So begins the Falmouth Uncovered blog. This will be mostly somewhere to upload articles ‘uncovering’ some aspects of modern Falmouth (things to do, hidden historical gems, best cafés to eavesdrop on unhappy couples etc), but I also want to do some proper writing — writing that asks questions and doesn’t quite know where it’s going — starting with a little exploration of why I started the tour in the first place.
Is that a bit self-indulgent? Well, the interesting thing about being a tour guide is that I, myself, am inevitably at the heart of things! When I spend ninety minutes waltzing some strangers through the centuries I’m calling upon what’s inside of me, since my feelings, my humour, and my interests all make up the tour just as much as the concrete historical facts. So with that in mind it stands to reason that a little bit of self-revelatory blogging wouldn’t be too amiss?
So then, how did Falmouth Uncovered come to be? In short, it was born of a basic need — to have a job that makes money — coupled with a quiet-yet-insistent desire that it should be something congruent with my interests, passions etc etc. Between 2015 and 2018 I had a fascinating role as a historical researcher at an unexploded ordnance disposal firm, but since then I’ve not really known what to do with myself — travel, unpromising work, an MA in ‘Professional Writing’ at Falmouth University. Much of this has been interesting, but the lack of real direction is something I’ve found difficult. All I’ve really wanted is a meaningful boulder to push up a meaningful hill — but that’s a hard thing to find.
I suppose we all have to work to find our own sense of purpose. The tricky thing in a modern, individualistic society is that ‘meaning’ can mean anything: accumulating wealth, saving the world, getting really good at spreadsheets — and nobody can tell you what your version will look like. I had thought ‘I shall be a writer! A noble, struggling creative!’ but blimey, it’s not a particularly attractive set-up, especially when you can’t settle on a project you believe in. A struggling writer who doesn’t finish writing things isn’t a struggling writer — they’re just a struggling person.
Last November, however, on a day of blue skies and tranquil seas, I went for a coastal run (Maenporth to the Helford) with my good friend, Adam, and as we pounded merrily along, I mused that Falmouth could really do with a regular historical walking tour. And then, in pretty swift order, we agreed that I should be the one to do it! It all suddenly seemed so obvious: I’d already done a great deal of research on Falmouth’s history for my website, Local History is Awesome, I have done a bit of acting in the past, and I very much love blathering about the past.
The work began, initially as pure research. Books. Stories. Facts. Dates. Names. Places. Details. I was mostly just indulging my curiosity, which was no bad thing really — I wouldn’t be much of a tour guide without a store of knowledge. Gradually more practical questions began to arise, like the thorny issues of branding and business models. I was half-expecting my brain to baulk at all this, but gradually I worked my way through. I couldn’t let myself down on this — the tour had to happen.
As I neared the point of launching things I was faced with having to do more marketing work, which involved making a bit of noise and drawing attention. I’ve spent so many years willfully taking on the role of spectator, but there is an extrovert in me, and this challenge called upon him. And you know, it’s been wonderful. Taking up space! Standing tall! Proclaiming, ‘I am doing this! And I am doing it well!’ Frankly, I’m almost not bothered whether the tour is successful as a business — it’s almost been worth it already, just to feel this empowerment. It’s also helped me feel part of the community: I’ve been walking into independent businesses all over town to drop off leaflets for the tour, an experience which has called forth friendliness and introduced me to many of the faces that make up this place. That feels good.
But what of the tour itself? I’ve done it about a dozen times now — from individual friends to little groups of tourists — and have found my way into the groove of it. The lovely thing is that I believe in this tour. It’s a good one! All the work has paid off. The product is something you can rest a pint on. Now I just have to hope that people are interested. It’s been slow to begin with, but that was always going to be the case, and I dare say the presence of the G7 media centre in Falmouth didn't help.
So yes, let us see what the future has in store for Falmouth Uncovered. Good things, I hope. I’ll let you know as they happen.
Until then, keep well.