UPDATE 4/3/10: Newspaper Club won!
Ten days ago, Newspaper Club asked me to make something to go in the Design Museum, where they’ve been nominated in the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year awards. They wanted a one-pager to give away to visitors, and I’d suggested a map for a walk starting at the Design Museum and going… somewhere…
Accordingly, I took myself to Bermondsey the following weekend, and did what I always do when I have a nose for something but little notion of the quarry. Accompanied by Rimbaud – borrowed from the London 2010 project – I went for a walk.
A quiet, cold but clear Sunday took me along the river, from Tower Bridge over St Saviour’s Dock, past Cherry Gardens and St Marychurch, the Mayflower monument and Brunel’s tunnel, into the reformatted docklands of the Rotherhithe peninsular. It’s a strange landscape, under-populated and defined by water: the filled-in docks that lie just beneath your feet and the constant cry of seabirds. I found the narrative I needed, and a destination: Stave Hill, a strange and marvellous earthwork that rises impossibly from the spoil.
Somewhere along the way I had the realisation that Bermondsey and Rotherhithe form not a riverbank, but a coastline: a starting point for voyages and expeditions, a strand of possibilities. All the world embarked from this point: Conrad’s famous opening lines to Heart of Darkness – “What greatness had not floated on that ebb into the mystery of an unknown earth!” – look out from here; as do the mad expeditions of Brunel and Captain (Saint?) Christopher Jones. And so: we have a walk, a story, a history.
There were many sites, too, that it wasn’t possible to include – Cuckold’s Point, on the far side of Rotherhithe, fell just outside the realm of inquiry, but I’ll be sure to return in the Summer for the Horn Fair Procession. I thought the journey had ended at Stave Hill, but I was given one more sign as I returned to the underworld – as if a sign was needed: the great bulk of the Harmsworth Quays print works, “home of quality newspapers” that rises up at Canada Water. A final treat for those who follow the map.
You can pick up a copy of A Wide Arm Of Sea from the Design Museum from now until the 6th of June. As ever, huge thanks to Newspaper Club for indulging my ramblings (and I have some beta invites if you’re looking to make something yourself) – and there’s more about the paper and the awards on their blog.
… And there are still limited copies of Immanent In The Manifold City available for sale.