By Caroline Bourne.
SharedCity is a new concept in London, a tour company with a twist, set up to truly celebrate the global diversity of London through cross cultural tours and experiences. SharedCity was borne out of a love for London and its cultural mix. It was dreamed up by three friends who come from very different cultural backgrounds with family histories that span the world.
Between us we have grown up with traditions from three of the major world religions: Judaism, Catholicism and Hinduism and our families can trace origins to India, Russia, Poland, Spain, Italy and Holland.
We were all educated in the UK and realised that while we were friends and shared a love of travel, eighties pop music and adventurous food, we all knew very little about each other’s cultural backgrounds, or even that of our Moroccan or Polish neighbours.
As an experiment we started visiting temples, mosques and synagogues together and were welcomed everywhere we went. We quickly realised that London is full of people who want to share and tell their stories – as well as many more people who want to learn about other cultures.
Eating together, explaining customs and simple taking time to talk about different experiences of life in London was wonderful and importantly these experiences helped to answer our questions about about why people dress a certain way, why they wear certain types of head covering or why they always eat a particular type of food.
Out of our little weekend outings, SharedCity was born. Over the last couple of years we have developed a number of tour-like experiences taking small groups to visit communities in parts of London far from the typical tourist trail.
Now we have tours that visit Nigerian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Gujarati, South Indian, Italian, Turkish, Jewish communities. We visit everywhere from community centres, places of worship to ethnic supermarkets to hairdressers. Participants relish the opportunity to learn about even the most everyday customs. For many it can be a bit like going on a holiday to a new place.
Each tour is led by someone from the community we visit and the experience normally lasts around two to three hours. Most tours include a meal or opportunities to taste speciality food from that culture and they might include a visit to a place of worship. We also include dance workshops, craft demos, cookery lessons and more.
There are around 300 different communities in London and we would really love to cover more of them but we do take time to find the right kind of guides to lead the tours.
Do you know someone who would make a perfect tour guide? Or perhaps you would like to run a tour yourself?
We are happy to talk about possibilities and help anyone keen to develop new tours in London that celebrate community and diversity. The only requirement is enthusiasm for your culture and the ability to explain, share and communicate with a small group of people. If you have an idea, a skill you would like to share or a venue that would work for a SharedCity experience, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you.
Contact Caroline, Deborah or Nidhi at firstname.lastname@example.org