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Image: Nick Weedon

Joe Hall

Volunteer tour guide

Tell us a bit about yourself - what do you do when you're not volunteering?

I work as a freelance web designer and communications consultant, on projects like the future of civil society in Englandvisualising charity giving and raising awareness about the future of artificial intelligence.

I love cooking — recently baking pies for tired friends with newborn babies, and trying out making coconut flour flatbreads for the first time (yum! they go great with Indian food).

I speak French and I'm about to start volunteering interpreting for asylum seekers arriving in London. I'm also about to start learning woodcut printmaking, which looks really interesting.

What sort of volunteering work do you do with FoWG?

I started helping out doing tours of the windmill last year. I haven't done as much of it as I'd hoped, just because I've been busy with other things on some of the weekends when the windmill's been open, but it's been great fun when I've done it and lovely to meet the other people who are involved.  

What is your favourite thing about volunteering?

At the beginning I was quite nervous — it felt like a lot to learn! And I'm conscious there are other people who've been involved with the windmill a lot longer and know much more than me. But I learnt loads from the other volunteers who give tours and it's fab when you get into doing one. Even though you don't know everything, there are some brilliant "ooooh" moments when people go inside or hear key titbits of the history — that's a great feeling!

I also helped out at the Beer and Bread Festival this year at one of the stalls — again, that was really fun, and a great, friendly atmosphere (lovely beer and cakes too!). London can be a very big and impersonal city, and for me a big part of the attraction of volunteering is being more connected to something local and meeting people I never would otherwise.

How did you get into volunteering with FoWG?

It was my love of baking that led me to hear about Brixton Windmill in the first place. My fiancée volunteers helping to run Brixton Foodbank nearby, and she had heard you could go and mill flour at the windmill. (I still haven't done any milling yet!  But would love to try that.)

I also love architecture, and it was amazing to discover there was a windmill in London.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to volunteer?

Get stuck in and try something — it's fun!

How do you feel you have benefited from volunteering with FoWG?

As I mentioned above, I value partly that connection to something local, meeting people and being involved in something, even if it's not all the time. I also enjoy the performance part of giving a tour!

Finally, tell us a surprising fact about the windmill that people may not know.

I'm not sure I'm enough of a history expert to give you something totally new!

I'd say the most surprising thing is simply the windmill's existence... it's amazing the number of people who say "what? I never knew that was there!" when I tell them about Brixton Windmill. First off they think I mean the pub!  But when they find out it's real a lot of people are interested. To lots of people living in London, certainly my age, the windmill is still a secret — it's fab to be even a small part of helping reveal it!