VOLUNTEERS WEEK, MAIR CRAIG

For me, the best thing about volunteering is the sense of achievement when we overcome barriers to pull off something amazing.

I’m one of a team of volunteers who run Sinema Sadwrn, a community cinema based in Llansadwrn, west Wales. For such a small place, Llansadwrn has a lot of committees – one for the annual show, one for the Reading Room (our small community hall), a community council and more besides. However, the closure of Llansadwrn school in 2017 was a blow to village life, and setting up Sinema Sadwrn was one of the ways the community reacted to it.

A group of us came together in 2018, keen to offer a new, regular, social event in the village that could bring people of all ages together. It was all hands on deck at the beginning, but with support from people like Cinema for All, we’ve learnt to organise ourselves to make the best use of our different skills and experiences.

Our committee of volunteers includes a Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, marketing officer, technical whizz and me. I look after film programming and licensing. Through volunteering, I’ve built relationships with Film Hub Wales and the BFI amongst others, and developed a broader knowledge of film. I also seek out Welsh-made short films to show before our main features, which involves quite a bit of research – it’s lovely to find new talent ready to share their work. Our village has a mix of English and Welsh speakers and all our posters and programmes are bilingual, so I also take care of any translation work.

For me, the best thing about volunteering is the sense of achievement when we overcome barriers to pull off something amazing. Last summer, we put on a free screening in a marquee on the village field as part of the Llansadwrn ‘big party’. Faced with expensive costs and practical challenges, we turned to the community for support. We raised funds through sponsorship to cover the outdoor license fee and bought some improvised black-out material (garden weed barrier) to convert the marquee into a cinema. It was a busy few weeks and an exhausting day, but I think we all felt proud of our efforts as we sat down to enjoy a cheesy musical with the community.

Volunteering can be hard work – the toughest aspect for me is trying not to overcommit. There have been points where I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and I’m sure other volunteers have felt the same way. I work full time and fit in cinema commitments around that, so it’s helped me value my time and I’m gradually learning to balance things better. It’s important to know what’s achievable within your means, and to ask for help if you’re struggling. I’m lucky to have a friendly team to fall back on, and we regularly review workloads and responsibilities at our meetings.

It’s really rewarding to feel that we’re working as a team to do something positive for our community, and great to hear from our audience that they like what we’re doing.