- Why are there two groups of guides? Surely you’re all just Manchester tour guides?
We are the official guides of Manchester, the only group of trained guides open to all guides, past present and future. Our group, New Manchester Walks, is run commercially. We believe in taking on new guides, opening up Manchester history, and providing entertaining and informative walks, talks and coach tours, not just in Manchester but beyond – in Liverpool, Knutsford, Haworth, London – using the best possible guides. Since forming in 2009, we have hosted some 6,000 tours attracting more than 100,000 customers in the face of huge opposition from a rival group some of whose members have often tried to close us down.Our group has been working tirelessly during the lockdown to entertain people with historical Zooms, while constantly inquiring after people’s health. The other group has had a sign up for ages saying: “All tours cancelled”. After the first lockdown started in March 2020 I quickly sent a message to the other group wishing them well and asking if everything was okay. Did I get a response? Nothing. No idea how to behave.
The other group is run by a secret committee. They only take on guides if they’ve got a coloured badge. These are handed out by the Institute of Tourist Guiding (ITG), a thoroughly useless, incompetent and pointless body that has done its best to hold back tour guiding in the North and whose sole purpose is to stop people guiding. We at New Manchester Walks believe that the qualifications a guide needs to take people around the area are a deep knowledge of the subject, an out-going personality, technique, wit and charm, not a coloured badge.
- I’d like to become a Blue Badge guide in Manchester. Is that possible?
No. There has been no Blue Badge course in Manchester since 1996, even though in London they are run regularly. This is because the existing Blue Badge guides have sown it up to stop any new potential guides getting a Blue Badge. This is corrupt and illegal but they are backed by the London-based Institute of (Stop) Tourist Guiding. Indeed the Manchester Blue Badge guides only reluctantly “allowed” there to be a Green Badge guide course in 2008–09, voting by one vote. They agreed, grudgingly, to have new Green Badge guides and then did everything they could to stop us working properly. By the way, Blue Badge guides look down on Green Badge guides in the way that police officers look down their nose at Community Safety officers.
- If all this sounds like something out of Soviet Russia, 1921, then it is. How on earth did the authorities allow that? Imagine you want to open a shoe shop in Manchester, only to find that the existing shoe shops are having a vote over whether they will allow it! That’s called communism and it doesn’t work.
- There should never have been a course. Visit Manchester should have asked tour companies to train or hire new guides, instead of allowing the existing Blue Badge guides to take charge and claim a committee was in charge. Once the course was over, the course director, Jonathan Schofield, became very upset that New Manchester Walks had actually started…guiding. This somewhat clashed with his mantra that Manchester is the city of free trade – until, in Blue Badge circles, people start trading.
- There was no welcome from the existing Blue Badge guides to the new Green Badge guides. In my case it was “Ed, why don’t you sod off back to London”. The existing Blue Badge guides failed to spot what was in front of their nose. That the presence of new guides with ideas and initiative would increase the market and mean more work for everyone, which is exactly what happened.
- When we new guides received our green badge in 2009 the ITG sent up their president (yes, it’s like something out of The Fast Show’s “Republica Democratica Militaria”), Ray Hoerty, who was also a Manchester Blue Badge guide, to rough us up, to ludicrously claim he was in charge, and to tell us, even more ludicrously, which areas of Manchester history we weren’t allowed to mention on tours! Hoerty and his Blue Badge pals then tried to weedle £150 out of the new guides to join a so-called “Agency”, £50 of which was for marketing, when they didn’t even have a website. Really! Hoerty then told us we had wasted our money training to be guides in Manchester, as “there was no market”. And this guy was the national president! What a ludicrous, useless, corrupt system. Hoerty has called guides who don’t have a badge “rogue guides”. But what are capable potential guides supposed to do if the guiding authorities won’t let them become “official”?
- I’ve been pushing the guiding authorities for years to hold a new course for Manchester. Not because one needs a badge to guide, but because people feel more comfortable if they have one. New Manchester Walks are desperate for guides. We have to refuse work because we can’t find the guides to do the job.
