Linzi has been working within Health and Safety at Alton Towers for 15 years as part of a close-knit team of 5 and worked on the ‘Protecting the Magic for Managers’ training with a collective team from numerous Merlin Entertainments UK Theme parks and Legoland Resorts. This interactive training session taught us that safety at Merlin is a whirlwind; it spans from rides, hotels, and restaurants, to the work-shops, contractors and events of every attraction. As Linzi detailed the responsibilities of the HSE, EHO, and ORR at the park, she included relevant guidance documents and legislative works that must be abided by within each corner of every department – relevant to our own Law and Legislation module that we’re currently studying at Staffordshire University.
“Safety should always be a moving target – it is never complete.”
Linzi Ticehurst, 2021
During the session, the
one-and-only Francis Jackson (Alton Towers Resort Operations Director) stopped
by for a couple of minutes to offer a few words on the topic – “the ability to
foresee; therein lies the challenge.” (Francis Jackson, 2021). Agreeing with
what Francis has said, protecting our guests and staff is the primary focus of
our safety department. The responsibilities lie not only in rectifying an
incident, but to prepare and take away the hazard in order to maintain the
magic for our guests.
I, myself (Lucy Moseley) have
been a part of the Health and Safety team at Alton Towers for 2 months up to
this publication and working close with the rides department as a fresh pair of
eyes on the resort has been an incredible, and rare, opportunity. It is my
responsibility to complete administrative work, inspect the rides on resort and
bring forward solutions to any arising issues – it’s the kind of role where no
two days are the same.
Finally, I would once again like to thank Linzi for taking the time to come and speak with us and share her knowledge on the significance of keeping safe at all times whilst working at the resort. The session that she provided was incredibly informative and well structured, so thank you, Linzi.
As the first weekend of October approaches, it’s not just the locals who anticipate The Stone Food and Drink Festival every year. After going virtual in 2020, with no live events taking place at all, it was a pleasure to volunteer at this year’s 2021 festival. Volunteering opportunities have been sparse over the last 18 months and many small businesses have taken a huge hit, meaning many events need all the help they can get, so I’m here to talk about my experience and how to get involved as an event volunteer yourself!
Stone Food and Drink Festival is located at Westbridge park in Stone and has been running since 2004. It’s a not-for-profit community event that supports local businesses, giving them a platform to showcase what they do and providing a fun filled event celebrating all things food and drink. The festival has a wide range of options to suit anyone, from local craft beers and liqueurs to street food and desserts in the Gourmet Marquee (which can all be enjoyed alongside volunteering!).
I represented Staffordshire University as an event marshal and as a third-year events management student. I spent the majority of the day networking with local businesses in and around Stone or helping out at the Demonstration Kitchen and the Talks and Tastings tent. This included encouraging guests to join the live events in each tent, handing out samples and being a friendly face for attendees to approach and ask general questions to.
The vendors and organisers were grateful to have a helping hand on the day and it was a lot of fun being able to watch demonstrations from business owners and to gain an insight to what an event looks like behind the scenes.
Small Business Spotlight
Joules –Joules Brewery are the main sponsor for the festival, who have recently opened a new venue called The Crown Wharfwhich opened in July 2021 and is located on Crown Street in Stone. The taphouse has become extremely popular with locals due to the friendly staff, lively atmosphere and of course, great beer! The new project also aims to bring a community theatre to the establishment calledThe Crown Wharf Theatreas there is currently no purpose-built event space in Stone where local arts and community groups can join to enhance their creativity and passions. They are looking for volunteers here.
Ten Green Bottles – Ten Green Bottles is a gin and craft beer bar who currently have two venues in Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Stone. The business attended the festival to talk the latest drink trends alongside Stafford Distillery, sharing their knowledge of quality cocktails and recommending the best ingredients. As well as handing out samples of their cocktail containing lychee gin infused with passionfruit liqueur and tonic (yum!), they also had a pop-up bar and a stall to purchase their products from. To check out all things cocktail, visit their websites linked.
