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No history in today’s post, just a blatant piece of self promotion.

As some of you who read my ramblings may know, I run a guided walking tour company specialising in tours of the City of London called A London Miscellany Tours. The Coronavirus Pandemic put pay to the running of tours during most of 2020 and has continued into 2021. This has been a blow to me personally, as I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment in conducting people around the city that I find so fascinating. So I have decided to drag myself into the 21st century and use technology to help me share my passion of the history of the City with other people.

I’ve teamed up with a company called VoiceMap, who have designed a clever little App along the lines of the ones that you may have used when touring a museum or stately home. This App differs somewhat as it allows the tour to be conducted outside of a building and over a much wider area. It works through Global Positioning Systems (GPS) which triggers each commentary when the user arrives in a certain area.

Setting it up has been quite easy, I firstly have to plot the route of the tour, position the GPS points at the desired location and supply the commentary. The final part being the most difficult, I take my hat off to those people who work in recording studios supplying voice overs. It’s one thing to talk about a subject you know quite well as you can ad lib, but try reading from a prepared script for more than a couple of minutes and its surprising how tongue tied you can get, lets just say it took me longer than I expected!

The other thing that was a little comical was the method of recording my commentary. As I’ve said this App is quite high tech and the quality of the recording has to be top notch. So, I decided to purchase a high spec microphone and some some digital audio software to do it justice. Setting myself up at a table and looking like a latter day BBC radio announcer I launched into the introduction as a test piece.

This is the BBC and here is the news

Several takes (as we say in the trade) later I was happy with what I’d produced and emailed it off to the sound engineer. A couple of minutes later I had a response which to paraphrase was, “what was that? It wasn’t very good”. We went through a lengthy exchange of emails trying to set the technology up to gain better clarity of recording, but in the end I had to admit defeat and use the engineers first choice, the voice recorder on my mobile phone.

Undaunted and holding my mobile I launched into the introduction again and emailed the result, “too much echo” came the reply, take 3, “Traffic noise”, Take 4, “Dog/Seagulls Barking/squawking in background”. To cut a very long story, I ended up on a squeaky wooden chair wedged between a door and a bookcase with an old blanket draped over my head, so much for high tech!

Something akin to Abbey Road Studios

The one thing that really swung it for me to use VoiceMap was how easy it was for the person taking the tour to use the App. When running, the tour is virtually “Hands Free” and continually checks that you are on the correct route. It also allows you to pause or break your tour, so should you wish to stop you can return to it later

The first tour, which has just been published is a new one I wrote during Lockdown called There’s more to Moorgate and you can find it by clicking the link The tour walks you round an area of London that you may not have thought to visit. It starts on the site of the old city walls and then meanders its way through what was the main route towards London Bridge three hundred or so years ago, before taking you through the financial heart of the City. My tours are not just about historical facts and buildings, I always try to get some of the areas past residents to make an appearance to give you some knowledge of what life was like for someone alive two to three hundred years ago, and this tour is no different. I have to say on listening to the tour, I’m really pleased and quite proud of how it sounds. The other plus is that the pricing decision was down to me, so I’ve pitched it quite low, so that families and groups can all download a copy without it costing too much.

Hot on its heels will be the first of the existing tours from my A London Miscellany Tours site, Not Avenues, but alleyways which is set around the area of Fleet Street and deals with the labyrinth of courts, passages and alleys that criss crossed the area. Then I’m proposing to publish one which shows you round another area well off the Tourist Trail, Pimlico.

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