Alnwick Castle’s 100 recruits put through their paces

A ton of new staff have been recruited by Alnwick Castle and they have been put through their paces.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 7:00 am
Mark Vance, centre, who runs medieval combat workshops at Alnwick Castle, puts new recruits Gary Burdon, Helen Doyle, Danielle Kemp and Jimmy Dodds through their paces.

The popular visitor attraction has taken on more than 100 new staff for 2019 after receiving some 300 applications for jobs.

The eager new employees range from teenagers to retired people and all ages in between.

Since early March the newcomers have been learning all about the life and times of the castle – past and present – as well as receiving specific training for their individual roles.

Now that the castle is open to visitors, the intake of 2019 is more than ready to get going.

The new roles range from retail and admin assistants to kitchen workers, visitor services, admissions personnel and tour guides. The food outlets have been upgraded and enlarged at the venue this year, so many more catering personnel have been recruited.

Although all the jobs are highly sought-after, the most coveted roles at Alnwick Castle are usually the resident performers and historical interpreters who wow the crowds every year with their ability to bring history to life.

And this year has been no exception.

Many performers and guides enjoy their work at the castle so much that they return year after year.

New activities and events every year mean that all staff –seasonal and permanent – are trained continually.

During the run-up to opening, some of the recruits were being trained in sword fighting by Mark Vance Historical Entertainments.

Mark runs medieval combat workshops at the castle and regularly works on TV and film productions as well as in schools and stately homes throughout the UK.

One of the ‘new boys’ is 63-year-old Jimmy Dodds, from Alnwick, who served as a chef at RAF Boulmer for more than 40 years and retired in November.

He said he’s enjoying finding out the history of the castle and is looking forward to performing sword fighting for real.

“For the first time in my life, I now whistle when I go to work,” he said.

Gary Burdon, 32, from Gateshead has been working for nine years at the venue.

He takes part in sword-fighting demonstrations, historical workshops and medieval re-enactments.

Gary said: “I love working here. People from all over the world visit Alnwick Castle and it’s great to meet and engage with them. Every year I return, there are new events and it’s brilliant to see how the facilities have expanded since I started out.”

Helen Doyle is 23 and recently graduated in drama.

She’s currently learning mail-making and medieval crafts so she can help with craft workshops and medieval performances.

She said: “It’s wonderful here – a completely different world.”

Rachel Thompson, 25, is returning to Alnwick Castle once again this year to work as a visitor service assistant.

She said: “It’s great working in such a magical, welcoming place. Every day is exciting!”

Dawn Robinson, 57, is working as a chip shop assistant for the season.

She used to work as a carer but now wants to progress in customer service.

She said: “I like meeting people from all over the world. I’ve never done something like this before but I’m loving it.”

Georgia Ramsay, 17, is now a food and beverage assistant. She said: “This is my first ever job. It’s so exciting to work here and all the staff here are lovely!”

*Highlights of the 2019 season include the Alnwick Castle Joust at the end of May and the thrilling Joust of the North in late August. More details here.