It’s an art form, being a tour guide. A role that commands respect but also carries a very heavy dose of responsibility. It’s not just knowing years and dates, it’s about being able to communicate an engaging story that is linked from beginning, middle and end. I make no bones in very confidently saying that my decision to do this course was a stroke of genius; and one that’s improving my ability to interpret, engage and learn.
I must apologise, as the constraints of work and researching for my written assignment hasn’t allowed me to write of my experiences as often as I would have liked to have done. The last time I wrote about it, I was preparing to give my talk on Admiralty House in Whitehall. I’ve done two more stops since then and I can confirm that the Admiralty was the least favourite stop of the ones I’ve done so far. Built on the site of the timber yard for Whitehall Palace, the site was recommended for its purpose by Sir Christopher Wren. It was headquarters for the Navy until it was absorbed into the Ministry of Defence in 1964, when, as often happens in History, the armed forces were ‘streamlined’ to cut costs.
I was the last stop so I was to give a conclusion and wrap up as well. I’d visited the site the day before and the noise of the traffic was deafening. Luckily I’m a singer so projecting the voice wasn’t too difficult but even so, blimey, the din was off-putting. You never realise how noisy the streetscape of London is – well I don’t anyway, I spend most of my time with my headphones on listening to Gresham College lectures or the new Arctic Monkeys album.
The next stop we had to prepare for was Mayfair, and my stop was Bruton Street. This street is where Her Majesty was born and where Norman Hartnell had his studio. I was disappointed that he wasn’t the one who had the TARDIS, but it was interesting to see how important this street had been to the Royal family. Hartnell designed the Queen’s Wedding dress and coronation gown, and singlehandedly put London on the global fashion map. Dior and Yves Saint Laurent held him in very high regard, even though internationally his success wasn’t as lofty as that of his French contemporaries.
It was bucketing it down that day. I delivered the tour with my trusty pointing umbrella and carrier bag of water, which in hindsight had me looking like a character from Shooting Stars. Despite this, I really enjoyed the Mayfair walk. The area itself is lovely: I did nip into the Chapel the day before on a reccy and spent some time in the Library which is also popular with weddings. I inadvertently ended up being showered in confetti upon leaving: I’d walked past the couple and the guests had got prematurely excited. Whoops.
Anyway! the most recent stop was Belgrave Square, and it’s the second stop that was filmed. I thought it’d be interesting to see myself in action, especially seeing as out of all the stops I’ve prepared so far, this was the one with the least work and rehearsal – simply because of work commitments. But it’s also my favourite one, as all the information was absorbed after just one reading. There are a few errors and it isn’t perfect – William Cubitt? No, it’s Thomas – but I thought it would be interesting for you the reader to see me in action, speaking about London’s biggest square. As this talk was given on the weekend of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary there are a few references, don’t be put off! Enjoy.
- Confessions of a Trainee Tour Guide, Part One (cemeteryclub.co.uk)
- Confessions of a Trainee Tour Guide, Part Three (cemeteryclub.co.uk)