London Walks connecting.
London Walks here with your daily London fix.
Story time. History time.
Let us know praise famous guides.
In this instance, London Walks guide Ann Jones. I could listen to Ann all day. And that’s not a rarefied, specialised taste. Like all great guides – gifted guides – Ann’s got a following. People who go on her walks because she’s guiding them. Or, the name of a walk catches somebody’s fancy and they turn up with a moderate, mildly agreeable level of anticipation and then they see that it’s Ann guiding it and the thing spikes, ‘moderate, agreeable anticipation’ becomes, ‘oh, fantastic, she’s guiding it, this is going to be a brilliant couple of hours. Best possible mix: fun and fascinating.’ Any number of reasons why Ann’s walks are so good but two or three that stand out are: 1) Ann’s professional background – she was a BBC journalist so she knows how to tell a story. And part and parcel of that is her selection of particulars, of details. What ingredients go into her stories and which ones end up on the cutting floor. She’s like the chef de partie who goes to the wholesale fruit market in the morning and picks the very best fruits for that day’s fruity desserts.
And another reason is Ann’s sense of mischief and fun. Her sense of humour. She’s cheeky, she’s witty. Has a matchless eye for the absurd. Let alone the most infectious giggle you’ll ever come across. You want it in three words, Ann banishes bland.
The proof is in the pudding. It’s not just me saying this. You don’t need to take it from us. Ann gets rave review after rave review.
To put it in sportsese, Ann’s first string. She’s a starter on this All-Star Team of Guides. She does a handful of our regular weekly walks. For example, Undiscovered London. And Greenwich. And the Heart of the City. And Old Westminster. Etc. And those are just her regular turns at bat. As long as we’ve found our way into this baseball idiom, let’s also tip our hat at Ann’s pinch-hitting. Her niche walks.
Niche walk-wise she’s best known of course for her quintet of Foodies London Walks. But to that you can add her Brook Green Walk and her William Morris and Friends Walk.
And, yes, primus inter pares for this podcast, the one that’s in the limelight for this podcast: Cat Tails – a Feline Take on London History.
A walk about cats in London history – that does seem pretty niche, doesn’t it. So specialist you wouldn’t think it’d be much of a draw. But the fact that there’ll probably be close to twenty people on that walk when Ann does it this weekend – October 15th – that in itself speaks to what I was on about right out of the gate: gifted guides develop a following and Ann’s certainly got one. She’s turned a niche outing into a popular draw.
And now I’m about to hand the baton to Ann. She’s done a little trailer for us about our feline friends. It’s an accompaniment to the walk rather than being about the walk per se. For the record, this is Ann’s second podcast about cats. And, yes, the first one – which you can hear if you go to the description of the walk – Cat Tails – A Feline Take on London History – the first one is
about the walk. Its genesis, some of the cats we meet enroute, London and London history from a feline perspective. And of course – as always – Ann’s touch with words makes me purr. Phrases like “rodent control operatives” and observations like “dogs have owners, cats have staff” are bliss.
Anyway, that’s Ann’s first podcast about cats. This is her second. And it’s a pure backgrounder. Not about the walk but about cats generally. And especially how cats have conquered the internet. Which was always on the cards, of course. Cats rule. Cats conquer everything. Ergo the cat extravaganza – to use Ann’s phrase – in cyberspace.
Ah, yes, once again, Ann’s storytelling, her phrases make the running. And the thing to remember – this bears repeating – Ann guides like she writes like she podcasts. So we hear, in this delightful little piece, about
“Cats keeping dogs in their place. There’s a suspicion that dogs are trying too hard, want to please their owners, knowingly doing it on purpose. Cats would never demean themselves by trying to be entertaining. A cat does what it wants. It’s supremely indifferent to what its owner thinks.” Very Ann, that passage. And needless to say, it’s got me purring. Yet again. And now it’s your turn. Here’s Ann…
[Ann’s content follows]
You’ve been listening to the London Walks podcast. Emanating from www.walks.com – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the- right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.
And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.
That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.
It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for.
Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.
It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals:
By way of example, Stewart Purvis, the former Editor (and subsequently CEO) of Independent Television News. And Lisa Honan, who had a distinguished career as a diplomat (Lisa was the Governor of St Helena, the island where Napoleon breathed his last and, some say, had his penis amputated – Napoleon didn’t feel a thing – if thing’s the mot juste – he was dead.)
Stewart and Lisa – both of them CBEs – are just a couple of our headline acts.
Or take our Ripper Walk. It was created and guided for many years by Britain’s most distinguished crime historian, Donald Rumbelow. In the words of the Jack the Ripper A to Z, Donald is “internationally recognised as the leading authority on Jack the Ripper.” Donald’s emeritus now but he’s still the guiding light on our Ripper Walk. He curates it. He mentors our Ripper Walk guides.
The London Walks All-Star team of guides includes a former London Mayor. It includes the former Chief Music Critic for the Evening Standard. It includes the Chair of the Association of Professional Tour Guides.
It includes barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, university professors, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the big one, the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”
And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.
And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. And that’s by way of saying, Good walking and Good Londoning one and all. See ya next time.