The Nottingham Experience celebrates 25 years of business
Today, The Nottingham Experience, owned by Nottingham historian and tour guide Chris Slade, celebrates its 25th anniversary. In this article, Chris writes about his long and fascinating career.
It was on Friday 13th May 1988 when I met my wife to be, Liz Alexander, who had been promoted at Boots. She had arrived in Nottingham on 2nd May from Eastbourne to take up the position of Personnel and Training Officer at the Victoria Centre branch. Over the following few months all of her family came up to visit from the south coast on a number of occasions and I showed them around Nottingham. Born and educated in Nottingham, I was also a retail manager in the fashion industry for 13 years since and followed this by starting my own driving school (Roadsense) which operated for 16 years (my last pupil was Stanley Matthews!).
After returning from our first holiday together in 1988, Liz and I were looking through our holiday photos which included pictures taken during a guided tour. That evening, an idea took hold of combining my skills – a natural affinity with people from all different backgrounds and the ability to communicate on many levels together with my love of driving and Nottingham. This fired me with enthusiasm which translated into the desire to start my own guided tours of Nottingham. So, along with still running my driving school, training to be a magistrate, being newly married and looking after both my sick parents, I started the Nottingham Experience on 1st May 1989.
My first client was a Mrs Alice Alexander. After thinking this was some sort of practical joke, I found out that she was no relation to my wife Liz; it was just a coincidence. Nonetheless, a great start also considering her initials were AA, which I’m told is a lucky omen as 1st May also happens to be Liz’s birthday.
In the last 25 years, I consider that I have had the best if not the most interesting job in Nottingham. I have worked alongside some great people who have worked for me in the initial years for very little reward, including ex-Sheriff and Mayor Leon Unczur. I have also met a host of great people from many countries and backgrounds and dealt with VIPs including royalty, politicians, celebrities including Snow White, David Crockett, Tom Jones, (their real names), plus the world’s representative Santa Claus visiting from Wyoming and hundreds of stars from the world of sport and entertainment. I still work alongside a wonderful unsung hero of Nottingham, Margaret Harrison, who has been guiding visitors from near and far as well as local people for much longer than I have and who is one of Nottingham’s best-kept secrets.
It has been and still is an absolute pleasure to show people from around the world our beautiful and historic city and to ensure they go home with great memories of their time in Nottingham. The old saying, ‘The best reward in life is from achieving something is the knowledge of knowing that you did it’ could not be more true. I have had companies inform me that I have helped them to secure contracts worth over a million pounds (including TQ of Long Eaton), as well as companies and organisations that have said that I have helped them to secure Nottingham as their HQ (Capital One, Experian, UPS). Thousands of people have said that ‘Nottingham has just come alive’ thanks to my tour, especially local people.
As a direct result of The Nottingham Experience I have been invited to dozens of places in other countries – and have been to some – as well as many shows and events. Over the past 25 years I have had the great pleasure of meeting and working with many great people in local companies and organisations and continue to do so. I have made some wonderful friends along the way and sadly one of them Martin Goddard, who was also a passionate advocate of Nottingham, died tragically last year. I have received some wonderful reviews from clients, but my most memorable tour was the 12th Great Grandson of Rev. John Robinson (one of the original Pilgrim Fathers) . His review read:
“A strong interest in family history, including my ancestry from Nottinghamshire and the settlement of the Plymouth Colony in America, led my wife and me to The Nottingham Experience and Chris Slade. With the ability to arrange all details of our trip with him in advance via internet from home in America, we arrived to find that Mr. Slade had made a perfectly planned and timed itinerary for us. Since he had never before done the specialized tour that we had requested, he had researched the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, made a dry run of the itinerary and even made arrangements to enter local churches and homes of interest; he also purchased information that he knew was not available to us at home. Mr Slade takes great pride in his travel services, is very knowledgeable, friendly and articulate and was most hospitable to us. His tour exceeded our expectations and I would heartily recommend him to anyone exploring the areas that he services.”
Review title: In the Footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers, added by: John Robinson 12th Grandson of Pilgrim Father Rev J Robinson.
I would like thank all the people that have helped me over the last 25 years especially my family and I count myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to fulfill my role as ‘The Ambassador of Ambassadors of Nottingham’ and ‘The Best Ambassador to the Tourism Industry of Nottinghamshire’ (awards won by me) in showing visitors to Nottingham what a stunning, vibrant, eclectic and historical city we have the great fortune to be part of.
Chris Slade is a valued member of Experience Nottinghamshire and we would like to congratulate him on his success of the past 25 years. For further details on his tours click here.