A blog from our new Gallery Volunteer Facilitator, Usman Mahmood

Today’s blog is written by our new Gallery Volunteer Facilitator, Usman Mahmood. Usman reflects on his first weeks in his new role, some of the work he’s been doing, and the behind-the-scenes tours he’s been lucky to have had.

A full circle!

The first time I visited Cartwright Hall Art Gallery (CHAG) was part of a school trip, and even though I wouldn’t have imagined the lasting influence which Literature and the Arts would have on me – I still remember the tell-tale signs of being somewhere special while walking through its doors.

Was it the warm, bright colours of the building or the towering portraits hanging on each corner?

Years later, as I meandered past familiar flowers and entered CHAG as Bradford Council’s new Gallery Volunteer Facilitator, I couldn’t believe the same emotions remerged.

I was back!

Introductions at Cartwright Hall Art Gallery

On the ground floor in CHAG, I met with Sonja Kielty, Bradford Museums Volunteer Coordinator and David Knowles, Visitor Services Supervisor. Ensuring our COVID protocols were being followed (face mask and distance), Sonja introduced me to the rest of the team before asking me to fill in a COVID safe document.

 Afterwards, when there was nothing else for me to do, I was given the green light to explore the sleeping building with David and I did so with delight! Scuppering across to the closest painting while probing him with questions. This went on for quite some time, I must admit. Poor David traipsed up and down Cartwright with me until my curiosity was satisfied.

When he had enough and disappeared, I prepared myself to leave but for some strange reason found myself staring into the face of a Victorian woman. The portrait was dated hundred years ago against the backdrop of a wedding. In the background, the bride and groom were visible. In the foreground, she stood dressed in black, her hand holding a glove and her face a picture of a thousand words.

Suddenly, Sonja threw a question to the fore.

“Is she mourning or enraged?”


Usman pictured here receiving a tour of Carthwright Hall Art Gallery

Hello 😊

I am tasked with creating a pilot model of volunteering which is to be used in Cartwright Hall and then for later use at: Cliffe Castle, Bradford Industrial Museum and Bolling Hall. Volunteers will welcome visitors in the Bradford District through facilitating programme visits, tours and activities as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Initial interviews for the post will be conducted online before successful candidates will be invited to an informal group meeting to discuss their role, their influence and their ideas!

But wait, there is more…

Youth development is an important aspect of the pilot I am leading, aiming to prepare the next generation of leaders, thinkers and innovators in each of our four sites: Cartwright Hall Art Gallery; Bolling Hall Museum; Bradford Industrial Museum; Cliffe Castle Museum

Volunteers needed poster, Cartwright Hall Art Gallery

Training will be provided to help ease volunteers into their role as well as implementing an intergenerational and cross cultural approach with current volunteers. There will also be scope for volunteers to take on leadership positions such as team leaders and supervisors which we will encourage and support. And thanks to initiatives such as Citizen Coin, we are able to offer volunteers rewards via virtual coins which can be redeemed at their local businesses!

Volunteering isn’t just undertaking unpaid work. Volunteering can offer experiences which are invaluable and life changing. From someone who has volunteered in the past and benefitted from being able to develop existing skills or gaining new skills, I am grateful to be waving the flag for this and looking forward to the challenge of translating ideas into practice.

At Bradford Museums, opportunities are endless and volunteering is just the beginning of something magical. Please visit: https://www.bradfordmuseums.org/get-involved to learn how to get involved or contact 07971030168 to learn more.

I hope to welcome you soon!


After the visit to Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, I was invited to visit Cliffe Castle Museum.

David Knowles again provided the commentary, this time on Butterfield’s Victorian home which was complete with a suspended chandelier and dining tables. The look and smell of the place felt too real even if the showpiece was supposed to imitate past life.

Amazed at the colours around me, I snapped a few pictures of the décor and then followed David through the corridor of the taxidermy collection, where various stuffed animals with lifelike effect were on show. When my musings stopped, I noticed I was alone…

Just then, he asked me to come towards him –  and I did just that, finding him on the opposite side, staring precariously at the glass in front of him. Curiously, I moved closer to where he was and as he moved to give me full view of the glass, I stopped in total awe.

The nine-year-old in me whispered, “Good God.”


Usman, receiving a tour of Cliffe Castle

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