Paul Dickson will be offering a guided walking tour to celebrate the diverse contribution of Black people to the history of Norwich throughout Norfolk Black History Month. Here he explains why his favourite story is that of 19th century circus entrepreneur, Pablo Fanque
When do you start doing guided tours in Norwich and what got you into doing them in the first place?
I took the opportunity to train as an official City of Norwich tour guide eight years ago and have developed my own Paul Dickson Tours business. I had always wanted to be a tour guide. I was a big history fan from a very young age and studied history at university. So, becoming an official tour guide and sharing my interest in history with visitors to Norwich and more recently the Broads was the culmination of a long held ambition.
What else do you do?
I am a freelance publisher and work with Norfolk writers to publish and promote their books. In early September, I published Steven Foyster’s Cry to be Heard! His incredible story of recovery following an attempted suicide. At the beginning of October, I am publishing Tell me about the farm Grandad, Janet Collingsworth’s memoir of growing up in Norfolk in the 1960s.
What is about Norwich that you love?
Norwich is such a walkable city with fabulous historic buildings. There are layers and layers of history to be uncovered and fascinating stories round every corner. Brilliant for a tour guide!
And when did the Black History tours begin and how have they evolved?
I have been involved with Norfolk Black History Month for several years, helping to promote the events and running talks about Miracle in Kigali with Illuminée Nganemariya – the story of her and her son Roger’s survival during the Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. Two years ago, Danny Keen, Black History Month Chairman, suggested I put together a Norwich Black History tour. I ran out of time in 2019, but the first lockdown of 2020 gave me plenty of space to develop a tour and launch it during Black History Month 2020.
Do they take place all year round and then particularly during Black History Month?
As well as doing several in Black History Month, I generally offer a monthly public bookable tour, along with private tours, including schools, at any time.
What can people on the tour expect to find out? Are some of the tours in conjunction with the Museum of Norwich?
Yes, I am doing two tours with the Museum of Norwich, which include entry to the museum. During a tour I look at the role that Norwich and Norfolk people played during the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. I also talk about Africans who lived in Norfolk in the 18th and 19th centuries, the impact of African American servicemen during World War II and the story of the great 19th century circus entrepreneur, Pablo Fanque.
Do you have a favourite story, such as Pablo Fanque?
Pablo Fanque is my favourite story. From very humble beginnings in Norwich, he became Britain’s first black circus owner and performed to packed houses in the North and Midlands, as well as Norwich. I also love the story of his rediscovery in the modern era thanks to John Lennon and For the Benefit of Mr Kite.
As a tour guide, are you finding out things about Norfolk’s Black history all the time?
Yes, I am gathering new information all the time. The local Masonic archivist sent me details of Pablo Fanque’s works as a Freemason. A Norwich lady sent me a memory of African American servicemen in Trowse during World War II and on my last tour I was told about an 18th century African buried at Wroxham church.
How important is it that we all get involved with the Black History Month as much as we can? Any other events you’re particularly interested in?
It is so important for us to explore our Black History. It is very much a part of us. Norfolk Museums Service has some great activities. There is an exhibition about Black Abolitionist Lecturers and another one featuring the stories of children born to black GIs and white women. The Hostry Festival is including a performance by The African Choir of Norfolk led by Anna Mudeka and there will be an event at Heacham Parish Church remembering Pocahontas. www.norfolkblackhistorymonth.org
Any future plans for the tours you can share? I am planning to develop a tour in Cromer for 2022 to celebrate George Skipper’s architectural legacy there. It will be part of FANN – Festival of Architecture in Norwich and Norfolk. I’ll also be doing my Boardman and Skipper tour in Norwich as part of the festival. www.pauldicksontours.co.uk
Saturday 2 October at 10am, book here
Sunday 24 October at 10am, book here
Norfolk Black History Month Tours with the Museum of Norwich
Friday 15 October at 10am book here
Friday 29 October at 10am book here
Both tours start and finish at the Museum of Norwich