Bletchley Park had undergone a transformation in recent years: restoration, new interpretation and a growth in visitor numbers. However, their tour, written and led by volunteer tour guides, still needed improvement and refreshing to bring it up to the quality experienced across the rest of the site. TheWholeStory was asked to work with Bletchley Park and the tour guides to firstly find the best story that could be told by a site specific highlights tour and secondly to train the volunteer guides. The tour story and its delivery by the tour guides would compliment the media guide, inspire visitors to explore the site on their own, hold correct information and facts and overall ignite the interest and curiosity of all types of visitors.
TTheWholeStory found a story for the highlights tour that explained, illustrated and evoked how each stop had been involved in the problem of breaking codes and cyphers at Bletchley Park. This story was then the foundation for each tour guide to follow, but also to interpret to suit their own and their audiences’ interests, knowledge or enthusiasms. The volunteers each took part in 2 days of training during which both the content of the tour was developed and how the guides could deliver and express it. Applying techniques from storytelling the guides became more visitor aware and able to adapt and improvise in response, used descriptive language to clarify the technical complexities of Bletchley Park’s story and to bring to life the ideas, events, time and people of the site’s history.
TheWholeStory worked closely with Bletchley park to motivate and support the volunteers through what was a difficult change for them. Throughout the process the volunteers were involved in the creation of the tour story and were invited to contribute to is form and content but were also reminded of the changing expectations of visitors, whose experience needed to be considered first and foremost. Following the training we created a set of resource documents to help the volunteers change from the old tour to the new tour. Of the 42 tour guides who took part in the training only 2 have left and since the adoption of the new tour story there has been an increase in positive visitor comments about the tour.
“Fascinating day, the free guided tour led by an enthusiastic knowledgeable guide put the whole site into context.”
A Bletchley Park Visitor
“We went on one of the guided tours. The volunteer who took the tour, really made the place come alive. His sheer knowledge and passion for the place was infectious. A memorable day out that has left a real impression on me.”
A Bletchley Park Visitor
“Bletchley Park engaged The Whole Story to help review and refresh our one hour Highlights Tour, to ensure it was warm and welcoming to a wide range of audiences. Working with our volunteer tour guides, Lily and Josh set about building relationships and trust and managing expectations about how we were all going to work together. Lily and Josh took so much time to immerse themselves fully in Bletchley Park's history and our desire to better engage visitors with our often too-complex stories. Over the course of many two-day workshops, they worked with the guides to create a framework for the new tour, which still allowed flexibility and the guides to show their personalities and their passions. It was a great experience and we are delighted with how Lily and Josh tackled this difficult transformation of a core part of our visitor offer.”
Director of Public Engagement Bletchley Park Trust