In the kitchen with my pinny on – Volunteering at Darfield Museum with Ian McMillan

Ken and Ian stood in the museum, they are holding objectys and photos behind them is the shop

Once a month, on the second Saturday (unless there are five Saturdays in the months, but that’s a different story) my wife and I volunteer in the café at Darfield Museum. I get my clean pinny out and put it in a bag; I make sure my phone is charged up because I’ll be taking photographs of the cakes and tweeting them to let the world know that we’re here, and I’ll make sure I’ve got some cash in my wallet because we don’t take cards. Not yet, anyway,

The volunteering begins for my wife the night before because that’s when she makes the delicious cake we’ll be selling the next day. Other volunteers bake cake and, of course, if you didn’t want to work in the café you’d be very welcome to bake us a cake/some buns/ a few scones/ a fruit loaf. The cake is baked and it waits overnight and we (or I) carry it carefully down to the museum the next morning.

Ian and Ken stood outside the museum

The museum opens at ten but when I’m working in the café I like to get there at about 0930 to help Ken set the chairs up outside, get the plates ready, get the cakes on display and put my pinny on. My handwriting is terrible so my wife, a former teacher, writes the names of the cakes on the chalkboard and puts the board on the counter. We’re almost ready. Ken has put the board outside and the church clock has just struck 10. It’s time to open the doors.

Then, if we’re busy, time zooms by. I take the orders and write them down and because my handwriting really is as terrible as I said it was my wife has to ask me what I’ve written and that gives me time to take the next order,

A display board showing the collection of cakes available

We take orders. We collect the money; we give out change. We take the drinks and cakes and toasted teacakes to the customers and we have a chat with them. People love coming to Darfield Museum because it’s a safe and friendly space where nobody is judged and everybody is welcome. There’s a lot of washing up, it’s true, but I like washing up and people tell me I look good in a pinny. Or maybe they tall me I look daft in a pinny, I can’t remember. There’s a lot of talking too, if you want to talk. Sometimes I confess that I talk when I should be washing up but lots of interesting people come into the café, and they’ve all got their own stories to tell.

Ian and Ken welcoming visitors to the museum

The mornings are often busy and then the afternoons are quieter; we get the last customers in at 3.30 and then we take the board in and lock the door, until the following Wednesday. And I wanted to take a piece of my wife’s cake home to have after tea but it’s sold out! So I’ll just take my pinny home to wash.

Come and join us at the museum! We’d love to see you there! Get n touch if you’d like to volunteer at the museum email Follow @DarfieldMuseum on Twitter and Facebook to see what we’re up to!

Read more about the history of the Maurice Dobson Museum and Heritage Centre in this Around Town Magazine article

Ken Brookes takes you on a tour of the museum in this episode of the Barnsley Museums podcast

Have you read our recent blogs?


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