Monday, 14 February 2011

London's largest public art poem to be restored

In 2001 poet and art critic Sue Hubbard was commissioned by the Arts Council and the British Film Institute to write a poem for the underpass between Victory Arch at Waterloo Station and the IMAX cinema. In Autumn 2010 Time Out magazine listed it as one of the best 'secret' things to look out for in London - two weeks later the poem was inadvertently painted over during a 'clean up'.

The poem, 'Eurydice', is now being restored, thanks to a Facebook campaign which raised £1,000 and a company called Neural Technologies who have funded the remainder of the restoration costs.

The following article is taken from a press release on Neural Technologies' website:
'Ten years ago, as part of the renovation of the South Bank undertaken by Avery Architects, 
the Arts Council and the BFI commissioned Sue Hubbard to write a poem for the underpass 
between Victory Arch and the IMAX cinema.

Written in a series of three-lined stepped stanzas the poem was set out so that it could 

be read whilst walking through the tunnel. Using the metaphor of Eurydice descending 
into the underworld it aimed to make walkers feel safe. As well as the classical myth, 
the poem's imagery makes reference to London's Thameside history and to the famous 
Waterloo clock, a meeting point in so many British films.

As an example of innovative public art it has been written about in architectural journals 
and was the subject of a commissioned essay from Sue Hubbard by The Poetry Society, 
Opening Spaces, written during her residency as The Poetry Society's only Public Art Poet. 
It formed the back drop to a National Film School production will you forget me? (Stephen 
Bennet) and Lifelines, a Channel 4 drama produced by Carnival films. The poem has also 
been requested on Radio 4's Poetry Please.

Last autumn Time Out listed it as one of the best "secret" things to look out for in 
London. Unfortunately, two weeks later the poem was inadvertently painted it over 
whilst 'cleaning' up the tunnel. A huge press outcry followed. The story was covered 
in The Guardian, The Spectator, Time Out, The Evening Standard, and Poetry News 
and was even given a ten minute slot on Canadian Radio.

Christopher Hamilton-Emery, the director of Salt publishing that publishes Sue 
Hubbard's collection Ghost Station, in which the poem appears, began a Facebook 
campaign. The response was phenomenal. More than 1200 people signed up 
demanding the restoration of the poem. One man said he proposed as a result of 
seeing it, while a mother spoke movingly of receiving comfort from reading it on the 
way to the hospital to see her terminally ill daughter.

A thousand pounds was raised on Facebook and Neural Technologies has funded 
the remainder of the restoration costs. Restoration is being undertaken by James 
Salisbury of the City and Guilds Art School.

Said Sue Hubbard, "This has been a triumph for popular opinion. This much loved 
and much read poem - London's largest public art poem - is being put back by public
 demand due to the persistence of those who believe in the role of poetry and public 

Sue Hubbard has published several collections of poetry, short stories, a novel and 
a recent book of art criticism.' 

To read the full article, visit:

I am not afraid as I descend,
step by step, leaving behind the salt wind
blowing up the corrugated river,

the damp city streets, their sodium glare
of rush-hour headlights pitted with pearls of rain;
for my eyes still reflect the half remembered moon.

Already your face recedes beneath the station clock,
a damp smudge among the shadows
mirrored in the train's wet glass,

will you forget me? Steel tracks lead you out
past cranes and crematoria,
boat yards and bike sheds, ruby shards

of roman glass and wolf-bone mummified in mud,
the rows of curtained windows like eyelids
heavy with sleep, to the city's green edge.

Now I stop my ears with wax, hold fast
the memory of the song you once whispered in my ear.
Its echoes tangle like briars in my thick hair.

You turned to look.
Second fly past like birds.
My hands grow cold. I am ice and cloud.

This path unravels.
Deep in hidden rooms filled with dust
and sour night-breath the lost city is sleeping.

Above the hurt sky is weeping,
soaked nightingales have ceased to sing.
Dusk has come early. I am drowning in blue.

I dream of a green garden
where the sun feathers my face
like your once eager kiss.

Soon, soon I will climb
from this blackened earth
into the diffident light.

©Sue Hubbard

No comments:

Post a Comment