Jeez, where do we start? Best to start with our Deceased in the East tour which we did in early March this year – what a laugh. Who knew death, darkness and mystery could be so funny! If you were one of the 230 folk who managed to make it, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. If you’ve been on our tours, you’ll also understand our dark sense of humour and quirky storytelling. Plague, George Wishart, Mary Slessor and Mary Brooksbank all cropped up, with a few lesser known dark tales surrounding these characters and many more of the locals who defined the city. It hardly rained and it wasn’t even that cold (but we’re maybe just used to it by now), so we were super happy that the Scottish winter weather was having a week off!
In the midst of our Deceased in the East tour, the 11th of March saw us herding groups of Instagrammers from across Scotland for the annual Dundee Instameet, organised by Suzanne Scott from Whimsical Lush, Kristy Ashton, a fantastic up and coming photographer and social influencer, and Ian G Black from Ian G Black media. The theme was ‘Re-invention’, so what better city to explore than the Queen of Re-invention herself – Dundee! Herding Instagrammers is probably on a par with trying to herd flying cats, but we managed, and the tour was so much fun.
The reviews for both ‘Deceased’ & ‘Instameet’ were awesome, but we couldn’t sit back and soak up the glory – we had another collaboration to get on with!
23rd March saw our first collaboration with Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce when we did a joint networking and tour event. The event was held at Malmaison with Dark Dundee inspired cocktails (mocktails for the drivers) and loads of plates of tasty canapes. As much as we love snacks, we had to refrain, as we would have ended up with food all over our faces before having to talk to the room and then take them all on a tour. That would have been such a minter! Once we’d done our tour, we snaffled up loads, though – and had a wee drink too (rude not to).
We made loads of new contacts, and felt we gave people a really good impression of what we do and how we do it. You might think it looks easy, but it’s a lot harder than you think when there’s just the 2 of you running the entire operation, from the creation and maintenance of the website and marketing materials right down to going out and doing the groundwork and research for the tours, testing them out before they go live, then going out and actually taking them!
It totally helps that not only do we love our job, but we’ve met so many great people from both a business and a personal perspective thanks to running these tours. Anyway, with that event over, there still wasn’t time to hang around because the following day we had a radio interview with Radio Scotland where we once again talked about what we did and told a couple of dark facts about the city. Generally, a lot of laughter and banter was to be had – perhaps more than usual for their usual afternoon listeners. I mean, who doesn’t love a good graverobbery…right?
We also did an impromptu Facebook video when we noticed we could get down Malthouse Close. We weren’t planning on making a video, it was totally spur of the moment, but it was seen over 300,000 times and shared God knows how many times. Whilst it was pretty cool, we do wish we’d prepared something in advance. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson from the time we went up the bell tower of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Very Rev Jeremy Auld let us ring the bells and go outside on the super scary ledge in high winds and driving snow! If you’ve not seen the video from that, it’s on our Facebook page.
4th April saw us take our friends Suzanne (remember Suzanne from the Instameet?) and Caroll who runs Castle Horror out on a secret adventure. If you saw all the Oor Wullies last year and know anything about Mary Slessor Gardens and Discovery Walk, you can’t have missed Suzanne’s incredible artwork – she’s taking over the city, and she’s amazing! Caroll is the person responsible for the skeleton driving the big black hearse – the driving force behind Castle Horror (pun intended). People are constantly confusing Dark Dundee with Castle Horror, which is hilarious…but, for the record, it’s Castle Horror’s hearse, not ours!
We didn’t tell them where we were going, but we took them to the old bunker in Craigiebank, run by the guys at 28 Group Observed SCIO. What an amazing building – lovingly restored and full of brilliant artefacts, secret rooms and plenty of creepy corridors. The folk who run it are hoping to get the place opened for small tour groups in the future, and trust us when we tell you – you’ll want to see this! The four of us totally loved it and took loads of pictures; we stayed for hours and almost needed to be dragged out.
The following week saw us briefly resurrect our ‘Deceased’ tour (see what I did there) with a wee twist on it to coincide with the Rep’s Monstrous Bodies play. It was great to get our teeth back into the East end again, with a couple of twists to the original format. Once again the weather was brilliant, as were the reviews for both the play and the tour. We love collaborating with and meeting such amazing folk.
We had a meeting with a wonderful woman called Jackie with a view to planning a fundraising event for the various charities she champions. Plotting began in fervour and in no time whatsoever, we formulated a unique evening event in an effort to help raise money. Jackie didn’t miss a beat and, through her sterling efforts and commitment to charity fundraising, practically sold the event out before we had even returned home! That’s dedication for you.
Monday 24th April was a day out for us, so we went to Aberdeen to our friend Fiona’s storytelling event, through her business Hidden Aberdeen. Along with her friend Pauline, they regaled the room at Underdog Aberdeen with their tales of terror, ghosts and mysteries of old. Heading home that night in the driving rain and snow was not our idea of a good time, but we made it in one piece and lived to tell the tale. If you’re ever in Aberdeen, you should look up Hidden Aberdeen tours.
The following day was a beautiful day, which was really handy because we were part of the Cultural Heritage bus tours, run by Dundee Museum of Transport. As part of the experience, we ran our ‘Dead Centre’ tour, which saw people being dropped off outside Howff by DMoT to begin our tour and then to be collected at the end of the tour to continue their experience at the next destination. Look out for more information on this coming really soon. The day after this, we attended the Cultural Heritage bus tour, but this time as delegates providing feedback. We’ll not spoil it by telling you what we did or where we went, because the tours are still in development at the moment and could be subject to changes. What we will tell you, though, is that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, as did the other people who took the experience with us.
