Settee of Stories: A sit down with Paul Dickson

Norwich. A city of mavericks and makers, creators and trail blazers. A big-hearted city beneath even bigger skies, and open air, open minds. In Norwich, everyone has a story to tell. And we’ll be sure to tell it. Every month, we’ll be sitting down with local writers, designers, makers, artists and influencers to discuss life in Norwich. This week we sat down with renowned tour guide and publisher, Paul Dickson.

Paul Dickson

Original from the North East of England, Paul moved to Norfolk in 1988 to work for the National Trust. In 1999, Paul went freelance, offering his PR and writing expertise to tourism businesses in the local area, before expanding into writing and publishing. Since then Paul has helped to write and publish work for people all across the world. After researching and writing an East Anglian walks book for the National Trust, Paul worked with spiritual healer Ray Brown to write his life story. Then, in 2007 Paul helped Rwandan Genocide survivor Illuminee Nganemariya publish ‘Miracle in Kigali‘, her incredible story of survival and subsequent life in Norwich. Today, Paul is a well-known and much-loved tour guide in Norfolk and Norwich. His tours have been delighting residents and visitors for years, exploring everything from Norwich Market to the historic Kett’s Rebellion.

How did you get into your chosen career/profession, and why did you decide to pursue this in Norwich?

I have always wanted to be a tour guide and six years ago did the course run by the City Council and VisitNorwich. I do tours for the Tourist Information Centre, but have also developed my own business, with a range of tours in the city and the Broads. My most popular tour has been Shardlake’s Norwich, celebrating CJ Sansom’s novel Tombland and looking at Norwich at the time of Kett’s Rebellion. I’ve been involved in publishing locally for 14 years, initially with Tony Grey’s Tagman Press, and started my own publishing business in 2016, working with local authors, including Peter Sargent with his East Anglian history books and former Let’s Talk magazine editor, Neil Haverson who wrote his memoirs, Ink in my blood.

What do you love most about Norwich and why?

I love living in Norwich city centre. It is such an easy city to walk round – everything I need is on my doorstep. There is also history around every corner and, when you look up, you are rewarded with a lot of fine architecture. I particularly like the view from Kett’s Heights – the city unfolds in front of you – it’s also great fun spotting all the churches. The Riverside Walk is a great favourite as well, along with Eaton Park and UEA Broad.

Favourite place(s) to eat in Norwich?

I am big fan of the cheese scones in The Pantry at Jarrold and their cheese scones in The Refectory at Norwich Cathedral. Olive’s at the bottom of Elm Hill is a favourite; they do great poached eggs. I’ve always liked the atmosphere in Frank’s Bar as well.

The Refectory at Norwich Cathedral

Copyright © Paul Hurst, Norwich Cathedral Refectory

Favourite place(s) for a coffee/beverage?

Birchley’s Loose Leaf Tea on the Market – they’ve got a fantastic selection of teas; they are also on my Great Market Tour. I finish my Shardlake’s Norwich guided tours at the Maids Head Hotel, with tea or coffee for people on the tour. I really enjoyed sitting in the hotel’s open air courtyard having a cuppa this summer, when my tours emerged from lockdown.

What did you miss most during lockdown? 

During lockdown I really missed singing. I have sung in a band called The O’Fenders for 25 years. I am also a member of UEA’s Community Choir and sing in the choir at Strumpshaw Church for special services at Easter, Harvest Festival and Christmas. I have no idea when choirs will be able to get together again, but the band has tentatively started socially distanced rehearsals.


What was your experience of lockdown like, and do you have any lockdown tips/recommendations for our readers?

I did my daily walk during lockdown – mainly along the river, read a lot and found myself listening to BBC Radio 3 – a habit I have continued. I am a big fan of BBC Radio 4 programmes like From Our Own Correspondent, Last Word and Great Lives and got myself organised, subscribing to them as podcasts. I also researched two new tours: Fairhaven Garden and South Walsham Marshes and Norwich: A Black History – both are now up and running. I did some publishing work during lockdown. I worked with a group of friends to publish their poetry in a booklet called The Lighter Side of the Lockdown. It’s being sold in aid of the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital Intensive Care Unit. A new book by Peter Sargent was also a lockdown project – My Word! The stories behind our favourite words has just been published.

And finally, what does ‘Norwich’ mean to you, or can you tell us your favourite memory of the city?

Norwich means so much to me. It’s Gentlemans Walk in the early morning as the Market opens up. It’s swans gliding along the river. It’s a packed house for the pantomime at the Theatre Royal. It’s a full Norwich Cathedral for the Carol Service on Christmas Eve. It’s a film at Cinema City followed by a drink in the bar. It’s reading the EDP on a bench in Chapelfield Gardens. It’s enjoying the Riverside Walk as the leaves change in autumn and it’s the roar from Carrow Road when Norwich score.

Find out more about Paul Dickson’s tours here