Tag Archives: jewellery quarter

Q and A Part 2

So here are some more questions about me and my work as a guide…

What do you do when you’re not guiding?

Alongside my guiding, I work as a freelance German-English translator.  I am fluent in German – which I am also fully qualified to guide in – and the combination works well as I can do as many tours as possible and take translation work for other times.  When I’m not working I love to read, either novels or books on history and travel.  I also spend a lot of time listening to music – varied styles but rock music is my favourite – and attempting to play the guitar.  I am a keen sports fan, especially ice hockey, which I have been watching since the age of 7, cricket and football.  I try to keep fit by running, swimming and walking.  As you might expect, travel is a big passion and I am always finding new places to explore, in this country and others.

What is your favourite castle?

To be honest, I think that most castles are fantastic places to visit, as they have links to some of the great people and events in history.  Many are also very impressive buildings in scenic locations too. If I had to pick one, however, it would be Kenilworth Castle.  Mainly in ruins, it has enough of its buildings left to retain some of the atmosphere of its glorious past, while its countryside setting and sandstone construction make it extremely picturesque, especially when the sun shines on its walls and makes them glow.  I prefer exploring ruined castles with my imagination and a good guide to visiting better preserved or reconstructed ones with costumed staff and the like, as I think this helps to bring the place to life much more effectively.

And what about stately homes or country houses?

Again, they are fascinating places, as each has its own stories.  While I am keen on what I would call “big history” – kings and queens, great events and so on – my real love is social history, and I am intrigued to discover as much as I can about the people who lived and worked in places, what they might have been like and how they lived.  The best houses manage to convey this effectively through their choice of how they present themselves.  Generally, I tend to prefer smaller ones to the huge palaces, but I have to make one exception here as my absolute favourite is Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire.  Everything about it is impressive, from the architecture to the gardens to the absolutely stunning paintings and wall decorations to the presentation of the house and the family who created it.  Every time I go there, I am amazed all over again and I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t had the chance yet.

Where do you most like to unwind with a well-earned drink after a tour?

My drink of choice is real ale, and I’m fortunate that I get to sample the delights of local pubs and brews throughout England.  It is hard to mention just one favourite but if I had to choose it would be the Red Lion, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.  It is a small local pub with a long tradition, and serves superb food and a great choice of regional ales.  Our Birmingham Graveyard Ghost Walks finish there too, so I do literally get to unwind and refresh my vocal chords after tours there on quite a regular basis!

Vee’s Deli

Just like much else in the Jewellery Quarter, Vee’s Deli is small but perfectly formed. The solid wooden door looks a little unwelcoming, but once you step inside, the atmosphere is warm and cosy. Vee has a friendly, bubbly personality and she finds time to chat to all of her customers, while remaining efficient.

The menu is quite limited, but all of the food is freshly prepared and delicious – the homemade soup is particularly recommended. Even the side salads are fresh and crisp, not limp as in so many places.

Even though there are only a few tables and the place gets busy, you don’t feel as though you are being rushed to finish to make room for the next people. In fact we lingered for a while with a second drink after we had finished eating.

As well as being a café, it is also a delicatessen, where you can buy cheeses and pates and locally produces wines amongst other things.

The place is a true treasure amongst the gold and jewels in the area, and the ideal place for a lunch stop.

Academic tours…for all ages!

Inside Newman Brothers

Inside Newman Brothers

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.

The Pen Room

Situated in the Argent Centre, on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter, just a few minutes walk from the city centre and Brindley Place, The Pen Room is one of Birmingham’s best kept secrets.

It is a privately owned museum dedicated to celebrating and preserving Birmingham’s heritage as a global centre of pen-making. With fascinating exhibits from the great pen makers of the area and a wealth of well-presented pictures and information from the archives, it is a museum that truly captures the essence of its subject.

There are lots of activities to try, and a chance to try out historic pens, ensuring that all ages will enjoy a visit. What really makes it special are the staff whose knowledge, enthusiasm and friendly welcome set the pen room apart.

Because of its location, it’s easy to combine a visit to the Pen Room with a stroll around the fascinating Jewellery Quarter, with its excellent selection of shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

To see this month’s “Highlight of the Month” visit www.iabtours.com.