Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Critical Mass Tour

Always on the lookout for new tour experiences, I got on my bike and joined the Critical Mass Tour yesterday. It is easy to know when and where to find it: 7PM on the last Friday of the Month from under Waterloo Bridge. It has been like that for as long as I have known and I was on a Critical Mass ride quite some years ago, maybe as far back as 10 years ago. It was therefore an overdue and exciting proposition, as it offered a wildly different sort of tour to those so far covered on the blog.

I made my way to Waterloo Bridge and found quite a crowd already assembled. Many hundred cyclists gathered on all sorts of bikes, including quite a number on the so-called 'Boris Bikes': the rental bikes named after the populist conservative Mayor of London, administered by the city and sponsored by a bank that does not need promoting. It was surprising to see so many as I thought Critical Mass was for hardened cyclists only. Also, since this ride was of an indefinite duration, I thought it would be unattractive to those renting bikes by the hour. Happily, I was wrong. The protocol is you arrive anytime after 6PM to be ready to start cycling at 7PM. While cyclists gathered there was a lot of chat and some, mostly, restrained drinking: I saw a guy next to me swigging from a bottle of Captain Morgan but most contented themselves with a single beer.  

At 7PM there was a swelling of noise: horns, bells, cries and inarticulate bloke-ish guttural sounds. It was the sign; we were off! We slowly emptied the Southbank and cycled past The National Theatre on our way up to the main road. This site is for me a curious one that I can't help but read more into than was probably intended. Maybe that's simply because I was previously much more involved in these spaces through the arts than I was through tours and so I come to them with an eye that still sees them as stages. I did in fact make a short POPLAR TV video outside the National Theatre last year: National Theatre To Screen Sport.

We set off and headed North over Waterloo Bridge. This is Somerset House on the right. It was not so easy to take pictures and ride at the same time but I tried my best to juggle the two. Crossing the bridge took us into the heart of London and I had to ask myself if this  happens every Critical Mass time or whether the group sometimes heads off on a very different tact. 

We descended into a road tunnel that is usually reserved for motor vehicles. There was much excited yelling as the bikes accelerated down into the tunnel, deep into the car zone. The relationship with motor vehicles is particularly bad at the moment owing to a spate of fatal accidents in the last month. Earlier in the day there had been a mass "die in" outside Transport for London's offices in protest at their transport policy and inertia at implementing agreed to improvements to the cycling infrastructure. All of this was still very much in the air as we made our way through the city.

Once we got going and settled into a rhythm I started looking a bit more at how the ride functioned. One quality that makes it deliciously slippery is the fact that there is no designated leader or organiser. There is a webpage, which is no longer updated, and this, I can imagine, might be so that nobody may be held responsible for the Critical Mass. That said, I did notice that there were people at the front of the group who did have opinions and were were not afraid to express them. For example, we were at this point approaching Oxford Street and I heard three cyclists say between them that we should avoid that road as it would mean battling buses. They then disappeared at speed towards the front to try and have their sway and lo and behold we avoided Oxford Street. Another quality is that some people dressed up. This man is wearing an animal costume. The tricky thing with it must be the tail, I hope he managed to avoid getting his tail caught up in the spokes of his back wheel. 

Predictably enough the people who hate Critical Mass the most are the taxi drivers. This chap in particular was a nasty piece of work who drove into a stationary cyclist who was standing in front of him in order to try and clear her from the road. No excuse. Lizard brain.

This then sparked off a heated exchange with a passerby who seemed to have a lot of opinions and thought of himself as a peacemaker. To be honest I thought of him as a twit in a shiny grey suit who was covering the driver. Instinct was to take my lock and smash the drivers windscreen so he could have a taste of his own medicine but of course I was far too polite and just took pictures.

Not everyone was in such bad humour however. There was actually quite a varied response to the ride from the people in cars and those standing by the sides of the street. Some smiled and waved, others stared disapprovingly but everyone noticed: you could hardly not see 700 bikes stream past. The cyclist standing here is blocking the car from going into the mass of bikes and this was a common activity. At junctions bikes block the way so cars can't force their way into the pack and it was this job of enforcing the blockade which was the one that the more experienced 'Massers' took on more readily and which also put them potentially into conflict situations like that with the white taxi.

I saw a few people drinking beer as they cycled but most kept their hands on the handlebars or reaching to their phones to take pictures. There was however a bit of a Friday night atmosphere about the ride all the same and quite a number thought things through enough to take a supply with them. This was not just a demonstration or a ride, it was also a party.

