For Phil Jones, family connections mean working as an underground tour guide at Llechwedd Slate Caverns is much more than just a job.
All the men on my father’s side of the family worked in the quarries and the mines. My father and grandfather were some of the last to be working underground, right up until the late 1970s. Having those kinds of connections allows me to talk about the mine from the heart and from personal experience, rather than just from the script.
Like me, a lot people who come here have a family connection, either their father or grandfather used to work in the mines so they want to know how things were for them. In another life, I could have been working down here, so it all feels very close to the bone. Sometimes when I tell the stories underground I end up with a lump in my throat.
The Deep Mine Tour is one of our newest attractions. Using technology like enhanced reality and projections, visitors are able to interact with the tour itself. It’s quite exciting. We made some big changes underground for the new tour, so it’s going to be a very different experience, even for people who have visited Llechwedd before. It’s a new spin, which gives you more of an in depth feel of what the men who once worked in the mine had to go through. There are quite a few surprises.
If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d still come to work here. I like the atmosphere and meeting all the new people every day. There aren’t many jobs where you can say that the whole world comes to your doorstep. If you don’t like what you’re doing then you aren’t going to do your job well. That’s particularly true doing something like this. Because I also sing and play ukulele in a folk band, I’m used to interacting with audiences, which is a big advantage for me here. Someone once told me: ‘If you find yourself in a job that you love, you’ll never work again.’ That’s how I feel about Llechwedd.