Behind the Scenes at Dulwich OnView

Yang-May Ooi introduces you to the mission of Dulwich OnView and some of the volunteers who make it happen. (This article is also currently appearing in SE22 Magazine)

some of the team socialising

There’s a common misconception that you have to go into Central London or trendy East London if you want to catch a movie or theatre or a bit of art and culture. I thought that, too, when I first moved down to South London. But in fact, there’s loads to do without ever crossing the river – and my local social life is even better than it was when I lived in Pimlico. So what have we got here in the Dulwich area?

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is an obvious starter, located as it is in the heart of Dulwich, and with a lively Friends network that supports the Gallery through events and activities such as lectures, art classes and film shows. Dulwich OnView is the blog of the Friends (www.dulwichonview.org.uk) but we blog about arts and culture in the whole of the Dulwich area (which loosely includes the parts of South London surrounding Dulwich) not just at the Gallery, because that reflects the interests of people in the local area: if you enjoy arts and culture, your interest isn’t going to be restricted to one gallery or one genre – you’re most likely also to be into good food, wine, pub quizes, movies, fitness and more. And besides, we want to show those north of the river hipsters that South London has just as much to offer as anything they’ve got up there…

Since Dulwich OnView (fondly known as DOV) started a couple of years ago, we’re now one of the go-to online publications for arts- and lifestyle-related businesses and organisations. The DOV editors and regular bloggers often get first notice of what’s upcoming in the area so we can go off and cover the event or interview the artist or writer. We also have one-off or occasional contributors who submit write ups of plays or exhibitions or who might share their local history knowledge or top tips for fitness and health.

The great advantage of blogging technology is that we can be flexible about content and the volume of articles we publish, so long as it fits with our theme of celebrating people and culture in the Dulwich area. Former print journalist and current editor of In View*, the Gallery’s glossy magazine, Peter Belchamber says he enjoys, “the joy of almost instant publication that contributing to DOV offers. You can see your bylined piece on DOV before breakfast – a great way for a writer to start the day.”

We are all volunteers and we collaborate online to publish the blog, but we also meet every 6 weeks in a local pub to catch up and talk about editorial planning. Professional photographer Rebecca Portsmouth says, “I’ve enjoyed being part of a fun, artistic group and going to brilliant events through DOV. The people are all lovely. I’ve also met quite a few people I would have been unlikely to meet in other ways.”

Apart from the social side, some of our volunteers, especially the writers, have found that DOV has helped them in their career. Here’s freelance writer, Steve Slack: “It was great to be able to set myself a regular schedule of articles, to teach me the disciplines of research and writing to a deadline. Learning how to use the software we use to publish DOV also meant that it was quite easy for me to set up my own website.”

Italian journalist Anna Maria Di Brina was keen to relaunch her career here in London – she reports, “Writing for DOV has been my baptism into the art journalistic field in England and I am now a regular contributor to the Newstatesman blog. I presented my articles for DOV at the Courtauld Gallery, London, as a business card and proof of my writing experience in English to obtain an Internship, which I did.”

Filmmaker Ed Saunders has made a number of short films about Gallery events and for him, these DOV films have been a great way to involve new filmmakers in some real work experience. He now has a number of high profile films for his show reel but he’s had such fun that “it doesn’t feel like work”.

If you’re into arts and culture and would like to help us showcase the lively scene right here in South London, I hope very much you’ll get in touch. We always welcome new volunteers, whether you’d like to be a regular contributor or take on an editorial role – or just submit an article every now and then. I’ll leave the last word to our Blog Facilitator, web designer Angie Macdonald: “As part of DOV, you have the opportunity to learn how to use blogging software and get to grips with other social media. It’s the perfect way to build-up an online porfolio of writing, photography or video as we are always on the lookout for new, relevant material and hardly ever refuse a piece. On the editorial side, you are the public face of DOV and have the opportunity to commission articles and make new contacts. You have the opportunity to inspire others.”

To find out how you can get involved, check out our “Who We Are” page, where you’ll find links to our Volunteer Page and Submission Guidelines. Or you can email our Acting Editor via dulwichonview[at]googlemail.com (substite @ for [a])

*In View is owned and published by the Friends and not by the Gallery, from which it is independent.

The full text of interviews with our volunteers for this article is set out below:

Rebecca Portsmouth, photographer:

I’ve enjoyed being part of a fun, artistic group and going to brilliant events, especially late at the gallery experiences. The people are all lovely. I’ve also met quite a few people I would have been unlikely to meet in many other ways.

It’s fun being part of a community blog, as opposed to a personal or business one, being one voice within a number. I can take off my business hat when writing on DOV.

Steve Slack, writer:

I began writing regularly for DOV just as I was making a career change to become a freelance writer. It was great to be able to set myself a regular schedule of articles, to teach me the disciplines of research and writing to a deadline. Learning how to use the software we use to publish DOV also meant that it was quite easy for me to set up my own website (and one of for my parents as well). Another online magazine I write for also uses the same software, so it meant I was ready to go when I started writing for them. It’s been so much fun getting to know the wonderful people that make DOV happen. They’ve become real friends – and they’ve helped me on my way in my career as well. Big thanks!

