As some of you who follow this blog will know, I do quite a lot of work for an outfit called London Walks.
For the independent visitor to London, and for London residents, it’s a great way to explore the capital and beyond. You simply turn up at the designated meeting point, no booking required, hand over a modest fee of £10 (less if you are 65 or over, or a full-time, card-carrying student) and you will have the services of a professional guide.
As a rule of thumb, if the person who offers a walk, both here or abroad, is not wearing a badge showing their accreditation, the chances are they have not trained, and do not belong to any professional association. They probably don’t have public liability insurance either, and if they offer a free tour, there is likely to be a sting at the end of the tour when you are asked for a tip. So not free at all. Obviously some unqualified guides are very good, and I would hope they will become ‘legal’ and apply for an accredited course as detailed by the ITG and equivalent organisations across the EU. Often they are required to pay someone at the top of the chain a fee per person who comes on the walk whether they receive tips or not. So it can be a pretty exploitative business all around.
I take a pride in my work. I enjoy adding to my knowledge, to my store of stories, and my training has taught me to be flexible and adaptable. It’s not a stop gap job, it’s what I do. And I am always surprised when people ask me if I do more than one tour, or if I have had to do any studying. The London Blue Badge course is rigorous. We guide all over London and beyond. Other than the inhouse guides, only Blue Badge Guides may guide in the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey or the Palace of Westminster, to name but three locations. Guides with this qualification are rightly regarded as bearing the gold standard of the profession. The badge is a guarantee of quality.
The day I stop enjoying helping people to love and understand this great city will be the day I hang up my badge. Most Blue Badge guides will say the same.