Friday, September 15, 2023

7 Questions With Charlotte Everett, Co-Founder of Rebel Tours London


Charlotte Everett, aka Charlie, grew up in New Zealand, where she studied Politics and Drama at the University of Auckland, before working in business development in the entertainment industry. She moved to London in 2007, and has been passionately tour-guiding in both London and Oxford since 2011. She grew a little disenchanted with telling the same versions of events on more “typical” tours of London, which led to her complimenting her tour portfolio with women’s history tours for Women of London in 2018, and eventually partnering with Ellie to create Rebel Tours. (Website )

1. How and when did you get hooked on history?

I've been fascinated with history for as long as I can remember - I think in part, due to being from a country with only a very recent human history. Growing up in New Zealand, and being only a second- generation "Kiwi" (my grandparents had all emigrated from England), I had a real yearning to know my heritage and where we had come from. My grandparents were all from very poor families, so by moving to the other side of the world, they had effectively changed our class and made a better life for subsequent generations. My paternal grandfather was born in Leeds in 1899 - he jumped on a boat to New Zealand to escape the Depression, but the journey took so long that by the time he arrived, the Depression had already hit New Zealand. He met and married my grandmother, but she fell terminally ill and died when my father was aged 12. Granddad worked 4 jobs to raise 4 children on his own, and if it wasn't for him, none of my family would have had the opportunities that we have been privileged enough to have. My father was the first in our family to go to university, and became a successful lawyer. I studied English history throughout all of my schooling, and as I got older, I really started to understand the injustices of the class system. How different our lives would have been, if my family had not had the courage or ability to leave England. I really wanted to know more about the conditions in which my family had lived, who they were, and how life was different. It was one of the reasons I decided to come to England in the first place, to see where Granddad Joe was from. There is the saying that "history is only ever one person's version of events", and that is absolutely true. Despite all of his hardship, my grandfather was always positive and nostalgic. When I visited his birthplace, it became abundantly clear that he had painted a very different picture from the reality. It was a big shock to the system for me. But it spurred me on to want to know more. 

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?

I think I've probably already answered this above, haha! But a curiosity with the past has run right through everything I've done in life, really. My background is actually in theatre and drama, but I was most drawn to history plays. Although my MA is in Drama, my postgraduate studies really had a history focus. One of the things that captivated me was Shakespeare's history plays. It's really interesting to look at how history is retold through theatre and storytelling. Take Richard III, for example. We knew so little to be actual fact about him, and yet we look to Shakespeare's play. I remember it being suggested that Shakepeare just gave him a hunched back as a theatrical device, to bulk up the portrayal of him as the bad guy, and so that the audience is less likely to sympathise with him. And then his skeleton is finally found in recent years, and it turns out that he has a curved spine. It's fascinating to consider how important the retelling of historical stories is. 
Wanting to know my own story has also led to me working in the remembrance space. My maternal great-grandfather's personal stories from the Somme, led to me really wanting to unveil more of the human stories from the First and Second World Wars. 

3. How does history play a part of your professional life/career?

In starting to uncover my own story, I've also become hooked on knowing and sharing the stories of others. In founding "Rebel Tours", Ellie and I have created a platform for ourselves to share the stories of those whose voices are often left out. 

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?

It's very important that we understand the events of the past, to understand not only our present, but where we are going. When you work in history, you can see the warning signs that past horrors may recur. It's only from studying the past, that we can prevent these events from happening again. I sometimes guide people through the Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum, focusing on the events that led up to the Second World War, and to the Holocaust itself. People are often quite shocked by some of the similarities to our present time. We really are at a crucial moment in history. 

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?

That's a tricky one! In terms of a more distant past, I am quite fascinated with the Stuart dynasty as well as the Cromwell era, as I think this is one of the most interesting times in British history. In terms of the stories I want to keep telling, I think the working class and women's stories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries hold the most value. 

6. How did Rebel Tours come into being?

We actually started during the pandemic, when there were no tours! We decided to use this time to create something so that when things opened back up, we could tell the stories that we wanted to tell. Working for many of the other companies out there, they really do want you to present the history in a certain way. Lots of talking about the King or Queen at Buckingham Palace, and steer clear of "controversial" stuff like the British Empire, transatlantic slave trade, etc. Personally I was growing tired of telling the same stories about the same people. I wanted to elevate the voices of regular people, or some of the quirkier and unusual stuff that you don't often hear about. 

7. What makes Rebel Tours unique among all the London tour companies and what do you hope your tour participants take away with them?

Our tagline is "Do London Differently", and that really is what we strive to give people. We want our guests to have an experience that's very different from the many more generic tours in London. Our mission is to illuminate the stories of those whose voices are usually minimised or totally absent from your "typical" London tour. And as our tours only run with small groups, they're much more interactive, and we don't shy away from difficult questions or debate. We encourage respectful discussion, and many of our tours end up feeling more like a conversation, rather than something that's more one-sided, with the guide doing all of the talking.