Community events such as this one are so rewarding to volunteer at, as well as being a lot of fun to be a part of, particularly for students interested in areas such as events management like myself. At the event I gained valuable experience to put into practice at future events I either volunteer at or host myself and am looking forward to the next project! If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for next year or just want to attend yourself as a guest, visit Stone Food and Drink Festival’s website
If you’re a student at Staffordshire University looking for volunteer opportunities ask your tutors and try the Careers service
Staffordshire University is my home university, and, in September, I’ll be heading into my third and final year of BA (Hons) Events Management. Having lived in Staffordshire for almost all my life, I’ve tried and tested the best places for students to eat, drink and visit, and I’m here to tell you all about them!
Let’s start with some on-campus student union run facilities
and the two favourite hangouts for my uni friends and I: Ember Lounge and
Squeeze Box. Ember
Lounge serves classic pub food and drinks and is the perfect place to spend a
break from studying or grab some food with friends after a day of lectures. Squeeze
Box is my favourite place to head for a bite to eat in the morning, along with
either a takeout coffee or one of their infamous freshly squeezed orange juices
Moving on, we have the lovely Trentham Estate, an important local attraction to mention for many reasons. Firstly, their Event Volunteer programme, if nobody has told you already, it won’t be long before your lecturers and industry pros are emphasising the importance of volunteering to gain experience ready for your placement and graduate job applications, whatever course you’re taking. Trentham have a fantastic volunteer programme and last year I successfully applied and have worked on several events including the Christmas Fairy Lights experience, the summer concerts and market research for Trentham Live 2022!
With so many events, restaurants and attractions on offer, Trentham Estate is a great place to head for a day or evening out with friends and a fantastic place to catch up with family when they come to visit. Who wouldn’t love a trip to the Monkey Forest to get away from assignments for a while!? There’s even a Premier Inn on site you can recommend to your parents so they don’t have to crash in your flat!
Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are filled with arts and culture, so what better place to take you to next than the Cultural Quarter in Hanley? Piccadilly and the surrounding area are home to a variety of entertainment venues including The Regent Theatre, showcasing phenomenal touring productions, and The Sugarmill, a great place to head to for local music and small gigs, as well as some great restaurants and cafes like The Slamwich Club and The Quarter.
Most recently, I visited The Quarter for lunch with my friend. Their menu is split into a Daytime Menu and an Evening Menu and the range of options is HUGE, with traditional classics, all-day breakfast and brunch and even Mediterranean style platters! I ordered the egg and salmon sourdough from the all-day brunch menu and my friend had the battered cod with chunky chips from the selection of main dishes. (My friend said she was still dreaming of the battered cod days later!)
Just a little further along in the Cultural Quarter, you’ll find the Mitchell Arts Centre, a small local theatre with a Café-Bar and even a dance studio and meeting rooms to hire. As someone who’s heavily involved in the local amateur theatre scene, I’ve spent a LOT of time here: watching performances, taking part in performances and volunteering (yes, more volunteering!) as Marketing & Events Officer for Stoke Amateur Theatre Society.
Last but not least, it would be incredibly remiss of me to not mention the UK’s largest theme park, the Alton Towers Resort. Of course, this is a GREAT place to have right on your doorstep, whether that’s for a thrilliant day out with friends or for some fantastical escapism with the family when they visit. You can find some great student offers on admission here!
It’s also a great place to work as student, with plenty of seasonal opportunities on offer, particularly if you are studying Events Management or Visitor Attraction & Resort Management. I currently work as a Team Leader on the Guest Excellence Team and have gained invaluable experience and loved every minute of working at the Resort!
For Events in Autumn 2021 have a look at Jon Fairburn’s blog by clicking here
Here’s a pick of some of the great events available if you are joining us at Staffordshire University this Autumn. There’s also a list of venues and other information sources at the end for more events
Tonia Barrett, Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
Most students decide to go to University as they want to learn, experience university life, meet friends, improve chances in their career, and gain more independence. Our Foundation Degree in Visitor Attraction and Resort Management (VARM) students achieve all of this and so much more. They leave with memorable and life changing experiences, broader knowledge, in depth understanding, increased determination, the skills to overcome challenges, an improved level of responsibility and time management skills. Are these skills you want to improve? Are you ready for a new challenge? Fancy meeting friends that that overtime become family? What we learn becomes part of who we are, check us out.
