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WTG Class of 2013-14
Tanya Bloomfield – When I started this course I really didn’t know what to expect. What I got was the skills and the knowledge required to become a good walking tour guide, as well as a group of amazing friends. Caroline and Catherine between them make a formidable team. Caroline, the course director, has designed the course to perfection, with her academic knowledge and her famous walkshops. Catherine, with her knowledge of the grassroots of guiding, gave us her tricks to control nerves. Would I recommend this course? Yes, I would, over and over again!
Susie Davies – I absolutely LOVED the course and I had a terrific time with a really great group of people. I thought I knew central London well and was very happy to be proved wrong. The course was stimulating, fun and very well structured. I learned a tremendous amount and really enjoyed the process. Supportive and very knowledgeable tutors and a good balance of practical and written work. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
(Go to the Links page to find out more about Susie and her guiding activities.)
Anthony Davis – This course was my first introduction to guiding. It surpassed my expectations. This was thanks entirely to Caroline’s dedication, energy and enthusiasm. (Not to forget her spectacular outfits – a different colour-coordinated experience each week.) Starting from nowhere, I finished the course with a good sense of how to write and organise a walk; how to present a walk well; and an idea of the theory of guiding, which was thought-provoking and useful. I now feel confident in addressing a walking group and knowing what to say and how to say it. I have also been given some suggestions for and insights into marketing. Caroline’s tactics include combining groups of students together to prepare for exams, which is particularly helpful to the weaker ones. Altogether a great experience for which I am very grateful.
(Anthony is a lawyer and Westminster was his first guiding course.)
Eileen Federico – As a complete beginner to guiding, I found this course an absolute must. Caroline teaches core skills and values that have been invaluable to me not only in guiding but also in everyday life. The wealth of knowledge I have accumulated on this course has been amazing. Caroline and Catherine are first-class tutors, and the dedication and kindness shown to all students throughout the year is outstanding. This course is not to be missed!
Charlie Forman – This course has been enormously rewarding for me. It is exhilarating not just to see a well-known city with new eyes, but to know how to get other people to appreciate it afresh, too. At heart the course is not about knowledge accumulation but about skills development. It provided me with the tools to understand how to become a better communicator, and to turn that understanding into something that works on the street corner. Starting out as a guide can be a nervy experience, but Caroline and Catherine create a very supportive and safe environment for newcomers to experiment in. An essential ingredient in the energy and collaborative spirit of our student group was witnessing, sharing, encouraging and enjoying this uplift in our collective ability. We learned a lot from each other, something the course anticipated. As our skills developed so did the pace of learning and the tutors’ expectations – it was beautifully planned and structured. Caroline has a deep understanding of the different ways in which people learn, and uses that understanding to great effect. Then in communicating their framework of knowledge about Westminster both she and Catherine always modelled the techniques they wanted us to adopt. It was stimulating, pared and crafted. They want tour guides to be inspiring – and they were certainly that.
Sheldon Goodman – I started the course as a complete novice to guiding. The task that lay ahead was daunting: to package and interpret a surrounding in an interesting and digestible way that would engage and challenge people’s viewpoints. Caroline has worked hard to create a course that goes far beyond imparting facts and figures about what has helped shape the Westminster we know today. She has achieved this through a personable, intimate teaching approach that concentrates on the skills needed to make a story interesting in more than one way, with particular attention paid to involving students at every stage of learning. Hands-on methods such as walkshops, class presentations and group work brought the art of guiding to life: resources were provided in conjunction with our own research and a great camaraderie between students and tutors was evident and encouraged. Caroline, assisted by Catherine, truly want the best for their students with support and advice offered at every stage. I cannot recommend a better course to those who want to consider guiding as a hobby or as a profession.
(Sheldon co-authors a popular blog on cemeteries and is also an illustrator. Go to the Links page for a link to Sheldon’s blog.)
Jonathan Grun – A tremendous course that is brilliantly taught. You learn a huge amount about Westminster and visit some extraordinary places. You learn how to speak in public – a white-knuckle experience the first time you do it. You learn how to tell stories. The course teaches the key skills that you need to lead a group of people on the busy streets of Westminster and helps you cope with the unexpected. And there is an opportunity to discuss what the role of the guide is – how the guide can help citizens connect with their heritage. It is incredibly challenging at first but there is a supportive atmosphere and pretty soon your confidence grows. You are all in it together as students, so everyone is friendly – and working in groups for the practical exams is really rewarding and helps you achieve your goals. Above all, Caroline and Catherine go the extra mile to help you get the most out of the course. They are real stars and I will be eternally grateful to them for all the help they gave me during the course.
(Jonathan is a journalist and Westminster was his first guiding course.)