April ended with 3 international tours on top of our regularly scheduled tours. We took 20 German students from Abertay University on our Dead Centre tour, and then took 2 groups of about 35 French visitors who were here as part of the Carnoustie twinning association with Maule. Using a translator to help with our French guests, we caused chaos in the town on a sunny Saturday afternoon! There’s nothing quite like taking a walking tour on a Saturday afternoon when there’s local worthies playing the harmonica outside Boots just for the sheer Hell of it!
May saw us joining forces with HM Frigate Unicorn for our Sailors & Whalers tour. As usual, it was a total gas! Nearly 200 people attended the event, with Unicorn’s volunteer Bob taking the helm at the start of the show before allowing folk some time to wander about the creepy lower decks of the aged warship and training vessel. Taking our guests off the Unicorn and detailing the dark horrors of some of our local sailors and whalers was a real highlight. Our maritime history is as rich as it is horrifying – as many of our guests soon found out. With murder, suicide and shipwrecks at the forefront of all the carnage, Sailors and Whalers proved to be a real hit! Bob is now undertaking talks aboard HM Frigate Unicorn about some of the unsavoury characters and the dark history of maritime, so if it’s something that interests you, we would recommend taking the time out to book in and hear what he’s got to say.
In the midst of Sailors and Whalers, we had a visit from some Tay FM superheroes, who were running a competition to fill a ‘supervan’ with donated goodies which one person would win, subject to entry, of course. All funds raised from the ‘supervan’ were in aid of Cash for Kids, a charity which we also pledged to raise £100 for this year as part of the ‘500 faces campaign’. Join up and help raise £50,000 for Cash for Kids and support a local cause.
Speaking of fundraising, we also had a meeting with Hillcrest Housing Association because they are raising £50,000 to help various local charities by undertaking a series of events and wondered if we would be interested in doing a very special (and currently TOP SECRET) tour with them to help raise some money. Obviously we agreed, because we’re just not busy enough! Once we’ve got it locked down, we’ll let you know.
Louise attended a business breakfast at Abertay University with DACC, whilst Stewart looked after his one and a half year old niece for a week. To be fair, Louise definitely got the better end of the bargain that week, because it left her loads of free time for networking whilst Stewart was trapped at home watching Peppa Pig on an endless loop! All’s well that ended well though, and the week sped ahead with its usual carefree abandon.
Thanks to our ‘lazy’ week the week before, we packed umpteen meetings into the following week, including locking down ideas for Halloween 2018 with Angus Alive at Monikie, meeting with Steve from Shackleton Tech about a corporate scavenger event, Brett from Apex about one or two exciting new prospects – and we even managed to squeeze in the Courier Business Awards launch at DC Thomson.
We not only got to look over the Howff from the impressive windows in the roof of the tower, but we also had a sneak around some of the other floors when everyone wasn’t looking, and were let onto some of the floors for a nosey and to meet some of the staff and an Oor Wullie. What a cool building and an impressive use of the space! Oh, we also found the time to actually apply for the business awards, so wish us luck with that.
25th May saw us at Dundee Design Festival launch, where we were attending the Chamber’s business breakfast. We got talking to loads of new people, slowly converting them one at a time to the ‘dark side’. We bought an enamel pin badge and had a great tour of the building and the various artworks and designs on display. Very, very cool. Bear in mind, we’re still running our scheduled and private tours in amongst all of this, including our new Law tour which we managed to sneak out at the end of May and which has been really well attended, too!
June kicked off with us going out to the Woodlands Hotel to see Pete Mally, who wrote the book ‘Resurrection Mill’ about the time of the body snatchers in Dundee. He’s a braw lad and his book’s definitely worth the read – visceral and graphic, just the way we like it! Pete was doing a comedy show, so it was only fair we went along to support him. He did send us a free signed copy of his book, after all.
The day after the comedy show, we had another meeting with Brett and coerced him into letting us see inside Custom House, which the Apex have BIG plans for (and they sound amazing). To say it needs some work done is an understatement…but wow, what a building. Thank God someone’s going to restore it because it sorely needs a lot of TLC. We’re finalising some other plans with Brett too, including using the Apex as a base for some days of the week during the summer. We know – it’ll be tough fitting it all in, but we’ll manage. We’re troopers!
Mid-June has (so far) seen us dealing with enquiries for corporate and private events, as well as finalising the plans to go into some of the secondary schools in the city to give talks and workshops on tourism, customer service and local (dark) history. Anyone with kids at Harris or St John’s RC, you’ll probably be hearing about us in the near future! This was arranged in collaboration with Rachel from Developing the Young Workforce, who has been brilliant at arranging meetings and keeping us all on track. Everything we do with the schools in terms of the talks and workshops will be done in our own free time and at no cost to the schools participating. It’s another really nice way to give back and help to make a difference at the same time. What’s not to love?
We’ve had really great talks with Dundee Science Centre about some new upcoming collaborations too, but there’s still plenty of work and research to go into before we can even say any more, but watch this space! There was also a local history fair on Sunday 11th held at Verdant Works – obviously we were there peddling our usual brand of darkness. It was great to see so many other like-minded tourism and history focussed businesses and charities there…and we got free tea and biscuits and also took in the talk by the Great War Project on the Battle of Loos. All in all, Sunday was a roaring success! Can’t wait for next year’s history fair.
It’s nearly time to put this blog to rest, because we’ve got more meetings to go to and Father’s Day presents to buy (hint: buy your Dad a walking tour voucher for Father’s Day). Last night’s Law tour was amazing once again – thanks to the Law Heritage Project for getting us involved! – and the rain stayed off which was even better. Here’s a list of what we’ve got going on in the upcoming couple of weeks in terms of tours. Thanks for reading. Hope we’ve not bored you half to death!