London Blue Badge Tourist Guide, Marilyn Collis

January 2, 2019

When you travel, you want to have an experience that is unique to London. A guided tour is a wonderful option to learn and understand the history and culture. The challenges with a large group tour are you will hear 20 other’s questions, be shuffled from place to place at someone else’s pace, and possibly have a difficult time hearing and seeing what is even being discussed!

Over a decade ago, London Connection found the perfect solution for our guests — Marilyn Collis. As an official Blue Badge Tourist Guide, she has become a crucial member of our team; part of the London Connection family. Here is a short clip compiled by our videographer Jim Alvey; it gives a clear picture of the charm and talent of this fine Blue Badge Guide.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Marilyn and find out more about her and her background. What a delightful woman, as you will see!

Did you grow up in London?

I am a Londoner born and bred, of London-born parents and London-born grandfathers which is a bit of a rarity these days!

Have you always been a tour guide, or did you have another profession?

Tourist Guiding is my fourth career! I started off as a gift buyer in Simpson’s of Piccadilly, which you might recognize as the store which was the basis for the series “Are You Being Served?” Next, I worked in advertising for many years including being PA to the President of McCann-Erickson Advertising. After that and I ran my own Theatrical Agency which I had for 20+ years, finding mainly theatre work for a variety of acting musical theatre clients.

What are some of the tours you offer?

I can offer walking tours with or without public transport and, depending on the time available, like to suggest tours of both the Westminster area and the ancient City of London where the Romans first came nearly 2,000 years ago. I can create tours to fit in with whatever visitors might want to see depending on personal taste, size and ages of the group or a desire to see something different from the norm! You say where – and I’ll take you there. Always happy to discuss options and preferences.

How long have you been a Blue Badge Tourist Guide?

I qualified as a Blue Badge Tourist Guide in 2009.  It’s the top, highly prestigious qualification in UK Tourist Guiding awarded by the Institute of Tourist Guiding. For the London region the course takes two years to complete (two evenings a week and every Saturday) and there are 11 examinations, both practical and written, which need to be successfully completed in order to qualify.

As a tourist guide, do you have the chance to travel outside London for work?

I am the current President of the Institute of Tourist Guiding (the professional body of Tourist Guides in the UK who accredited training courses, set the examinations and award the qualification – ie the Badges) and, as such, I visited Belfast in February 2018 to hand out the certificates and Badges to recently qualified Northern Ireland Blue Badge Tourist Guides. As part of my visit, my first time in Belfast, I was taken on a tour around the city and had the privilege of writing on the Peace Wall where many much more important people than I had signed in the past, including President Clinton and the Dalai Lama.   

Do you have certain sites in which you specialize?

We are examined with the approval of the major sites of London including Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, British Museum, National Gallery and are also examined to check our knowledge on a panoramic tour of London. However, even though I am a Londoner and have lived here all my life I find there are still parts of the capital that surprise and delight me. Just love this City!

What are some other hobbies or interests?

You can never be bored in London as there is always so much going on. I have enjoyed the theatre since I was a child and we fortunately have so much choice in London so I am often to be found at the theatre – or movies.  And there is always an exhibition or gallery to visit – and most are free. How lucky are we in London!

What are some memorable places you have visited outside of London?

I went on holiday to Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Easter Island a couple of years ago. It was an absolutely amazing holiday and I was away for nearly a month. The Easter Island trip was especially interesting to me as I was familiar with the Moai heads of the Island one of which is in the British Museum. But I learned so much from visiting the island, which is pretty small and literally in the middle of nowhere, and the story behind that particular Moai head that we now have in London. Happy to reveal the background to any visitors . . . .

The photo of me was taken on a really, really cold and wet day when we went out to check out a glacier in Patagonia. Very Doctor Zhivago!

What do you most enjoy about your profession?

I am a people person and it is a privilege to meet clients from around the world and show them my home town. I love to see the look of wonder on people’s faces, for instance, when viewing the ceiling of the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey or the enjoyment of the tunes (often chart toppers) that the band of the Royal Guards play at Changing the Guard.

What do you enjoy on your day off?

I am fortunate in that I feel I have a very good work/life balance and enjoy time socialising with my friends and family. I also love to travel and have usually got a couple of trips booked – I visited Crete in November, Spain in December, and will travel to Namibia in April. I understand and appreciate the importance of a good guide who can make a trip both enjoyable and memorable for all the right reasons.

Any interesting experiences that stand out while you were giving a tour?

I was given the most fabulous cartoon drawn by an art teacher that now hangs on my office wall. It was such a lovely surprise at the end of a most enjoyable day with a group of students, parents and teachers from California. I keep in touch with a few clients from tours and have had the privilege of spending very special times with a lot of outstanding people. I am blessed.

On our recent visit to London, our team’s favorite activity was the tour with Marilyn Collis. We learned many interesting tidbits and walked through places we didn’t know existed — and we know London very well! Even more impressive was the fact that Marilyn never referred to any notes. All this information is IN HER BRAIN! We are blessed to have such a marvelous member of our London Connection Team. She knows the city, and to be with her is a delight.

Marilyn has our full support, and we recommend her services. She is perfect. Click here to contact her online: Marilyn Collis.  You can also contact her on 011.44.7850435303 or email marilyn@collismanagement.co.uk. She will “make” your trip special.