Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The 24 Hour London Tour - How Did It Go?

The 24 Hour London Tour - How Did It Go?

'If You're Going Through Hell, Keep Going' ~ Sir Winston Churchill

So, it's taken me quite a while to getting around to writing this post. The past few weeks have been hectic with running tours, creating upcoming new tours and organising future events. But now I have found the time to sit down and write my experience of the 24 Hour walking tour that I completed. I hope you enjoy the blog, and any comments then please leave below. It's always lovely to get people's opinions and thoughts.

On Saturday 25th August 2012 I took on the challenge of a lifetime and a guided walking tour of London for 24 hours. The epic tour was split into 5 smaller tours covering subjects from Street Art, History, Culture, Ghost Stories & all Things London. All money raised for this event was donated to The Rob Knox Foundation that helps campaign against street violence and knife crime.

I came up with the idea of a 24 hour tour of London a couple of years ago. People who know me will know I'm always coming up with strange & odd (but interesting ideas) all the time, this being one of my better ideas. My problem was I didn't put the idea into action. Instead I got on with establishing London Detours & put the 24 Hour Tour to the back of my head. The problem with putting something at the back of your head is that it never really goes away. It just sits there looking at you while you try your best to ignore it.

It started to grate on me. My head was saying "Just get on with it! Do the 24 Hour Thing! Do it Loser!". My brain is known for bullying me sometimes. However, I was a busy guy, I was setting up my own business and honestly didn't have the confidence, time or support to take on this challenge.

Then this happened.......

I was sitting in a pub with friends in Brixton just a few hours before the riots broke out in the South London area. I love London, and this just made me angry.

While sitting in the pub my friend gets a txt message, he lets us know that unfortunately someone has been stabbed in Brixton. We all look at each other, shrug are shoulders and say "That's a shame". Then we carry on drinking.

You see, me and my friends have grown up with this sort of thing happening all the time. Not always on our doorstep but always knowing of the street violence and stabbings that occur in the area. To us, it is an everyday occurrence.

It wasn't till a few days later that I thought about the way that I had reacted to someone being stabbed and the damage of the London Riots. This was wrong. I cant believe that the way that I responded was embedded in me. People had lost homes, People had lost businesses, People had lost lives.

And so, that idea that was sitting at the back of my head, the one who was calling me a loser, started to get bigger.....And Bigger.....AND BIGGER.

I don't see myself as a leader. I'm never going to be a politician or a councillor. I will never fight for my country or do anything to change the world.

But I will help others to reach those goals.

I set up London Detours to inspire and educate and now I was going to use my skills to lead a 24 Hour Tour of London for charity.

But where do I go from here? I have an idea, I have a reason to turn the idea into an action and I have the confidence. What I really needed was support and guidance, and the three following people I will be forever grateful. Thank you.

Some of the Map Planning for the 24 Hour Tour

Virginia Hyland (Good friend & someone who knows other people) put me in touch with Mick Wearing & Daniel Eycott of
These two guys have been a massive help with the completion of this challenge. Pixelform Studios are a production company that provide the best in video production. Both Mick & Dan were willing to give up there spare time to help plan and film this amazing event.

That's right! Film! We were now turning this challenge into a film!

It was all very daunting. I remember Mick saying to me that it's just like organising one big tour. That made me feel better. However, I found out quite quickly that wasn't the case.

The start of the 24 Hour Tour - Interview with BBC LONDON RADIO

Street Art Tour - 08.00am/13.00pm
And so the day didn't start well. I hadn't got much sleep the night before which I knew wasn't going to help with the 24 hours. But I couldn't help it, I was excited.... and incredibly nervous. Months of organising had come down to this day. And it could just all fall apart. I had many worries, mainly that no one would turn up, that would of been a huge disappointment. I had emailed, phoned past customers and annoyed my facebook/twitter followers for many weeks leading up to the day.

I arrive at Aldgate East Tube Station at 07.30am and find I'm the first person there. And of course it's raining. My worries are soon put to rest as my tour group start to turn up, just a few at first and then the whole lot, a group of 20! It's a big group to start with, but it's well worth it. The group were ready for the tour (more ready than me!). It was also great to be interviewed for BBC London Radio. I was overwhelmed with the support of everyone. So, I got the show on the road, starting with the amazing and creative street art of East London. I'm a huge fan of East London and it's artwork and it was honour to showcase the area. But I hadn't paced myself so well. In fact, within the first 30 mins I was already drinking water as my voice was already going. Brilliant! But the energy and excitement from the group was infectious.

I had to calm down and get into a pace that was comfortable for me.

Short Clip Filmed by Cindy Eve of

East London Tour - 13.00pm/18.00pm
The Street Art Tour was coming to an end and I seemed to of got the walk and talk to a nice steady pace, it was a success. But, I had only completed 4 hours, there was a long way to go. The East London Tour started at Old Street Tube Station, and again, it was a nice group of people. We went straight into the second tour with no time for me to rest. This tour is a favourite of mine, it was great to have a walk down City Road towards Regents Canal and Hoxton. There is so much to explore and always something new to find, nothing was left out about East London and I had lots to talk about, from Jack the Ripper & The Krays to Banksy & The Blitz. Half way through the tour we stopped for good old fashioned Pie n Mash. This was a great time for my group to have a break. Me on the other hand kept busy with serving everyone's lunches and making sure that everyone was doing ok. It was at this point that the heavens opened and the rain poured down.

