Hello, I’m Julia and I’ve just started as the Invisible (Cardiff) Service Manager. Over the past two decades I’ve been working as a theatre director and producer specialising in developing artists and new work whilst at the same time I also worked as a tour manager, guiding groups across Europe.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to most major cities across Europe and I’ve noticed that homelessness is often ignored as people take photos of amazing monuments and panoramas without really looking at who else is in view. Those individuals are routinely walked past as if they don’t exist, they can feel invisible to the wider public, isolated and detached from their areas they live in.
“I know that individuals thrive when they feel a sense of belonging and are part of a wider support network which focusses on their strengths, builds their confidence and what they can contribute to the communities that they live in”.
That’s why I leapt at this new opportunity! I couldn’t believe that a role existed that allow me to combine all the things I enjoy doing and thinking about, whilst also directly impacting people who have been affected by homelessness.
I’ve spent the last few weeks getting to know the Wallich, I’ve been along to some of the creative projects across the city and got a chance to sing, paint and imagine. I’ve also been soaking in the knowledge and experience that Zakia ( Invisible Cities Founder & CEO) is generously imparting on how Invisible Cities works and what we need to do to get it up and running in Cardiff
Working for the Wallich, in partnership with Invisible Cities and via funding from The Lottery Heritage Fund provides an opportunity to share my passion for enabling others to express their creativity with sharing experiences, stories and knowledge of a place, that leads to great sense of purpose and enjoyment. I think that the partnership between Invisible Cities and the Wallich is exciting as there is a shared ethos to empower individuals affected by homelessness to make positive steps towards self-belief through supportive training and opportunities to connect with others.
Connecting individuals to heritage who previously felt this is not a space for them is an important aim of the project as well, in turn through powerful storytelling we hope to change perceptions and raise awareness around how the wider public can positively impact homelessness.
Our immediate goals are to collaborate with the National Museum Wales and the Glamorgan Archives who will play a big part in the training programme and ongoing opportunities for trainee guides to access heritage. We are gearing towards our first event on the 8th February where we will run a listening lunch for anyone interested in training to be a guide to find out more and help to shape the training. We hope to launch our first tour in early Spring and create a buzz across the tourism and hospitality sectors in Cardiff.
Guides will design and develop their own tours, centred around a topic which is important to them and always them to tell their story in their own words. As part of the interview process for this role, I was asked to share what tour I would lead in Cardiff. It was difficult to choose as there are so many sites from the Castle to the Bay that open up brilliant stories and characters, In the end I opted for a family tour on the much-loved figure of Billy the Seal – who for me captures the rapid change in the landscape in Cardiff and the opportunity to include Clark’s Pie tasting into the tour!
Being a tour guide was intended to be a short-term opportunity, but I loved it so much, fifteen years on I haven’t hung up my umbrella. I’m hoping the tour guides we will recruit will catch the tour guide bug as well or use the opportunity as a catalyst to find fulfilment and positive progression outcomes.
If you want to know more about Invisible (Cardiff) or how you can support our aims, feel free to get in touch with me on [email protected]