The Works volunteer, an interview with Dave Beautyman


This month we had the chance to sit down with Dave Beautyman, a longstanding volunteer at Portland Works. Over the years, Dave has undertaken many tasks that have led to the repair of our building and the maintenance of its heritage.

A large part of our conversation surrounded how much things have changed at Portland Works, both in the building and for the volunteers. Since Dave began in 2012, he claims there have been lots of changes. A big one for Dave was as time went on, the focus shifted from simply completing any jobs that faced them to understanding the need for a structured approach to how they overcame a task.

As well as this, as time has passed, the need for evaluation has become more important, reviewing how jobs had been undertaken and seeing how they could be improved to be as efficient as possible. Alongside this, there have been emotional changes also for those involved in the Works. For all of those that volunteer, they have a common goal, to repair and maintain heritage at Portland Works, and at a similar age with similar life experiences, this has led to the volunteers gaining a lot of respect for one another and has allowed a lot of friendships to build and strengthen.

Dave talked more about his daily activities and in recent weeks, he has worked with the team renovating multiple new rooms on the top floor of the Works. This has involved stripping down the rooms completely, putting up new plasterboard and door frames, as well as building in a new hatch for the ceiling. Of course, when completing these renovations there are many regulations they must consider, such as sealing and fireproofing areas for health and safety.

Another part of Dave’s recent work that we were very interested to talk about is the new student volunteers we have had at the Works. As a retired teacher, it is interesting to see how this experience would assist him in working alongside younger people interested in understanding the practical work involved in places like Portland Works. Dave has spent some time with a young man from the specialist school we have worked with to show him what there is to offer in a job that is much more “hands on” than most subjects students that age will study in school. This included working on the roof hatch mentioned earlier and bricklaying. Dave seems keen to continue this work with the students teaching them practical application as they have only spent short periods at the building thus far. Dave’s experience as a teacher has really helped him with this, he says teaching people and working with the youth becomes second nature. After spending such a long time working in his field, he understands the need to be explicit when something is not very clear, and when he can allow someone to work alone in an area they understand well.

So, with many great causes to choose from, I asked Dave why he, and others, have chosen to support Portland Works over the years and why even more people should get involved. Dave has said it is of extreme importance to support the conservation of Sheffield’s heritage as so much of it has already been lost. Dave also discussed Sheffield having history and culture and claims “it is this that shapes us into what we are today and shapes how we behave, and we must save it”. He believes we must keep the history and skills alive that created the city of Sheffield we know today.

Dave discussed how the volunteers at Portland Works manage to conserve heritage whilst also renovating the building to keep it alive. One example of this is with the windows, which Dave himself along with other volunteers has spent much time on. Instead of completely replacing each window when it comes to it, they instead save the window by cutting out the deadwood and patching it up, of course, this requires a lot of time and preparation before the volunteers can even begin painting the window frames. Another example would be in the cementing, whilst modern buildings use cement and sand for bricklaying, the volunteers at the Works must use lime and cement. Both methods go towards supporting and maintaining the integrity of the building, keeping it as similar as possible to the time it was built.

As well as this, Dave benefits personally from his time at the Works. He says when you take a step back and look at what you have completed, it gives you a great feeling having done it. He believes it is a very rewarding process and considers his time at Portland Works as “therapy days”. He finds the volunteers here to be a group of friends that come in with some knowledge and experience that can be developed into much more, with the needs of the building teaching them new things as they go. Dave says that their age and experiences mean they have no trouble taking on the responsibilities their role requires, and they can easily accept their need to be there, even on the coldest and wettest of days.

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