From Light Night to Beer, five iconic festivals are after volunteers. Here's how to get involved...

VOLUNTEERING is on the up: over 20 million of us volunteered for a group, club or organisation in England last year. You might think of people in tabards shaking collection tins at the end of the supermarket checkout or you might picture churches, charities or food banks, but there are loads of ways in which you can give your time to a cause or interest close to your heart.

Some see it as a way of socialising and developing new skills outside their usual workplace or a chance to boost their CV or network

And Leeds certainly has heart, with plenty of schemes you can choose to sign up to in and around the city. A number of the 91 locks along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal are manned by volunteer lock keepers, helping to preserve the fabric of our centuries-old waterways; our parks, cemeteries and woodlands are lovingly maintained by employees from local businesses. Come May, the streets of North and West Yorkshire will be lined with 1000-plus volunteer tour makers for the Grand Départ bike race, while puppy walkers give a home to guide dogs for their first 12 months to help train and educate them.  

Music, art installation, cinema or even beer more your vibe? Fortunately the Leeds Arts, Events & Venues team is growing and strengthening its volunteer programme to encompass five of the city’s most iconic festivals: Leeds International Film Festival, Light Night Leeds, Independent Directions Film Festival (INDIs), Leeds Young Film Festival and Leeds International Beer Festival.

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Volunteers add to Leeds' world-class reputation

Large and ambitious, these award-winning events are world-class in reputation. Last year, Light Night welcomed over 150,000 people to witness shining artworks, street performance and projections cherry-picked from Canada, Columbia, Germany, Israel, Poland, The Netherlands and beyond. Leeds International Film Festival is one of only 26 Oscar- and BAFTA-accredited film festivals across the globe, while the Town Hall’s iconic four-day tribute to all things craft, can and keg is regarded as one of the UK’s leading beer festivals. And you can get involved.  

Whether it’s dancing through the streets with the twirling lanterns of the neon parade, watching the latest releases on the big screen or enjoying a five-hour drinking session, three music stages, retro gaming and a street food market on a sunny September afternoon, volunteering never felt so good. 

Some see it as a way of socialising and developing new skills outside their usual workplace or a chance to boost their CV or network with industry experts; others are keen to improve their knowledge of the arts and cultural sector, with a behind-the-scenes view of the city’s flagship events. As the face of a festival, the volunteers are integral to making these international events accessible for everyday members of the public.

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The festival scene means plenty of volunteers are needed

The Leeds Arts, Events & Venues volunteer programme contributed to over 13,300 hours of volunteering in 2019, with 20 roles available to suit every talent and interest: from digital volunteers who helped capture the International Film Festival through social media, to ale enthusiasts who pulled pints with brewers at the Beer Festival. As for Light Night, photographers’ images are now central to the festival’s year-round marketing campaign and visitor support encouraged hundreds to hop on the illuminated musical see-saws outside Victoria Gate.

The city’s appetite for culture is growing, especially as all eyes turn to Leeds for 2023 and the International Year of Culture. Building on the city’s renowned creative industries sector, producing acclaimed films, television, art, theatre and games, this celebratory year will lead to major investment in both our local heritage and cutting-edge innovation. With Leeds’ ambitions for a carbon-neutral economy, inclusivity and accessibility high on the agenda, now is the chance to join the festival community and experience the city like never before.  

To find out more, and to join the volunteer mailing list, email: