New LGBT+ collecting

By Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

To celebrate the start of Transgender Awareness Week, on Monday 12 November 2018, TfL flew the trans pride flag above 55 Broadway. Perhaps the flag, as well as more personal stories, will come to the Museum soon, as we are working to enrich our collection around LGBT+ people’s contributions to London’s transport.

Trans pride flag above 55 Broadway, 12 November 2018, photo © Andy De Santis

We have been working with OUTbound, one of TfL’s staff network groups, to source some exciting new objects for the collection – one of which you might have spotted in our previous blog #ASKACURATOR. Our Collections Development Group recommended we add the objects below to the Museum’s collection, and we are pleased to share them with you on Transgender Awareness Week.

Placard with roundel in trans pride colours

Placard with roundel in trans pride colours, reference photo © London Transport Museum

The TfL roundel in the trans pride colours adorns this placard, made on behalf of members of OUTbound. Earlier this year, roundels and benches with rainbow and trans pride colours were installed for the first time in a handful of stations for London Pride.
We looked into getting hold of a station roundel, but with them being vinyl stickers – like the Gareth Southgate roundel seen this summer –  they are torn when removed, and we haven’t yet found a practical solution to preserving them. However our search put us in contact with Andy at OUTbound, who carried this special one-off roundel to support trans colleagues at Brighton Trans Pride in August, and offered it to the Museum.

LGBT+ Ally lanyard

LGBT+ Ally lanyard, reference photo © London Transport Museum

This year, TfL launched a new initiative for LGBT+ allies to help employees create a supportive and inclusive environment for staff and customers. These lanyards were produced and distributed to group members who sign up and make a commitment to supporting the LGBT+ community and learning more about LGBT+ issues. These are a valuable addition to our collection, and we intend to keep a record of training materials too, to help contextualise the lanyards in future.

‘Ride with Pride’ badge

‘Ride with Pride’ enamel badge, reference photo © London Transport Museum

This badge shows the popularity of the ‘Ride with Pride’ campaign, which ran in 2015. As with the roundels, we weren’t able to preserve the bus wraps produced for the campaign. We have a few related objects in the collection, like this poster, and London’s first rainbow crossing. But it’s nice to have this badge as a physical memento, as  part of the legacy of ‘Ride with Pride’, alongside photos documenting the project.

TfL Ride with Pride Vehicles. New Routemaster bus, black cab and DLR train painted in rainbow colours in support of LGBT staff network, OUTbound. Photographed at Beckton DLR depot. 1 August 2015. Photo: Eleanor Bentall

These new additions to the collection sit well with some other recent acquisitions, including interviews, posters and oyster card wallets, but they are just a small part of the collection that we hope to build. These objects give us the chance to learn more about LGBT+ experience and London Transport. We are looking forward to collecting more personal stories to go with these objects. This is a topic that we are keen to revisit and we have exciting plans coming up.

If you have objects or stories that you think we ought to be preserving, please get in touch and let us know: documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk

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Reclaim the station

By Susanna Cordner, Documentary Curator

With London’s population still on the rise, our capital keeps getting busier and busier. As well as posing problems – or opportunities, depending on your perspective – for the city at an industrial and infrastructural level, this increasing demand for space and resources also impacts on London’s communities and individual inhabitants.

The battle for the trains! by Geo Davey

At our Late Debate: Race for space on Thursday 22 November, we will look at how life in the city will change with a growing population. Leading experts from academia, policy and industry will present and discuss innovative ideas of transforming urban space to safeguard the essential social infrastructure needed in our city.

Attendees at our previous Late Debate: Environment Matters

But solutions are also being created at community level: some amazing self-initiated and community-led projects are cropping up across the capital. As part of this Late Debate, a section of our Futures Marketplace will showcase the ways in which these community and grassroots projects are reclaiming, or recalibrating, spaces at stations for public and/or environmental benefit. Whether simply boosting the mood of passers-by or actually contributing to the local economy and culture, these projects link local people to a local need, and make the most of previously underestimated, but every day experienced, public spaces.

Community gardening at Hampstead Heath Overground station

This part of our Late Debate: Race for Space is being run in collaboration with our Documentary Curator programme, a scheme of projects in which my colleague Ellie Miles and I are collecting objects and stories that demonstrate the ways in which transport links lives in London today.

