Friday, July 10, 2015

Brantford Villages - Hard Core Volunteering

A year and a half ago I was finishing up my Master of Library and Information Science degree, and took a course on "The Creative Economy." One of my assignments in this course was to report on a festival, and so I developed this short video about the Brantford Villages. The video is about 8 minutes long, and looks at how the festival shares and celebrates traditional knowledge (aka information).

Brantford Villages from Erica Dudszus on Vimeo.

It gets a bit dry and library-science-y around the 3 minute mark, but in summary: as a result of many, many volunteers, the Brantford Villages continues to create a really unique representation of the changing local immigrant culture. Although the dances and programs may be similar year after year, the experience of the Villages is one that goes, for the most part, unrecorded, undocumented.

The focus of this report was information, which in this context was the traditional cultural knowledge shared and displayed at the Villages. What wasn't relevant to the report, but that I feel very strongly about, is that this truly amazing festival is made precarious by its total reliance on volunteer labour and non-annualized grant funding.

The coordinating committee of the festival puts in an insane amount of hours. The treasurer, secretary, villages chair - none of these are paid positions, though they are responsible for chairing numerous meetings, meticulously reporting attendance and volunteer efforts to funders, and securing grants so the festival can run for yet another year. Also putting in many hours are the coordinating members at each club. I know people that used to regularly take two weeks off work for the Villages, which obviously leads to burn out. Unfortunately, working volunteers beyond the time they can reasonably contribute doesn't make for a healthy organization, which is a problem that many organizations participating in the Villages face on a regular basis, not just at this time of the year.

While I almost always hear unequivocal praise from festival attendees, I think the volunteer efforts should be more widely acknowledged - what they have accomplished for decades is absolutely astounding.