City volunteers lend a helping hand to 100,000 visitors

Norwich BID City Hosts. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich BID City Hosts. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Many secrets are hidden down the warren of alleyways and medieval streets of Norwich, and over the last three years dedicated City Hosts have helped uncover those gems for more than 100,000 visitors to the city.

Launched in 2013, the concept was based on the hugely successful London 2012 games makers, and since the launch dozens of residents and students have donned tabards to show off the best of the fine city.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said the success of the scheme was down to the passion of the volunteers.

'It is very much about being there to help and point people in the right direction, and answer questions people might have,' he said.

'We have had people involved in the scheme for the whole of the three years of the project, week in week out whether rain or shine they have been out talking to people. The huge value to the city is these people are volunteers and are passionate about giving their time. For the volunteers it is really sociable and gets them out there into the community. 'There is such a variety of volunteers, whether students from the UEA or young people looking for a bit of experience to hopefully make their first steps in business, to people who have worked all their lives in the city and want to give something back. 'Norwich is a very friendly city and is very welcoming. You can see that by the diversity of the cultures of the people we welcome into the city.'

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City Hosts currently have just over 50 volunteers, and are always keen for new members. Mike King, manager of the City Hosts, said applicants only have to commit two hours a week.

'Essentially we look for people who have got a knowledge of and a love for Norwich,' he said. 'You do not have to be an expert, because they will be buddied up with someone who does have a lot of knowledge. 'Something that has been a great initiative has been our association with the UEA and University of the Arts, where we have had several undergraduates volunteering. Many of those are not native to Norwich or indeed the country, and every year we have between 10 and 20 Chinese students coming on board as hosts. 'That helps with their knowledge of the city and helps with their English. All we ask is they commit to two hours a week, but many do more than that. 'I thought I know Norwich really well, but for me this has been an eye opener. It makes a visit to Norwich a much more enjoyable one.

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'One of the challenges is keeping up to date with all the businesses. They have been constantly changing in the last three years, and what has noticeably changed is the cafe culture, which has much more of a continental flavour to the city.'

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