Becoming a Cathedral Guide involves much more than simply being able to regurgitate a series of facts and figures as sixteen apprentice guides discovered when they entered the intensive Initial Guide Training Course earlier this year.
In fact the ability to retain lots of information is not the number one priority of a guide – a friendly and reassuring welcome for our many thousands of visitors is however, and this is the aspect that we concentrate on most on the course.
Rarely are we given the chance to see ourselves as others see us but this was the situation that faced the apprentices on the very first afternoon of the course. Each guide was given one minute to introduce a fellow student to camera. Somehow it is so much harder when there is a lens pointing at us but the team overcame this hurdle although not without a little merriment on the way.
The course itself is divided into seven consecutive Mondays through January and into February that cover Worship and Liturgy, Use of the Church, Architecture, visits to the Workshops and Library and most important of all Presentation Skills. Two and a half days of the course were devoted to the business of presenting ourselves to the public. From the wonderful warm-up sessions provided by Sonia Woolley to the inspiring and constructive direction of Hazel Docherty, each guide found themselves standing before their fellow students presenting to and moving the group around the Cathedral.
I am pleased to say that all successfully graduated from the course and we were delighted when the Canon Chancellor was able to present them with their certificates and badges confirming their qualified Cathedral Guide status.
However, perhaps the value of the course is best said in the words of one of the newly qualified guides:
“Having just completed the Salisbury Cathedral Guide Training Course I would happily do it again!"
"The days varied in structure and content and were well organized… A range of speakers shared their knowledge and enthusiasm for their subject - the architecture, the medieval clock, the stained glass, the music, the liturgy, the Magna Carta, the Chapter House."
"The course was excellent at developing our skills and confidence in guiding, and though this felt a little daunting at first, the supportive, safe and friendly atmosphere helped us all."