New Guide on the Block
Having just become the very proud recipient of a Clerkenwell and Islington Tour Guide badge, I thought it might be interesting to look back over the last few months and share some thoughts. You never know, they might help a potential guide decide to find out more about the courses on offer.
I love learning, walking and meeting people. Having decided to cut down my working days in order to have more time to do some fun things, I was wondering what course I might do when I was pointed in the direction of the Clerkenwell and Islington Guiding Course at the University of Westminster with tutor John Finn and Chris Everett. I had been working in Islington for the last four years and thought I knew the area a bit so I prepared a short presentation for my interview for the course and was delighted to hear I had a place.
I got some of the books from our reading list from my local library and have to say that Stephen Inwood’s ‘ A History of London’ is a little daunting in the way of preparatory reading, although it is probably one of the first books I will buy with my earnings as it is an excellent book for dipping in and out of.
There were fourteen of us on the course, from different backgrounds and different ages. The one thing we had in common was our passion for London history and our desire to share what we learned with other people.
We were a little stunned to be given the details of our first ‘walkshop’ a week into the course. From a route starting at Angel Station, we each had to research and prepare a short talk at one of the stops. Of course we were all so enthusiastic with our first piece of research and found out so much we over-ran our allotted time wildly! The first of many lessons we were learning. It was brilliant to make our mistakes on the street. And hopefully learn from them! We grew in confidence week by week, sharing what we had found out with each other and discovering how different our approaches were.
Islington Local History Centre was a welcoming treasure trove. Such fun to leaf through yellowing newspaper cuttings and read notes made by enthusiasts, decades before. I am really looking forward to spending more time at some of the other archives and libraries London is so lucky to have in abundance. One of the things I liked best was finding a name of a person or place, which then led me on a new journey finding out fascinating facts, some of which I was sure weren’t widely known and then wanting to share them.
I loved telling friends about my new activity. Once we had got out of the way that, no it wasn’t Blue Badge, I didn’t carry an umbrella and I wasn’t planning on doing Jack the Ripper walks, we had some really interesting chats about walks people had been on and guides they’d met. A lot of them had a wistful look, envious of me doing something they felt sure they’d really enjoy.
London Historians is the place to meet people with a passion for history in London. They are what they say on the tin: ‘a club for Londoners who’d like to know more about their city’s history,’ and a more interesting group you would find hard to meet in one room anywhere else. Members have encouraged me and listened to me getting carried away talking about some new story I’d discovered. They’ve also shared what they’ve been doing and I’ve learnt a lot from them.
When I started writing a blog, it was to share special places and events with a wider audience and, through my walks, I hope to carry on with this, in a different way. Some of my posts will be about people and places, especially when I find out more than I can comfortably fit into a walk stop.
Over the year I have been on many walks with a range of guides, as we were encouraged to. I love the fact that they are all different. There is something and someone for everyone. I don’t want to be like anyone I’ve watched. I want to be myself and bring a little of my personality into the walks. Above all I want people to enjoy my walks. To come away having learnt something new, had their interest piqued to investigate something further, maybe made a new friend and, with any luck, wanting to come back to join me on another walk.
My first walk is being launched in August and I’ll be building from there. I hope you can join me.