St Mark’s Church, Oval 3am 1990’s –
In pools of amber light the graveyard paving stones age worn and large were ideal for a wake up game of ‘lines and squares’. Waiting for staff taxis by a slumbering Oval Station, the surrounding streets were often tumbleweed silent. Sirens from the Metropolitan Police Brixton Grand Prix would suddenly blow the silence out of the city. London Underground jacket sleepily off the shoulder in summer, zipped to the chin in winter, my uniform issue hold-all always tossed to the ground, its contents – emergency railway lamp, manuals, hi-vi and Sartre’s ‘Nausea’, in disarray.
Jack Straw, a near neighbour passed by now and again in a chauffeur driven government Jaguar, tailed by grim faced bodyguards, his bespectacled eyes focused on white papers. Passing cogs in the wheel of night working. The feelings of vulnerability ‘taxi waiting’ on ‘earlies’ and ‘lates’ never depleted. Those friend or foe senses proved right time and again when a stranger appeared in the ghost town and you knew they weren’t going to just walk on by. The rarity of being female train crew in the 1990’s came with its own target board.
When the Hackney Carriage charger arrived conversation usually followed, intriguing and diverse; London cab drivers are notorious fountains of knowledge. Sometimes other train and station staff were picked up at stations like Borough or Bank, adding to the vibrant exchange as the cab juddered north along the route of the Northern Line. But sometimes the journey was silent and London by night could be appreciated. Art has accompanied me 24/7 since my first memory. Those moments of solace were all too brief and swiftly disappeared in the blinding yellow lights of the depot station. Vision eventually focused upon the bleary, bloodhound eyes of the duty manager booking on train crews and profanely sending us on our way to the grimy depot and the retrieval our trains.
Memories of those journeys and moments of freedom impacted and were expressed through several photo montage experimental pieces in the mid 2000’s layering film stills and photographs from that era. This experimentation led to the layering of images I use in my artwork to date.
The ingenius Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ was the soundtrack of those consoling moments.
And everything was made for you and me – the firefly glow of St Paul’s dome, the blanched trace of fluttering wings on the backs of pigeons flying off London Bridge, polka dot flashes of halogen, red, green and amber illuminating the blank faces of sporadic night people, a car pumping out Drum and Bass, the beats swept away along the heavy breath of Old Father Thames. And all of it is yours and mine.