Charlie Gurney – I joined the 2013-14 Westminster Tour Guiding course for a number of reasons, having had for many years a latent desire to delve under the surface and deeper into the history of this amazing city where I was born and have spent most of my life. I have long wished to develop an understanding of the narrative of the city in order to frame my understanding and interpretation of it and be able to impart something of my interest to others. The course was great and just what I needed. It is constructed around “walkshops” which are actual walking tours for the class in which students research, develop, write and present a designated stop and subject. This is great and gets students focused on actual practical work from early on. Individual feedback for all from the tutors is an important feature of this, allowing the chance to reflect on performance and improve. The “walkshops” are augmented with classroom sessions aimed at providing content and context as well as some interesting insights into the history and theory of guiding. Importantly there are also sessions focused on the physical aspects of presentation, such as voice projection, breathing, body stance and dealing with groups of people. I found these very useful as I felt I needed to develop and gain more confidence in my public persona and “streetcraft”. The content was covered methodically with the links between places, people and historic periods serving to reinforce learning. One of the examined components is a project, which is a substantial piece of work. This offers the opportunity to develop a personally interesting line of enquiry in some depth into some aspect of Westminster past or present, which is produced as a potential walk. A supportive structure is fostered not just with the tutors, who are committed, but also among the class with much team working and socialising. The course features in its students a nicely selected and blended mix of the experienced and those who are new to guiding. I can’t recommend this course highly enough.
Mark Lubienski – Early on during the Westminster Tour Guiding course, either Caroline or Catherine (I don’t recall who) mentioned to me that the course can be life-changing. At the time I was a little sceptical, having come to the course with no previous experience of guiding. I was looking for a practical outlet for my keen interest in history and in London, but what I found and gained on the course surpassed my wildest expectations! The course itself was consistently interesting, challenging, stimulating, fulfilling and much more. I learned an enormous amount about Westminster’s history, I started to appreciate London’s architecture for the first time, and I also gained practical and commercial skills that are already standing me in good stead in my tentative forays into ‘real world’ guiding. Caroline is a wonderfully passionate, committed and expert course director who is always focused on her students’ success and enjoyment of the course – I will forever be grateful to her! Course tutor Catherine, who brings different perspectives and approaches, and also the experience of guiding on a daily basis, superbly balances Caroline. Together they make a formidable team and I will always see them as my guiding mentors! Last, but by no means least, I spent nine months in the company of a group of extraordinary students with whom it was great fun to work collaboratively and socialise, and with whom I now share a life-long connection and friendship.
(Mark is a software industry executive and Westminster was his first guiding course.)
Sean Patterson – Be prepared to work hard, and have fun, on this exciting course. Caroline packs in a huge amount and her approach is diverse. As a reasonably experienced guide I found the practical training very strong. It includes videoing students guiding, which I really felt improved my own delivery. Group activities, quizzes and a mixed program of guided walks created a strong group dynamic, and I’m sure many of the students will remain both friends and colleagues. In a changing market Caroline is keen to explore trends and theories about walking in a worldwide context and there is just the right amount of academic rigour. Novices are carefully nurtured, but as a veteran of several courses I found I still had much to learn from the Westminster course.
(Sean is a City Guide and a Clerkenwell & Islington Guide as well as a Westminster Guide. Go to the Links page to find out more about Sean and his guiding activities.)
Sandy Rhodes – A thoroughly enjoyable course made so by the variety of topics covered and the friendships formed as we supported each other through a series of demanding situations, some in the classroom and others out on the pavement. Highlights for me were: (1) The walkshops of six different areas of Westminster, which provided us not only with the chance to practise our guiding skills out on the streets but also with the opportunity to gain a complete set of notes for each walk. (2) The classroom presentations about different aspects of Westminster delivered with such style and enthusiasm by the course participants. (3) Rather surprisingly perhaps, the exam preparation for the National Portrait Gallery. I don’t think I can say I have ever ‘enjoyed’ working for an exam before but this one really opened my eyes to the hidden depths in the portraits and paintings and the special skills needed to guide inside rather than outside. (4) The events organised for us, which included guided tours of the London Transport Museum, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court and the Palace of Westminster and walking tours prepared by past students, all brilliant. But above all, the course was a fantastic learning experience, made so by both the quality of the lecturers and the diversity of fellow students – I miss it all!
(Sandy is a guide at Hampton Court Palace.)
Fazilet Tharani – The Westminster Tour Guiding course is a combination of facts and practical instruction, based on historical, geographical and heritage aspects of Westminster. The course is enjoyable with plenty of interaction and discussion, which enriches our knowledge and builds up confidence for public speaking and presentation. Caroline Dunmore and Catherine Cartwright were extremely supportive with feedback and assessments right from the beginning of the course. The walkshops organised by the tutors ensured that we understood the function and meaning of guiding in the metropolis. The course is intensive and demands discipline and memory, but rewards us with vision and understanding of the rich network of Westminster. I would like to add that statues, memorials, buildings and all other wonders of Westminster have taken a whole new significance for me. Once again, many thanks to Caroline and Catherine for this wonderful course.
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