That was underscored by the music. This bike was trailing a sound system and it was just one of 4 or 5 that were playing different sorts of music, everything from dance music to opera. The opera in particular was unexpected and not the typical soundtrack for a demonstration.

We headed West along Piccadilly and then down into another road tunnel. There was a bit of a thing with the tunnels, enjoying the forbidden fruit. 

And then after passing near Victoria we came to Buckingham Palace and the bikes gathered around this famous monument whose name I have never bothered to learn. Many of the riders sat back and opened up those cans of beer they'd been saving, others made circles around it, this man with two skateboarders in tow. There were quite a number of young skateboarders who mostly raced around the front of the pack. I remember last time I went on a Critical Mass it also stopped at this same spot and this gets me asking, what is the geographic palette it works with? I can't imagine a mass of bikes making its way to Crystal Palace in South London, that would be too far to get home for anyone living in the North and so my guess is there must be some unwritten rules. I did in fact cycle at the front to find out how the direction was chosen and I heard people shouting "LEFT!" from time to time so I guess it is mostly self-regulating. 

I left them to it as it looked to me as if the evening was settling into a bit of a party in front of the palace.  I was wrong on that front, that's for sure. The video below was posted on youtube which more or less shows what happened after I left: the night had quite a bit more cycling still to go.

My current Tour of All Tours research is centred on Shoreditch and today's tour did not go there, the nearest it got was Tower Bridge, which you can see in the video. Critical Mass could visit Shoreditch however so there is no reason why I cannot mention it as a tour that sometimes passes that way, even if it is an infrequent and irregular occurrence. It will be back East I go tomorrow however as there are still quite a number of tours still to cover in the area.

Friday, 29 November 2013

The Spitalfields' Stories Tour: a tour designed to make you healthy

Today's tour was a self-guided tour in the sense that my guide was not a living breathing tour guide but instead 4 sheets of A4 that I printed at home from a free download I found on the Internet. I have written about this idea of the self-guided tour on an earlier blog so I won't repeat what I wrote there, but, this tour has given me the opportunity to expand upon those ideas somewhat. Suffice to say, when making my way around Spitalfields on this tour, I tried to follow the map and usually succeeded.

A Walk Through Spitalfields Stories has been designed to be read as an A5 booklet but working out the paging and folding it accurately on Commercial Street is a little optimistic. Best do that before you set out. As you'll see, mine is messy and distressed from being stuffed into my back pocket. 

I set out in search for Number 1, the starting point of this circular walk. Without too much effort I found it: SOUP KITCHEN. 

It was possible to stand more or less on the same spot as the photographer who took the picture in the booklet did, and to then recreate it. The difference here is the picture has been cropped at both top and bottom. The accompanying text from 1892 gives a snippet of information that can then be placed alongside the building today.

En route to number 2, I rounded the corner and came to the spot that the Spanish Jack the Ripper tours always seemed to be occupying. It was a little earlier in the day so it was empty this time and I had a good look at what was purportedly London's most lawless street 125 years ago. Nowadays it is a car park protected by dogs.

My circular tour took me next to this lamppost where a Charles Dickens quotation was my framing text, a quote about people leaning on lampposts that suggests though neither confirms nor denies that this was the precise lamppost Dickens had in mind. I have never had much time for Dickens personally even though I know he is much feted in the UK. It may in fact be because he is so celebrated and contemporary adaptations of his novels invariably grace abject poverty with nostalgia that I have such a hard time with his work. In any case, this passageway, I was told on a Ripper tour, was used for a scene in one of the Harry Potter films and this has put it firmly on the contemporary tourist map. There are indeed dedicated film location tours; I ought to cover one sometime soon. What's more, the film industry is seen as a way in which a city may be marketed. The recent Day of the Doctor being an example of this, the Olympic marathon another. However, I find that the media generated images of the city do not correspond to the actual experience of living or working in it as they tend to favour the tourist sites. When walking though these streets then, the visitor is simultaneously walking through a mental film set and comparing the streets to scenes from film and TV. This does not happen in the same way in an undistinguished small city that does not feature in the media. In Leighton Buzzard you really are, I'm guessing, in Leighton Buzzard. 

