Lost & Found

by Nic, 14th September 2020
(Unseen Tour’s very own Soho & St Giles tour guide)

Life doesn’t always go as planned, but with much luck and a lot of support, I rediscovered forgotten passions, which have helped to change my life, and allowed me to be more of who I am.

Nic's Soho tour

Terminally Curious…

Around 2002, I went to a couple of volunteer days at Nunhead Cemetery. A casual conversation led me to BTCV – British Trust Conservation Volunteers (now TCV), an environmental organisation based at Kings Cross. I completed a Conservation Skills course, which was wonderful, and became a volunteer officer travelling to sites throughout London, where my lost passions emerged: archaeology, architecture and history. Being terminally curious, something would catch my eye or ear, and I would make notes on bits of paper or on my hand and look it up later.

When I was living in hostels and shared housing between 2001 and 2002, nuggets of information would come my way, one of which was Unseen Tours. I met up with a member of the organisation, but I was aware deep down I was not in the right place mentally or physically to be involved. I returned back to the hostel, but the seed was planted in my mind. 

In 2012, I started living in the first place I could ever call my own. That same year, I went to an art exhibition that revolved around St Giles Rookeries by Jane Palm Gold. I was lured in to discover more about the history of London and became well and truly hooked. By now I was on the Thames21 events team, travelling across London and working on the rivers, raising awareness of pollution and how to care for our environment. 

In 2015 I got in touch with Unseen Tours, feeling intuitively it was the right time. I was in a good place. I met Ian, my volunteer mentor, a City guide himself and man of infinite patience. A couple of weeks later I met Unseen Tours founder Faye Shields. She told me to take it slow and to give myself a few months to develop my tour. Even she couldn’t have envisaged it would take me 2 years of writing, talking and walking with Ian over endless coffees and anxious moments before St Giles & Soho ‘Behind the Masks’ tour was ready to go public. 

Behind the Tour…

The title ‘Behind the masks’ has a personal resonance to me. I hid behind a smile for many years and I find you never stop discovering new things about yourself (or about an area), and you can’t tell everyone everything. I tend to go with the flow of the wonderfully diverse people I take on my tour. The incredible anxiety I feel before every walk slowly dissipates once I start, then I have a problem keeping to the time limit!

I am proud of my walks. While they are not ‘perfect’, they are always open to discussion, and I am constantly looking for ways to evolve them. What’s more important is that I am doing my bit to raise awareness of homelessness in London, much of which is hidden, but cannot be ignored.

Homelessness is not a lifestyle choice – to be ‘bohemian’ without choices. I aim to open people’s minds a little with my tour, hopefully leaving them as intrigued as I am by London’s constantly changing facade, whilst we, the people, remain fundamentally exactly the same. 

Nic's Soho tour

What’s next…

I have slowly started putting another tour idea together, bringing in my passion for the rivers, one of which is also ‘masked’ (in that it is currently being hidden from view). The rivers draw me in. I see a lot of myself in their waters – ever changing and constantly moving but always there in one way or another.

Enjoy and Stay Curious.