- Aren’t tours run by the council?
No. That wouldn’t work. The council runs education, social services, highways, environmental issues etc – essential municipal services. Unfortunately some people in positions of power locally would like to see the council employ a small group of attractive, bouncy young people to showcase the city with a tour that went no deeper than: “This is the Town Hall’s Conference Hall. It’s where weddings take place. Isn’t it maaaaarvellous?”, followed by a shake of the hair, and sod the history, the detail, the analysis, the ideas, the ironies, the stories, the anecdotes, the interesting delivery that excites people and gets them thinking.
- Tour guiding has to be run commercially and professionally, with competition, by those who know the business fully and can make decisions that work in the best interests of the customer, not the committee. The customer has to come first, not one of these arcane, impenetrable, undemocratic committees.
So who is in charge of guiding in Manchester?
- With New Manchester Walks, it’s me, Ed Glinert. This is because I’ve devised an enormous programme of walks covering every aspect of local history, sweated blood researching and practicing them, paid for and written the website in which they’re all beautifully explained and described, and then tramped the streets doing them.
- With the other group, the committee is in charge, like something out of Yes Minister out-takes. Orders come from above, but no one knows the identity of the mysterious person at the top, like something out of Klingon High Command.
- Presumably this has caused all sorts of problems
- Absolutely. Here’s one of the worst and most revealing incidents.
- Blue Badge guide John Doughty: “Ed, you can’t do Ancoats. That’s Kate Dibble’s tour.”
- Now the problem with that stance, which by the way is illegal (restraint of trade), is: what happens when Kate gets bored with Ancoats, or retires, or is ill? Does she appoint her successor, like the old corrupt print unions used to do? What happens if a new guide comes along who has done a different kind of research in Ancoats, has found out new, interesting things? Are they not allowed to do their Ancoats tour alongside? Do they have to wait and wait and wait, for what is known as “Dead man’s shoes”? More competition means better tours, better research, more customers, a better deal for the public.
- Indeed Blue Badge guide John Doughty bawled out me, Ed Glinert, in public in the Visitor Centre for daring to do such tours in one of many disgusting episodes orchestrated by the Blue Badge guides – and no apology has ever been offered.
- Why would the Blue Badge guides be so hostile to new blood?
- The long-standing group of Manchester Blue Badge guides was very middle-class, very reactionary, very parochial, very white…frightened of a Jew from London shaking things up. Many of the Blue Badge guides, I found, didn’t actually like doing tours. We at New Manchester Walks believed in opening up guiding; having more guides doing more tours. They fiercely opposed us. The key battleground was Manchester Town Hall. We new guides were no “allowed” to do it. The irony here was that the Blue Badge guides had been conducting tours of the key Manchester building for years and had only the most desultory knowledge of the building and its history. They couldn’t even get the names of all the statues right and had little idea what many of them were there for. When I did my first Town Hall tour of 300 or so in 2010, one of the Soviet committee types, a BBG called Jean Bailo, turned up to warn me off doing it.
- Absolutely disgusting behaviour and almost impossible to believe. I had to remind her of the two little words Robert De Niro parried at Charles Grodin in Midnight Run. As I was only a Green Badge guide, I wasn’t “qualified” to do this tour, despite the fact that I knew a hundred times more about the building than she did. A few months later she was running a Town Hall tour programme including all the other Green Badge guides other than me. Corrupt as well as stupid.
- In what way do your tours differ from those run by the old guard of Blue Badge guides?
- As soon as I qualified in 2009, having been conned out of £800 by the ITG for a mostly worthless Green Badge, but that was my stupidity, I realised the guiding world in Manchester needed a massive shake up.
- I thought we should provide the public with a full range of tours. There were hardly any: the Blue Badge guides didn’t.