I have the great pleasure to be part of a growing programme full
of enthusiastic, energetic, innovative, creative, humorous, and imaginative learners.
This educational experience isn’t going to be easy, but after 2 years of
studying, and gaining employment at Alton Towers resort there will be no doubt
in your mind that it will all be worth it. Our VARM course looks for quality
over quantity, so you won’t be in a room with hundreds of other learners, just
liked minded people like you. We don’t strive for perfection at every entrance
gate, we train, teach, stretch, and individually challenge you to develop as
for us we are looking for progression not perfection in both your academic
studies and your employment experiences. While studying you will take part in debates,
discussions, individual and group assessments, you will design your own Visitor
Attraction business, you will investigate, read, research, and analyse current
practices. This course is a unique and bespoke opportunity for you to grow
personally and professional in a friendly orientated environment that is
supportive and inclusive to all learners. You will gain support from University
specialists from a wide field of organisational areas to include Tourism,
Events and Hospitality.
The VARM adventure includes 10-weeks paid placement in the UK’s leading theme park, Alton Towers Resort. The greatest showman once wrote ‘The noblest art is to make others happy’ (P. T. Barnum) and through your employment opportunities in the resort you will find yourself engrossed in delivering outstanding customer service, you will be able to build your communication skills, problem solving techniques, teambuilding as well as your own personnel management skills. While on your rollercoaster adventure, you will have the opportunity to gain access in student lead meetings with the Senior Leadership Team at the resort as well other unique opportunities. The exposure to these career driven individuals, not only helps with the writing of your assessments but also helps with your own career, motivation, networking, and drive to achieve your own dreams.
We are so much more than an educational establishment, we know through hard work, reflection, determination, motivation, and our support and guidance we can help turn your dreams into reality. As my favourite professor once said, ‘It’s not our abilities, but our choices that make us who we are.’ Dumbledore, Harry Potter. Throughout the success of VARM, it has been evidenced that the more you put in, the more you get out. Read the testimonials below from current and previous students, and then ‘make the right choice’.
Matt. Street Performer/Dungeon Attraction Manager. Graduated from VARM June 2021, moving into BA Business Management in September 2021. ‘Staffordshire University has given me the freedom to independently gain skills and understanding of the leisure industry, supported by teaching of theories and processes which can be applied throughout my job robes at Alton Towers Resort.’
Cameron. Animal Information Host at Shark Bait Reef by Sea Life. Graduated VARM June 2021, Business Top Up planned for September 2021.
‘Varm has been Fun, Friends and Fulfilment in myself. I’ve gained independence whilst being at Staffs both in my studies and work life. Grateful for all the opportunities and have really pushed and developed myself. A Clearer idea of where I want to work in the future thanks to the placements and working I’ve widened my network at Alton Towers.’
Nick. Guest Relations Manager. Distinction achieved in Fda Visitor Attraction & Resort Management, graduated June 2020. Currently studying Business management BA top-up. ‘VARM provides students with the chance to learn, gain experience and make unforgettable memories. Personally for me delivering a wealth of knowledge, after six enticing placements around the resort.’
Harry. Retail Team Leader. Level 4 VARM student, progressing to level 5 in September 2021. “Throughout my first year on the VARM course at Staffordshire University I have gained skills within a professional, safe, academic environment which I have been able to display through my work placements at Alton Towers Resort”
Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
If current shopping trips offer any food for thought, beyond that is “not just any food”, it is that retail has much to learn from the leisure industry in terms of how to treat their customers. Beset with the accessibility issues raised by Covid-19, retailers with a physical high street or retail park/shopping mall presence are having to rethink how they do business. The ‘new normal’ is a commonly used phrase and yet, to date, the ‘new normal’ has, in so many ways, been anything but new, and anything but normal.
Two of the key areas in which there are clearly lessons to learn, are those involving queuing, so much a part of life in the UK even before Covid-19, and provision of toilet facilities. Recent news has highlighted scores of people rushing to shops on their reopening, and the ensuing lengthy queues to access those shops. Additionally, there has been negative press around the lack of available toilet facilities in public space, with councils being urged to reopen any closed public toilets. The Government’s drive to reopen the hospitality industry will further reinforce the need for public access to toilets.
