Artouride logoBuy a shipping container, fill it with ten Brompton folding bikes and set up your business in an active boatyard – and do it all on Boxing Day 2011! “Not a bad way to make a start in your own business,” says Jack Blake. She has been guiding bike tours from her SE16 base ever since, showing off London’s extraordinary creative riches: landmarks and locations, secrets and signs. Her routes – and those of her colleagues all designers and artists themselves – are deliberately slow and steady so you can enjoy the architecture, design, street art or photo opportunities on the way.

“…It’s been a slow gentle growth with lots of my clients coming from overseas…”


Living the dream

Jack portrait - thumb“It all started when I moved into Osprey, my 1946 pilot cutter in 2010. She is such a joy to own and is just part of the landscape now. She’d been in this berth at least 20 years and she’s remembered by the old timers as an active Thames tug. And she allows me such a wonderful lifestyle. Alongside me is an architect and across the way are designers and conservators. Located alongside so many creative people in a warm and supportive community just makes living here so different. And being able to work above the shipping container in the boatyard is fantastic – it’s often quiet but never isolating.”

“…We can spend a day introducing clients to screen-printing in the outdoors!…”


Taking the tour out of tourist

Brompton bicycle by Number 10 CC Flickr“When I started, I got my friends and students to help with the tour designs. My job at the London College of Communication – where I’ve taught graphic design to BA students for eleven years – was possible on four days (and now three) a week. And I’d been a Brompton rider for more than 10 years; they are such fun that I wanted to share the pleasure with others. I had to think about maintenance for the bikes and insurance but in essence the business was simple to set up. But what’s not really happened is the marketing. It’s been a slow gentle growth with lots of my clients coming from overseas. This year, I’ve had people from Canada, New Zealand, Israel, Saudi Arabia and several different nationalities from Europe. The Trip Advisor recommendations have brought some great people my way!”


Artouride banner

One-offs and the regular tours

Jack's Desk - thumb“I get all sorts of business. We offer three regular tours: Art and architecture, Street art and Sunday art gallery tour. And then we take on commissions to tour with groups for specific purposes. For example, we recently had a group tour with students from New York University. We pick up on Totally Thames each year and offer a tour from Greenwich. We also do art workshops and can combine the two with our Printing Hive which attaches to a trailer and a Brompton. We can spend a day introducing clients to screen-printing in the outdoors! I’m working on a project with the Design Museum who are moving from SE1 but as part of their relocation, they are running a cycling exhibition from November 2015 well into next year. I’m talking with the Victoria and Albert Museum about a longer term project and Brompton are interested in tours from their centre in Covent Garden. It’s all very exciting!”

“…She’d been in this berth at least 20 years and she’s remembered by the old timers as an active Thames tug…”

Where next?

The Boatyard - thumb“The future of our area really worries me. The boatyard is under threat from the Council’s plans to build on it. Eighteen months ago, the Council reviewed the future of the yard and as a result, the boat owners formed a co-operative to try to protect it. But now the proposals for a huge development of 230 flats on the site seem to make the future of my workplace and business very uncertain. The container offers me storage for the bikes and a workshop in which I can work undisturbed; it’s also right on my doorstep, if I had one! As I live on a boat, I’ve many fewer rights than a normal householder and I fear our whole way of life will be threatened by the sheer scale and dynamics of this sort of riverside development.”

For more about the Council’s plans for the South Dock Marina see here

STOP PRESS: Cycle Culture Tour 22 Nov and 13 Dec 11:00 from Design Museum £30 3.5 hours

This Artouride tour explores some of the city’s best loved independent cycle stores and cafés, from Brooks and Rapha to Velorution and Look Mum No Hands. You’ll get on a Brompton folding bike and be guided by an experienced cyclist through Borough Market, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia to Old Street, visiting cycling stores and cafés along the route, where you can find out about their individual histories and get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how they work.

Artouride logo

Jack Blake – Artouride

E: T: 07968 717997

Facebook: artouride Twitter: @artouride

Osprey, South Dock Marina, Rope Street, SE16 7SZ