London's historic shopping arcades
Head beadle Mark Lord on duty at the Burlington Arcade
Mark Lord, head beadleLord, aged 41, has been head beadle since 2002. An old hand at building security, he was approached by Burlington’s previous owner, Prudential, for the job. Initially he refused, but once he’d gone down to the arcade, seen that the uniforms were okay and realised he could raise the Beadles’ profile, he gave it a go.
During his years on the job there have been two armed robberies, one with a sub-machine gun. Nothing as ‘Italian Job’-dramatic as the raid in 1964; however, when a Jaguar Mark 10 careered down the arcade’s length, the occupants making off with a jewellery haul worth £35,000. Hence today’s bollards.‘The role of the beadle is very customer-focused and, especially with the tourists, we’re representing London. ‘When we have to tell people about the rules, it’s all about the way you talk to them – people nowadays don’t like being told what to do. If you’re polite to people, the vast majority are polite back. Of course there’s always someone who’ll try it on and say “this is a free country”, but we just say “no you can’t do that, you’re on private property here”.
‘Looking the way we do also helps. The vast majority of people don’t know the rules and they’re actually quite apologetic, but some have read about them and they’re testing us. There’s one individual who whistles and he must have the most fantastic set of lungs in London – you can hear him coming. But as soon as he comes in here, he stops. So it’s always a judgement call. A bloke ran through here the other day and I said “no running, please, sir” and he said his wife had just gone into labour and he was running to the hospital. Obviously we wished him on his way.
‘A lot of the people we deal with are not actually shoppers, so we make sure that we have a mini “A-Z” in our back pockets. [Assistant beadle] Kevin lives centrally, so he’s pretty good at knowing what’s on at all the theatres when people ask.
‘This positive image of the arcade is something that we’re trying to build up more and more – like those kids with their broken scooter earlier. It wasn’t just us who helped them – the shop helped too. People tend to remember that sort of thing.
‘I’ve learnt here that you can’t have any preconceptions about the human race. The people working, shopping and coming through here in a week come from every conceivable background and they’ve all got their little stories, like the ones you see coming in to choose an engagement ring.
‘It’s funny – this place almost seduces you; it gets under your skin. It’s a unique job and, well, you can’t put that in your wage packet. I hope I never leave.’
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