If there are any community projects going on at your local stop or station that you think we should be capturing, please get in touch by emailing us at: documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk.

Battle Bus project 2014-2018

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and London Transport Museum Friends, London Transport Museum is close to completing Battle Bus – the civilian story of the First World War, a five-year programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War which has taken place between 2014-2018.

The Battle Bus project has included the restoration into operational condition of a 1914 London bus, B2737, and a five-year community programme delivered by apprentices and volunteers, which examined different aspects of the war’s impact on ordinary Londoners, and explored key themes over each year of the commemoration.

2014 – Year of the Bus and London to the Western Front

The B-types, were London’s first reliable, mass-produced motor buses. Introduced in 1910, they rapidly replaced horse buses on the Capital’s streets. When war broke out, over 1,000 of these vehicles, a third of London’s bus fleet, were requisitioned for war service. They served as troop transports and ambulances, some were converted into lorries or even mobile pigeon lofts.
B2737 was among the requisitioned vehicles, although it is not known where it served.

The restoration of B2737, known as Battle Bus, was completed in June 2014. It was restored to its original red and cream London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) livery.

B2737 running on its original route, route 9 from Liverpool Street to Barnes

Throughout 2014, as part of the Museum’s celebration of the Year of the Bus, B2737 participated in events across London, including a cavalcade of 48 buses displayed on Regent Street; a recreation of  route 9, from Barnes to Liverpool Street which it originally ran on;  London bus garage open days; the Shuttleworth Airshow; the Worshipful Company of Carmen’s Cart Marking Ceremony; Routemaster 60; the Lord Mayor’s Show, and the National Service of Remembrance.

In September, the bus was converted into a military troop carrier. The windows were fitted with protective boarding, and the body was painted military khaki. The conversion was carried out in the Museum, in public view, and captured on time lapse cameras.

Following the military conversion, the bus departed for a commemorative tour of the Western Front.  For ten days, the bus and a mobile exhibition toured Belgium and France, visiting locations where London Buses are known to have served. The tour included the bus participating in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, and a visit to Bus House Cemetery, named after the wreck of a London bus that was hit by a shell and remained where it was hit through the war.

Battle Bus at Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium

2015 – London’s Women at War – 100 years of women in transport

To ease the labour shortage created by war, women were recruited for a variety of roles in the transport industry for the first time from 1915. One of the most visible and most controversial of these was the role of bus conductor.

The Battle Bus learning project commemorated the role of women in the war effort with a programme that engaged female bus drivers. They explored the experiences of wartime conductresses and other women working in transport during the war, and reflected on their own experiences 100 years later. Their experiences were featured in a pop-up exhibition that launched at the Museum and went on to tour bus garages and libraries in parts of London associated with the B-type story.

The participants were also offered the chance to experience driving Battle Bus, and chalking their messages on the khaki livery.

Female driver Tracey driving Battle Bus

Battle Bus Apprentice, Hannah Steele supported a group of young people who developed Battle Bus inspired activities for families at public events at Fire Power, The Royal Military Museum in Woolwich and Westbourne Park Bus Garage Open Day. Their activities featured an original story ‘Barney’s Adventure’ which tells the tale of Barney and Beatrice, two B-type buses separated by war.

After its tour of the Western Front, Battle Bus embarked on a tour of the UK in 2015. The bus and its volunteer crew attended 18 public events, including visits to Beamish Open Air Museum, Crich Tramway Village, Hull, and Reading. It successfully completed the Historic Commercial Vehicles Society London to Brighton road run in May. In August it was taken to Bristol, to commemorate the buses crossing over to the continent from Avonmouth Docks during the war.

2016 – The lost generation of the Somme

Marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Battle Bus travelled once again to France for a commemorative tour that visited towns and villages along what was the front line in 1916. The bus was displayed at the Thiepval Memorial on 1 July – now the sole veteran present at the commemoration.

Battle Bus in front of the Thiepval Memorial, France

The Battle Bus learning project explored the role of underage soldiers and the heavy casualties of the war. Working with successive groups of young volunteers who each passed their work on to the next group to use, a collaborative community exhibition was produced.

A group of university students researched their chosen themes to create the basis for the exhibition. A group of young men from Northumberland Park Community School in Tottenham explored the themes through film and animation. They also visited the Somme battlefields, locating the graves of soldiers whose stories they had learnt about during the project. In addition, they had the opportunity to lay a wreath of poppies during the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate on behalf of the Museum and in commemoration of all transport workers who sacrificed so much for the war effort.