The game then with this tour was essentially twofold. First it was locating the image on the paper in the actual street you are walking down, such as the door to the synagogue here. Second, it was reading the place through the frame of the historical quotation beside it. That at least was the ostensive game. Add to this the task of following the map which sometimes had stretches without designated stopping points. It is quite a simple proposition and it is one that leaves you with enough space to bring your own thoughts to bear. There is not so much room for ambiguity and getting involved in situations, it functions as a reliable guide rather than an unreliable guide such as Alley's Travels in China would do today.    

And so to another familiar spot, the starting point of The Alternative Tour. Something that I did not mention when writing about that tour but which has struck me many times since is how it was a tour of street art which ignored a certain type of street art completely. It was very much focussed upon the art in public space that has grown out of the graffiti tradition and made no mention at all of public art, like this sculpture or corporate art that litters the squares and lobbies of offices all over the City of London. I would be interested in how these different forms of art and their economies could be compared to one another within a single tour. 

Number 8 was a historical photograph not one from today and so it was impossible to tell for sure which building Dan Cruickshank, yes he of The Bridges of London Tour was referring to. I therefore had to take my bearings from the map. 

And this is the 'charnel house' as far as I could tell: COSTA. Little do they realise in the bottom floor on the left, just behind Santa Claus, that they are sipping Lattes where human remains were once collected. This COSTA must also be the one where my anti-capitalist guide on The Alternative Tour got his coffee from. Suddenly this tour I was on was starting to become a vortex sucking in all the previous tours I had taken. The quietness of this tour allowed the references from all the previous tours to find their way in and invade the rather minimal narrative that it was constructing.  

A feature of this part of London is roads and passageways that bear no name. This I guess is the result of it being a very old part of the city that has been redeveloped in a very modern way. Whilst I was never remotely lost it was not always clear where I was on the map. I would have to look at an historic map to see if this passage had an old name which was simply no longer indicated or whether this was a new space. Somehow I find it hard to image new public space being created but I remain uncertain what the exact status of this space between the two buildings is. 

I came to 18 Folgate Street which is described as a time capsule.

There is nothing very much to see and so I dutifully took a picture and continued on my path. It was only later when looking up the weblink to Denis Severs House that I see that behind this door there really is something to see. What's more, if you look on their website they propose a tour. And so a new door opens in my research of tours in and around Shoreditch and Spitalfields. 

Next came Spitalfields market. I remember the place from the mid-1990s as a shabby artistic haunt; nowadays the The City of London has eaten it up and this is what you see on the outside.

On the inside there are still market stalls and food available but these days it is chains like Gourmet Burger and the stalls sell middle class kids rather than vegan slops and second hand tape recorders. What is odd however is that it still trades on the idea of creativity even though the artists are long gone. I guess that is the genius of creative industries.

This is the map that I was following; the route looks a little like a dog with a long tail that stretches East as far as Brick Lane. It is indeed a 'circular' route however there is a gap between number 16 Christ Church and number 1 the Soup Kitchen. This then makes me wonder if it might not be interesting to make a fully circular tour that not only returns to the starting point but which also revisits the entire route a second time using a different framing text.

Something I learned recently was that many of these blue plaques are not official in the sense that they have not been approved by English Heritage the body that has historically granted sites this status. This is just such an unofficial plaque. This one does not even indicate upon whose authority it has been put in place.

By the time I made it around to 19 Princelet Street it was really rather dark and I got to see how my new camera really did a better job than my old little pocket camera. Expect better night shots from now on.

I had tried on the Alternative Tour to take a picture of this metal sculpture that sits on the top of a post beside Christ Church. It had simply been a blur and so here is it is. The way these different tours were interweaving was, I realised, a consequence of them taking place within a concentrated geographical space. When I made the Stuttgart Tour of Tours I was taking the entire city as my frame and as such had to construct connections whereas here they were happening very naturally. 

Here for example was my first Jack the Ripper tour group of the evening. I was finishing around 5.15 PM and the Ripper industry had already started for the evening.

Which led me to Jack the Clipper on my way between point 16 to point 1 the start of the circular tour. I had heard that the Ten Bells pub had tried to change its name to a Jack the Ripper Theme pub but backed down after protests from women's groups. This barber shop was not so inconvenienced. This then completed my tour and my abiding feeling was that this tour was constructed simply to get people walking it being framed as a healthy and interesting activity. The booklet was part-funded by the National Heath Service and there was a section extolling the benefits of walking. The quotes were a bit random so they never constructed a very precise narrative or theme beyond 'this is all historical stuff that people once wrote about this place'. This meant that I was rarely that deeply involved in the tour on offer but was able to use it as a way to consider the space and how it is to follow a written guide rather than a live guide.  

