As Sam Clift (Volunteer Coordinator) put it to me, what better way to ease my way into writing the volunteer blog than to attend the Acton Depot on the first day of the Open Weekend in October? So on Saturday 6th I reported at 10:30am sharp (having spectacularly underestimated how long it would take the Piccadilly line to deliver me to Acton Town), just in time for the volunteers’ briefing by Barry Le Jeune (Friends Chairman). I was surprised by the number of visitors already waiting for entry when I arrived, probably more than 50.
The amount of care and effort that had gone into the organisation of the event was impressive. I understand that these open days have been running for a few years now, which must help in their planning and execution. A large level of high quality volunteer activity was very obviously essential to the successful delivery of the Open Weekend, to the extent that this first blog post will concentrate on the overall feeling of the Open Weekend and next week’s will look more closely at some of the individual activities and contributions.
At 11 o’clock the doors opened, and immediately there was a rush on the LTM stand, not to mention the Friends’ stand and also quite a few of the other stalls as well. The better organised visitors obviously like to get their purchasing done early in order not to miss any rare items. Most noticeable was the large selection of A60/A62 stock artefacts and memorabilia for sale, and in the course of the day I saw many people carrying around luggage racks. Speaking for myself, I very nearly bought a destination screen unit, but consideration of how this might be received when I proudly unveiled it once back at home weighed against it in the end.
The depot soon started filling up with visitors, and by 12 o’clock it was looking really busy in some of the more popular areas. Obvious crowd pleasers were the bus rides, particularly (but not surprisingly) RM1, although RT1700 from London Bus Company also did sterling service; the taxi display and cab rides organised thanks to the significant presence and contribution of the London Vintage Taxi Association; the Acton Model Railway attracted a long queue of passengers as the day progressed, and the children’s activities on the mezzanine area was also noticeably busy.
Walking around the depot site I had the opportunity to speak to a number of volunteers and it immediately became apparent that they all have a great interest in the work of the museum, and a deep commitment to it. All were busy cheerfully dealing with the public, answering questions on every imaginable topic (I certainly surprised myself when I was able to help one man with his question about a Gardner bus engine). I’m quite sure that the unfailing helpfulness of the volunteers contributed greatly to giving the whole event its friendly and welcoming feeling – there was a great buzz in the air from start to finish.
Saturday was blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine, so many visitors ate outside at the back of the depot building in the rear yard, and a long queue soon developed at the hot snack van. I also saw several volunteers grabbing a quick tray of chips…!
Our visitors covered a diverse range, and a gratifyingly high number of families with children were present. It was very noticeable that in some the older family members were busy reminiscing, whilst in others, a youngster would be explaining an arcane point of detail to a bemused adult!
From about 4pm onwards visitors started to make their way home, the view along the entry road resembling the retreat of a victorious army as people carried home their prized purchases of all sorts, shapes and sizes. I had to remind myself that for many of the volunteers, the show would happen all over again tomorrow.
Dave Olney, LTM Volunteer