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Volunteers slam plans to turn Bletchley Park into 'geeky Disneyland'

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Bletchley Park is planning to replace its volunteer tour guides with actors in a bid to turn the historical attraction into a "geeky Disneyland", The Register has learned.

A number of people contacted The Reg after we wrote about the Bletchley Park Trust's decision to sack a pensioner after he showed visitors around the National Museum of Computing, a separate facility in the same grounds as the legendary home of the World War II code-cracking base.

All the people we spoke to were furious about the Trust's plans to modernise Bletchley, a project which is being led by CEO Iain Standen.

The Trust has managed to wangle some £8m in lottery funding, which it plans to use to transform the historical site into a "world class" attraction.

But several people warned that the new plans risk dumbing down the legacy of Bletchley

One source, who has worked with Bletchley for several years and wanted to remain anonymous, told us: "The Trust have been trying to recruit actors to film chunks for their new interactive displays, with little regard for accuracy. The general consensus among the historical community is that Standen will destroy Bletchley Park."

Another source with close links to Bletchley added: "The proposed changes make me very angry. The elderly volunteers made Bletchley and without them it will be just another bland, historical tourist attraction with none of the Britishness many people love.

"It will be like a geeky Disneyland."

On a website called Mature Times, another anonymous writer criticised the Trust's policy of "culling the old and infirm".

The author, who also chose to remain anonymous, wrote: "Where visitors once had the opportunity to engage with knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers they will now be processed on an information conveyor belt to speed them through their visit, human contact being kept to the minimum.

"This ignores the key factor that made Bletchley Park such an enjoyable visit worth repeating again and again, namely a British quirkiness arising from an extensive range of exhibits manned by volunteers who knew their stuff and were happy to share it."

In a fresh statement, the Bletchley Park Trust said it was "enormously grateful to its army of volunteers, without whom it could not offer a personal, knowledgeable service to visitors".

It is currently training old and new volunteers as well as embarking upon renovations of the site which will provide "an inspiring experience for its ever-increasing numbers of visitors".

"This will create a world class museum and heritage site which is a fitting memorial to the heroic Codebreakers of Bletchley Park making the site much more sustainable and accessible to growing numbers of visitors," a spokeswoman said.

The Trust also said it had no choice but to make the "sad decision" to ask an elderly tour guide to stand down. He is, however, still working in the education department.

New tours of the facility have now started which take just one hour, rather than 90 minutes, to help pack even more tourists in. ®

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