Portico volunteers receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service - Mon 8 June 2020


Date: Monday 8 June 2020

The Portico of Ards, which is run almost entirely by volunteers, has been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

After raising £1.6m from over 25 different funding bodies to rescue an historic building with Grade A listed architectural status (previously known as Portaferry Presbyterian Church), the volunteer group opened the restored venue as an arts and heritage centre in 2016. Concerts of all kinds, from classical to country music and from theatre to comedy shows have brought arts and culture to Portaferry. With a capacity of 300, typically 3 or 4 concerts every month, and just two part-time members of staff, Portico is heavily reliant on its 90 plus volunteers. They engage in a wide range of activities including archiving, backstage work, cleaning, distributing promotional material, fundraising, gardening, hospitality, online marketing, maintenance, selling tickets, singing, technical support and ushering.

Portico is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year. The number of nominations has increased year on year since the awards were introduced in 2002, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them. The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2nd June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation. Award winners this year are wonderfully diverse. They include volunteer groups from across the UK, including a community shop in Cornwall, an environmental group in Swansea and a group working with refugees and vulnerable people in Stirling.

Representatives of Portico will receive the award from David Lindsay, Lord Lieutenant of County Down later this summer. Furthermore, two volunteers from Portico will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.

Portico’s manager, Dr Verity Peet said, “I frequently refer to our volunteers as ‘lovely volunteers’ and for good reason: these people give up their time and energy to make great things happen for all the rest of us. Without the support of Ards and North Down Borough Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, but most particularly our lovely volunteers, Portico would not be able to bring endless fantastic concerts to Portaferry. We wouldn’t be able to attract all the visitors that come for our events and that in turn wouldn’t support the local businesses. It may seem like a small thing to give up a few hours each week to help out but when you add it all up the work our volunteers do is crucial to both wellbeing and the local economy. They totally deserve to be applauded in every way!


1. Lord Lieutenants represent the monarch in each of the UK’s ceremonial counties.

2. This year there were 230 recipients of The Queen’s Award Voluntary Service from across the UK. More information on the recipients and the Award can be found at

3. Any group of two or more people that has participated in voluntary work for more than three years can be nominated for the award. Full details on how to nominate are available at

4. Nominations for the 2021 awards close on 25 September 2020