Clapham South Shelter: A Collaboration

And now for something a bit different…

Last year I went on a tour of the abandoned parts of Euston station. You might have seen the video. These are naturally excellent content producing opportunities as the subject matter is always bound to draw viewers and readers into Calling All Stations. Sure, visiting these abandoned spaces is nothing that hasn’t already been done on blogs and YouTube, but I always feel duty bound to provide my subscribers with my accounts and experiences of the visits. Abandoned stations tend to be very photogenic so there’s also plenty to snap.

Except this isn’t always easy. The juggling act of getting great shots that I can work with afterwards whilst still listening and paying attention to the LTM guides (of whom you’ve paid good money to follow round) is somewhat of a challenge. This is made even harder if you’re trying to shoot video, especially if you’re trying to frame out the rest of the tour group – who are also trying to get that perfect abandoned-look shot! There’s certainly a sense that the tour guides want to move at a fairly swift pace as well, and I’m reluctant to hold up the group or miss out on any juicy facts just because I’m at the back taking a picture of that empty tunnel behind us. I’m not sure if this was always the case, I remember a tour of Aldwych around 4 years ago where the guides allowed more time for people to get ‘that shot’ of the empty platforms that they so craved. Perhaps LTM are trying to pack more tours into a day, or maybe the Aldwych tour is at a more relaxed pace, but I’ve come to realise it is what it is and I’ve got to work with the time I’m given.

With all this in mind I figured that perhaps a different stance was needed on the visit to the deep level shelters at Clapham South. Instead of producing a narrated video like the one at Euston, I decided to make a return to shooting higher-quality stills and using these to develop a more artistic approach. Whilst I realise applying Instagram filters to plates of chips is somewhat of a cliché, I am however all in favour of doctoring images in post to enhance the viewing experience in a more creative setting. What I mean by this is in reality the shelter was well-lit and full of the people on the tour group, whilst what I wanted to create was the sense of a gloomy, decaying, empty and desolate place. This is naturally not something I normally get to do for my documentary videos.

Now creating spooky images is simple enough, but a silent slide show of the collection would be… well a bit boring really. What they really need is some suitable music to go with them. So it is with great pleasure that I get to collaborate with friend and colleague Robin The Fog, a leading Musique Concréte artist, in creating a the full audio-visual experience that a space like Clapham deserves.

Robin creates his music, not by fancy digital means, but by using tape loops. Taking any old sound as mundane as a squeaking gate or slamming door, Robin loops these sounds through tape recorders and varies the speed in which they play back. The process is then repeated and layered with delayed loops running at different speeds until the sound is unrecognisable from the original recording. The effect is a rich and colourful yet slightly chaotic sonic masterpiece that will likely amaze and terrify you at the same time. Think 1970’s sci-fi film score meets Radiophonic Workshop.

Writer Leila Peacock explains a little more about how the sounds you’re about to hear were created,

The ruins of the Spanish House stand on the banks of the river Sava at the heart of the Savamala district of Belgrade. Originally a decadent customs house in the heart of a bustling port, this decaying structure bears the imprint of many generations. Now an empty echo chamber, its walls reverberate with the rumble of the passing freight trains like the sea inside a shell; songs and shouts return distorted from a trip around the flooded basement and exposed structural supports become an unholy set of chimes. All the sounds you hear on this track were recorded on site and nothing has been added that is not of the building itself. This echoic palimpsest is architectural portraiture in sound.

The track used in the video is called ‘Savamalan Rust, Parts 2 & 3,‘ and is a previously unheard outtake from Secret Songs Of Savamalathe 2nd album roduced and released by Robin’s band, Howlround. The sounds you hear are exposed metal structural supports recorded in the flooded basement of an abandoned customs from that Serbian subterranean world. A very fitting marriage, I hope you’ll agree, to the imagery of Clapham South shelter.

To hear more of Robin and Howlround’s work head over to their website.

Clapham South Shelter was opened to the public in 1944 and offered shelter to some 8000 people during wartime London. After the war the shelter was repurposed and has seen action as a temporary hostel, a hotel and a government archive store. London Transport Museum now offer annual tours of the mile long complex of subterranean passageways and bunkers.

Tube Suffers 16 Days Worth Of “Staff Shortage” Closures In 2016

You know the drill, you’re scrolling through Twitter and you might spot something like this…

Now is it just me, or does this seem to be occurring more and more often?

Well it turns out it wasn’t just me, but Diamond Geezer too – who back in January had certainly clocked on to a spate of early and late night closures on the District Line. This got me thinking… How often did “staff shortages” result in station closures last year?

So I put in a FOI request to find out.

It turns out it’s happened quite a lot: over 24,000 minutes worth. That boils down to the rather delicious “Evening Standard Style” headline of around 16 days worth of closures in total. Staff absences can happen for a number of reasons in any job, we all know this. Unexpected sickness, late running taxis, adverse weather etc. But are any particular stations bad offenders? What line suffers the most closures? And, what I really want to know, is there a correlation between station closures and TfL’s “Fit For Future” staff restructuring scheme?

I’ll hand over to Diamond Geezer’s follow up post where he breaks down the numbers, figures, lines and stations and tries to make sense of it all… Well worth a read!

Almost half the District line’s total is explained by Temple, and two thirds of the Circle’s. Meanwhile Holland Park and Queensway contributed over 60% of the Central line’s appalling-looking total. The surprise might be the Victoria line, which managed to have staff-related closures at 14 of its 16 stations. At the other end of the table obviously the Waterloo & City line had the least disruption, but the Metropolitan was next with only 369 minutes, because most of it is above ground.

Take all of this with a pinch of salt, because you can prove anything with statistics, and 2016 was a wholly atypical year. But what’s for sure is that December saw an unholy station-staffing debacle on the Underground, with 150 station closures in just one month. The RMT’s overtime ban was the trigger, suggesting it was only overtime holding TfL’s staffing reorganisation together, and this all too easily fell apart.

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Source: diamond geezer

Music: Changing Stations With SNS Online

What if every London Underground Line was a piece of music? What would it sound like?

Friend and colleague Nick Randell, presenter and producer of Scratch And Sniff podcast has been speaking to Daniel Liam Glyn composer of Changing Stations – possibly the greatest audible love story written about The Tube.

Daniel identifies himself as someone who has both Grapheme Colour and Spatial Sequence Synaesthesia; a neurological ‘phenomenon’ where a person perceives words, letters, shapes, and numbers in colour or sometimes taste and smell. This he has used to his advantage in the creation of his debut album – a truly multi-sensory experience that transports us to all corners of England’s capital city, allowing us to experience the sights, sounds and even smells of London, as well as the hidden thoughts and emotions of London’s daily commuters.

Hear Nick’s full interview with Dan and producer Katie Tavini below they explore the creative process behind putting every tube line to music. And for more great programming visit the SNS Online Soundcloud page.