During our trips to Haworth we’ve met lovely people. Two of our favourite ones are Johnnie Briggs and Leri Morgan-Wynne our amazing guides. They are both passionate and very professional people, yet they make you feel like you are always welcome. When you are with them, both in Haworth or out on the moors, you would just like them to talk forever, since they are so prepared and you can feel they really love their job. It was our pleasure tho have them interviewed for our blog. Dear readers, let’s start with Johnnie Briggs!
What’s your job?
I am a Blue Badge Tour Guide for Yorkshire. This means that I am an accredited member of the Institute of Tourist Guides, MITG, but more importantly, it means that I love Yorkshire and my favourite part of Yorkshire is Brontë Country.
Guides in England are self employed and the best of them have taken their exams and trained hard to become Blue Badge Guides. I have my own small company, Brontë Walks, our tag line is ‘Discover Yorkshire with Brontë Walks: Guides, Tours and so much more…’
I am lucky enough to work with a number of colleagues and associates, all of whom bring so much to what we can offer visitors and Leri is one of my associates. It is these colleagues, associates and the visitors themselves that have, that are, teaching me so much about being a guide. We don’t drown people in information, I would like to think that we have a light touch with words and that we are good story tellers. We also like to listen to visitors, to share stories and to make personal connections between our lives and those that we are thinking about it. I guess a good guide is someone who has a good conversation with you. The wonderful part about being a tour guide is that you never stop learning, you are always thinking about history, landscapes and the stories, the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people.
Why did you choose to become a guide?
I have been many things in my working life and all of them have involved working with people. I have worked as a Youth and Community Worker, in Adult Education, within the Arts encouraging people to explore their perceptions and themselves through theatre, music and photographs. I have worked on education programmes to encourage the development of literacy amongst young adults and I have and do work in the area of bereavement support. To be honest, I have become a guide almost by accident and by virtue of where I live. I love social history and literature and living in Haworth meant that I found a great richness of stories and history. All of this has led me to becoming a guide and I love it.
When did you first “meet” the Brontës and who’s your favourite member of the family? Why?
Many years ago, while I was living in Bradford and completing my degree at the School of Peace Studies at Bradford University, I spent many hours in the library, as all good students do. In between reading for my subject I would search out other books on literature, social history and poetry. One of these books introduced me to the story of the Brontë family and I wanted to know more about them. I sought out their letters and it is these that brought the story to life for me. I would urge everyone to read them and read the story of the family, to see their lives in the context of their family, the love that surrounds them and the social history of the times. It is amazing.
My favourite? How could I have a favourite. They are all amazing and all have such stories to tell. I will however confess to having a great admiration for the Rev Patrick Brontë, the father. As to why? Well, you will have to come to Haworth to ask me and I will tell you a story of this remarkable man and his beloved family.
Are there any Brontë stories you particularly love to share with tourists, and what’s your favourite Brontë place to show them? Why?
The Brontë story that I particularly love to share is that of Patrick and Marie’s courtship. The story of how they met and how their courtship unfolds. You see, we have some of Marie’s love letters to Patrick and they paint such a picture. But best of all these letters appear again later in the story; after the death of Branwell, Emily and Anne. No, I am not going to tell you how, you will have to come and hear the story.
As to my favourite Brontë place, it would have to be the moors surrounding Haworth. This is the landscape that inspired them, that is reflected in all of their literature, especially their poetry. After all this is the wild workshop of their imagination.