“I don't believe that 2017 was the beginning and the end, more that it's lit the touchpaper.”

Joanne Whittaker Volunteer

Meet Joanne

Joanne Whittaker was so passionate about being an ambassador for her hometown that she signed up to be a Hull UK City of Culture 2017 volunteer while seven months pregnant.

Not only did she volunteer right up until two weeks before her due date and was back on shift within a fortnight of giving birth but she convinced her husband Rob to sign up to be a volunteer too.

Even their daughter Violet – who was a 35-week bump when her mum got her volunteer uniform and is now 11 months old – got in on the action.

Joanne, who is also mum to Thomas, 6, and Tobey, 2, said: “I had a home birth so was keen Violet didn’t miss out on Born Into A City of Culture but within three hours of being born, my midwife popped back with the printing kit to take her footprint so she could be part of the artwork.”

“I feel very lucky that I can say that all of my children took part in the year and made their mark. As an early years practitioner, it means a lot to me that every single person, no matter how small, can make a difference to an exceptional year. You are never too young to get involved and be proud of where you have come from.

“I grew up being in the minority being proud of where I was from. I moved to Chester for University and was mocked for being from “the cul-de-sac at the end of the M62” and remained fiercely proud of Hull. I know my kids won’t have the same experience; they already have a city that has shown we have plenty to be proud of, that has a much more positive perception globally.”

Joanne added: “The most beautiful aspect of the volunteering programme is that you can fit it to your lifestyle perfectly. You can pick and choose so it never feels like a chore or that you have to fit it in. You never feel like you’re letting someone down if your kids are unwell, or have gymnastics competitions or if things as a mum in general just feel like a bit much! I cannot thank the organisers enough for giving us total control as it allows us to always feel like we can offer something, even if at times that something is a pretty small amount – it’s all valued.”

“I’ve decided to stay on because I enjoy getting to know more about our city and what better way to keep informed about events and venues than working in them? I enjoy it as a bit of time for me, a place where I’m not just “mum” and can share interests. I also feel it would be a shame if the year ended after we have made such amazing improvements not just in the infrastructure and cultural offerings but also in people’s attitudes and willingness to get out and try things… there’s so much more to do!

“I don’t believe that 2017 was the beginning and the end, more that it’s lit the touchpaper.”

Meet our volunteers

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Meet Gary

Meet Gary