Most of us know how to queue, we understand the need to do so, even if we don’t always like it. Queuing in fact is a stereotypical British institution, much like eating fish and chips and discussing the weather, it’s what people do. Given this high level of queue awareness, we might be forgiven in thinking that the organisation of a queue system is almost embedded within our psyche, and yet the variety of queue systems on any given retail park, at any given retail outlet, anywhere in the UK, is astonishing. On a recent visit to a well-known retail park, there were at least 20 different queues, all snaking in different directions, for different stores. Some made good use of barriers, some offered marked walkways to which they anticipated their shoppers would adhere. Some required people to queue past the store exit, meaning that shoppers had to walk straight past people, within a metre, as they left the store. Some had security, some didn’t. The variety was endless. What was quickly apparent however, was that queue etiquette was unilaterally present in them all. We accept whatever queue we’re placed in and wait, not always patiently, to progress along the line.
The British have taken shopping tourism to a whole new level. Days spent at retail outlets are considered as a leisure pursuit in their own right. Overnight stays near shopping malls often combine retail ‘therapy’ with dining out, a visit to a cinema, and opportunities for a range of additional leisure pursuits, including bowling, skiing, swimming, indoor mini-golf, and a host of other leisure activities aligned to family fun. Whilst lockdown has prevented such activity in recent months, anybody venturing out to a retail park or shopping mall could be forgiven in thinking that nothing has changed. Except it has, as the queues and lack of toilet facilities show.
The leisure industries have much acquired knowledge to pass on to retail. From queue management, through experience design, to provision of necessary facilities. When asked on a radio interview what people really needed when they attend theme parks, the suggestion “a loo, a view and a brew” was proposed as fundamental to enjoyment of the experience offered by attractions. Having toilet facilities, something entertaining and visually stimulating to look at, and somewhere to eat and drink were suggested as necessities to a day spent visiting an attraction of any sort.
When we go to a theme park, we understand that we will queue. The difference is that theme parks are designed with queuing systems in mind. Queue theory supports the argument that crowding and lengthy waiting times are major causes of visitor dissatisfaction. Enhancing the queue experience will encourage the customer to not only enjoy their shopping experience but will also increase the likelihood that they will revisit, which is particularly important if the high street is to stand any chance of a recovery, post Covid-19.
In the short-term putting more thought into the systems used to ensure shoppers are able to access retail outlets in more structured, better thought-out and even more entertaining way, will pay dividends, both in terms of visitor satisfaction and the ensuing profits. Added to this the installation of easily accessible, even temporary or portable public toilets, openly cleaned and sanitised at regular intervals, will help to ensure that the current economic recovery phase is facilitated and the transition to the ‘new normal’ made easier by this attention to detail, so integral to the leisure industry.
Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School
As tourists we are apt to display a level of cultural arrogance that is often not representative of the person we are in our daily lives. We make assumptions about a destination, its people, lifestyles and all the overtly obvious elements of culture to which we expose ourselves during a trip, such as language, dress, religion and food.
In 1978 Edward Said controversially identified ‘the other’ in reference to those with whom we are unfamiliar, highlighting the false cultural representations informing western preconceptions and subsequent imperialist behaviour. Often used to refer to people of ‘oriental’ (Middle-eastern or Asian) origin, Said’s seminal work focused on western perceptions of the ‘other’, and difficulties in integrating western and eastern cultures (Said, 2003).
When we are exposed to the ‘other’ we may display a level of cultural superiority in an effort to assimilate our environment. We consider our own culture to be superior to that which we are experiencing, as our own cultural norms may be our only reference point on our cultural ‘compass’. We thus demonstrate an air of arrogance in assuming this. In struggling to understand the cultural context in which we find ourselves, we revert to the relative familiarity of what we know and understand, assuming it to be superior to that in which we find ourselves. We fail to fully understand other cultures and thus respond inappropriately to them and do not engage with them, often preferring to find a familiar enclave and settle there in the relative comfort of a familiar environment, McDonalds, a British pub, restaurants serving English breakfast (in the case of English tourists) etc.
