INVISIBLE CITIES PROJECT
We caught up with Invisible Cities’ founder, Zakia and one of her tour guides, Biffy to hear about their pioneering project…
Tell us about your project and where it came from?
ZAKIA: Invisible Cities is a social enterprise that trains people who have been affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city. After training for several weeks, guides offer tours based on themes they have personally chosen and are passionate about. Invisible Cities started in 2016, with Invisible (Edinburgh) and has now expanded to Glasgow and Manchester.
Biffy has been involved from the start, as she went through the first ever training programme organised. Her tour is one of the most popular: “Powerful Women of Edinburgh” where she talks about iconic women of the city. She is about to launch a brand new tour: “Witches and Bitches”.
How can people get involved?
ZAKIA: Tours are offered to tourists and locals alike and people can book any of our tours, by going onto our website invisible-cities.org We invite everyone to come on one of our tours, to discover what we do first hand. As a social enterprise 100% of our profit is used to either develop our guides or within the wider homeless community. We organise various events throughout the year, where we provide services that make people feel good about themselves: the street barber (Edinburgh) or pampering days for homeless women. Those are perfect opportunities to get involved!
What has most surprised you in your time at Invisible Cities?
BIFFY: On my tour, I share parts of my personal story. There is always a part of me that is scared I will be judged because of some of the mistakes I made in the past. However, I have never felt judged by one of our guests! It shows that people are understanding and compassionate.
What equality causes mean the most to you and why?
BIFFY: My motto is “Treat people the way you would like to be treated” so to me the most important thing is to treat people equally on all levels. Unfortunately it is not always the case. We make differences between people, based on where they come from, where they live or whether they are a man or woman. This doesn’t make sense to me.
If you could choose one thing to improve the situation what would it be?
BIFFY: I feel that things are getting better but I think one way to improve things is to share stories and build understanding. Ultimately we do not like people because we are scared. And we are scared because we do not know them. If we shared more, we would realise that everyone has the same feelings, goes through the same situations, etc.
What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?
BIFFY: My favourite woman is one of Scotland’s earliest female doctors and founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, Elsie Inglis – she is part of my tour! She was so strong and really paved the way for other women. She worked hard, and made a great impact in the world.
What are your three favourite smells and why?
BIFFY: I like every smell that smells like “Cleanliness” lol From bleach, laundry or dove soaps….I really like a fresh/washed smell…
What do you think makes a DAMN REBEL BITCH?
BIFFY: A damn rebel bitch is a woman that can hold her own ground and stand up for herself.