A third group of young people, led by Battle Bus Apprentice Lamare Hart, produced poetry and spoken word, and performed at the opening of the resulting exhibition: From Tottenham to the trenches. The exhibition contained panels based on the first group’s work and videos produced by the second group. It was launched at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham, and toured other local venues, including the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum.

2017 – Children and war

In 2017, the learning team worked with two Year 4 classes from Lancasterian Primary School in Tottenham and two Year 6 classes from Lyndhurst Primary School in Camberwell. They explored stories of the Home Front and the themes of the Battle Bus, to understand the role of children during the war. Using comic books as their inspiration and working with a professional illustrator, the groups created original stories and artworks which were used to form an exhibition for each school: Home Front Heroes.

A second element of the project, led by Battle Bus Apprentice Joyce Zale, saw the team work with young people and a screen print artist to produce original designs and lead screen print workshops for museum visitors and students from the above mentioned primary schools.

Apprentice Joyce Zale delivering screen printing workshops

Battle Bus spent a week on display at the British Motor Museum’s First World War event. It also attended the centenary of Biggin Hill Airport where it was explored by a record number of visitors.

2018 – London’s Memory

Battle Bus has continued touring the UK throughout 2018. In July it visited the National Memorial Arboretum, and took part in the Tracks to the Trenches event at Apedale Valley Railway.

To commemorate the end of the war, London Transport Museum brought all the remaining B-type buses together for one day and displayed them in Covent Garden outside the Museum.

Last four remaining B-type buses on Covent Garden Piazza

Of the nearly 3,000 buses that were built, only four remain today. They all played slightly different roles during and after the war. B2737 was restored to commemorate the buses and transport workers’ sacrifice. B1609 which stayed in London service during the war was recently restored by its owner. B340, also owned by London Transport Museum, carried wounded troops in London during the war, and became the first bus to be preserved for a collection in 1924. B43 was requisitioned for war service and became a mobile war memorial in 1920, taking part in Armistice Day parades, driven behind the London Transport workers. Nicknamed Ole Bill, it was presented to the Imperial War Museum in 1977.

The community  learning project has focused on commemoration, with volunteers of all ages working together to explore the meaning of remembrance. Research volunteers dug deep into the Museum’s archives to uncover individual stories of transport workers across the theatres of war. Their research was turned into an exhibition which was open to Museum visitors from Saturday 20 October until Sunday 28 October. Further project volunteers took part in creative workshops with an installation artist to create ‘Forget me Not’ – a hanging artwork made up of over 100 screen printed flowers, symbolic of the hand embroidered postcards send by soldiers to loved ones back home.

This year’s Battle Bus Apprentice, Kamiah Cowell, led a group of young filmmakers on a project to create a film piece focusing on the theme of commemoration. The film is in the final editing stages and will be launched in December.

This five-year commemoration of the centenary will end with a fitting tribute to the civilians whose lives were forever changed by war: B2737 Battle Bus and B340 will participate in the event at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day 2018, A Nation’s Thank You, before going on public display at London Transport Museum.

The Battle Bus programme could not have been possible without the support and commitment of many people: particular thanks go to the  Heritage Lottery Fund, London Transport Museum Friends, our Apprentices, Outreach and Research Volunteers, Vehicle Supporters Group, community partners and to everyone that has joined us at events over the last five-years.

Forget-Me-Not

Discover our new installation and meet the artist behind the project

On your visit to the London Transport Museum, you’re sure to notice our new Forget Me Not display hanging beautifully above Battle Bus while it is on display at the Museum for the first time.

The new installation, created by artist Jacqui Symons was commissioned to remember the thousands of transport workers involved in the First World War and comprises over 100 flowers to represent the hand embroidered postcards that soldiers sent to their loved ones from the front lines.

Find out more about the project from Jenna and Kamiah from our Learning team who commissioned the project and the artist who created it:

Kamiah and Battle Bus underneath the Forget-Me-Not installation

How was the installation created?

Kamiah and Jenna: As part of the Battle Bus project, we commissioned artist Jacqui Symons to work with us on creating a new installation that would hang over Battle Bus. We wanted this work to be co-created with past partners and project participants who had been involved with Battle Bus over the 5 years of the project.

