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The Welcome People: The City’s new eyes and ears

1 March 2016
The Welcome People: The City’s new eyes and ears
How often do we resort to our smartphones to look up directions, research somewhere to eat, or find out what bus to get? The list of questions we ask our phones each day is endless. This silent digital interaction is robbing us of what can be one of life’s simplest and most enlightening pleasures: a chat with a total stranger.

Human sign posts

Now, in partnership with Leeds Business Improvement District (BID), The Welcome People hope to bring a little sunshine to the daily lives of visitors, shoppers and commuters in the City. Working together the partners aim to meet BID’s three key aims: raising standards, raising awareness and adding value to benefit all businesses in the area.

The Welcome People team already provide visitor welcome and street management services to some of the UK’s biggest cities. Wearing their trademark uniforms, including a distinctive bowler hat, they have gained a reputation for raising the bar of Street Ambassador Schemes.

Peter is one of the 12 Welcome People ambassadors who this week will take to the streets of Leeds to act as a front of house for the City. “When I saw the ad for the job I just thought, ‘What an amazing opportunity!’ We’ll be street concierges, but more than that, we look to enhance visitor and business experience all round. We’re also here to report any environmental issues we come across”.

Joining Peter on the streets of Leeds is Patricia, who has been out of work since 2009. She couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the project, and can’t wait to start: “I found this job myself on the website and knew straight away it was my perfect job. It’s just made for me! I’m really looking forward to chatting to everyone. I chat to everyone anyway! I just strike up a conversation with complete strangers. Everyone’s so friendly.”

While the pair couldn’t be more different, it’s the diversity of the whole team that Peter thinks is key to their future success: “It’s amazing to have such a diverse team and still all gel so well. It’s the diversity that will make a real difference; there’s someone everyone can relate to.”

Out and about in the City

The team has been prepped by seasoned ambassador-turned-manager, Flavio, who began his Welcome People career in London. Hailing from Rome, his work as an ambassador was an invaluable way to immerse himself in the City. He recalls, “I had begun working for a marketing events company, but things didn’t work out very well and I ended up with The Welcome People almost without knowing. I didn’t know London at all but the company gave me all the right information.”

He has high hopes for the team in Leeds, who he will be around to manage in their starting week: “We are really happy to finally be here and looking forward to being out and about. Leeds is a lovely city, it is an important centre and every day becoming more important.”

Head into Leeds and chat with one of the enthusiastic ambassadors yourself, or find out more about the project on The Welcome People’s website.

Sophie’s a jack of all writing trades. A freelance journalist and copywriter, writing culture features and opinion pieces makes her world go round.
Photography provided by Tom Joy