Today (4th October), Spirit of 2012 is announcing the award of four grants totalling nearly £1million to enable four locations to strengthen their local volunteering infrastructure, building on the momentum from their UK City of Culture 2025 bid.

The four places that will receive grants are: Bradford, Conwy, Great Yarmouth and East Suffolk, and Medway. In May this year, Bradford was confirmed as UK City of Culture 2025.

Building on the success of legacy volunteering programmes such as HEY! Volunteering from Hull UK City of Culture 2017, Spirit created the Volunteering Cities Fund to enable more UK cities to reap the benefits of events-driven volunteering, irrespective of whether they’ve won the designation. We invited the 20 locations that submitted an expression of interest to become 2025 UK City of Culture to apply for a share of the fund earlier this year.

The funding will be used by each of the Volunteering Cities to:

  • strengthen the existing volunteering infrastructure in their location, with a clear plan for how this will be delivered over the long term;
  • identify and engage a cohort of new volunteers who stand to benefit from volunteering with the project, and measure its impact on them;
  • generate insights into a number of key areas, including the rural volunteering infrastructure, how to recruit and retain people who are least likely to volunteer, and how an inclusive and diverse volunteering offer can deliver community wellbeing and culture-led regeneration strategies.

Each of the four cities will receive £200,000, with additional funding of up to £50,000 to cover costs that reduce barriers for people taking part, such as access costs. The projects are expected to last between two and two and a half years, with all grant funding spent by end of March 2025.

We aim to understand how the momentum of the bid process can be a platform to designing sustainable volunteer programmes, and a catalyst for social connectedness and partnership working. Evaluation of the Volunteering Cities programme will be carried out by Neighbourly Lab.

Claire McColgan, Director of Culture Liverpool, and UK City of Culture judge, said:

“Event legacy is not just a nice to have, it can turbo-charge the social value and prosperity of a place. Previous UK Cities of Culture have shown us that they are a springboard for vibrant, inclusive volunteering programmes. This funding from Spirit of 2012 will explore how the bid process itself can be a catalyst, equipping four places to build sustainable community volunteering for years to come.”

Ruth Hollis, CEO, Spirit of 2012 said:

“I’m delighted to announce these four grants today, and would like to congratulate the successful bidding ‘cities’. We’ve known for some time now how volunteering delivers benefits for people, communities and places, benefits which have really come to the fore over the last two years of pandemic and lockdown.

“Big events like the UK City of Culture and the Commonwealth Games have created incredible volunteering legacies for their host cities, but these big-ticket opportunities are few and far between. An incredible amount of work, energy and passion goes into preparing City of Culture bids, and whether successful or not, they have the potential to grow and evolve, and give ‘cities’ the opportunity to build on existing provision to create a sustainable local volunteering programme.”

Further Information

Volunteering Cities 
Bradford Cultural Volunteering Programme
Amdani Conwy! (Go Conwy!)
Cultural Connections
Medway Makers