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IN THE COMMUNITY: So, you think you know the tube?

Arts Society Wokingham
Crossrail Station Canary Wharf

The Arts Society Wokingham

The Arts Society Wokingham’s May lecture was ‘one of the best lectures I have attended either live or via Zoom’ according to one of its members. High praise indeed, but well deserved.

Ian Swankie’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the London Underground kept his audience enthralled as he took them from the early days of railway construction through to the building of the Jubilee line extension and Crossrail.

He drew the audience’s attention to the small details: the reason why Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of Day and Night which adorns the exterior of original headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company was so controversial, the construction of beautiful blue glass ceiling which greets you as you travel up the escalators at the new Southwark station.

It was Frank Pick, in the 1930s, who recognised that a transport system could be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.

He engaged the architect, Charles Holden, to design a series of new Art Deco stations.

He also commissioned Edward Johnston, an artist and calligrapher, to design the distinctive lettering still in use on signage. Harry Beck, an electrical draughtsman, created the format of the current grid map.

The recognition of the importance of incorporating art into the planning and design of the ever growing London Underground system continues to this day. Architects were commissioned to design the 11 new stations on the Jubilee Line Extension and the 10 stations on the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail). Norman Foster designed the Canary Wharf tube and Crossrail stations.

Public art has been a theme throughout the life of the Underground.

Eduardo Paolozzi created the stunning mosaic murals at Tottenham Court Road station and Yayoi Kusama has recently been commissioned to create an installation outside the new Crossrail station at Liverpool Street.

Similarly, London Underground also has a long tradition of commissioning memorable advertising posters. These include First World War propaganda, safety advice (Mind the Gap), suggestions for day trips by rail and adverts for events and exhibitions.

Before the lecture many of the audience thought they knew the Underground but as one member summed it up perfectly: “Having travelled, both as a child and all my adult working life, on the underground system and been fascinated by it, I was amazed at how much I didn’t know. I was like a visitor in a new country.”

Guests, especially amateur photographers, are invited to watch our next lecture by the world famous photographer, Charlie Waite. The talk, entitled The Making of Landscape Photographs, will be live-streamed to the society’s unlisted YouTube channel at 7.45pm on Monday, June 21. 

Non-members can email memsectheartssociety wham@gmail.com in advance so that they can be sent the link. There is a guest fee of £5.

More information about the society is available at:   www.TheArtsSocietyWokingham.org.uk

Sue Bryant

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