Monday, 25 November 2013

A Walk Through: an audio art tour of the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich

This is an audio tour that I made back in 2008 and which I've just uncovered, so to speak, having thought it lost. It is one of three audio tours that I made for the exhibition A Walk Througha group show curated by the artists' collective OMSK, which was held at Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich. The exhibition and tour was spread around the gallery and university campus, which is on the site of the Old Royal Naval College. It is a major tourist site so this work anticipates the Tour of All Tours in a number of ways. 

The recording was made with James Dunn who was sound engineer on all three of the audio tours. It was made as a single take improvisation walking through the exhibition's locations and repeating the words visible in the space. The full duration is 25 minutes. A tour can be discerned underneath the formal restrictions of the work; the names of the rooms and signs, the background sound of the indoor and outdoor environments.

Below is the artist statement that accompanied this work:

This audio tour was composed in response to the exhibition A Walk Through and its location, The Steven Lawrence Gallery and related sites around Greenwich University. I have to admit that I almost never listen to audio guides in museums or galleries, and very rarely follow guided tours. A degree of my indifference to the form is probably noticeable in this audio tour; it doesn’t guide the visitor around the exhibition very effectively. In fact, for the most part, it doesn’t guide them at all. It is probably better to think of it as an audio work that proposes movement created in response to the exhibition A Walk Through. What’s more, the audio tour doesn’t offer an overview of the exhibition, pulling the many threads together and making sense of the whole. Rather, it presents a deliberately partial and oblique view. In this I was somewhat inspired by a former housemate and British Museum employee’s descriptions of the guided tours that took place at his work which were given by and for Jehova’s Witnesses. They would pass through the museum making observations such as, “this is an ancient Greek statue of a man; of a homosexual man. God said… “ 

The partiality of the audio tour or better tours, as there are three, is explicit in this multiple choice format. Collage as an aesthetic is common to them all, whether it be the collage of perspectives, of words and language, of space and language, or of time frames. I intend that in the quite open-ended space of this collage, room for interpretation may open up. This stems from a desire to create a tour that does not answer or explain. It should instead be thought of as a work in its own right that adds a further layer to the exhibition, should the visitor wish to engage with it. The type of art that this tour has in its sights is an unfinished art, an art of the event or encounter, an art that requires the active participation of the visitor. In this sense it is the prompt to a firsthand experience rather than the document or explanation of an experience that has already happened to another, elsewhere.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Allenheads Fell Tour

I was visiting Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland, perched high up in the Northern Pennines, so high in fact that it has skiing in Winter, something I never even knew happened in England. 

With the formal work concluded, a free day still available and a weather forecast that was cloudy but 80% likely to be rain-free, we decided to take a walk up on the fell. It is deceptive terrain as most of the hills, once you get up onto them, are relatively gradual and you don't at first realise how far away the summit is. The ground stubbornly continues to rise as you make your way towards what looks like the top, which is always just that bit further. 

My guide Alan didn't carry a map but knew the fell well enough to be able to lead us, with the occasional consultation of the phone that located us on a sea of green. Our party was Alan and I and his two dogs Sid and Kaiser, pulling on their leads, sniffing, circling and encircling Alan in a tangle of ropes that he would continually be stepping in and out of for the next few hours. The route from Allenheads to Allendale, our destination, was circuitous to say the least. This map showing just one part of our trip gives some idea of just how indirect the fell paths are. Another feature of the landscape is the absence of trees. We walked along a gravel path with knee-deep heather stretching out either side of us and talked. At first about art, ideas, ethics and its relationship to people and place and then slowly we talked more about the land itself, who lived and worked there and how it came to be the way it is.

As we gained altitude our path changed direction and we felt the full force of the winds. It was blowing up a gale, a relentless powerful wind blustering over the land. When walking directly into it I had to lower my centre of gravity, bend over, hold onto my hat and plough a path forward. Every now and again a strong gust would blow up and try to physically lift me off my feet. This was the sort of tense walking where you could not casually swing your arms and legs to a rhythm, rather I had to move forwards through deliberate forceful effort or else I'd have been deposited in the heather. After two hours we came to a shooting butt where I crouched down to take shelter from the wind while Sid made it perfectly clear who he thought the centre of attention is.

In spite of the harsh conditions we didn't turn back even though we were not even half way to Allendale. Somehow we had the idea that rain would be a reason to cut proceedings short but a bit of wind was not going to stop us. One thing that this wind did do was to animate the heather and grass which danced in waves, something Alan was particularly attentive to having made a film on this subject.

We finally took a turning off the gravel and onto a more winding foot path. As there were very few turnings and paths along the entire journey it made no difference which one of us was in front or behind. In this sense it was not a traditional guided tour being led from the front with a rehearsed commentary describing what we were passing, this was a journey across a landscape with conversation which was at times about what we were seeing but more often it connected tangentially and was about something else. By this point however I had been so aggressed by the wind that it blew the words and thoughts clean out of me. 

We passed a number of areas where the heather had been burnt (which incidentally provides the title for the book on ACA Setting the Fell on Fire which I am currently reading) and I was told that one reason that this is done is to stop the heather from growing too high. High heather offers the grouse more effective spaces to hide in. As this fell is a prime grouse and pheasant shooting estate the landscape is very deliberately managed in order to maximise the number of birds that can be shot. I got an explanation on how these shoots operate, how many people are required to beat the ground, load the guns and so on and how important a role this plays in the local economy. What's more, I also learnt about how the village had changed hands from being owned by one man to being broken up and buildings sold off, again altering the possession and usage of the land. I found it quite fascinating to be able to see these connections between economics and landscape, connections which run deeper still as the estate is now owned by a man who made his money on hedge funds in the city and whose clients who come here to shoot include members of the royal family and the international super rich. It was a surprise for me to realise that the fortunes of this rugged and unforgiving land were so intricately connected to those of global finance.

This was just about the only proper signpost I noticed on the entire route and it was in a pretty sorry state, the letters barely readable. This was clearly a terrain that did nothing to encourage random walkers. As we made our way beyond this point the ground changed becoming more waterlogged and gradually started descending from the high fell. 

Towards the end of the walk the sun started breaking through producing the stereotypical God light effect. Landscape photography on a pocket camera rarely begins to do places like this justice; you'll have to fill in the missing gap between being there and looking at it on a screen.  

The film Ice Cold in Alex came to mind on more than one occasion during the walk as our final destination was the pub in Allendale. OK so our hardship was perhaps a little less than theirs: it was windburn not sunburn that aggressed us and our Germans were not Rommel's soldiers in hot pursuit but Sid and Kaiser the two schnauzers we were walking. That aside, the walk was physically demanding and once we passed a certain point the conversation slowed down and a steely determination to reach the pub took over. The reward of beer at the end of a journey is not to be underestimated: even if my head was by this point more or less numbed my body was carrying me forward and was looking forward to sitting down beside a fire and draining a pint.

And then, firmly in autopilot, I rounded the corner and saw Allendale ahead of us. Down into the village and into the large white building in the centre of the picture we descended: The Golden Lion. And yes, the beer most definitely was "worth waiting for". The bus ride back to Allenheads took all of about fifteen minutes compared to the four and a quarter hours over the fell but this was most certainly was not a journey of convenience but rather one that was about experiencing the character of the place. I'm sure on a windless Summer's day it would be stunning and completely different to observe but, tough as it was, I was happy to have seen it on this more animated day when it was not trying to please. The austerity made perfect sense.

Monday, 18 November 2013

European Culture Forum Talk on Tours

This is a short address I made to the main assembly at the European Culture Forum 2013 in Brussels on the theme of cultural tourism.

I should admit to being a just a bit nervous before stepping out onto the stage as earlier that  same day Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, had spoken from the same spot to the same crowd of over 1000 delegates from the cultural field from across Europe.

An Alternative Jack The Ripper Tour: conspiracies and comedy

After taking a Jack the Ripper Tour last week and seeing just how many there were pounding the streets of the East End, I decided that I really had to take at least one more in order to be able to make some sort of comparison between them. That's how I ended up taking the Ripping Yarns Jack the Ripper Tour.

The starting point of the tour was Tower Hill tube station. This is a little more central than Whitechapel and properly on the tourist map of the city. I don't know whether we started here because if it is easier to get tourists to come here or because our guide was a Beefeater, who work and live in the Tower of London, pictured behind. In any case, I had heard that the less serious even sensationalistic tours are more likely to be found starting at Tower Hill and I was looking forward to something trashy. Once our guide started addressing us, however, I realised that this was not one of the B-list tours but was something altogether more respectable. Ever so slightly disappointed (no cheap laughs tonight!) I settled into the tour that I was actually being given and listened with interest as our guide Barney started warming up the group and introducing the tour and the story of Jack the Ripper. 

