Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Dear Aficionados,

Herewith is the second part of my catching-up blog entry. Two weeks ago I gave a summary of my touring experiences this year. Today, I'll be reflecting on my writing experiences in 2016. Of course, the starting point has to be my latest book, The Dark Side of East London.

Based on my tour 'The Dark Side of the Green', The Dark Side of East London was published by Pen and Sword on 23 September 2016. It was in the autumn of 2014 that I was approached by journalist Kate Bohdanowicz to propose a book; in early 2015 the proposal was accepted and the contract was signed. The book explores the areas east of the City of London in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, essentially before the concept of the East End came into being.

Through stories of crime and other wrongdoing, the book evokes what life was like east of the City in the days when most of the area was still semi-rural, and how it changed when it was absorbed by the growing metropolis of London in the nineteenth century. Crime stories, like ghost stories, are valuable because they are anecdotal, giving you details of day-to-day life at moments of crisis. In this way it is hoped that the flavour of 'ordinary' lives and conditions come through in this book.

This is the only commercial work I've produced this year, but I have been putting it about a bit elsewhere. I've started using LinkedIn a lot more now; it's like Facebook for grown-ups. I've put up some posts which reflect on aspects of guiding. 'New York Medieval Times' considers the application of guiding as an adjunct to education, as I explained in the last blog entry. 'Gateway to the City' points out the natural relationship between hotels and tour guides.

I have put up other posts, such as a reflection on the unwarranted destruction by King's College London of the unique timber-framed entrance of the former Spur Inn on Borough High Street. We aren't so rich in such structures in Central London that we can afford to let them get destroyed in the interests of short-term development. The LinkedIn post is a good way of developing ideas in a way that's accessible to the reader. Plus, as far as I see you don't have to be registered with LinkedIn to read them.

Another area in which I've been extending myself is the blog for Footprints of London, where I've had items published which look at the portrayal of the goldsmith in Jacobethan City comedies ('All that Glisters is not Gold'), George Orwell's experiences in the cells at Bethnal Green Police Station and Old Street Police Court ('Orwell in the Clink') and the hop factors W.H. and H. Le May and their prominence in the Borough ('At the Heart of the Hop Trade').

These posts are born of tours I have created this year, and the Footprints blog is a good way to explore aspects of London's story through the eyes of guides. The entries are usually produced from material garnered in the planning of tours and thus give more scope for the guide to expand on the topic than is given by a few minutes out on the street. I would recommend you get to know it:

Guiding has of necessity taken a priority over writing, but I hope that more items will be forthcoming in the New Year, including a proposal for another book for Pen and Sword. I've got the germ of an idea fermenting away in the back of my mind, but there's a deal of reading to do first to ensure it's got legs. I'll let you know in due course.

This concludes my review of what I've been doing (professionally at least) in 2016. Future posts will be far less exhaustive than what you've had to date! I hope to bring you news of triumphs and achievements, but what they shall be time will unfold.

I hope that the festive season is bringing you fun, as well as time to reflect. Please accept my best wishes for health and happiness in 2017.


Dave Charnowalks

Cover picture for The Dark Side of East London courtesy of Pen and Sword; photo of Playhouse Yard courtesy of Fay Bennett; photo of Dark Side launch courtesy of Alan Tucker.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Dear Blogophiles,

Welcome to the new-look, revised Charnowalks blog – brought back out after nearly two years in the loft, dusted down and oiled where necessary. The new blog will be full of pep and ginger, and will energise your desire to experience the richness of London at street level and on the page.

I say this, but at present you find your author in reflective mood. It is December after all, and a good time to look back at 2016. Much has happened this year, both in terms of guiding and writing, so I’m going to split this reflection in two. This will be the guiding issue. Looking at what I’ve written, this is a rather wordy post – still, it is going back over nearly a year, so after this effusion the blog will calm down!

I’ve managed to get in a good deal of guiding this year, and the repertoire has grown – I’ve actually created seven brand new full-length tours, including ‘Booze and the Borough’, my first full tour south of the river. A number of scheduled tours have gone ahead with appreciative audiences, but more significant have been the bookings with specific clients. Too often people equate guiding with mere sightseeing, yet in so many contexts guiding is useful as a resource.

Education is a prime example of the benefits of guiding, giving students an added dimension to their studies by giving the experience of ‘being there’. Twice this year I have been engaged to take round first-year undergraduates from New York University, courtesy of Professor Brendan Hogan; we explored Medieval London in March and Roman London in November. Also this summer I was privileged to do a Great Fire tour for two Year Two classes from the local Gatehouse School, courtesy of Jon and Conti Moll.

A feature of this year is ‘Gateway to the City’, a special package worked out in association with the Grange City Hotel near Tower Hill. Benjamin Suster, Deputy Manager, and I worked out a package which comprises a one-hour tour of the area, starting and finishing at the hotel, followed by lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. It is offered in conjunction with the market held in the hotel’s grounds. So far we have offered the package twice; sadly there were no takers for the second outing, but it was late November!

Once again, through the offices of my good buddy Anna Tomlinson, I provided a tour for the Royal College of Surgeons. This is the fourth year I have been engaged, and it is always a pleasure to guide such appreciative people. It is also a challenge, because there are many people who do the tour every year, so it has to be a new one each time. As the tours have to begin and end at the RCS in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, this requires imagination to come up with ideas that are sufficiently interesting.

I have continued to get bookings from the UK Educational Development Agency, which provides facilities for school groups from Spain and Italy who are over here getting language experience. Only recently I found out that I feature in their promotional video! It was filmed last year.

This year I managed to get myself filmed again, by a Soho-based company called The Ark, for a six-part series called ‘Love London’. It’s for the export market, and features less obvious places for the tourist to visit. I’m in the Covent Garden episode, talking about Covent Garden’s theatres. We filmed in the Royal Opera House. I love being backstage in theatres – acting was the career I never had – so I enjoyed the whole thing hugely. As there was only one camera, after the two takes we had to do some silent nodding, smiling and so on so that it could be cut into the sequence!

I can’t leave out Footprints of London, the co-operative of which I am a member; I have been able to contribute to three of this year’s festivals. For April’s Shakespeare festival I devised two new tours – ‘A Question of Supremacy’, which looks at the politics of Henry VIII’s break with the Church of Rome, and ‘Much Ado About Trading’, my first tour with readings, showing how Shakespeare and his contemporaries used City trade as material for their plays. September was the River Festival, offered this year through Totally Thames, for which I did two trade-based tours.

At October’s annual Literary London Festival I ensured that the East End was represented with another new tour, ‘Bethnal Green in So Many Words’. This is my second tour with readings, exploring Bethnal Green through writings from 1896 (A Child of the Jago) to 2003 (Brick Lane), with the high-spot of George Orwell’s experience of the cells in Bethnal Green Police Station.

Well, I did warn you that this was a wordy issue, but that’s brought you up to date with the guiding. Next issue we focus on the written word.

Thanks for reading; I hope to see you on the streets some day (if you’ll pardon the expression).


Dave Charnowalks

Pictures courtesy of Malcolm Johnston and Alan Tucker