British Motor Museum Volunteers

British Motor Museum Volunteers

Friday 12 April 2024

Don't Just Sit There - Volunteer!

By Cameron Slater

In January, the organisers of Retromobile, one of the biggest European classic car shows, offered British Motor Museum the opportunity to provide the centre piece for the 2024 event marking 100 years of MG. They also provided a stand and, for the first time ever, volunteers who spoke French were needed to help run the stand. I’ve always wanted to visit this event and I’ve been a volunteer for the past eight years, speak passable French and I rather liked the idea of a few days in Paris at someone else’s expense so of course I signed up. 

Sadly, I didn’t see anything of the City of Light. Three staff and two volunteers (the French speakers!) were cocooned in the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre for the first three days of the show. And what a three days! The Museum’s stand displayed Paddy Hopkirk’s Monte Carlo Rally Mini Cooper S which attracted loads of French people who were passionate about the Mini. One man had 30! It was absolutely a great experience.

Now, volunteering isn’t always as glamorous (!) as the Paris event but it is always interesting and rewarding. Normally, my job is looking after the cars in the Collections Centre and answering visitors’ questions. But they don’t ask many questions - they just want to tell stories about their own cars, about childhood memories of cars, about going on holiday to the seaside with the whole family of five and their luggage for the fortnight in a Mini! I think sometimes memories are exaggerated but they’re always endlessly fascinating.

So my role is actually a listening one but on the guided tours of the Collections Centre the visitors listen to me – mostly! A successful tour is one where the visitors laugh at my jokes or give me a round of applause at the end. But the real reward is when someone says, ”You’ve made my day.” 

I also volunteer in the History Talks project, and give presentations such as The Jaguar E-type, The Land Rover or The Mini, and we’re now working on The History of MG. We’ve visited clubs and societies in Northampton, Banbury, Kineton, Bloxham and the Warwick Words Festival three times. 

So book one of our History Talks for your club. Morning, afternoon or evening, we’ll be there.