Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Streets Ahead

Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen David Tucker






"A great guide doesn't just pop the cork, he also puts the fizz in the bottle"



Cards on the table time.

1. I. Detest. Mediocrity.

2. We don't care about making the most money. We do care about being the best. Correction: being the best by far. That's our idea of coming first. That's what we mean by winning. That's the measurement that matters to us.

3. (This follows from 1. and 2.) It all comes down to the guiding.

4. This photo…



Ok, those are the cards on the table. Let's play them.

There aren't a lot of guides who can do this.

It's actor (and guide) Richard Walker. He and his walkers are in Borough Market, near the end of a Harry Potter Film Locations Walk.

You can take a million photos of a mediocrity guiding away for all he's worth and you'll never get one like this. Not one, not once.

All the walkers – every last one of them – have gone where Richard's taken them. Not just the physical location, but where he's taken their minds, their attention. Where he's taken them on the wings of his story telling and his voice (its timbre and timing) and his energy. It couldn't be clearer: the shining eyes all looking in the same direction, the looks of delighted discovery on the faces, the smiles.

These people are having a good time. Together.

Having a good time because of Richard. He's the one who's making this happen.

And let's pull back from the photo for a moment. What is it they're seeing, what are they looking at? They're not looking at Wallenda tight roping his way across the Grand Canyon. Not looking at some extremely rare, once in a thousand millennia solar spectacular. It's something (objectively speaking) mildly interesting in Borough Market.

That reaction, that response to something mildly interesting. Go figure. How'd they get there? How'd that come about?

Ok, let's figure. Here's how they got "there". In one word: Richard. In two words: the guiding. In four words: the London Walks guiding.

Run-of-the-mill guides – mediocrities – can't do this.

You can't do this. Imagine if you were standing there by yourself with a guidebook. Or listening to some homogenised, shrink-wrapped "audio tour" or "podcast". You going to "get there" ­– feel the delight and satisfaction and pleasure that Richard's walkers are feeling – doing it that way?

Answer's don't come any more self-evident do they?

Live performance. A very fine actor who's "got" his audience. What's happening in that photo is not replicable. Not by mechanical "reproduction", let alone by mediocrities.

And there's something else. Namely: in walking tour terms, a Harry Potter group is the toughest "audience" going. Which makes Richard's achievement all the more remarkable.

But that's for a follow-up post. A follow-up post that sorts the sheep from the goats in this "field of endeavour". If you're on holiday – in London or anywhere else – and you're going to give over some of your extremely valuable time to a "guide" – well, there are ways you can tell, there are "indicators".

We use them all the time. Use them because great guides are, if you think about it, even more important to us than they are to you.

And that's not to take anything at all away from how important this great guide –Richard Walker – was to these Harry Potter walkers on that June evening in London in the year 2013.





A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.

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