This week is Volunteers Week! The London Borough of Culture 2019 volunteers are known as Legends of the Forest, and are at the heart of Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture programme.
To mark the occasion, we caught up with Legend Chris Whitehead to find out more about him, and what made him become a Legend of the Forest.
At the beginning of May, you could find Chris on Chingford Plain, as one of many stand-out Legends to help in the run up Chingford May Day Fayre.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a 58 year old chartered surveyor from Chingford. My family have been in Chingford since 1890, so I’m passionate about the area (especially Epping Forest!). I spend lots of time in the forest with my dog Sally. In my spare time I enjoy playing golf and fixing cars.
What was it about London Borough of Culture that made you want to volunteer?
At first, I wasn’t too sure about London Borough of Culture. However, when I found out about Welcome to the Forest, I thought it sounded amazing. I saw adverts for volunteers so thought I’d get involved. I didn’t just want to be an observer. I’m really nosy so I love finding out inside information about what’s going on and the impact it’s having on the borough. When I heard about Chingford May Day Fayre and how it would be a big celebration of the community in the forest, it felt like that was the event that I wanted to go above and beyond for!
Had you volunteered before?
I volunteered at scout groups when my children were smaller, and a few years ago I volunteered by driving a welfare bus at London Shine Night Walk, the overnight marathon in central London which raises money for Cancer Research. I found it really rewarding chatting to the marathon runners and supporting them, and when this opportunity to volunteer a bit closer to home came about, it really piqued my interest.
What do you see as the benefits of volunteering?
Volunteering is such a satisfying experience. I’m lucky in that I have a good life and a bit of spare time, and I enjoy sharing that time with others to help make a difference. It’s brilliant chatting to people and seeing them go away from the events with a smile. I love feeling like I’ve had an impact on someone’s experience, by making them laugh and helping them have a good time.
What have you most enjoyed about being a Legend?
The opportunity to meet people! Through being a volunteer, I am able to speak to so many people I never normally would have met, and they probably wouldn’t have spoken to a middle-aged white geezer from Chingford! Meeting the other Legends is great too – you start to see the same people at all the events and make friendships through the shared experience.
What’s been the most interesting or unexpected thing you’ve done or experienced as a Legend?
At Africa Express, my volunteer buddy was a young woman from Walthamstow , who worked as a political journalist and was involved with the Labour Party. Being a Conservative voter myself, we couldn’t be further apart on the political spectrum, and in no other circumstance would have spent four hours together. We had the best time and a really good chat, and learnt so much about each other’s views and why we think the way we do! Celebrated our differences and enjoyed common ground. We now swap comments on Twitter from films to politics.
If you were a superhero, what would be your super power?
I’d really like to fly! Imagine all the places you could go and the things you can see from a new perspective.
How would you sum up your experience as a Legend in three words?
Interesting, rewarding, surprising.
Want to join Chris and hundreds of others as a Legend?