We recently had the pleasure of meeting Tom Barclay Matchett The London Storyteller
If you are moving to London speak to Tom he will help you establish yourself in the best city in the world!
How did you become The London Story Teller?
Storytelling has been my vocation from early years. I couldn’t speak until I was five, so communicating whether it was through the written word or through speech was a very important focus in my early development and has rewarded me ever since.
Then I had the realisation that London, my home of many years, could serve as a source of endless inspiration in which I could specialise in and share with people to help them discover what I believe to be is the finest city on earth.
At the time, I had been working from home and not getting enough exercise. I found a booking agent who promoted private tours and got great reviews straight off the bat. Everything just clicked. Working hard is easy when you love what you do, it does not feel like work and fuels the inspiration that breeds professionalism, focus and the desire to constantly develop one’s craft.
What satisfied my inner-entrepreneur was that from a business perspective, The London Storyteller has made money from day one and has been on a curve of constant growth. The focus is on bespoke cultural discovery, which is creating a tour, an itinerary or even a comprehensive cultural settling in programme that is tailored to my clients. These are privately hosted, which means that they are ‘personalised’ experiences in truest sense of the word.
What do you enjoy about your job?
Where to begin? It is such a satisfying experience to share your passion and knowledge with people in a way that entertains, inspires and helps them make the most of this city; this is a bold claim but it is consistent with the feedback that I have had from my guests so I’m confident it warrants sharing.
I love researching and planning bespoke experiences. It is a craft of which the reviews suggest I have become proficient. There is always so much to learn and something new to discover, so I am on a constant upward developmental curve which is a rewarding way to spend your time. Stand in any spot in the Square Mile and you are standing in a place with two thousand years of stories beneath you, the most incredible dynamism occurring right now and in London’s expanding skyline many more in the future yet to be written.
Best of all is connecting this in a way that is relevant and engaging for my guests so that they feel inspired, informed and at home in London.
Who are your typical clients?
Now, this is a challenging question! I don’t see my clients as typical, as I offer a personalised service and therefore I always try to look through fresh eyes as to how I can tailor the experience to them. My first guests for instance were a couple from Munich who were also world leading neurosurgeons; they wanted to know about the royal family and drink beer.
I have had a lot of young families, as well as boomer couples and sometimes several generations in a family. I have a mixture of visitors, people who have relocated to the UK and London, as well people who have visiting relatives from overseas who want to discover London in a way that is convenient and tailored just for them.
What does an average day with you look like?
I am based at home and am usually up from 6am and then start work at 7am. Once awake it is very hard for me to resist being productive, time is the most valuable commodity on earth!
Early starts are great for responding to enquiries and tackling quick fire tasks. It has been very busy recently with tours and guests, so when I have a bespoke tour booked in I will clear my diary to ensure that I have time to focus on the research and planning I need to do.
I give myself a full hour to get from home to a meeting point for a tour, so that I arrive relaxed and on top form for my guests. My day from that point will be all about building relationships with them and being focussed upon making their experience enjoyable; the bedrock has already been put in place by the planning that I undertake beforehand. The goal must always be to deliver to the highest of standards; I try to walk in the shoes of my clients to achieve this. Empathy is a wonderful thing.
Once I have parted with my guests, I try to allow myself a couple of hours with a notepad and fountain pen. This is an opportunity to plan for the next day, think creatively about how to progress and make notes. Recently I have been enjoying using this time to make progress on The London Storyteller’s first book which is part a consolidation of favourite anecdotes and a research tool for generating new ways to share the stories of the city’s people, personalities.
Where do your clients come from?
The majority are from North America about 60%. The remainder is probably a split of 20% each between the rest of the EU and the Commonwealth. Once I had a Malaysian gentleman of a particularly fine vintage who was formerly a Major in the British Army. He was visiting with his family for the first time. It was a great honour to roll the red carpet out for him. I estimate that I have had guests from more than twenty different countries.
What do you need from your clients to create the bespoke tour?
Well, I think that this is the same as any client/provider relationship. If you know exactly what someone wants, then you can create something that fits exactly for them but this is an ideal situation and we do not live in a vacuum. There is a very strong accent on “discovery” with that I do and as a guide. Some people are more confident than others.
I ask about people’s interests and passions. This can be “I really want to see Big Ben and find the best Sunday morning food market near London Bridge” but often my clients have an understandably limited knowledge about London, so I’ll ask them what it is that they want out of their experience and what interests them more broadly.
If someone is relocating to London, I try to work out a plan that is both engaging and practical for them, this can be in the centre of the city as well as helping them to acclimatise to their new neighbourhood and help make it feel like home quicker.
What are the most asked questions you have about London?
It’s a tie between being in central London with “why are there not more trash cans?” and why does the Queen not retire and will William be the next King?
For anyone curious as to my responses, in the case of the former this is simply a matter of security. London is a very secure city, its partly why we don’t have troops on the streets as you will see elsewhere in Europe. We just do it with subtlety.
What unusual requests have you had for a tour?
On one occasion, I had a group of nine German guests who between booking and the tour date, requested the tour to be done in German. My German had lapsed somewhat since school days when I spoke it quite well but had only been trotted out in recent years upon the subject of Formula One.
We agreed that I would do it with a script, which I wrote, translated and ran to about two thousand words. I memorised parts of it and the rest I read after some preparation beforehand. It was pushing the envelope a little but extraordinarily satisfying to have been so well received.
If you are looking for Tom’s excellent service below are the packages available:
Bronze half day incorporating local information guide and highlighting certain areas places of interest etc.
Silver whole day with personalised itinerary to be adapted to your own specification.
Gold series of four days spaced perhaps one month apart to help you immerse yourself into living in London.
(for prices please contact Tom on +44 7887 564021. or visit The London Story Teller website.