ARUNDEL has become hone from home for New Zealander Andrew Wood – and in the 18 months since he arrived, he has been a stalwart of the town’s annual festival.
Twenty-six-year-old Andrew, usually known as Woody, came to Arundel on a visit for the wedding of his brother, who has lived there for about 12 years, and says he simply ‘never went home’.
Originally from Christchurch, on the South Island, where he worked as a sales and marketing manager, he has become so much part of the community that he can’t envisage ever leaving.
“I love the place,” he said. “It’s so historical, with the castle and the cathedral, very different from home. It’s a very friendly and open town and the people have been so welcoming.”
Within a few weeks of his arrival, Woody caught festival fever, proving an invaluable volunteer who was happy to turn his hand to any task which needed doing.
This year, he is taking a full two weeks’ holiday in August to coincide with the event, enabling him to get involved on the management side as well as with plenty of hands-on involvement over the hectic nine days of activities of all kinds.
“I got a job in Arundel straight away, the first day I started looking, in fact,” he recalls.
“That was at the Red Lion and while I was working there I met a lot of people from all walks of life, including local tradesmen and businessmen, in a very short space of time. That’s how I got so heavily involved in the community so quickly.
“Since then I’ve done kitchen work, building work, painting and decorating and now I’m working as an electrician. It’s been a very interesting 18 months – exciting and different from anything I’ve done before.
“I’d heard about Arundel Festival before I came here and last year, when I was working for the Red Lion on the bar in the Jubilee Gardens, I noticed how stressed and busy the organisers and helpers were.
“Ash Kent, who is the co-chairman, was a friend anyway, so I asked him if I could help and he said yes.
“That spiralled into the next nine days of helping out in the Jubilee Gardens or anywhere else in the town where I was needed. I was so busy it became a bit of a blur.
“Anything from putting up signs, banners, flags and bunting or delivering lunches to other volunteers to general front-of-house management, doing a bit of compering and backstage management.
“I even got to sing and play guitar on stage when there were some slots to be filled.
“Last year we had about 30,000 to 40,000 people in the town over the festival. This year we’re expecting 50,000 to 60,000 over the nine days from August 17-26.
“It’s good that this year we’re bringing back a crew which used to be known as the Heavies, who’ll be helping a lot with the set-up, especially the sound-proofing, the day before it all starts off.
“I expect to be just as involved this year – it’s a privilege to be part of Arundel Festival, which has now been going for 36 years and brings a real sense of community spirit to the town, even more than I’d initially felt.
“For me, it’s nice to be able to give something back to the town which has welcomed me with open arms.”
Woody would recommend getting involved as a volunteer at the festival to anyone.
“Last year’s festival was one of the best two weeks I’ve ever had in my life. A great team is involved and there’s a lot of work to be done, but at the same time, it’s fun, a whole lot of fun.
“Everyone gets stuck in and it is marvellous to be involved in a festival which has so many elements, arts, music, entertainment of all kinds.
“I’ll be involved as long as I’m in Arundel and I don’t see myself moving away any time soon. I’ve fallen in love with the town, it’s such a beautiful place.”
Arundel Festival is always looking for more volunteers.
If you would like to get involved, visit the special volunteers page on the website, www.arundelfestival.co.uk/volunteers.
The annual festival fundraiser is being held on the lower lawns in the grounds of Arundel Castle on Wednesday, July 31.
The event, which is the main source of revenue to keep the festival running each year, will be open from 7pm-11pm and include live music, gift trees, raffles with some great prizes, an auction and a silent auction.
Tickets priced £17.50, including a buffet meal, are available through the festival website, www.arundelfestival.co.uk.