See you later, (Not) in a pub

Soooooo we are over a year in lockdown! I hope everyone’s coped well. Me? Coping mechanisms? Well, let’s say issues like self-isolation and boredom have been dealt with (see my previous blogs). 

Of course, being a tourism organisation, we couldn’t carry on with our tours when Coronavirus hit (my last tour before lockdown 1.0 was on 3rd March 2020!). We had to come up with a new way of getting our communications on homelessness out there. Guess what? Our brilliant volunteers had the brain wave of conducting remote “Not-In-A-Pub” Quizzes! – Genius! (see what we did there?!).

An concern for me initially was that we, as tour guides, would be curating the quizzes, and I was confused at first on how to go about that. We then had a team meeting (on Zoom, of course) and one of our awesome volunteers explained that it was just the same as curating our tours, research-wise. The penny dropped, I’ve done it before, so I can do it again! All I had to do was turn the words that I say in my tours into questions. Once I realised this, there was no stopping me!

All I had to do was to retrace my steps from years before (it took me six months to write and rehearse my tour before I could actually go live). I don’t know if you’re  aware of the difficulties involved in researching a major project like a tour, I didn’t at first, but once I got the hang of it, it became second nature. 

Besides looking on the internet and reading books about the Brick Lane and Whitechapel areas, I began talking to people in the area to get an insight into their personal stories. One Bengali guy (who’s now sadly passed) told me he went to the Church Of England school on Brick Lane and even though he was Muslim, he had to sing Christian hymns every morning along with the other kids. If you come on my tour in the future there are other personal stories like this one.

We “went live” with our first Not-In-A-Pub Quiz on 25th April and I was so nervous! Would my questions make sense, or even be relevant? I needn’t have worried as it was a resounding success! Though, I must admit that we improved as we went along as well, so the nervousness subsided. We got a lot of customers and the lockdown came to an end. 

I was relieved to get back to my favourite ever job, but after only a month later, and lockdown 2.0 was announced. Oh no! No worries, we realised that Christmas was approaching and we could host special quizzes for that. It was then nose to the grindstone and all hands on deck. We did it and it was a resounding success. One of the quizzes had over 200 participants – wow! It was a VERY Merry Christmas indeed! 

This is what some of our customers had to say:

“ The quiz was so fun and interactive! We loved the questions that the guides curated with their expert knowledge, and learnt so many quirky facts. Looking forward to the next one!”

“Loved the stories from the guides throughout the quiz. Really brought London to life, despite the lockdown!”

“These quizzes are the best way to learn more about one of the greatest cities in the world, created by people who definitely know it the best. Highly recommended.”

What else can I say about our Not-In-A-Pub quizzes (besides the fact that it doesn’t actually take place in a pub)?. Well, they are still a great way to interact with us and more-so, a fun, friendly and interactive way to gather with people from your family, your work or from your social life.

What does the future hold in store? Well, one day this Coronavirus will be gone and we’ll be able to get back together in an actual pub to drink a Corona beer and have an actual pub quiz. Until then, there’s nothing better than joining us for one of our quizzes and supporting a grass-roots organisation that not only pays our wages from your tour (or quiz) fees, but also looks at challenges and solutions to the homeless “pandemic”.

Thank you and I hope to see you down at the Not-In-A-Pub soon!

Pete, your Brick Lane Unseen Tours Guide