The tour took us through unfamiliar streets that were not obviously part of the Jack the Ripper story, but the locations were used to tell us about what East London was like in the 1880s and about the lives of the ripper's victims, all of whom were working as prostitutes. It flowed naturally enough and we finally joined the now familiar route stopping at the first site that the previous tour had also stopped at. We would shadow a similar route to theirs through much of the tour, making slight alterations, but essentially visiting the same locations. I had to ask whether this uniformity of route is due to the locations themselves and how the streets are laid out (one murder site is omitted as it is too far off route) or whether it is as much due to the way the narrative is told. I guess this is something that guides have spent considerable time thinking through and you would probably need to depart from the chronological telling of the murders in order to make a significantly different route.

Our guide was a gifted storyteller and natural joker who had been giving this tour for some four years so he knew his script inside out. Maybe because of that, and in order to keep it fresh, he also allowed himself to talk about funny things that he had seen and heard recently whilst being a guide. He knew the details of Ripper story well so we remained on that thread but he found ways to personalise it and see the funny side of it at every turn. He spoke quickly and with a choice turn of phrase and I wondered if foreigners whose English was not good would be able to follow him. He did explain some phrases from time and his energy was itself infectious, so I suspect it would all work out fine for most visitors. 

Once again there were the A4 laminated pictures distributed around our group showing the victims, locations and so on. He used fewer than the previous tour, however, and carried the story more through his patter, which was more than able to paint the scene. The pictures that we did see were generally less clearly printed and certainly a good deal less gory than the tour of the other night. He made far less of a point of trying to shock us with gruesome images and viewing them was very much an optional thing for the curious.

I heard that there had been an American woman who had taken one of the competing tours and had written an article complaining about them. I had a look for this online but was unable to find it as there is such a deluge of information and reviews about the various tours on offer. I also had to reflect that there will be some people who will inevitably find such a tour in bad taste, but I have the impression that they will probably be a minority. The group I was amongst seemed like a petty normal bunch of people and not a blood thirsty mob of sickos, much indeed like the previous tour group who were on the other Jack the Ripper tour I took. What is probably a more interesting question to ask is, how is it that this story has become popular and acceptable to be interested in. 

Whilst each tour is working with the same basic story and historical records, which will be more or less familiar to the guide, the tour will have a distinct focus and point of view that sets it apart from the others. So where my previous tour was historical in tone, even historical to the point of being about 'Ripper Studies' this tour focused upon the identity of the killer. In this sense it took the police force's point of view which made perfect sense given our guide was an ex-serviceman. The way this take on the story was delivered was very present and convivial and this brought it out of the detective story frame as there was no urgency or suspense to it and took us much more into the tourist frame of reference.

Just as on the other evening, the small Spanish group were out and once and again they managed to arrive first at this vantage point. Whilst the attitude between the guides and different groups seemed more or less harmonious, when a small group took the best spot while a large groups had to settle for a second best location, it did't sit so well with the crowd. It is all public space, however, and nobody has more or less right to it so the best thing was to do as our guide did and just get on with it from the other side of the road.

Much was made of the this message that was purportedly left by Jack the Ripper. He suggested it can be interpreted as relating to the freemasons.

When we came to Mitre Square we saw not one but two other Jack the Ripper groups. The group behind ours was on the murder site of 'Ripper Corner' while the second group had to content themselves with the building site and we parked ourselves by the offices. This gave me the idea that it would be rather amusing to sit in Mitre Square one evening and watch the various groups come and go. I might just do that and count them.

We were near the end of our tour which was to take a total of two hours and twenty minutes. I was fine with this duration but I did hear some people in our groups talking to one another about getting cold and tired by this point. The extra leg of the journey that comes from starting at Tower Hill certainly adds to the duration and makes this longer than the average Ripper tour. I imagine if the weather was poor that would compound this. Fortunately it was merely dry and cool which I'll happily settle for.

The prime suspect was revealed at the end of our tour and a plot involving the royal family imagined. This was the point where the tour went beyond the realm of the historical and into conjecture, which we were perfectly happy to accept as the Ripper story, being so far away in time and encountered via Hollywood, belongs more or less to the realm of fiction, even if it is based around real events.

The tour concluded with collecting £8 from each of the twenty people who were on the tour. This was done on the basis that there was no need to pay if you were not satisfied. Everyone paid and we made our way back to Tower Hill and into the night.