We held workshops at Lancasterian Primary School in Tottenham, Holloway bus garage and Walworth bus depot, as well as a drop-in session for staff and volunteers who had been involved with the project.

During these workshops, participants drew pictures inspired by images from our collection of the B-type buses during the First World War and the role of transport workers, both men and women, during this time. Some of the participants also then created a mono print of their picture. Jacqui used all of these illustrations to decorate the flower shapes that make up the installation.

What inspired you to get involved, Jacqui?

I have been making suspended installations for almost 10 years and I jumped at the chance to do one for London Transport Museum especially as the theme of the exhibition and the suspended installation really inspired me. I found the history of the Battle Bus and London transport workers through the First World War really interesting – I especially liked that women became mechanics and conductors for London’s transport during this time.

What was your inspiration for the piece?

The initial inspiration for the Forget-Me-Not installation were the embroidered postcards that soldiers sent back to their loved ones from the front line during the First World War. Many of these featured flowers and used Floriography (the language of flowers) to send messages of love, hope and remembrance. These flowers now make up the installation, recreated in wonderful colours and suspended in the shape of three flying postcards.

Working with groups and communities is a large part of my practice and it was important to me to include exact versions of people’s artwork within the final piece, so each flower features drawings created by workshop participants around the theme of remembrance.

How were the flowers made?

The flowers are made from laser-cut plywood and screen-printed with participants’ drawings.

Over several months, we worked with various groups to create drawings and monoprints using the theme of remembrance and the Battle Bus as inspiration. We got hundreds of great drawings and prints which were scanned in and exposed onto large scale silk-screens ready for screenprinting.

Once we had agreed on the final flowers to include in the installation, I drew them up on the computer and they were sent off to a laser-cutting company along with 12 large sheets of plywood that I pre-painted in 12 different colours. These cut-out flowers were then individually screen-printed with drawings from the creative workshops.

Do you have a favourite illustration incorporated within the flower design?

Too many to mention! I love them all really. Once you have worked so long with each drawing (scanning them in, creating layouts, optimising them for screen-printing, then printing all the designs) you become intimately familiar with them and appreciate each one for its character and style.

What do you hope LTM visitors will take away from seeing the Forget Me Not display?

The installation was created to remember the thousands of transport workers involved in the First World War, including over 1,400 individuals who sadly lost their lives. We hope that we can share this story with visitors through the installation and the Battle Bus, so that they are still remembered as the centenary of the First World War approaches.

We also hope that visitors will come away with an interest in and some newfound knowledge of the Battle Bus and London’s transport workers and an appreciation of the installation and the meaning of flowers.

Also, hopefully, it will inspire visitors to do some drawing once they have seen all the wonderful artwork on the flowers!

Come and see the Forget Me Not installation at London Transport Museum, to help us remember the important contribution made by London’s transport workers during the First World War, one hundred years ago.

battle-bus-remembrance

Battle bus will be participating in the civilian procession  – A Nation’s Thank You – on Sunday 11 November, to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by London bus drivers who left their regular routes to enlist and serve on the Western Front. Find out more on our website.

After Remembrance Sunday, bus B2737, known as Battle Bus, will return to London Transport Museum where it will be on display until spring 2019.

Poppies

Join us at the Museum on 10 and 11 November between 11:00 to 15:45 to learn more about our B-type Battle Bus which played an important role in the war effort. Then join us to make simple poppy pins as part of the remembrance weekend commemorations.

Friday Late: Power, play and politics

On 26 October 2018, see the museum through the eyes of up and coming female artists, performers, and designers.

In our final Friday Late of the Poster Girls series come and celebrate the essence of the exhibition, with a programme of voices representing a diverse range of talent and female empowerment, through lectures, our makers market, tours and workshops.

Laura Wingrove design

Browse 80s styled products from four female artists and designers, including contemporary paper dolls and clothing made from upcycled duvets, and enjoy workshops inspired by their work.

Paper dolls

Run LDN cross stitch

Comedian Katie O’Brien is your cheeky 80s bingo caller with plenty of prizes and surprises up her sleeve. Or take in an illustrated talk on bold and unapologetic 1980s fashion and explore the things women wore while seizing control – in the boardroom, in the bedroom and beyond.

