International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for businesses everywhere to accelerate gender equality in the workplace.
Here at Evan Evans, we work with some pretty incredible and inspirational women. To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we’ve interviewed a handful of the exceptional female tour guides that bring our tours and experiences to life and delight visitors to London from around the world: Lesley Robinson, Emily Dell and Charlotte Thurlow.
What made you want to become a tour guide?
Lesley: My children used to ask me a lot of questions growing up that I didn’t know the answers to! Not knowing the answers to their questions, I set out on a personal mission to become more informed about everything around me. I’m addicted to learning and enjoy discovering new and interesting information.
Emily: I have always enjoyed telling stories and have a deep love for history, so guiding seemed like the perfect platform.
Charlotte: I started guiding as a summer job but once I started to learn more about events in history that still affect my day-to-day life I realised how fascinated I was. I then really wanted to share what I knew about the city of my birth (and the city I had fallen in love with again) with people who were visiting.
How long have you been a tour guide?
Lesley: I’ve been a guide now for 25 years, and a Blue Badge guide for the last two.
Emily: I have been introducing people to England for 12 years now and became a London Blue Badge Guide in 2018.
Charlotte: It will be 10 years, this May.
What is your favourite thing about being a guide?
Lesley: I love being a guide as my job means that I’m forever running into people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. I’m very much a ‘people person’ and enjoy talking with visitors and getting to know more about them and what it’s like where they’re from.
Emily: I’m really into sociology and with guiding you meet so many personalities from all around the world, which in turn can teach you so much about the human race. You can do the same tour over and over, but with the change of clients can come the change in conversation, structure, tone, needs and I love that.
Charlotte: I love the variety, I working outside every day, I love meeting new people from around the world, I love that my ‘office’ can one day be Stonehenge and be Windsor Castle the next.
Where is your favourite place to take visitors to the UK?
Lesley: Without a doubt, it has to be Westminster Abbey. The architecture…the history…it’s absolutely incredible and such a beautiful building. We’re very fortunate to have a building like that on our doorstep here in London.
Emily: I have a passion for describing art, with that in mind the National Gallery is a firm favourite.
Charlotte: I know this will sound obvious but….London! It’s a city that is ever-changing, ever-evolving and has SO much to offer. From Medieval castles to 21st-century skyscrapers. It’s a city that has something for everyone.
Tell us your favourite historical fact!
Lesley: If you reserve a table for 13 (a traditionally unlucky number) at The Savoy in London, the hotel will set the table for 14 and set a porcelain cat called Kaspar at your dinner table. The cat even enjoys the same food as the rest of the dinner guests. Why? For the answer to that, you have to go back to the story of an unlucky South African diamond magnate. Woolf Joel was gunned down in Johannesburg a few weeks after – you guessed it – hosting a dinner party for 13 at The Savoy.
Emily: My favourite historical fact involves an expression: “don’t pull the wool over my eyes”. This came about in the 17th century when people were ordered to bury their loved ones In woolly jackets. The reason they did this was to make sure the wool industry continued to boom. You would use this expression if someone was insinuating that you weren’t aware of what was going on i.e they thought you were dead in the mind.
Charlotte: My favourite historical fact is that when you walk through the beautiful Burlington Arcade, on Piccadilly, there is a strict code of conduct that everyone must abide by. This includes no whistling, no singing, no hurrying and no opening umbrellas!
What woman, past or present, inspires you and why?
Lesley: Her Majesty The Queen is a national icon and an inspiration to people up and down the country. At 93, she looks great for her age and has fulfilled her duties with aplomb for almost 70 years now. Over the years, she’s faced several crises down with dignity and poise – from political and social issues to family scandal. She’s incredible.
Emily: Frida Khalo; an artist born in Mexico, who died at the age of 47. She painted things that people were too afraid to face; pain, anguish, loneliness. She experienced such a hard life and she was so open about that through her creativity, which in turn lit her up.
Charlotte: This is a tough question, as there have been so many women throughout history that have made such effects and changes to the world. If I was to pick just one though it would be the 19th Century Nurse and social reformer, Florence Nightingale.
From an early age, she was assertive, driven and eager to create a new perception of women and what they were capable of. It astounds me to think that just over 100 years ago women were expected to stay at home and raise their children and now…we have had a female Head of Police, a female head of Fire Service, two female head of governments both working alongside our female head of state! As Beyoncé once said ‘Who run the world?’ GIRLS!