David headshot

Unseen Tours’ David on Becoming A Tour Guide

Yesterday, my customers asked me how I became a tour guide? This is what I told them…

In 2011, I was working in a factory where they made glass instruments, like burettes and pipettes, as a production worker. I wasn’t very good at my job and in the end I was offered a compromise agreement, that if I left they would give me some money. I took this to a solicitor that the company paid for, but the solicitor advised me to turn it down. 

So they brought in remploy and the job centre to see if they could get my productivity rate up, but not much was changing. It looked as if I would be dismissed. Then they lost an important customer and needed to make some redundancies which I fell into the criteria for.

After I left, I started looking around for another job. I was looking for something similar, as that is where I had most of my experience. I even got myself a forklift license!

I then got thinking: did I want to get another job like that? I was never good at it, I got derogatory comments from other workers. What would happen if I got another job like that? How long would I keep it? I was only getting older and so I was really getting slower. 

I thought, what if I tried to get a different job? Something that I would enjoy, something that I would be good at? 

London Bridge Tour Local Stories

I came up with a few ideas, but most got poo pooed. So I thought about being a tour guide. I have always had a very good recall and could remember things like facts and figures. 

I changed my CV around to bring out my skills and not just my experience. I gave my new CV to places including the Emirates stadium and the museum of childhood, but I wasn’t getting much back. 

I thought about gaining some qualifications, but the qualifications were expensive and you needed other qualifications to get those qualifications. It looked like a dead road, but then a friend told me about a college where they were teaching English and Maths to GCSE standard for free. I enrolled and started an English course.

At the time, I was also working in a paint recyclers. They would collect paint from dumps and bring it back to their warehouse. I had been there for two years and then they changed their manager. After about six months the new manager, who knew that I wanted to be a tour guide, told me about Unseen Tours and said that I would need homelessness experience. So I told him my story. He emailed Unseen Tours and I met them in 2015!

I started my training in February and in September I was allowed to start making money. I did a few tours with Viv, our Covent Garden tour guide, coming along and watching her and I also did some dummy runs with friends to gain experience. My first coordinator, Tisha, got me out of saying “um” before I would speak and I have noticed since how many other public speakers say “um” before what they have planned to say. 

David's London Bridge tour

I have always enjoyed doing the tours and have learned a lot over that time. Sometimes if my guests ask me if I enjoy being a tour guide I might make an impression of a tour guide who doesn’t enjoy their job by saying things like ” Right well this is …….” And then waffle on and then say ” Right on to the next one.” As if I was bored of saying it over and over again. 

I also get comments about how good my memory is and I have pointed out that I have a very good recall for things like facts and figures. I have done another impression of a tour guide with a bad memory by saying “Err where are we now? What is that interesting information and those unusual facts?” Neither of these tour guides would get or keep many customers. 

On your next trip to London, I’d love to show you how much I love my career and prove that I do have a very good memory. I look forward to sharing facts and information with you that you’ll never learn elsewhere on my London Bridge Tour.