In today’s globally connected world there is an increasing call for global citizens, and yet the question is, what is a global citizen, how do we connect, and in a time of political turmoil and upheaval, for the UK in particular, how important is this?
A global citizen is someone who is able to demonstrate an understanding of the world and their place in it. The interconnected nature of the world as a result of globalisation means that increasingly there is a need for those who are able to demonstrate a high level of cultural awareness.
Cultural awareness is a result of immersion, culture shock and introspection, and even good humour plays its part. Cultural immersion requires time, effort, knowledge and understanding, but it is the key to cultural awareness and the ensuing cultural competence required for greater cultural integration.
There are 3 key ingredients in cultural competence:
Experience, not just in the form of books and films, but immersion in culture. Try it, touch it, eat it, make mistakes, apologise, listen, try again
In 1986 Weaver applied an iceberg analogy to previous cultural literature (Hall, 1976) and subsequently identified the cultural iceberg, consisting of 3 layers:
Surface culture – including the more obvious elements of culture such language, food and dress
Unspoken rules – hidden below the surface and taking more time for an outsider to understand, these include business and social etiquette and symbolism of colours
Unconscious rules – the most difficult and yet the most important characteristics to know and understand. These are the things that people adhere to and believe in without conscious thought, including verbal and non-verbal communication, sense of time, physical distance and emotional responses.
So what can we do to become a global citizen? To melt the cultural iceberg and uncover and understand the unspoken and unconscious elements of culture that lead from cultural sensitivity to increased cultural awareness and cultural competence, and ultimately facilitate global interconnectedness and understanding? It is suggested that the only way to learn the internal culture of others is to actively participate in their culture. This takes time, commitment and an open mind.
We cannot judge a new culture based only on what we see when we first enter it. We must take time to get to know individuals from that culture and interact with them. Only through this can we uncover the values and beliefs that underlie the behaviour of that society and hope to make positive steps towards cultural understanding and integration. Consideration of all as equals is fundamental to progressing cultural awareness, argues Vaudrin-Charette (2019).
Only through cultural competence on the part of all groups in society can there be greater acceptance between and within groups of people, and, who knows, the world may just become a better place.
Said, E. (2003) Orientalism. London: Penguin Books.
Vaudrin-Charette (2019) Melting the Cultural Iceberg in Indigenizing Higher Education: Shifts to Accountability in Times of Reconciliation. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 157, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com)
Weaver, G.R. in Paige, R.M. (1986) Cross-cultural orientation: new conceptualizations and applications. University Press of America.
For information on studying Tourism and Events at Staffordshire University click here
Simon Hughes, Student, Staffordshire Business School
‘Conkers’ is a day out at an activity centre in Derbyshire, where a group of new Staffordshire University students spent a day during Welcome Week. The day is used to bring people out of their shell and get them involved with various activities that involve communicating and working as part of a team.
The day started out and there was not much interaction between each member of the group and when we arrived at conkers there was still very little interaction while waiting to be split into teams to take part in several activities throughout the day.
When the students were separated into teams, I could see how they were bonding and forming a rapport with their teammates. I strongly recommend this to any person looking to improve their team working skills plus it’s a great confidence booster. It will also help them to ‘find their voice’ to help with communication skills.
The first part of the day was mainly about the communication within their teams. They had to get a bucket of water through an obstacle course, without losing too much water and not letting it touch the ground.
All the teams seemed to have a lot of fun no matter what the weather.
The second activity of which the teams took part in, was aimed at helping them build their self-confidence and to believe in themselves with a high wire walk.
They also had a lower wire for those who had not got as much confidence.
The third activity the team took part in was called `bush craft` where they were split into smaller groups to build a shelter showing their ability to work together as part of a team.
They also had to build a fire under the instructor’s guidance, by gathering wood so that they could toast their marshmallows.
By the end of all the activities, it was apparent that all who took part gained something positive from their experiences. Team working skills and communication were improved and it also helped with their self-confidence.
