Walking tours are probably one of my biggest recommendations in London. it’s such a great way to see the city in a more personal way, with a guide that can offer lots of special information about the area you are seeing.
I’ve done some central tours, and a few years ago, I did a Jack the Ripper walking tour. I found the information provided about East London and how it used to be and look, so fascinating. It’s an area of the city that perhaps might not always look so charming, but has so much history. With our day jobs and managing this busy life, there is so much around us that we don’t properly look at, and it’s such a wonderful opportunity to walk around and properly look, with guides who really are expert when it comes to city history.
My feminist interests were peaked, when a work colleague told me of an alternative Jack the Ripper walking tour, where the focus is on the women that were brutally murdered and their lives. It’s natural, human nature to be curious about “whodunnit”, but “Jack” the Ripper was a phrase coined by the media, which almost makes him sound like an affable, boy next door type of chap! During the tour, “Jack” is instead referred to as “The unidentified murderer”. The murdered women were painted as fallen and lower class women. As today, the women took all the burden of the social stigma and criminsalisation due to selling sex, a little bit ironic considering that “the oldest profession” is a system both devised and maintained by the patriachy.
The Alternative Jack the Ripper tour, organised by Beyond The Streets (a charity working to end sexual exploitation- https://beyondthestreets.org.uk/) pointed out to us how extremely poor this area of London was and focuses on the strength of these women to survive in such difficult, challenging times. How very refreshing! The company has delivered these tours for a few years, I was told, but more frequently over the last couple of years, and were featured in Time Out London in 2018, where it received glowing reviews.
The tour starts and ends at Saint Botolphs, Aldgate and takes you around some of the streets where the women once lived. You see photos of them, and get to understand more about their lives and circumstances. Our guides, Tess and Becky, made continuous parallels from past to present, which I found so helpful. Women’s strengths are again celebrated. You learn about the challenges in the borough where White chapel sits: Tower Hamlets. It’s the third most economically deprived borough in London.
I loved hearing about the work Beyond The Streets are doing, and have been involved with: an really interesting case is that of Fiona Broadfoot who waived her right to anonmity to challenge the demonisation and criminalisation for women selling sex: http://beyondthestreets.org.uk/2018/02/01/imnocriminal/)
At the end of the walk you get to buy cake and refreshments if wanted, supported by the Luminary Bakery (http://www.luminarybakery.com/) a remarkable social enterprise (their main cafe is also just around the corner from my home- so lucky!) who say “we offer skills training, paid employment and a supportive community to help women thrive”.
I felt perhaps that the size of the group was just a bit too large for a walking tour group, as there was about 26/27 of us and it made it difficult to hear at times. But it was absolutely wonderful overall, and it’s great to feel that even in just a small way you are supporting such amazing charities, doing such significant work.
Ticket information: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-hidden-history-of-women-in-the-east-end-the-alternative-jack-the-ripper-tour-tickets-40094412467 . £8.00 per adult. Tours take place once a month, starting at 18.30pm.
Why attend: If you enjoy history, women’s rights and supporting important charities to make a difference.