The power of volunteering! We caught up with some of The Barking Stink volunteer team

Photo: Cecelia Rooney

Like many of our projects, volunteers are playing a key role in The Barking Stink - a scented heritage project that we are currently running with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Our team of nine volunteers have been involved in a range of different activities and tasks, from researching stenches and stinks from Barking’s past in the archives to carrying out their first oral history interviews. They’ve attended heritage technology hacks, searched thousands of photos, helped to facilitate reminiscence sessions with local older people, and enjoyed plenty of tea and cake along the way. We asked some of our volunteers about their experiences so far…

What are you enjoying most about being a volunteer for The Barking Stink?

It’s been great fun working with other volunteers and heritage professionals. Even though I have lived in the Borough for 32 years, I have learnt so much about the hidden industrial history and lives of Barking residents. It has inspired me to seek out other history projects to get involved in as a volunteer

Felicity Hawksley, local resident and volunteer
  • Photo: Cecelia Rooney

What have you learnt and discovered as a volunteer?

  • “The most remarkable story I have found is the sinking of Princess Alice. For one thing, the collision of two ships caused high casualties; for another, I have never imagined that polluted water can directly cost people’s lives. In Hong Kong, the worst case for releasing sewage I can think of would be people eating the contaminated fish and getting sick.”
    Jamie Cho
  • “I’ve learnt lots of research skills such as scanning photos and maps and the skills to undertake oral history collection. I have been so impressed by the range and scale of material held in the archives at Valence House. A most horrid discovery was the reports of people fishing in the sewage in the Thames with nets to recover the accumulated fats (known as Thames Mud Butter)!”
    Felicity Hawksley
  • Photo: Nikki Shaill

Would you recommend getting involved as a volunteer to others?

If you would like to find out more about volunteering for The Barking Stink in the coming months, contact Nikki Shaill at

If you'd like to hear about upcoming volunteer opportunities with the Thames Festival Trust, make sure you sign up to our volunteers newsletter here.