Michelle, our wonderfully fabulous volunteer coordinator at ILFD (International Literature Festival Dublin) had promised several benefits of volunteering at the festival in our induction. The chance to give something back, meeting like-minded people, getting a glimpse of the work behind a festival and access to shows were, of course, all part of the pitch. However, my experience of the week made me reflect on how she had possibly undersold the experience to us. The benefits are less tangible and so hard to put into words but by the following Sunday night, I felt like I had just finished a great book. Exhilarated, inspired, emotional and lonely to say goodbye to a bunch of great characters, which had become part of my family.
On the day Meaghan Markle finally slipped into that eagerly awaited wedding dressed, I slipped into a new outfit of my own – a bright red tee shirt sporting the words ILFD volunteer and headed off to my first shift in the sunshine filled grounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral. My shift at the family fun day involved taking care of the face painting corner and ensuring the line of 5 and 6-year-olds didn’t get too boisterous, filling a kettle for one of those happy pear boyos (can I know put cooking with international chefs on my CV?) and meeting fellow volunteers and finding out about life in South America.
There was just time to have some ice cream between shifts with my friend Rory and his two daughters before I scooted off to my next shift across town. When I got to the venue, everybody was setting up for a number of panel discussions on Young Adult fiction. Writers and publishers were milling around, while soundchecks were completed. I was tasked with alternating between showing the audience to their seats and manning the box office. All went well until Louise O’ Neill walked into the venue while I was on the box office. I am no good at meeting people I admire. Internally there were roars of ‘OH MY GOD, SHE’S AMAZING, OH WOW’. Externally, I went to pieces. Couldn’t get two words out. It there is a blubbering idiot in her next book, at least I will know I inspired her.
My long exciting first day finished with doing box office for an event based on shorts made in a Werner Herzog masterclass. As I ticked off names and stamped people’s hands, while having the chats, I wondered if I had risen to such a position of power in only a few short hours, what would the rest of the week bring?