Volunteering at Tide: Lanterns, parades and helping small businesses

Did you know that all Tideans get 3 days paid leave for learning and development and volunteering? We love to support a wide range of good causes at Tide. Here, we meet one Tidean to find out how she not only puts her volunteering days to good use, but embodies Tide’s mission of helping small businesses too.

👋 Hi Caroline, great to chat to you today! Can you please introduce yourself in one sentence?

Hi, I’m Caroline, Senior SEO Copywriter within the Marketing team and responsible for transforming technical subjects into member-focused blogs and product pages on Tide’s website. 

So, what do you do when you’re not writing?

Outside of work, I love to volunteer by planning and running large-scale community events. Together with a small team of dedicated volunteers, I organise in my hometown an annual lantern parade, late-night shopping evening and Christmas market. This year it took place on the 10th December.

Tell us how you’ve benefitted from the paid volunteering leave available for Tideans?

Lantern-making workshop, 📸 by Susan Pilcher

The volunteering leave was one of the perks that attracted me to Tide. It means so much that my employer recognises the value of volunteering. It’s been great to have dedicated leave available. With previous employers, I’ve had to take annual leave or try to fit voluntary work in at weekends. 

In 2021, it enabled me to run a free lantern-making workshop in conjunction with a local charity called Caring All Together on Romney Marsh (CARM) which organises social activities with lonely older people alongside younger members of the community. It was incredibly rewarding and, had I not had volunteering leave available, I wouldn’t have been able to undertake this work.

Fantastic! Tell us more about the event!

It’s called Light Up New Romney and takes place in the town where I grew up in south east Kent. Established in 2017, it’s an an award-winning annual free community lantern parade. Its mission is to create community spirit in the town, as well as support local traders and businesses by encouraging people to shop local. In the 5 years since we created the parade, it has grown into a huge event with hundreds of people taking part and dozens of shops and businesses participating in the late-night shopping and Christmas market. Such was its popularity, it even made the local ITV news in 2021 who broadcast live from the start of the parade!

How did you get involved in creating Light Up New Romney?

📸 by Susan Pilcher

New Romney is a little town located in southeast Kent. Being a rural community, its high street shops are a lifeline for the surrounding population. However, there had been no festive late-night shopping event for over a decade and the town was a very sad place in the winter. Residents tended to go to larger towns elsewhere to shop, meaning local businesses suffered and there was a lack of community spirit.  

Together with a small team of volunteers, I came up with the idea of a lantern parade to revitalise the community and re-introduce a late-night shopping event. Light Up New Romney was born and has been going from strength to strength ever since with over 1000 people attending each year!

How on earth do you go about organising an event of this scale?

Start planning early! For 2021’s event which took place on December 10, we started preparations in August!  We had to get permission from the council and prepare risk assessments, arrange First Aid provision and public liability insurance, etc. Funding-wise, we applied for grants from community organisations, our town and district councils, as well as receiving donations from local businesses to cover our organisational costs. We also ran 6 free lantern-making workshops for the community that were attended by more than 250 people!

So, how does the event support small businesses?

📸 by Susan Pilcher

Just like Tide, we aim to support those who work for themselves. Light Up New Romney brings both local people and visitors into the town for the evening.  We ask traders for a small donation towards the organisational costs of the event and then we feature them in our programme for the evening and highlight any activities or promotions they are running.  We also promote them on social media ahead of the event. We push the ‘shop local’ message and traders have reported an uplift of up to 50% in sales on the night in previous years.

For the 2021 event, we also created our very first Light Up New Romney Christmas market with around 20 stalls made up of local artisans and entrepreneurs who have online shops so they could come and sell their festive products together for the evening.

How can we find out more about Light Up New Romney?

We have a dedicated Facebook page – lightupnewromney, which is being updated regularly with all the exciting events and activities that take place on the night.

What would you say to anyone thinking of doing voluntary work?

Go for it! I’ve learned so many new skills – budgeting, managing a team, negotiation, creating and delivering presentations, project management, digital marketing – not to mention how to make weird and wonderful lanterns out of willow! I’ve also met people from many different walks of life and get such a sense of satisfaction when I help to deliver a successful event. Volunteering is a hugely rewarding experience.

Photo by Susan Pilcher

Caroline Wire

Caroline Wire

Senior Small Business Copywriter

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