Angie Macdonald, web designer:

I’ve enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know them. Feeling part of the community through DOV. Being part of a project that has grown from strength to strength and is now finally getting the recognition it deserves. Writing articles and taking photos when I have the time. It’s good knowing that there is somewhere to publish them and an audience. Also, for years I thought it would be a good idea to do voluntary work and give something back to the community. But I was often put off by how boring some voluntary work seemed. DOV was the perfect way to do voluntary work and do something interesting and creataive at the same time and meet interesting people.

I have a fear about public speaking but in the past 18 months, I’ve been part of a DOV panel and given three short talks about how DOV is run. Two of the talks were Museum conferences/workshops held at Dulwich Picture Gallery and the third was a presentation to the Friends of DPG. I’ve enjoyed the actual giving of the talks, it’s always the anticipation that’s the scary part. I’ve also enjoyed the fact that other museums want to know how we do it.

As a regular contributor, you have the opportunity to learn how to use blogging software and get to grips with other social media. It’s the perfect way to build-up an online porfolio of writing, photography or video as we are always on the lookout for new, relevant material and hardly ever refuse a piece. On the editorial side, you are the public face of DOV and have the opportunity to commission articles and make new contacts. You have the opportunity to inspire others.

Peter Belchamber, former print journalist and current editor of In View:

I’ve enjoyed collaborating with other writers/editors in the preparation of an article, seeing it presented with style and lively images, and enjoying publication on the web within days rather than weeks, as in a print magazine.

As a part of DOV, you will enjoy contact with other people who are keen to communicate in a collaborative spirit, to share ideas, and to support you. Plus the joy of almost instant publication that contributing to DOV offers. You can see your bylined piece on DOV before breakfast – a great way for a writer to start the day. Or, as an editor, you can lay out, illustrate and present a group of three items on Tuesday and then three more on the following Friday. Six published items in the space of a week. It has to be good!

Anna Maria Di Brina, journalist:

I have enjoyed taking part in a very inspiring and interesting group of persons, each from a different environment and experience, gathered by the same joy and readiness about sharing knowledge and stories about their area.

I started feeling much more confident about writing in English about art issues. Writing for DOV has really been my baptism into the art journalistic field in England and introduced me to the web and blog writing field (field in which I’m currently working, having begun to regularly write for the Newstatesman blog (www.newstatesman.com).

I presented my articles for DOV at the Courtauld Gallery, London, as a business card and proof of my writing experience in English to obtain an Internship, which I did.

I benefitted from attending the editorial meetings as well, as significant moments of sharing ideas, making contacts, shaping my role within the team and better understanding London itself.

I think the editorial team is a really enjoyable, stimulating and interesting group of people. It is great to have the chance to share thoughts, interests and knowledge with volunteers who have the intelligence to invest their time for the community’s sake and benefit. It is even a nice occasion to meet people who live in your area and make new friends.

Contributing to DOV gives you the opportunity also to keep updated with stuff occurring in South London, as when you write it, it is easier to regularly read it.

Bella Tullo (writing as Bellabeck) local resident:

I started as a volunteer for GalleryFilm as I have a film and TV production background. Through the film society I met Ingrid, Steve and other DOV contributors and they were such an interesting and friendly bunch that it didn’t seem too scary to make the leap and start contributing to DOV. Initially I did the write ups for our monthly films and then branched out into writing about local artists and events. I particularly enjoyed writing about Elephant Parade and local artist Martin Aveling’s contribution to the upcoming exhibition all over London.

So contributing to a community blog like DOV gives you the opportunity to make new friends, reinforces a sense of community and an inside track on what is happening locally – both artistically and generally. Most of all, it has helped my confidence after several years out of the work place and that is invaluable.

Ingrid Beazley, E-learning project developer at Dulwich Picture Gallery:

I work part time for the education department at Dulwich Picture Gallery and know the lovely staff personally and most of what goes on behind the scenes there. It has been great to create a platform where they can blog informally about all sorts of things which dont fit with the official website or the glossy magazine. The director, curators and marketing people talk about the background to the exhibitions – how they came about, what inspired them; where the pictures on loan are etc; education submits photo stories and everyone, attendants included, talk about themselves. The public can chat to the staff via the comment boxes, where they discover the informal side of the Gallery which can sometimes seem a little intimidating.


About this article

Yang-May Ooi

About Yang-May Ooi

Yang-May Ooi is a bestselling author and storyteller based in Dulwich. She is also the creator and founding strategist of Dulwich OnView. Her new blog, StoryGuru.co.uk, documents her ongoing creative inquiry into “What makes a rich and fulfilling life?” through stories, interviews, and essays. She is currently working on her fourth book “Rebel Heart: How to Discover your Courage and Create a Meaningful, Authentic Life”.

3 Comments

  1. Alison HY Liu 5 Mar 2010

    I really enjoy so much reading this article and the other one talking about DOV behind the scenes, thank you Yang-May and all the DOV volunteers. What a wonderful thing getting to know how this fantastic group of people think of DOV and fit it in their personal life in their own ways. Very best wishes for DOV, the community, and especially those who make this happens!

    • Thank you, Alison! Am I right in thinking you visited Dulwich recently? Would you like to share your experiences as a visitor to Dulwich on DOV? It’s always interesting to hear an visitor’s view of a place that one knows well.

  2. Alison HY Liu 5 Mar 2010

    Yes I am the one who visited Dulwich in last Dec. I did fall in love with the area and have missed it since I left. I am happy to share of course and will write one in due course. Meanwhile I will continue enjoying reading all DOV articles – its a good way to keep knowing what’s going on there before I will visit again!

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