In 2018 I stepped down from the SHARE Museums East Volunteer Awards after helping out since 2015. Last year, the SHARE team asked if I wanted to be a Judge on the panel. YES! I said. This was going to be my year. A time where I can still be involved but not be swept up in the organising of the event. But, like my 40th birthday plans at the end of March, things slowly began to drift away

As someone who has always struggled to manage my own expectations, I realised that I had probably allowed the excitement to go to my head. This would have been the 5th Awards to have taken place and I was spending way too much time thinking about what to wear. I was chuffed to be asked by the SHARE team and to top it all, the ceremony was to take place at Bressingham Steam & Gardens, which I have wanted to go to for ages. As more and more things began to get cancelled due to COVID -19, I began to accept what I saw as the inevitable. Just like my hair appointment and the dentist. Cancellation.

Niki playing with ducklings at the 2018 SHARE Volunteer Awards at the Museum of East Anglian Life
Happy memories of the last award ceremony in 2018 at the Museum of East Anglian Life

An email from Sally at SHARE a few weeks into lockdown changed everything. “We are moving online!”.

Woohoo! We are back on.

I had no idea what it was like to be on a judging panel and was really surprised and delighted by the joy that I took in reading the applications. There were five judges in total and we each took responsibility for one or two of the categories, which were True Grit, Through the Door, Outstanding Young Volunteer, Trustee, Digital Volunteers, Silver Owl and a Judges Special Award. Most of the categories had a Group and Individual category

I was initially given the Through the Door Award to read through; the first nomination that I read through really was very good. As strong team of dedicated volunteers who were focused on creating and delivering LTBGQ+ tours in a number of University Museums in Cambridge.

Hold on… Gah! Conflict of interests! In all the excitement, I had completely forgotten that my colleague, Jen Bull, had nominated the UCM Bridging Binaries Volunteers, which is a project I work closely on. A swift email to the chair of the judges meant that I was swapped to the True Grit category instead.

With the judging complete, the SHARE team set about getting us judges a meeting with an AV expert. The plan was to have a prerecorded event that will then be put out of the SHARE YouTube page on 4 June to coincide with National Volunteer Week. This meant that the pressure was definitely off with regards to a live stream; I just had to cope with the cringeworthy feeling of seeing and hearing myself online. I was also going to have to brush my hair and put a bit of makeup on for the first time what felt like forever!

SHARE East Volunteer Awards glass trophies in a line
Virtual trophies this year….

And then there was the event. It was fun! Even though I knew who all the winners were, SHARE created a really lovely sense of occasion and I know that some museums shared their screens on Zoom so that they could watch it all together with their volunteers. As for the winners of the Through the Door Award, which I wasn’t allowed to vote on…. The UCM Bridging Binaries Volunteers won the Team Award. I am not sure that I did very well at keeping my Poker Face with my colleagues….so I may have ruined the sense of occasion for them. But, I was very proud of the volunteers and THIS WAS MY YEAR!

If you want to watch the awards in all their glory, you can visit the SHARE Museums East YouTube page below.