Volunteer Spotlight: Nadine Lewis
Volunteer Spotlight: Nadine Lewis
To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we are shining the spotlight on some of those who give up their time for the benefit of UK motorsport. Today, we speak to experienced marshal and the first female Chair of the British Motorsport Marshals Club (BMMC), Nadine Lewis.
How did you first get into volunteering?
I started volunteering 25 years ago. A friend of mine had heard it being spoken about on local radio, took down the phone number and said ‘make this call’, and I called the number and it went to a guy who was running a (marshals) taster day at Oulton Park. So I went along to see what it was all about!
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I enjoy being with people from different backgrounds and meeting new people – I don’t necessarily mean the drivers/competitors (but that’s always great!), but all the volunteers. I’m always curious to find out what they do as a day job because we’re all working to be there (at events) on the weekends! I also enjoy just working together, being part of one big family and being a part of the action if it all goes wrong as well.
What has changed in motorsport volunteering since you first started 25 years ago?
We’ve become a bit cleverer about how we do volunteering. I think it’s still a little bit difficult for some people to understand how you go about volunteering – all the clubs, what all the events are, how you know what you want to do – but we as a club (the BMMC) have an online volunteering system so we try and put all the dates on there, and people can see what’s on at a weekend near them, and how they can go about attending if they want to. We’ve become a lot more technically-savvy and able to actually provide people with information to make it easier to volunteer.
Are there a lot more women involved now?
There certainly are a lot more women involved in motorsport now compared to when I started – there were a few around when I started but there’s certainly more visibility now. I think it’s become a lot easier to understand what people are capable of, what they can do, and it’s a broader range of things to do. When I started, it was a case of ‘you need to go out on track’ and you didn’t really have a choice with that, but now it’s a case of ‘well, do you want to go into the pit lane’ or ‘do you want to try start line’, or something else? People can try what they want to do before they make that decision, and determine the route they want to take, which is a great way of finding out what you can and can’t do.
How important are volunteers?
Without volunteers, motorsport can’t happen. I know it’s a cliché when it gets said but when you realise the number of roles that take place, that are done by a volunteer…if we weren’t here, events wouldn’t happen! And the volunteers want to stay volunteers – we don’t want to get paid. We want the recognition and we want people to realise that yes, we are doing this as our hobby, but I don’t think we want to be paid for doing it because of the nature of volunteering – we want to be able to do it when we want to. I can pick and choose what events I want to go to, and I can say ‘no’. I don’t feel obliged to always go, because I’m not being paid to do it.
What’s your role at the BMMC?
I’ve been the Chair of the club for the last six years and, in our 65th year, I’m the first female in this position. My role as the Chair is to be the profile of the club, to speak out on behalf of our members and volunteers – and it doesn’t matter what club you’re a member of, you’re a marshal to me! It’s important to be a voice on behalf of the volunteers – to make sure we know what’s going on, we are communicated to, and we get the recognition and respect we deserve. And, if there are any issues that need to be resolved, I can speak to Motorsport UK, and I sit on various committees to ensure that the volunteers’ voices are heard.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Being on the podium last year (2022) at the British Grand Prix to present the second-place trophy to Sergio Perez. It was an absolute honour to represent the volunteers and it was the first time it had ever been done in Formula 1 (to have a volunteer/marshal on the podium). It was absolutely mind-blowing and phenomenal that I was able to do that.
What are your thoughts on Motorsport UK’s Race with Respect campaign?
I think it’s really important that everybody respects each other, and I think it works both ways: the volunteers should get the same respect as the competitors, as well as everybody else (including spectators). From a volunteer perspective, I think the respect is not just how you talk to somebody or how you interact with them, but also the understanding that what we do actually drives that respect in terms of potentially being stood outside for a long time in the appalling weather we can sometimes get in the UK! It’s an understanding that, at the end of the day, we’re human beings and we’re there to help assist what’s going on. We know we’re not the main focus – that’s the drivers and the cars – but we’re there to make it happen, so the respect works both ways.
Why should somebody start volunteering – and what advice would you give them as they’re starting out?
The best way to start is to do a taster day. At the BMMC we run taster days at most of the circuits around the country, so there should be a venue near you. We’re also doing some rally taster days this year too. You go along as a marshal for the day with a group of people, and you’ll have somebody looking after you and showing you what you can get involved in. From there you can decide which avenue you want to go down – whether it’s race or rally, hillclimbing, sprinting…whatever you want to get involved in, you can go and try it, see what it’s like and go from there!