Tour Guides – Unseen & Invisible

Tour Guides – Unseen & Invisible

Tours guides by Unseen Tours started in London in 2010. This exceptional social enterprise was the brainchild of The Sock Mob (a volunteer meetup group). This volunteer network engages with people living on the streets of London. They train formerly homeless people to become tour guides. The guides train in several skills including public speaking, managing large groups and confidence building. Tours include Soho with Nic, Brick Lane with Pete, Covent Garden with Viv, London Bridge with David and Shoreditch with Henri. The guides have an intimate knowledge of their area and its historical and cultural landmarks. 60% of ticket sales are paid directly to the guides. Remaining revenue covers essential operational costs, including transportation and phone for the guide. They reinvest further profits are into the enterprise.

Invisible Cities started in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2016 by Zakia Mouilaoui. Inspired the scheme run in Athens by SHEIDA (Greece‘s equivalent of The Big Issue).

Primarily, Invisible Cities works with local out-reach support groups and homeless charities to find suitable guides. The guides create unique themes for their tour. Themes vary from ‘Crimes & Punishment in the Merchant City’ to ‘History of the Trainspotting Generation’ and ‘The Story of Guy Fawkes’.  Invisible Cities has a franchise model that can be adapted to include new cities.  Currently, Manchester, Glasgow, York and Cardiff have joined Edinburgh Invisible Cities model.

Both Unseen Tours and Invisible Cities are not a tour of the homeless but with the homeless. Providing entertaining and unusual references that tie into current and historical social landmarks and events. None of these organisations aim to participate in poverty tourism.

Feature Image:

tour guides
Victoria Street in Edinburgh. Image: Madeleine Kohler | Unsplash

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