The Gift of Time exhibition opening at London’s OXO Gallery

Monday, 05 November 2018


Celebrations were in full swing on Thursday afternoon as we hosted an event at our 80th photography exhibition, The Gift of Time at gallery@oxo, in London. Bringing together volunteers, supporters, partners, staff and some well-known names, we unveiled our display of compelling images from 1938 to the modern-day, as well as highlighted our present services.

Our ambassadors, Wayne Sleep OBE and Elaine Paige OBE, along with renowned celebrity photographer Nicky Johnston, attended the event and helped to raise a glass to our incredible volunteers, and all that they do. Matthew McMurray, our Archivist and Historian, was on hand throughout the event and helped to share some of our fascinating stories from the past; stories of our charity and the many women who supported the home front during the war.

To further mark the opening of The Gift of Time photography exhibition, ambassador and star of stage and screen, Elaine Paige, recreated one of the most arresting images from our archives, Miss Mercury of the WVS (as Royal Voluntary Service was formerly known).

Motorcycle messengers were employed during World War Two to carry important and often sensitive messages between WVS headquarters, government departments and other WVS centres. Meg Moorat, nicknamed Miss Mercury, was one of those messengers and can be seen here in 1941.


This image along with others from our archive, which is recognised by UNESCO as one of the most important collections in the UK, particularly for women’s history, was on show at The Gift of Time photography exhibition.

The exhibition at London’s gallery@oxo told the remarkable story of Royal Voluntary Service over the past 80 years. It offered the opportunity for visitors to view some of our archive images which showed the powerful role our volunteers played during war time and beyond. Bringing the story up to date, celebrity photographer, Nicky Johnston captured the charity’s everyday volunteer heroes of today, in a series of original portraits. Read all about Nicky's involvement here.

"The photographs, old and new, tell a remarkable story of the contribution so many ordinary men and women have made to those in their community. I’m delighted to be part of Royal Voluntary Service’s 80th birthday celebrations and enjoyed getting the chance to restage one of the charity’s most iconic images."

Elaine Paige OBE, actress and Royal Voluntary Service ambassador 


Matthew McMurray, Archivist and Historian, alongside the Bella Donnas dressed in traditional WVS uniform.


Celebrity photographer Nicky Johnston with Home Library Service volunteer Angela Rubens (also pictured in the background image)


Chief Executive Catherine Johnstone and Chairman Richard Greenhalgh with current employee and ex-volunteer, Margaret Davies.

If you missed out on attending The Gift of Time exhibition, a collection of our exhibition photos can be viewed here.

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary service organisations in Britain. We inspire and enable 20,000 volunteers to help people in need in hospitals, at home and in the community.

Our volunteers improve patient experience in hospital, aid recovery after a stay on ward, help older people support themselves at home, stay fit and active and build meaningful social connections.

Royal Voluntary Service supports volunteers to run services in the community such as lunch and dining clubs, physical activity classes, craft, gardening and other hobby groups. We work collaboratively with other charities, social care providers and the NHS to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved.

The charity is one of the UK’s largest hospital retailers with 230 volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services providing tea and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

If you are a member of the press and have a media enquiry please contact the Media Team. For all other enquiries, contact us.

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