Wednesday, November 30, 2011

London Subterranea

London's Lost Rivers: A Walker's Guide

An interesting talk coming up next week at South East London Folklore Society on  London's Lost Rivers, featuring the author of a new book on the subject:

'When people think of London's river, they think of the Thames. But the city was built around many other rivers too - and traces of these still remain for those who know where to look. A secret network of underground rivers snakes beneath the capital. The rivers predate the city and its people. The rivers may be buried, but they still flow underground. In some places they can be seen and heard. By rediscovering them, and tracing their courses, the way we see London is transformed. Using the visual and aural clues left in the streetscape, we can burrow down through layers of London history to river level, revealing the city as it once was. Tom Bolton is a researcher and writer, the author of London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide: a series of ten walks tracing these hidden routes across London published by Strange Attractor'.

It takes place on Thursday December 8th, 8 pm start at The Old Kings Head, Borough High Street, SE1 (facebook event details here). Price £2.50/£1.50 concessions

All Cities have Magic

On a related theme of the matter of London and its subterranean secrets, South London 'writer, record collector, DJ and Voodoo witchdoctor' Stephen Grasso has his text Smoke and Mirrors serialised at Bang the Bore:

'All cities have magic. You just have to find it. For some, London is a mechanistic urban grind. A compassionless engine powered by seven million dreary and disillusioned lives that trudge back and forth across the city in their tremendous rush hour waves. Spilling out of holes in the ground each morning to labour at deskbound servitude or whatever menial task has been allotted, moving paper around for unknown masters, tinkering with abstract systems, selling anonymous product, keeping the machine well greased and oiled. Whatever you can do to keep the slow trickle of funds coming in. Whatever you can do to stay afloat...

The tunnels of the underground trace a boorish path through boneyards, plague pits and thwarted resting places for the dead. The air is thick with spirits down here. London is built on two thousand years of corpses, the sedimentary remains of the dead piled atop one another like a ghoulish layer cake of fossilised lives and forgotten cities that once were. On the tube, you are never far away from a skull or a rib or a thighbone. Spirits abound on the London Underground. Dead Roman centurions trying to puzzle out the implications of the East London line extension. Regency swells unwittingly trapped forever on the circle line, unable to breach its magical barrier. Victims of blitz, and fire and homemade bomb howl through the endless tunnels, snared in their death rattle, nothing left of them but a scream in the dark. Lonely suicides pack the platforms of their demise, hoping for a fleeting glimpse of the loved ones they left behind. A thick soup of spirits caught in the gap and pleading for blessed release. But to the Londoner, these old ghosts are just another nuisance trying to take up more of your valuable time. Sorry mate, got somewhere else I need to be. Keep on walking. It’s somebody else’s problem, but somebody else never comes'.

The text comes with a nice dubby mix for you to download to accompany a drift around the city.

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