Pots, Plates and plenty of clay. Middleport Pottery is a historical attraction based in Burslem, Stoke on Trent. It consists of a factory tour, history tour, tea rooms and a shop. The site promotes the history and culture behind the potteries industry and transports you back to the past.
We were toured round the factory by Tony who was a volunteer (as are all the tour guides) that was very insightful about the factory and all the history surrounding Middleport Pottery. We started on the old cobbled path then followed the path round to the clay dispense room with runners. Then we progressed through the factory tour developing more and more knowledge.
I really enjoyed the tour, it felt personal and connected. I felt like I was being transported back in time and I was surprised at how most of the factory preserved the historical feel whilst still operating. Whilst we were touring we saw the whole process and was able to see an order for Ralph Lauren which was exciting.
Bottle Kilns. The most interesting part of the tour brought us to one of the bottles kilns. I stood inside the kiln looking up towards the sky, thinking of how many thousands of pieces of crafts and the people who worked in these conditions. I was astounded, and it has made a lasting impression.
I would recommend the tour to any tourist student that wants an insight to history of the pottery industries. It has helped me to see how the operations of volunteer-based attraction works and I have seen where there is potential for the attraction to develop and maintain its advantage.
Overall, I would like to thank Middleport Pottery and Tony for the time taken to show us around the site. I would also like to promote the attraction to anyone who is interested in Stoke on Trent history and potteries.
Wedgwood is an iconic brand within the pottery industry, it was founded by Josiah Wedgwood in 1759 and is valued as part of English History (Visit Stoke, 2018). It is now owned by the Fiskars Group who have ownership over other iconic brands including Gerber, Fiskars, Littala, Waterford and Royal Copenhagen (Wedgwood, 2018).
The World of Wedgwood is located in Stoke-on-Trent, Barlaston and is known for being a cultural attraction suitable for all ages. They attract 100,000 visitors per year with 25% of them being international with Japan and China being the most popular, helping to contribute to their global sales by 40% (Perkins, 2018).
Sasha with some of her fellow students
My fellow colleagues and I arrived at the World of Wedgwood around 9am, where we were greeted by the director (Chris Perkins) and educational contact (Olivia Thackston). Chris has been working for the attraction for 5 years and manages the front of house, catering and museum teams, ensuring that they all run smoothly and all issues are resolves effectively.
The director showed us to the dinning hall where we conducted the interview, he started off by informing us about the Fiskars Group and the World of Wedgwood providing us with in-depth and valuable information. The group had individually prepared some questions to ask him, however many had already been answered through his inspirational talk.
I wanted to find out how the attraction is sustainable so I asked what strategies and procedures have been put into place to help the environment and reduce waste. He informed me that they don’t use plastic and that everything is made from glass so it can be reused, they also manage visitor numbers and order the right amount to cater for their needs to reduce food waste (Perkin, 2018).
An interesting fact I found out was that they recycle their broken casts by smashing them up which is then sold and used to make motorways, helping them to be more sustainable and provide positive impacts on the attraction as they still make money (Perkins, 2018). When I found out this I was very happy as I believe that organisations have a responsibility to the do whatever it takes to be more sustainable, to help preserve the environment and local community.
Once we had finished the interview we walked around the Museum where I saw lots of Wedgwood blue plates, taking me back to my childhood as my nan used to make us stories on the plates and tell them to me which gave me a warm and happy feeling. I then rang up my nan and told her she MUST visit as she would LOVE it! While on the phone we went back in time and remembered the happy and joyful memories that Wedgwood have provided us with, which we are very grateful for.
One of the many displays in the fabulous museum
We then brought tickets for the factory tour which costs us £5 as we were a group of students, this helped to encourage us to go on the tour as it is affordable and value for money. I highly recommend taking part in the factory tour as you are able to gain first-hand experience on how they make their famous potteries and see the fantastic detail that is put into the hand-crafted items.
To finish our visit we visited the gift shop where I brought a keyring as I collect one every time I visit an attraction, as I am able to look back through them and remember my experience.
Overall, I believe that the World of Wedgwood is a fun and interesting way to spend your day and well worth a visit.