Exist to Resist

Catch the last ever Poster Girls curator tour, and explore the work of Mabel Lucie Atwell, Ruth Hydes, the Zinkeisen sisters and others.

In partnership with Showtime Events, we’ve made sure you can capture the night with their photo booth.

Friday Late: Power, play and politics takes place on 26 October 2018. Book your tickets here.

#AskaCurator

What does a Documentary Curator do?

Gareth Southgate roundel
Gareth Southgate roundel @ London Transport Museum

When Southgate station was renamed ‘Gareth Southgate’, when Transport for London staff members took part in Brighton Trans Pride, and when the tube driver Harvey Mitchell stopped his train to make his tribute to the victims of the Grenfell fire, London Transport Museum was at the ready to follow and record these stories and to bring them to the museum. I’m Ellie Miles, I’m one of the museum’s curators and I have the amazing job title ‘documentary curator’. Susanna and I work as Documentary Curators, and it’s our responsibility to work with the people who experience them to bring current events and everyday life into the museum’s collection.

Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

These news-worthy events are one side of the contemporary collecting work that we do. Sometimes we collect the exceptions: the things which don’t happen every day. Sometimes we collect the typical: things which seem ordinary now but will be hard to get hold of in a few weeks, months or years. Working with groups like OUTbound (TfL’s LGBT+ Staff network) means that sometimes we can find stories that aren’t shared elsewhere. As well as reacting to unexpected events, there are some things which we can plan for. Over the next few years we’ll be collecting in two local areas with new Crossrail stations, to see how the new line changes them. We always try to collect objects that tell us about the times we are living in.

OUTBound at Brighton Trans pride event, 21st July 2018, photo © Andy De Santis, used with permission
OUTBound at Brighton Trans pride event, 21st July 2018, photo © Andy De Santis, used with permission
Trans pride roundel, in the curators’ offices at London Transport Museum, 20th August 2018, photo © London Transport Museum
Trans pride roundel, in the curators’ offices at London Transport Museum, 20th August 2018, photo © London Transport Museum

This can be difficult because sometimes the ‘real’ object has been destroyed through use and we might only be able to get hold of related material – for instance, the designs or plans for a piece or project. There are some new things that we are still learning to collect: for example, we have a lot of old tickets, but maybe it’s time we collected oyster and contactless journey data.

When we find a suitable object, we propose it for review by the Museum’s Collections Development Group. If the group agree it’ll be a good addition to the collection, is in manageable condition and fits our collecting policy, then the Museum will then preserve it alongside the rest of its objects. Sometimes these things get out on display straight away, but most are kept in the stores, for the future.

Harvey Mitchell, 24th July 2018, photo © London Transport Museum
Harvey Mitchell, 24th July 2018, photo © London Transport Museum

Although we are usually free from discussions about repatriation and the questions that other museums must face about human remains, we still need to think about how we collect responsibly. It’s important that we are inclusive; work respectfully with the people who donate their stories and objects to the museum; and ensure that the acquisitions represent London’s diversity. If we don’t, then we aren’t telling the true story of transport in London at all.

I love working to collect the stories of transport in London today, there is so much so learn and so many fascinating things to discover. We couldn’t do it without everyone taking part and sharing their stories. If you have a contemporary object or story for the Museum send us an email, we’d love to hear it – documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk

Spiral escalator: An engineering wonder ahead of its time

Spiral escalator – An engineering wonder ahead of its time

Written by Laura Sleath, Senior Curator

In 1988, the rusty remains of an engineering experiment were found buried at the bottom of a lift shaft at Holloway Road station. The remains were of a spiral escalator which had been installed in 1906, but abandoned shortly after – probably due to safety concerns.

Construction of the spiral escalator at Holloway Road station, 1906
Construction of the spiral escalator at Holloway Road station, 1906

The spiral escalator was designed by inventor Jesse Reno, who had unveiled the world’s first ‘inclined elevator’ in New York in 1896. His ambitious design at Holloway Road consisted of a double spiral which would have allowed a steady stream of passengers to ascend and descend at the same time with no waiting, unlike a lift. The two spirals encircled a central core – an outer spiral for the descent, and an inner one for the ascent. It ran continuously in a clockwise direction, travelling at a speed of 100 feet (30 metres) a minute. The journey to street level took approximately 45 seconds

It seems that the complex design was flawed and there is no evidence that the escalator ever entered passenger service. It was dismantled in 1911 and only found later during maintenance work.

