Iggy Pop’s Staff Taxi Passenger

Experimental TV photo montage inspired by staff taxi journey's, 2005

Experimental TV photo montage inspired by staff taxi journey’s, 2005

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.

Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Berlin 1977

Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Berlin 1977

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.

‘The Passenger’, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, 1977 You Tube

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.


Art Judging or the Mechanics of 1959 Stock Tube Trains?

Judging has finished for the first art competition I have recently held at a local primary school and soon it will be prize giving.  I thought learning how to fix the mechanics and electrical systems of 1959 and 1972 stock tube trains was the hardest thing I had ever done, having not been blessed with the advantages of a scientific brain.  But judging an art competition has proved to almost surpass the taxing entities of even this experience!

1959 Stock Tube Train

1959 Stock Tube Train

1997, London, a 12 week intense course studying mechanical engineering, electrical circuits, rules and regulations, learning how to drive tube trains and the reward – passing out as a guard/emergency tube driver, one of only six women at a Northern Line depot of nearly 300 guards and drivers.

Life was a blast on the Underground.  Hours spent in tunnels and artificial light only to emerge after a shift into the sunlight and see true colour again, created a juxtaposed euphoria on the senses that has been hard to recapture.  Bursting out of the tunnel, clattering along open track through the leafy suburbs of North London, watching foxes play in the railway sidings. Writing my first novel on the back of a train. There are many tales and perhaps one day I’ll tell them!

1972 Stock Tube Train

1972 Stock Tube Train

It was a job I loved, full of extraordinary acquaintances both staff and passengers. Late nights going down to the depot to pick up your train, looking up at the stars alongside a guard who knew every constellation in the clear indigo sky of a London night.  Early morning rising with the pigeons and seeing a beautiful, soulful London few experience.  Assaulted, spat on, nearly pulled off a moving train by a drug infused passenger – such events were frequent during my time working on trains.  All these things were a catalyst to future inspiration.

I don't have any photographs of my time as a guard/driver but this image was for an art project around the time I worked on the Underground.

I don’t have any photographs of my time as a guard/driver but this image was for an art project around the time I worked on the Underground.

I left London in 2003 due to illness and came back North.  Four years of illness followed and art was everything, art was all I had.  Tough times come to most forms of life in varying degrees at some point, and those years after London were just one more tiny drop in the ocean of knocks alongside the cetacean splashes that others sadly experience.  I am indebted to art for staying with me through thin and thick.

Art is therapy.  To bring art to children of all backgrounds and abilities and see faces light up with the achievement of producing a beautiful drawing is a priceless gift.  Making art provides a means of escaping the world around us and is an integral tool for emotional expression – we are all capable of creativity in some form. Judging art is hard because art is subjective, but subjectivity creates the much needed spice of diversity. The greatness that is art, gives us I believe the opportunity to understand our expressive, creative needs; art is one of life’s necessities, to enjoy, revel in and marvel at the wonder of our senses.

'The Russian Doll', red, black, blue and green Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Russian Doll’, red, black, blue and green Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken