Can you believe the 2012 Olympics officially start tomorrow? It seems like just yesterday that people were speculating whether the London 2012 logo depicted an incestuous act between Bart and Lisa Simpson… But anywho, while I’m interested in seeing this alleged face-off between Mary Poppins and Voldemort during the opening ceremony, I’m most excited to hear all the travel stories from those who are lucky enough to participate as spectators. And since I can’t be there myself due to, well, funding issues, I hope that at least some of you enjoying your Olympics travel will select Unseen Tours as your preferred method for London sightseeing.
Why is Unseen Tours the right choice for your guided expedition of London? Because all of their guides are homeless. I can see you scoffing and side-eyeing through my computer screen, but just take a second and hear them out:
Inspired by The Sock Mob, a volunteer network engaging with London’s homeless, our Unseen Tours bring you an entertaining and poignant walk with professionally coached homeless guides, offering you historical but also unexplored glimpses of the city, as perceived through the lens of homelessness. Uniquely, the tours interweave our homeless guides’ own stories and experiences, introducing a new social consciousness into commercial walking tours.
As I see it, the benefits of this program are twofold. First, navigating the streets of London with someone who has actually lived in the streets of London provides access to areas that you would never get to see otherwise. As unfortunate as some of the guides’ situations may be, they are truly experts when it comes to the hidden side of London, and this knowledge combined with their historical training make for an undoubtedly interesting twist on the stale walking tour model.
Second, by venturing out with Unseen Tours you are helping the homeless population of London in a way that is so much more gratifying than plopping a few coins into an empty coffee cup. There is a fee for these tours (10 pounds) that goes toward supporting the guides financially. However, the real help comes in the act of taking a homeless person and putting them in a role where they are not only visible, but an expert in a topic that commands the attention of an entire group. More often than not passersby look right through homeless people, and this is just one small way to show them that they are valuable members of society.
I’d be interested to see this model take hold in other cities around the world, because honestly I’m sick of hearing facts I could read in a history book spewed out in a dry monotone by a retired lady. On the Unseen Tours website you can get a feel for the neighborhoods they feature (London Bridge, Shoreditch, Covent Garden, Brick Lane, and Mayfair), and even get to know a little about the guides. During the Olympics tours will run at 7 pm Wednesday through Friday and at 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, so now that all eyes are on London, go ahead and see the city through a different point of view.
Feature Imaged via cbc.ca