Guiding tends to be quite a seasonal job, with lots of bookings in the summer but nowhere near to many in the colder months. But this week has certainly been an exception.
Tuesday and Thursday were school tours for Year 6 classes from Bluecoat School in Edgbaston, who have been learning about Birmingham in Geography. Having put together a questionnaire for them to fill in with information from the tour, we set off for two and a half hours discovering our city, partly on the coach and partly with a walking section from Brindley Place to Victoria Square. The children on both tours were enthusiastic, asked lots of questions, asked me about my work as a guide, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the tour. They were absolutely desperate to complete their worksheets – in fact I kept having to say “Be patient, we haven’t covered that bit yet” as they tried to fill in their answers! I find the great thing about working with primary school children is their hunger for learning. Obviously, I have to slightly change the way I explain things and adapt some of the content from what I would use for adults, but that keeps me on my toes.
Sandwiched between these tours on Wednesday was something very different – an afternoon with students from Oxford Brookes University. They are doing a project about urban regeneration, mixed use developments and the challenge of maintaining communities when regenerating cities. To tie in with that, I had put together a route taking in some of the most important projects in the city – Fort Dunlop, The Mailbox, The Cube, Brindley Place, Jewellery Quarter. I always love doing specialist tours, as it means I get to research familiar places from a new perspective, which freshens it up for me and helps me broaden my own knowledge.
The week ended with another school tour, but something totally different from what I’d been doing earlier in the week. This time, it was Year 7 students from Harborne Academy, and the brief was to combine a ghost walk with other stories about the Jewellery Quarter, to provide stimulus for their creative writing, art and drama projects. It was a small group of just 13 kids, which was great in terms of getting the chance to talk to them one-to-one. The trip began with a tour of Newman Brothers Coffin Fittings Works. I’ve been there plenty of times on ghost walks, but it was fascinating to actually have their guided tour and I learned quite a bit. I also took the chance to take photos, including a new one I can use to promote our ghost walks! Afterwards, we made our way through the Jewellery Quarter, with ghost stories and other history and tales from the area, including lots that I hadn’t planned but came up because of requests and questions from the group. Ending in the two catacomb cemeteries was the perfect way to finish. It is a day I will not forget – the group were an absolute pleasure to work with and we all had such a great day. While I hope my stories and knowledge do give them lots of ideas for their work, I have to say that the day was extremely motivational for me too.
As you can see, a varied but very enjoyable week in the life of this guide.