In this bonus episode, I chatted with Karen Docwra and Jim Wastle from Waverley Care. They have been raising money during the Fringe for 23 years!
The audio isn’t great, so below, please find a transcription of the conversation.
If you’re on twitter, give them a follow @waverleycare. You can also check out their website at www.waverleycare.org – and make sure to drop some money in the bucket for your own tartan ribbon!
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Hanging at the Fringe – with Waverley Care
Andra: Okay, welcome to Hanging at the Fringe and today we have a bonus episode! I’m talking to two amazing people from a charity called Waverley Care and they’re going to introduce themselves.
Karen: So, I’m Karen Docwra, I’m the fundraising manager for Waverley Care.
Jim: And I’m Jim, a volunteer.
Andra: Fantastic! Welcome. Thank you for coming to speak to me.
Karen: Thank you for inviting us.
Andra: So, how has the Fringe been going for you guys?
Karen: I’ve had a great time so far. It’s been busy busy busy! We’re into week three, and the end is in sight, but it’s been good. How about you Jim?
Jim: It’s been really good. I mean, in spite of the weather, everyone’s been really friendly.
Andra: Great! So you guys spend quite a bit of time down here at the Pleasance Courtyard, shaking buckets and going to speak to people and all of that kind of stuff. How did you sort of get into doing this in the first place?
Karen: So we’ve been doing this for 23 years. It’s a really unique and very special relationship that we’ve had with Pleasance over the years, and basically what we do: right from 23 years ago they allowed us to bucket shake in the courtyard, and they also put on for us a Tartan Ribbon comedy benefit, which was last Tuesday. And it’s all tartan ribbon because our emblem is a tartan ribbon – a tartan version of the AIDS awareness ribbon. So it’s grown over those 23 years from really quite a small thing, to having a bunch of volunteers here in the Courtyard everyday from 2pm to 11pm – not the same volunteers I hasten to add! It’s brilliant: they chat to people, raise awareness of what we do, and bucket shake after shows. Also chat to people having coffee and drinks and tell them all about what we do. That’s what Jim’s been doing on a number of days over the last couple of weeks.
Andra: And have you found that people mostly are friendly and happy to speak to you? Or are they quite standoffish?
Jim: Yes, very much so! The first time I did this I was really quite apprehensive, because you’re not brought up to go and ask strangers for money.
Andra: Of course!
Jim: But once I actually started, I was amazed at how friendly people were, and how generous people were. And I think it’s partly because Waverley Care has such a really good reputation.
Jim: Often you don’t have to say anything: people see it’s for Waverley Care, they reach into their purses right away. And that’s more than half the battle. But people are very generous.
Andra: And have you found, obviously there are a lot of international people who come who have never heard of Waverley Care before. Are they often interested to find out more, or are they a little bit standoffish?
Jim: No, I think actually they’re just very interested, because one of the things people have been saying is that there is nothing like Waverley Care and the facilities it provides in their own countries. I met someone recently who was visiting from San Francisco, and he was just amazed by the kind of things Waverley Care does, particularly the Milestone Respite Centre, and he said there was nothing like that where he came from.
Andra: That’s fantastic! So you are now sending that reputation out into the world as well, which is great.
Karen: Yeah, it’s a charity that we’ve really been very proud to be associated with over many, many years. I mean, the whole profile of HIV has changed so much. The charity was established to care for people who were dying of AIDS. So it built Milestone, that Jim alluded to, as an AIDS hospice, but now acts as a respite centre, and has a focus on supporting people to live well in the community. I’m so proud of the charity because it’s been able to be responsive right the way along, and now we support people with Hepatitis C as well, and we manage to hold together working with people from all the groups affected by HIV and Hepatitis C.
Andra: Yeah, because it is quite varied. And I know that, as a general rule, a lot of the arts community tends to have quite close ties with different charities who work with people with AIDS and HIV. Why do you think that is, and does that act as a benefit for you guys during the Fringe when there are loads of artsy people up here doing artsy things?
Karen: Perhaps the reason the arts were originally involved was because of the prevalence of HIV amongst gay men, and the prevalence of gay men working in the entertainment industry – I guess that’s perhaps where it forst started. But it’s now certainly evolved beyond that. And I guess for us, another reason that we work very closely with the arts, which we do in Edinburgh, is that it’s not always an easy cause to raise money for because of the stigma, so we have to be quiet creative in how we raise money. And so actually working with arts organisations – we have fantastic relationships, obviously with the Pleasance, which is where we are now, but also with some of the local amateur musical theatre companies, choirs, orchestras, bands throughout the city will support us through bucket shakes or benefit performances, and it’s a really neat relationship, it’s great.
Andra: That’s great! And do you find, when you are bucket shaking, and just talking to random individuals, in the Courtyard and elsewhere – do you ever get into the discussions about some of the misconceptions or some of the preconceived notions that people have of AIDS and HIV, or does that never come up?
Jim: Occasionally, but I think people are really interested in the scale and scope of things that Waverley Care does – we have an African health project for example, and a children and families project! The fact that Waverley Care has won awards for a number of its projects is what really interests people.
Andra: And so people don’t realise how much you do or how much you’ve grown?
Karen: Exactly! And this is such a good time of year for raising awareness of what we do, and it’s really heartening to hear Jim talk about people recognising us. I think if you wound the clock back ten years, that would definitely not be the case. And I think the Pleasance has actually had quite a big part to play in that – you know the tartan ribbon I talked about, you do see those on people’s lapels throughout the city at this time of year.
Andra: Yeah, my friends from New York were down in the Pleasance last year, and I showed up and they all had their tartan ribbons on, and they were like “These guys, they’re from Waverley Care” and I was like “I know, they’re great!.”
Jim: Yeah, when people see the tartan ribbon, they jokingly say “Oh I ‘ve got one from last year!” So I think people are just, year by year, becoming more familiar with Waverley Care.
Andra: And, so obviously if you’re in the Pleasance Courtyard, and you see these guys, you should definitely drop some money in the bucket and get your own tartan ribbon! And if they want to find out more about what you do, where’s the best place to go for information?
Karen: The best place is probably our website, which is waverleycare.org. We also have a facebook page and a twitter account.
Andra: Fantastic, and we’ll put all that information on the website as well. Cool, well thank you very much for talking, and I hope that you guys have a really profitable rest of the Fringe! So this has been Hanging at the Fringe, bonus episode – I’m Andra -
Karen: I’m Karen.
Jim: I’m Jim.
Andra: Have a good one!