Conserved section of spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road station, 1906
Conserved section of spiral escalator installed at Holloway Road station, 1906

In 1993, London Transport Museum rescued the surviving parts of the escalator from the lift shaft and later restored a large section, which can be seen at our Acton Depot. A smaller section will soon be going on display in our new Future Engineers gallery, opening in October 2018.

‘There is no doubt that walking upstairs is very fatiguing’ The Engineer, 10 August 1900

Just five years after Reno’s failed attempt, the Underground’s first escalators were installed at Earl’s Court station in 1911.  To allay any fears, a disabled man – William ‘Bumper’ Harris who had lost a leg in an accident – was invited to ride the escalators and demonstrate the safety of the new machines.

The escalators were so successful that they began replacing lifts on the network, which up until then had been the main way of getting passengers from deep level tunnels to the surface (and vice versa).

In 1913, the Underground Group commissioned a poster to celebrate the opening of the new Bakerloo line extension to Paddington station. Featuring prominently in the poster was the exciting ‘moving staircase subway connection’ – obviously considered a strong selling point for passengers tired of taking the stairs.

Paddington New Station, by Charles Sharland, 1913
Paddington New Station, by Charles Sharland, 1913

There are 440 passenger escalators on the Underground network today, and in its 40-year lifespan, an escalator will travel the equivalent distance of a trip to the moon and back. Reno’s dream of a spiral escalator has also become a reality – Mitsubishi Electric have been designing and installing spiral escalators around the world since the 1980s.

Mabel Lucie Attwell

Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964)

Children’s book illustrator and publishing phenomenon

Mabel Lucie Attwell was one of the most successful female illustrators of the twentieth century, whose trademark chubby toddlers remain as popular now as they were 100 years ago. Although not well known as a poster artist, the success of her children’s books, postcards and (later) annuals, made her an obvious choice for London Underground’s emerging publicity campaign. Her immediately familiar style struck a reassuring note with passengers and, by implication, suggested that the new Tube railway was a safe and reliable system.

Country fairCountry fair, 1912

Trained at Heatherlys and Saint Martin’s School of Art, Attwell’s first commission for the Underground came in 1912. More followed in 1913, and it seems likely that she continued to work for the Underground after the First World War. A Pathe newsreel from about 1920, for example, shows Attwell sketching a new Tube poster, Christmas in Fairyland, in her garden using her three children as models. Sadly, no copy has survived in the London Transport Museum collection, although one exists in the Pushkin State Museum (Moscow). By this time Attwell was a best-selling publishing phenomenon. Her already extensive range of books and cards was expanded to include nursery ceramics, textiles, calendars, dolls and figurines – all eagerly collected today. But it was her immensely popular illustrations for children’s classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm that bought her a devoted worldwide following.

Attwell continued to work into old age, assisted by her daughter Peggy who took on the management of Attwell’s estate after her mother’s death.

Examples of Attwell’s rarely seen Underground posters are included in London Transport Museum’s current Poster Girls show, together with vintage film footage of the artist at work. Behind the scenes tours of the main poster collection are available to book online.

In keeping with the theme of Attwell’s delightful posters, the next Acton Depot Open weekend (7/8 July) features a variety of special family events to entertain the little ones in your life www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/museum-depot/open-weekends 

We're off to the pantomime

David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters (www.twentiethcenturyposters.com)

70th Anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush

22 June 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush ship arriving in Britain from the Caribbean. Around 236 migrants from the merchant vessel were housed in the labyrinth of underground passages at Clapham South when they first arrived from the former British colonies. In the lead-up to this anniversary, Siddy Holloway, Hidden London Engagement Manager, gives a first-hand account of welcoming a very special guest back to Clapham South deep-level shelter for the first time in 70 years.

The 29 May was an exciting day for the Museum’s Hidden London Team. In partnership with the Windrush Foundation, we welcomed a former resident of Clapham South deep-level shelter, 70 years after his last overnight stay. Mr John Richards was born in Jamaica in 1925 and moved to England in 1948 to seek pastures new. He was a passenger on the Empire Windrush, the famous merchant vessel ship that offered affordable passage to citizens from Commonwealth countries in the West Indies. John, like all the passengers, paid £28 for his passage to come over to Britain to seek employment and help rebuild the country after the war.

