Monday, 15 December 2008

East London Line and the surveillance society: Paranoid and fragile state of England

Looking south towards Whitechapel Station; the new track being laid

Looking north-west towards Shoreditch Station, from Vallance Road; the new track being laid towards the bridge over the Liverpool Street main line at the site of Bishopsgate Station

I was reminded of the current Taking Liberties exhibition at the British Library when I was taking these photos on 12th December 2008 (and earlier photos for this artist's book / poetic photobook project). I have now been stopped and questioned twice by police for taking photos quite openly in public streets during fieldwork for my East London Line photobook - once at New Cross, and the second time at Whitechapel while taking these photos. At New Cross I was suspected of being a possible terrorist for taking photos near a railway station, and at Whitechapel of being a possible child molester for taking photos near a school. There's a strange disproportionate element about these police reactions to such public behaviour. I have heard recently of an artist who was told that he couldn't draw at Kings Cross station. This is the sort of police reaction to normal behaviour that we used to associate with totalitarian regimes. Writers and artists are now viewed with suspicion merely because they want to look at things! Are we now all to go around with averted gaze?
More to follow.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

East London Line (almost); South Bermondsey

Railway Arch on Rotherhithe New Road, 8 December 2008

The Golden Lion, Rotherhithe New Road, 8 December 2008. An infinitely sad, and all-too-common, sight in Britain's towns and Cities. Why has life been closed down and boarded up? Or has it just moved on?

South Bermondsey Station, looking north 8 December 2008

Rotherhithe New Road S.E., 8 December 2008

Yesterday (8 December) I was doing some fieldwork for my East London Line artist's book project. I took the South London Line from Victoria to South Bermondsey - a wonderful journey above the rooftops of Battersea, Brixton and Peckham Rye, and passing through the impressive Victorian brick and timberwork of Denmark Hill Station. I was going to explore the fascinating tangle of roads, railway arches, housing and industrial estates that lies in the area between Rotherhithe (Surrey Docks), South Bermondsey and New Cross Gate. Above are some of the photos I took.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Taking Liberties at the British Library; Tom Paine Printing Press

The Tom Paine Printing Press approaches completion

Last week I went to see the wonderful exhibition Taking Liberties - The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights - at the British Library ( This is on until 1st March 2009, and includes iconic documents from the BL's collections - from Magna Carta, through the Declaration of Right, Colonel Rainborough's Leveller statement during the Putney Debates, Tom Paine's The Rights of Man, Mary Wolstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women, the Bill of Rights, the Chartists, and the Suffragettes, to the Civil Rights Movement in America, the Counter-Culture of the 1960s and 1970s, Gay Lib, and the Human Rights Act of 1998. The exhibition includes a great deal of original printed material - books, documents, posters, etc. - which gives an insight into a wide range of letterpress and relief printing.

Last Friday I went to see the Tom Paine Printing Press (an 18th-century-style common press - a 'two-pull' press) as it nears completion at Alan May's home near Stafford - see the link to my Tom Paine Printing Press blog (, on which I've posted a lot of my photos. Alan May built the 'Gutenberg one-pull press' for Stephen Fry's recent TV programme 'The Machine that Made Us'. One of my photos is at the top of this post.
Advance warning.
I shall be showing my artist's books (poetic photobooks) at the Watercolours, Drawings and Works on Paper Fair at Covent Garden (the old flower cellars) at the end of Jan/start of Feb 2009. Maybe I can get my new East London Line book done by then? (or Borough Market? a wgreat place for Christmas shopping, and a pint or two of Harveys bitter at the Market Porter or one of the other good pubs nearby. Harveys of Lewes had and have a strong connection with the Kentish hop fields, hence this connection - the Hop Exchange and various hop factors were nearby).