Today’s blog is by internationally renowned Jack the Ripper expert Philip Hutchinson who will tell you about some of the celebrities he has encountered whilst in the process of conducting his Jack the Ripper Walk. Take it away Philip!
As a Ripper guide, it is always with mixed feelings that I see famous people passing the group when taking folk around the Ripper District.
I see the artists Gilbert and George all the time. As most people don’t know who they are, they don’t attract much attention.
To the majority of the group, they are two middle-aged executives wearing similar suits.
Tracey Emin used to live on our walking route, but I never saw her.
Pete Docherty and Boy George are both known to frequent nearby Spitalfields Market, but I’ve never seen them either (and a little-known fact is that Boy George, in recent years, ran his own store from The Clerk’s House in Shoreditch High Street – a building which has direct links with the funeral of Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly).
Why does it have to be school groups, themselves difficult enough to retain focus, when the famous people pass by?
Several times a month we will be passing Puma Court or Princelet Street and there will be a film crew making a period drama or documentary on the spot (I’ve done several documentaries in both streets myself).
Never a famous face, though.
However, a few years ago the staff of one school and myself almost lost the group when they all went running down Fashion Street (off Brick Lane) following one of the cast of The In-Betweeners.
Only a couple of weeks ago, a school group burst into squealing hysteria as Russell Brand cycled past us in Mitre Square (in his own way, recreating the time ten years ago when I was with a group outside The Ten Bells, a bicycle bell rang, and a man cycled through the group, smiling and waving and naked as the day he was born).
I’ve also had groups distracted by Green Day passing us in Hanbury Street (I later found out they were taking a tour with Richard Jones) and one tour totally disrupted as we had to take a different route because Pink was shooting a music video down one of the streets connected to the Ripper story.
George Galloway once passed by the group on an open-top bus, canvassing for the upcoming elections. The curious thing was, at that moment, Jonty (one of the more famous members of the public to enter the Big Brother House) was in my group.
I felt they should have exchanged opinions on their time inside.
The biggest celebrities, though? That has to be members of the families directly connected to the case.
I’ve taken descendants of both Polly Nichols and Catherine Eddowes on the tours, as well as relatives of PC Edward Watkins, who discovered Catherine’s body in Mitre Square. They told me they had family photographs of him in their attic. I gave them my card, asking them to contact me, but – sadly – never heard from them again.