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Durham University

Colleges & wider student experience

Student news

Could you be a Lumiere maker?

(9 October 2019)

Durham University student Leon Xiao at Lumiere Durham 2017

Leon Xiao at Lumiere Durham 2017

Lumiere, the UK's largest light festival, returns to Durham in November. One way to get involved is as a volunteer Festival Maker. Leon Xiao, a Law student from Beijing, was a Festival Maker last time, in 2017, and has already signed up for this year. Here, he tells us about his experience.

Question: How did you find out about Lumiere volunteering opportunities?

Answer: I was looking into how to get tickets for Lumiere on the official website and noticed that I can also volunteer for it. I also saw a stall advertising volunteering for Lumiere at the part-time job and volunteering fair ran by the Durham Students' Union.

Q: What made you decide to volunteer?

A: I wanted to learn about the volunteering culture in the UK and to add transferable skills to my CV. I was also really curious to go behind the scenes to learn about what the support staff has to do to ensure that a major community event goes smoothly.

Q: What did you do as a volunteer?

A: I spent my first evening at the Botanic Garden initially serving as the first point of contact for queueing visitors, and then later switched with another student volunteer to instead present safety briefings to large groups. I spent my second evening at Durham Cathedral crowd-controlling.

Q: What did you learn?

A: Being put on the spot to memorise and present a three-minute safety briefing was very good practice of impromptu public speaking. In addition, presenting to very encouraging visitors was much less daunting than presenting in professional and academic environments. This is a good way to build up experience. My evening volunteering at the Cathedral demonstrated to me the community spirit that existed between the older residents of the city.

Q: Will anything you learned help you in the future?

A: I really appreciated this opportunity as it is very relevant to the legal career I am pursuing. I have relied on my volunteering experience, specifically practicing my public speaking skills, for successful internship and work experience applications, including a paid position with Durham University. The interviewer specifically cited my volunteering experience with Lumiere as one of the reasons for choosing me for the position.

Q: Would you recommend other students volunteer and if so why?

A: I would definitely recommend all students to volunteer because this is a great opportunity to get yourself involved in the local community beyond the University. Particularly, I would invite international students to volunteer because this is a great opportunity to practice your English language skills.

Volunteering at Lumiere will allow you to gain and practice transferable skills that are useful in future careers and much desired by recruiters. However, more importantly, volunteering at Lumiere is just really fun. You get to see what goes on behind the scenes of a major light festival.

Q: What was the highlight or most memorable thing about Lumiere for you?

A: The incredible number of visitors who came through Durham Cathedral!

Q: Can you offer any tips to would-be volunteers?

A: Put on as many layers of clothing as you can and definitely wear gloves to stay warm! The organisers helpfully provide handwarmers and hot drinks during breaks. But it does get really really cold later into the night. It’s best to come prepared!

For more information on being a Festival Maker, click here