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Volunteer Case Study: Boyd Gilmore, Crook

March 14th, 2023

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B4RN can only deliver its gigabit full fibre broadband network thanks to the hard work and dedication of our amazing volunteers, who are willing to invest so much of their time and energy to deliver significant and lasting benefit to their wider community.

B4RN volunteers participate in a wide range of activities, including helping plan routes, encouraging sign up and digging!

We've spoken to B4RN 4 Crook volunteer, Boyd Gilmore about his experience as a B4RN volunteer.

Boyd's originally from a farming family in Northern Ireland but moved to England to "seek fame and fortune - I found neither!" After a 30-year career in medicine in Lincolnshire, he made the move over to Cumbria, where his wife has family, for a new chapter in their lives. Boyd says he's involved in lots of things, including voluntary, local and community focused projects, which include B4RN...

You're relatively new to the area, how much did you know about B4RN?

We moved to here five or six years ago. We have got family contacts here as my wife's family live locally. I hadn't heard of B4RN before I moved here, although after moving here we had friends who had B4RN installed in another project about 10 miles away. So through them I knew quite a bit about B4RN and how B4RN works and that the volunteers drove the whole project.

Were you attracted by the B4RN ethos?

The initial attraction was the level of service provided. This, and the fact that data wasn't capped and the fact that any new service was going to be better than what we were actually lumped with at the moment. It was only when I did my own research and found out that volunteers made the project that I became aware of the need for that volunteer input. Which wasn't a problem because I'm at the stage of life where I get the gift of time to commit to a project and I do quite like being involved in project based work.

Once you got involved, what did you do in the early days of the B4RN 4 Crook project?

The first thing I discovered was we had to summon up enough support within the community. So I became at that stage what I called a doorstepper - I'm not sure that term is used by B4RN! It was quite a challenging concept for me. You had this little tiny cameo of a chance to sell the concept and capture them - inspire them to engage with the project. That was quite fun, meeting people - quite challenging too.

Once the project got the go ahead, how did it feel see the B4RN 4 Crook build begin?

I think for the core volunteers... they were involved right from the birth of the project and acquired a lot of depth of knowledge and an emotional engagement with it. So, to actually see that moleplough on the ground was just amazing. Whereas other people probably thought, 'oh, that's just a contractor in the field'. But to us, it was such a key moment.

The B4RN 4 Crook volunteer 'Dig & Fit' team has been very active, hasn't it?

Multiple contractors have been doing the core network digs in the fields and then the volunteers have done a substantial number of the garden digs. Well - I call them 'garden digs', but there's no such thing as that! The first thing I had to acquire was a pickaxe which has been used extensively. There's two aspects to this stage of volunteering - the physical grunt work, which sounds awful but it's not, actually; and then the teamwork, working with a group of volunteers, which has been great.

Have you enjoyed volunteering with B4RN?

Thoroughly. I mean, it is fairly time consuming and, as I said at the onset, I've got the gift of time. So it tends to be mainly people of a certain age. You're retired or semi-retired. Interestingly, we've got a couple of second homeowners involved, which I think is brilliant. One guy, who's had a property here for 20-odd years - lives in the North East, has no connection to the community, just visits here, does some walking, and drifts away. Anyway, I did his house dig with him and through that he said 'you do this every week?', and I said 'yes'. And so he's joined us and he comes over every Tuesday from the North East just to join in. We've created this community aspect, meeting people and getting a little bit more deeply embedded into local community.

You yourself recently went live on B4RN, how did that feel?

There's two aspects to that. First of all, having a decent service is brilliant. The buffering's gone and the unreliability. The unpredictability in the middle of the key moment in a rugby match, because I follow Ireland, and then the whole thing stutters to a halt - so frustrating. Or watching something really important while doing Zoom calls. Or trying to upload files. The whole thing breaks down. All that frustration has gone to the extent I've almost forgotten what the bad old days were like, so that is great having that service. And then the second thing is there's a huge sense of satisfaction at seeing the project coming to fruition.

You've previously spoken about how volunteering with B4RN has helped you embed into your community?

I've got to know the key families and landowners here. I've got to know my neighbours. I've got to know who actively works the land. I've got to know their family connections. So it's been absolutely brilliant for getting to know people.

As an example of that, about a week ago we walked down to the village, which is a mile away. On that journey, three cars passed me and they waved at me and I instantly knew them - one a prominent member of the local community; one a local farmer; and one a member of the volunteer dig team. Then a little further down, a guy pulled up on a bicycle and said 'Hello, Boyd', it was another volunteer so we chatted with him. We got a little bit further and spoke to a new neighbour who moved in here about four months ago, he works from home and I've got to know him quite well. All that in the space of half a mile to a mile walk.

Community is important to me. it's really important for us getting to know our neighbours as people and actually a feeling of belonging to that local community.

To learn more about the opportunity to volunteer with B4RN, check out the Volunteer page.

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