John-Richards-by-bunk-beds
© London Transport Museum

When the ship docked at Tilbury on 22 June 1948, around 240 of the passengers had no pre-arranged accommodation. They were all offered lodging by the government in the deep-level shelter at Clapham South until they found employment and housing.

When we began researching for our tours of Clapham South deep-level shelter in 2015, we realised there were very few first-hand accounts from people who stayed in the shelter and what they thought of their peculiar accommodation. We wanted to rectify this and began our search to find someone who had stayed in the shelter having arrived on Windrush.

John-Richards-and-Chris-Nix© London Transport Museum

In April this year we partnered with the Windrush Foundation and they put us in touch with John; needless to say we were over the moon. John is now 92 years old, so a date was arranged for his visit which happened to be very close to the 70-year anniversary of his arrival in the UK. We met him and Arthur Torrington, the president of the Windrush Foundation, on a rainy day in South London and escorted them to the shelter. John, dressed immaculately in a grey suit, was excited to see what had changed and said that he hoped he would be able to remember as much as possible.

John-and-Arthur© London Transport Museum

Once down in the shelter which lies 40 metres below street level, John’s memories started flooding back to him. He told us about his work during the war, his decision to come over to Britain and his three week stay in the shelter. As we settled into hearing about John’s story, the deep rumble of the Northern line passed over our heads. John stopped for a moment, smiled and pointed to the ceiling “that sound used to wake us up every morning”.

We can’t wait to share more of John’s story during our public tours of Clapham South deep-level shelter which will start this year on 11 August 2018. For tickets please visit www.ltmuseum.co.uk/whats-on/hidden-london/clapham-south

Siddy Holloway
Hidden London Engagement Manager

Exploring London Transport Museum

Exploring London Transport Museum with engineer Emma Watkins

By Carrie Long, LTM Volunteer

Emma Watkins, site engineer at Skanska, visited London Transport Museum to tell us more about her work, her experience as a young female engineer, and how she is helping to shape and build a sustainable London.

At the last London Transport Museum debate: Women of the future, the Museum celebrated inspiring women from the past, such as the all-female Waterloo bridge builders. They also looked at the future and lead discussions on how to achieve gender equality in the transport industry.

Following on from this theme, Emma is giving a timely talk as part of the Museum’s next Late Debate: Environment matters on 7 June, an event to discuss and explore ways of making London a cleaner, greener, and more livable city, including engineering and design solutions to environmental issues.

Walking around the museum together, stopping at Victorian vehicles and construction models, and taking in the museum’s two new exhibitions, Digging Deeper on tunneling and The Secret Life of a Megaproject on Crossrail, Emma shares her modern engineer’s take on the construction of London and her own experience as a part of it.

Exploring London Transport Museum

In Emma’s first 18 months as a qualified engineer she has taken part in a wide variety of projects. From building an internal bridge at Waterloo station, to a stint on a Crossrail site – “every single engineer in London has worked on Crossrail”, she says, laughing. She is now involved in restoration and modernisation work of Bazalgette’s original sewers. And when someone talks with gleaming eyes and enthusiasm about going down into the sewers, you know that they are passionate about their job. She says engineering allows her to see fascinating hidden parts of London that are inaccessible to the public, but integral to how we use and live in the city.

On our tour of the museum, Emma stops at a model of Victorian cut-and-cover tunneling, showing wooden supports, horse-operated machinery, and men working without any protective clothing. While Emma values health and safety as well as modern machines on today’s construction sites, she can’t help but admire the ingenuity of the workers and inventors of the past, trying new methods at great personal risk. And not only in London: In Paris, the ground was too wet and soft to tunnel into, so the engineers froze it using liquid nitrogen as early as 1900.

cut-and-cover-model

One thing Emma says hasn’t changed much compared to the Victorian tunneling display is the lack of women on a construction site. Today, still only 1% of site workers are women. Attitudes have changed though, and she has always felt welcome and integrated on all her work projects. Emma is passionate about inspiring other young people, especially girls, to go into engineering. She is an ambassador for the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE). ICE is contributing to the Late Debate too, running an interactive engineering challenge to save a Lego-built city from flooding.

Book onto the Late Debate: Environment Matters on 7th June 2018, where you can meet Emma and hear about her experience developing a green attitude in construction.