Hear it from our Guide Support Officer: Millie’s Support during Lockdown in Manchester

The world has gone virtual and so has Invisible Cities. Millie, our fantastic Guide Support Officer at Invisible (Manchester), has written this piece to share how she has been supporting our guides and trainees since we have gone into lockdown.

Due to COVID-19 we at Invisible (Manchester) have had to adapt to supporting our tour guides and trainees from home. Being a Guide Support Officer this has not been a straightforward task. However, due to the hard work and dedication from our team we have managed to continue supporting our tour guides virtually whilst maintaining some sense of normality. This article lays out how we have overcome the social barriers created by COVID-19.

Our First Virtual Team Meeting

A key factor in making this time easier is the availability of technology; everyone is ‘Zooming’. However, what about those who find technology challenging or confusing? In a time where face to face meetings aren’t possible not having the ability to use new forms of communication can be very isolating.

For instance, during our first Invisible (Manchester) team meeting, one of our tour guides, Danny, couldn’t connect. This was hugely frustrating for him, as this is a key point of social contact and some normality for Danny. After this, we rang Danny and talked him through the process step by step.

The following week when we began our virtual team meeting, the sun was out and so was Danny’s face (albeit upside-down) – we were all connected!

Our First Virtual Learning Session – The Pankhurst Centre

On this specific occasion we had planned to go to the Pankhurst Centre. Our other tour guide, Laura, had been looking forward to this, as she has researched the Suffragettes and Emmeline Pankhurst in depth for her Powerful Women tour.

As we could not visit the centre, I thought why don’t we take the Pankhurst Centre to our guides? I created a virtual tour of the centre and dressed up as a Suffragette. I thought the guides would be really impressed, but as soon as I appeared on the screen it was filled with laughter, as I looked more like Mary Poppins according to Danny… She was a famous female figure, so I didn’t get it too wrong? The trip was a success and we all learnt a lot about Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes!

Other Virtual Learning Sessions

Since this first Virtual Learning Session, we’ve had a virtual quiz about the history of Manchester, and a song-writing session with a volunteer called Niamh. She is a very kind and talented young woman who has significant experience in working with vulnerable people to create songs. Niamh praised Laura and Danny for their work: “They both wrote some lovely words”.

Last week our guides and trainees were excited for a Virtual Archives session was with Larysa from Manchester’s Central Library. She has been a fantastic support to our guides in the past and helped them to research specific and rare history about Manchester. Now in the virtual world she commented on the progress of our guides, she said “Laura especially seems to have grown in confidence and I could see her developing leadership skills.” This happens to be one of Laura’s favourite learning sessions, she said: “I’ve never had a bigger smile on my face going into the library archives”. Given the success of our Virtual Learning sessions we have opened them up for other Invisible Cities guides to join from across the country. Holly, a guide from Invisible (Edinburgh) joined us at the Virtual Library session!

We also have a session with the terrific Manchester Art Gallery tour guide, John, who has worked alongside our guides over the last year. John has adapted to doing virtual tours for the gallery, so he is kindly going to hold one of our upcoming sessions on ‘How to be a Virtual Tour Guide’. Another session will be on mindfulness and how the guides should be thinking about their health and wellbeing during this isolation period. Holly and Angie, our tour guides from Invisible (Edinburgh), are helping build this session, Angie being a life coach and using Holly’s knowledge on wellbeing and health!

Our Danny – A Poet, Whenever, Wherever

As well as our virtual team meetings and learning sessions, I’ve also been in regular contact with our guides on an individual basis. Living on your own at this time can be hard, especially for those of us who’s social life exists, for the most part, outside of the homes to which we are currently confined.

Our tour guide, Danny, has been keeping busy and happy in his own company, by focusing on projects such as his ‘songs without music’ as he describes his poems and decorating his house. However, even with the most positive attitudes, the isolation of lockdown affects all of us in some way. One day at the beginning of lockdown, Danny was feeling less motivated and chirpy than usual. In the past Danny has brightened my day and many others with his poetry, so I thought I would take a detour from my usual morning run and deliver him one of my own poems (social distancing at all times as the health of our guides is our utmost priority). Although nowhere near as good as Danny (Poet King of Manny), my attempt seemed to put a smile on his face. This is where Danny and my Poetry Exchange began and I have been collecting the poems in a book to give to Danny when we can meet again.

Millie’s Poems:

Your name is Danny

The poet king of Manny

When people come on your tour

All they want is more

Its makes my hear ache

When you do your poem about beer and cake

I wish we could still hand shake

But who cares when you can spit bars like William Blake

Danny’s Poem:

Milly milly you are always so busy

Running around

But remember you could end up like me

I was 6ft 3 but im 5ft 1 cos

I’ve worked my legs off

But I must say this to you

Because you are part of the team

And a good friend

And an adopted daughter

Millie’s Poem:

Thank you for the last poem

It had a great beat

The words were truly wholesome

They knocked me off my feet

Now, I know you love meat

But you know vegetables are pretty neat

Sorry we made you eat a vegan sausage roll

One day your love for them will evolve

I hope you enjoyed reading about my role as Guide Support Officer at Invisible (Manchester) during COVID-19, please get in touch if you have any questions or want to get involved with our virtual learning sessions [email protected]