- I thought the titles should be snappy and articulate. One of the Blue Badge guides had a walk called “Defiance and Capitulation”. It still astounds me that this sort of nonsense was let through.
- I thought the titles should be complemented by catchy sub-titles. So not just “Underground Manchester”, but “Underground Manchester – What You’re Overlooking”. They weren’t interested.
- I thought there should be a website, filled with a huge range of tours and beautifully-written descriptions. They didn’t. Indeed Blue Badge guide John Doughty told me “Our people don’t use the Internet.” I had to explain that using the Internet to get people on tours couldn’t get you fewer customers. One hundred thousand customers for New Manchester Walks later, mostly through the Internet, I would suggest John Doughty was talking monumental crap. And this was the kind of person saying they were in charge! However this fear of and refusal to use the Internet can even be found now, in 2021, within the North-West Association of Tour Guides. I have been pleading with them for 10 years to let me start up a website that would get all members more work, but I might as well beseech Boris Johnson to get his hair brushed. They have no idea what I’m talking about. Looking at some of their publicity material and lack of marketing skills it’s as if they don’t want more work.
- We at New Manchester Walks are fanatical about accuracy. That’s because we’re taking money off the public. If we make a mistake we accept it, eradicate it and improve. The Blue Badge old guard will not accept that they have made any mistakes regarding Manchester history and have refused to take part in any training, even though free seminars have been offered.
- Sadly, in recent years Manchester has seen a terrible decline in intellectual and educational standards. This began when the Manchester Guardian dropped the Manchester prefix in August 1959, and the city lost face and confidence.Things have continued to deteriorate. Manchester Evening News journalists often write about how Marx & Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto at Chetham’s (which is nonsense), and tour guides repeat it. Manchester Evening News journalists can’t even get the name of the canals in the city centre right. Most of the Blue Badge guides can’t even get the name of the statues on the Town Hall correct or work out why they’re there. One long-standing Blue Badge guide took the new Green Badge guides on a training session inside Manchester Town Hall. she walked straight past the extremely important display of the Order of the Garter on the entrance hall ceiling and when this was pointed out, she confessed that she had never noticed it in 30 years of guiding in Manchester. A vital component of the Manchester Town Hall tour and she never knew. Useless; bloody useless.Sadly a number of local Facebook sites get scores of people coming on saying something like “It doesn’t matter what the true historical story is; I like the story I know.” Shocking! And linked with the decline of educational standards mentioned above.
- Here are two terrible examples of Blue Badge incompetence that stem from lack of thoroughness and how to research properly. Skill at research is not easy, which is why those guides who know how to have offered their skills – for free – to those who might not have the time or the background. These offers have been snubbed.
- One long-standing Blue Badge guide took people on a “Charles Dickens’s Manchester” tour some years ago. She stood opposite the gorgeous George Meek/Cervantes building on the corner of Deansgate and Liverpool Road, and told the group this was the library Charles Dickens came to open. The George Meek building went up in 1882, twelve years after Dickens died. Dickens opened the first free Manchester library nearby in 1852, a building that was demolished a couple of decades later. Basic research would have unearthed this. I include this little story because the guide in question – I won’t mention her name to save her blushes – expended considerable energy in trashing, insulting and demeaning New Manchester Walks when we set up, for reasons still unknown.
- The most respected Manchester Blue Badge guide made a silly mistake in attributing to George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier a quote about Manchester. In mitigation of the careless Blue Badge guide, he has at least admitted that he made the mistake, but it is too late. The quote was displayed at Urbis and at the Mercure Hotel. It is all over the ’Net. The fake guides who run free tours, who have done next to no research, who Marketing Manchester should not be backing in any way, have adopted the canard and spread it to hundreds of people. But then again, at the same time the careless Blue Badge guide who distorted Orwell has led the campaign against New Manchester Walks and refuses to improve his knowledge of Manchester in the light of new findings, on the quasi-racist grounds that the new knowledge has emanated from somebody from London.
- More guiding tales next time!