Learning the Ropes as a Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s GlobeIn this…

Learning the Ropes as a Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s Globe

In this new series of blogs, we’re going to take you behind the scenes of our Guided Tours & Exhibition. Open all year round, the tour gives you an opportunity to learn more about this unique building and its most famous playwright, Shakespeare.

In our first blog post last week, Ffion explored the magic of sharing theatre experiences and in today’s blog, Nicola Pollard talks about the training involved in becoming a guide at one of the world’s most interesting theatre venues.

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We’re sometimes asked how we come to be a Tour Guide at Shakespeare’s Globe, so I thought I’d give you a little insight!

There are a fair number of us, around 45 or so. Some work more regularly than others, it’s a flexible contract so we can fit this around other work. A number of our team are tour guides at other attractions and locations, like the Houses of Parliament or St Paul’s Cathedral. Others are involved in the theatre industry as actors or directors, or are retired from a wide range of professions, or have recently graduated and are working out what they want to do with life! What unites us all is a love of the Globe and a desire to share that with you. 

Once through the interview stage, every new guide gets five days of training. Mine was all in one week, and I like to refer to it as the ‘intensive version’ (or crash course!). The first couple of days are all about absorbing the nature of the job, shadowing other guides on their tours, picking up hints and tips and wading through the epic manual. We are assigned a mentor – a wise and experienced guide – who is on hand to answer any questions and show us the ropes. The mentor also helps us shape and structure our tours, listens to us stumble through numerous versions and then (hopefully) deems us ready for a final test. 

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Each tour we give must include basic information about the Globe, such as when and how it was built, Sam Wanamaker’s vision, playing styles then and now. But after that, we can pepper our tours with whatever information we feel fits, as long as it’s accurate, interesting and enjoyable for our audience! 

The final test is taken with real, live, unsuspecting members of the public. We’re given the first tour of the day, usually about 15 to 20 people, followed (literally) by our Line Manager, Chris, and another experienced guide or member of the Exhibition department, complete with their clipboards and check-lists. Let’s be honest, I’ve had more relaxing hours in my life. You’ve rehearsed it, practiced it at home, practiced it around the Globe, said it yourself and said it out loud (probably shouldn’t have done the latter on the train). 

Luckily, I had a really friendly group for my test and after waving the crowd away at the end, I turned to my assessors. This is not unlike that moment at the end of a driving test when you wait to see if they’re going to fill in the special form, or look at you with a disappointed expression. I passed!

If you don’t get it right first time, you’re given the chance to look over the feedback and try again. After passing, you’re offered a contract as a Globe Tour Guide, given a shiny new ID card complete with (in my case) awful photo and voila, you’re part of the team. 

For my first few weeks (ahem, months) I found I was always learning something new. I learnt how to adapt a tour to a group of exhausted Spanish students who were coming to the end of a tiring week in London. I learnt how to best show around a group with mobility issues. I learnt new terms. I learnt the location of Middle Gallery Bay L. 

I like this place, and willing could waste my time in it. So, come and while away your time with us. Whether we’ve been here five months or five years, we’re more than happy to take you round.

Read more about Guided Tours & Exhibition

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Words: Nicola Pollard
Photos: John Wildgoose and Shakespeare’s Globe