week, whatever, to not working, and the first few weeks seem like a holiday and then you think “Gosh, I’ve got to organise my time!” And so volunteering along with playing badminton and doing all sorts of other things becomes part of the structure of the week, and adds variety to your life. So it helped me structure life when there had been a great big change. Much as I love being retired, you still gotta organise your own time. So yes, that was a contribution to that.

AN: Do you want to add anything else?
[Summing up and final definition - 19:34 to 19:37]
MD: No, I think you’ve quizzed me to death! [laughs]

AN: Klavdija and Lara do you have any questions?

LT: But I don’t want to give you another difficult one! – I would just think, we were trying to gather different definitions of volunteering, because it means different things to different people, and that’s kind of the question I was getting at. What does volunteering mean to you? A definition – it doesn’t have to be the emotional aspect of what it means to you.
KE: How would you define it?
MD: Volunteering – giving your time to an organisation that needs your time really. I actually probably wouldn’t volunteer for an organisation that I didn’t value and want to help. And there are loads of wonderful organisations and a lot of charities that I wouldn’t necessarily support, because I tend to go for the human charities, but who do good work. And I just think, now my time is my own, I can do exactly what I like, so I’ll do this.

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