Tramshed Theatre: What has volunteering ever done for me?

We catch up with Shelley Nicholson as she shares her experience of volunteering with the Tramshed Team

I am known by many names, but you can call me Shelley! So, whilst I sit here, with a nice cup of tea, in this hybrid world between lockdown and freedom, I am thinking about volunteering and in particular reflecting on my time volunteering at TramShed. I have spent a lot of hours, over the years, and used a lot of energy in meetings, sessions, rehearsals and show weeks, in a volunteering capacity. Looking back, I have given a lot! However, what has volunteering ever given me in return?

It has enhanced my skills! 

Just for starters, volunteering at TramShed has allowed me to enhance a number of skills. This includes communication, teamwork and problem solving skills, as I have been able to utilise these in a different environment with a diverse mix of people. I have improved my knowledge of different impairments and the needs arising. As a result, I now have a greater awareness of those around me, and knowledge about how I can better support them. Finally, I have developed my own performance skills, including voice projection, acting skills and stage awareness. Although, I haven’t been taught how to use coconuts to make the sound of a horse galloping, I am not ruling out that that will happen in the future.

Ok, so that’s true, volunteering has enhanced my skills, but what other return have I had from volunteering? 

It has increased my self-confidence! 

Walking into a room or logging on to a screen where you are greeted with such enthusiasm and joy, cannot fail to increase your self-confidence. By supporting others and enabling others to participate, you get a feeling of accomplishment. I often finish a session feeling proud of myself for enabling someone to be included and do something that, perhaps, would not have happened without my help; however minimal that help has been. 

Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you it has enhanced my skills and increased my self- confidence.

It has provided me with fun times! 

Anyone who has ever accessed TramShed, from dancing to tunes, whilst playing pass the movement to working in groups or breakout rooms, to script rehearsal, there is one word that connects them, fun! We have a fun time, we have a laugh, we share and support each other and there is no difference between members, volunteers or Arts Practitioners, everyone joins in and everyone has fun, teaching us to always look on the bright side of life.

Oh yeah, obviously it’s given me fun times. I mean fun goes without saying, doesn’t it? But, apart from enhancing my skills, increasing my self-confidence and fun times…

It has given me a sense of purpose! 

This is particularly true in times of flux in my own life, when I have thought what purpose? Volunteering has given me direction, when things have been tough and have left me floundering. It has enabled me to help and support others, given me a reason to focus and has helped give me clarity to positively move forward. 

It has helped my career!

Volunteering within the TramShed community provided me with a lightbulb moment in respect of my career. It meant that when I retrained as an English teacher, I knew I wanted to undertake a Special Educational Needs (SEN) specialism. Volunteering enabled me to gain knowledge in this area, giving me valuable experience that I was able to apply in the classroom.

It has helped me to counteract stress and anxiety! 

The physical act of participating in a session, joining in a warmup, interacting with members, or taking part in a group activity, immediately reduces my stress levels. I can walk into or log on to a session feeling extremely overwrought and on my last nerve and by the end of the session, I am smiling naturally, feel extremely proud of what everyone has achieved, and feel much more positive in general. 

Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough, but…

It has allowed me to connect with others! 

Volunteering at TramShed has connected me with people; I might never have connected with. I have had the pleasure and reaped the benefit of interacting with a diverse mix of people, from differing backgrounds, capabilities and locations. As a result, I have made life-long connections that are important to me and have given me a sense of belonging.

Yeah! Yeah, that’s something I’d really miss, if I stopped volunteering.

It has been a massive support during the pandemic!

This last year or so has been something completely different. The pandemic has affected everyone in some way but throughout I have had TramShed. Still volunteering, but through a screen! We have all learnt together how to adapt, how to interact and connect and to chat through the electronic device of choice. It has been a constant part of my week and at times has been the only constant, which I would not have had without volunteering. 

All right, so apart from:

  • enhancing my skills; 
  • increasing my self-confidence;
  • providing fun times; 
  • giving me a sense of purpose, 
  • helping my career; 
  • reducing my stress and anxiety; 
  • allowing me to connect with others; and 
  • been a massive support during lockdowns and all the times since, and in-between, 
What has volunteering at TramShed ever done for me?
It has made me feel happy!
Shelley Nicholson
TramShed Volunteer Team


Find out more about TramShed Theatre


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