When we first got to London we got in touch with friends and family with the hope that we’d be able to meet up with everyone. A few extras came along to have a nosy at Oleanna, including some unexpected antipodean visitors. However we still hadn’t managed to link up with Kathy, my best friend from college. Every day she could do we were already booked up. So when two days ago she got in touch we decided to hang around for another day. She is a lecturer at Rose Bruford College and this time of year is filled with degree shows, end of year projects and marking theses. So when she asked us if we wanted to pop along to Trinity Buoy Wharf to a sound installation some of her students had created we jumped at the chance.
It took a bit of doing getting from Hanwell to Docklands and to make the most of what free time Kathy had we were stood waiting for 9.30am to strike at Boston Manor tube station so that our fares would be cheap. Buses, tubes and the DLR today to East India. From here we walked around what was the entrance basin to the dock, the rest now having been filled in. Built a year after West India Docks they rapidly became profitable through it’s trade of tea, spices, indigo, silk and Persian carpets. The tea trade alone was worth £3m a year. The docks could handle up to 250, 1000 ton tea clippers at one time, but with the advent of steam powered ships by the mid 20th century most of the trade had left. During WW2 the docks were used to construct floating docks which were used to support the D Day landings. In 1967 these were the first of London’s docks to close fully. Now the entrance basin is a wildlife refuge and is quite silted up. Certainly the one remaining lock from the Thames would take quite a lot of effort to get through!
Trinity Buoy Wharf is the sight of London’s only light house at the confluence of the Thames and Bow Creek. The site was used as a maintenance depot, and storage for many buoys that aided navigation on the Thames, the wharf was used for docking and repairing lightships. The original lighthouse was built in 1852 and the second one in 1864 (this one still remains). The pair of lighthouses were used to help train keepers. Michael Faraday also carried out experiments here. The wharf now has container cities full of studios and office spaces, the University of East London has it’s fine art studios here, recording and dance studios are also on site. Quite an arty quarter.
When we found the right container Kathy was busy debriefing her students. Listening to the installations was interesting. They had been given a brief to respond to the wharf and create a piece of work from this. One was an audible journey of a fishing ship heading out to sea and encountering a storm, another sounded just like the north end of Crick tunnel (the wet end) and had a bass speaker resonating through a tank of water, another was sounds of water and industry at the wharf with a map and buttons to press. The last one was possibly the best, you walked along printed adverts laid on the floor spanning from the early industrial revolution to today this was accompanied by a sound track from different stages of history.
A cuppa and a couple of hours catching up with Kathy followed. During the week Kathy lives on an old barge Dora May moored just east of Tower Bridge on the Thames. This year Dora needs to have a hull survey done, but her engine isn’t currently up to moving her and may need to be replaced. It all sounds a bit pricy. They were hoping to be able to move from out on the Thames to somewhere like Limehouse, but the waiting lists are really quite long. Shame as it would be nice to be able to get our two boats to meet, maybe one day.
We then made our way towards the degree show in an old warehouse south of the Thames. We decided to walk across Tower Bridge which I’ve never done before, I’ve driven but not walked. Since the attack on London Bridge there are now barriers along the sides of the pavements and large heavy blocks at the ends to stop anyone from driving along the pavements. These didn’t however stop an ice cream van from trading to pedestrians on the inside lane of the bridge! From here we could see Dora May and my brothers old office in the building nearest the bridge on the south side of the river. The tide was speeding in with the Thames clippers smoothly handling all manoeuvres.
The degree show had a few stand out students. It reminded me of my Diploma Show although we seemed to have had more work on display. The scenic artists and prop makers work was pretty good, outside on a roof terrace were giant chess pieces and some extremely large angle poise lamps which were from a production. The piece I enjoyed the most was a dark room with hanging plastic bottles that has you touched them lit up and changed colour. At one point I did something that meant they all went out only to come on again as I touched them individually. Clever and more interactive than the other Lighting Students work was. With Tilly back at the boat in the heat we decided to head back to give her some freedom and fresh air rather than stay for a glass of wine at the private view, Kathy would be hob nobbing anyway.
0 locks, 0 miles, 2 buses, 5 tubes, 2 DLR trains, 1 no show tube, 1 tree taxi, 1 dock in need of dredging, 3 huge buoys, 1 lighthouse, 1 lighthouse ship, 12 tide pipes, 4 installations, 1 best friend met on the third attempt, 1/2 a ship, 0 chilled medication, 2 towered bridge, 1 old office, 1 great building, 5m high angle poise, 1 hot cat, 1 boat not for sale! 2 boaters seeking forgiveness for returning to London Town.