My mood changed completely. It felt that it was all ruined and my energy took a huge dip. This was the first time I wanted to stop (and it wouldn't be the last). I think what kept me going was knowing that these people had given up their weekend for a unique experience and I couldn't let them down. It was time not to see this as a problem but as an experience, and a good one at that! My group were surprisingly upbeat, and Mick from my support team bought a load of black sacks to wear. looking back it was one of my favourite images of the 24 hours. It showed everyone's persistence and interaction. Working together to try and stay dry. Plus, it was interesting to talk about the life of Shakespeare while standing in a council estate corridor!

Southwark Tour - Paper Boat Parade

Southwark Tour - 18.00pm/23.00pm
The East London Tour finished at The Monument. I was starting to feel the pain mentally and physically, the rain wasn't as hard but it was still spitting and as I let one group go a knew one started to turn up. Groundhog Day springs to mind.

Before the Southwark Tour my energy was perked up by a visit from Sally Knox from The Rob Knox Foundation. Sally has been a great help and support with the 24 Hour Tour, she is an inspiration to everyone. She gave a talk at the beginning of the tour and it brought home what I was doing this for. I thank her for that. It gave me the strength to carry on, knowing the money we raise will help & educate others.

So, for the first time we go South of the River. Walking over London Bridge we took in the sights of Tower Bridge, Tower of London & HMS Belfast, making our way to City Hall. We stopped for a fun game at the longest water feature in London. I gave everyone a piece of paper, for which they had to make paper boats to sail down the stream. We were recreating the Boat Parade of the Queen's Jubilee. (And if I'm honest, Our Parade was better!)

Again, my energy started to take a dip but I hadn't eaten since 8am and it was now 8.30pm. So that could of been the reason. I gave my group a break at The George Inn Tavern while I quickly nipped out for two slices of pizza, (Not the best choice I know but on a Saturday night in London Bridge it was either that or a kebab!)

Southwark was buzzing with drinkers and people going out for dinner. However, for someone who had been walking for nearly 15 hours I saw the area in a different light. I was tired and wet. Noises and laughter were starting to annoy me and I just wanted it to be over with. The rest of the tour felt rushed. I wasn't happy.

Street Art Tour - A Happy Moment

City Tour (Graveyard Shift Part 1) - 23.00pm/04.00am
Oh dear, just writing this sentence is reminding me of the City Tour and how much this stretch of the 24 hours hurt. Alot.

This was never going to be my favourite part of the challenge.

However, I plodded on, walking back to the north of the river over the Wobbly Bridge towards St Paul's Cathedral. This tour was a difficult one, it was dark and cold and I hadn't been able to get dry from the down pour earlier on but yet again it was the group that kept me going. I had people from past tours giving me support plus some old friends. Seeing them all lifted my spirits but it didn't help me remember my route or information.

I had been going for so long that I had forgotten parts of the route and certain stories, plus, I had started slurring my words. I was starting to sound drunk! It was an interesting part of the challenge and I learnt alot about myself. To never give up and enjoy the experience (However mad and crazy it might be).

Westminster Tour (Graveyard Shift Part 2) - 04.00am/08.00am
And so the 24 Hours were nearly over. Just 4 hours to go. Starting at Charing Cross I met my group one by one. My friend had also brought some cereal bars with him which I took full advantage of. This was it, the end tour. That perked me up alot. Knowing it will be over in just 4 hours! I was excited and emotional. That was something else I noticed throughout the whole challenge, how much this meant to me. Every now and then I would get teary, knowing what I was doing would make a difference but also the fact that I had made it happened. I was proud of myself. And never felt that before.

The Westminster Tour is always the most popular of my day tours but at night it had its disadvantages. the usual places I would take people were closed off so the route took a different direction. However, I still talked about my most favourite people, Sir Winston Churchill, Samuel Pepys, Claude Duvall, Nelson, Charles II & Dickens. And of course visiting the places that make London's history, Trafalgar Sq, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey. The Olympics got in our a way slightly, we were unable to make it near Buckingham Palace due to the area being taken up for Beach Volleyball & the Cycling. But I was still able to talk about it from afar.

My favourite moment of this tour happened at sunrise by the side of the Thames.

I decided to make my mark on the challenge by writing down my feelings and details on a piece of paper which I then threw into the Thames. My idea behind this was that whoever finds the bottle will be inspired by the 24 Hour Tour and in turn will do something to make a difference. The bottle at this moment in time has not been found but I'm a big believer in it being found. Whether its next week, next year or 20 years. Someone, somewhere will find it.

While at Big Ben it tolls 7 O'clock and I know its nearly all over. I've never felt so much relief of knowing that I have completed something incredible and challenging. Yet, there's a problem, we have an hour left and we are 15 minutes away from the finish point. I start to panic, this comes across to the group and so I panic some more. I was not going to do just 23 hours and 15 minutes. I was in this for the whole thing. So, I decide to take a Detour, taking the side streets of Whitehall. I even talk about London buses for 20 minutes! Which is not easy! Seriously, try it now, bet you cant do it.

With 3 minutes to go I could see the finish point, right in front of Trafalgar Sq, the official centre of London. I was there. I had done it!

24 hours of a guided walking tour of London, covering 5 boroughs of the Capital with over 60 people.

I was happy. I was tired. I went to bed.

Thank you to all who came on the tour. You made it a special day.

Thank you to all who donated money. You made a difference.

Thank you to all who supported me. You inspired me.

Together we all raised £1,852.00 for The Rob Knox Foundation. But this isn't the end........ It's only just the beginning.

(I remember suggesting 48 Hours...)

Westminster Tour - Near the end. An Hour to Go. (Photo by