The Mystery Of The Lost Rivers Of London


I was walking in the Fleet Street area the other day and suddenly spotted a series of stickers on the footpath that spoke about the lost river Fleet. My curiosity aroused, I tried following the trail but lost it after a point. I came home and tried to see if I could dig up any more about it. I found this Guardian article about how the Environment Agency is indeed resurrecting, so to speak, the lost rivers of London, and this map. And then finally this Wikipedia article that says that in January of this year, the River Restoration Centre was set up as a partnership between the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Greater London Authority as part of a plan to reinstate underground rivers of the city by the office of the Mayor of London. Nice one, Boris.

No means yes, OK?

museumnpI’ve heard of pop-up stores before, but not a pop-up museum. The Museum of Non-Participation is an international artists’ collaboration between London and Karachi, curated by Vasl Pakistan and Artangel UK. I was interested to know that in a country of 180 million people, the number of museums in Karachi, a city of 18 million, is just 2, according to this list. 

(As an aside, I’ve always thought South Asia just doesn’t care about its heritage and past enough. I mean in the UK, I’ve seen crumbled walls attract tourists because they are marketed as a part of history – and you have so much more in Asia that goes completely ignored. Sad.)

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler conceived the project when they watched the Pakistan lawyer’s resistance from the a window in the National Art Gallery in Islamabad in 2007.  An excerpt:

They distributed newspapers as packaging for food sold by the tandoor walla’s, presented performance interventions at Sunday Bazaar, and worked with sign writers to produce text banners and wall paintings that demarcated the Museum as a pop-up institution, announcing a new way of moving through and looking at the city: in a city with almost no museums, the city itself becomes the museum.

The museum is open in Bethnal Green in London from 25th September to 25th October 2009. Other details here.

The project intrigues me because I see it as some sort of reverse psychology – non-participation in this case IS participation, and therefore encourages it. It’s why as Amelia says here, CompareTheMeerkat was such a success:

‘Imagine the pitch: “We would like you to fund an advertising campaign that actively promotes another comparison website, not your own. Oh, and by the way, we’d like you to pay us to build that other website. And did we mention that you compare meerkats on this new site? But people need to be able to compare thousands of meerkats for this idea to really work. The main character of the advertising campaign is a meerkat called Aleksandr, who hates your car insurance website and tells everyone how angry your site makes him.’

Of course, it all worked out for!

Fitting the pieces together

On the tube today, I noticed a poem by William Blake as part of the Poems on the Underground series. Not very noteworthy in itself, but the poem specifically mentioned parts of London like Islington, Marylebone, St.John’s Wood and St. Pancras (such familiar London territory) and I was intrigued because to me Blake was always the poet who wrote ‘The Tiger‘ and other poems along those lines. Bit silly of me I suppose – I hadn’t done a Blake introspective, clearly! Anyway, I came back and did some Google work, and found that the poem was printed as part of the Story of London festival, a ‘month long celebration of London’s past, present and future’, and that tube commuters are supposed to get a free booklet of all the poems being published as part of this series, including ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge‘ by William Wordsworth. 

I can tell you that I’m going to be keeping an eye out for that booklet, though I haven’t seen it yet at any tube station – not too surprising since it was only released a few days ago.
Here’s the poem. It’s actually an excerpt from ‘Prophetic Books by William Blake: Jerusalem‘, not a separate piece of work in itself, but nice, nevertheless.

The fields from Islington to Marybone,

To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood,

Were builded over with pillars of gold,

And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood.


Her Little-ones ran on the fields,

The Lamb of God among them seen,

And fair Jerusalem his Bride,

Among the little meadows green.


Pancrass & Kentish-town repose

Among her golden pillars high:

Among her golden arches which

Shine upon the starry sky.


The Jew’s-harp-house & the Green Man,

The Ponds where Boys to bathe delight,

The fields of Cows by William’s farm,

Shine in Jerusalem’s pleasant sight. 

BTing up a buzz

I was at the Notting Hill Carnival yesterday and there was an ocean of people all over. It was tons of fun – if you can count steadily pushing yourself through a mass of bodies that is trying to go the opposite direction to you as ‘fun’!! No seriously, it was a good day spent. I loved the colours in the parade, and wished I had a better camera to shoot with.

There were plenty of opportunities for branding, but apart from Red Stripe, which caught my eye due to the sheer number of banners they’d put up everywhere, the only other smart ad I saw was this one by BT, which capitalised on the fact that the Carnival, one of London’s biggest street parties, was happening right after the Olympics had just ended, and the much-discussed fact that London itself is the host of the sporting event in 2012. Something that I would have thought a brand like Nike would do. Very quick reaction on the part of BT, (not coincidentally a sponsor of London 2012), I must say, though I’m not their biggest fan.

May I also say that this blog is now officially a part of the list being tracked for the Power 150. Woohoo!

A day in East London

I spent most of today walking around East London and immersing myself in the vibe of the area. I lived there 5 years ago and can feel the change that’s come about while I was away. It’s undergone a complete transformation and as this article says, that general area is now home to quite a few creative firms.

Anyway, one of the interesting places I went to was a gallery called the Concrete Hermit. They are currently exhibiting works by Kate McMorrine and Alec Strang, titled ‘More of Less’. Some of their art is really weird, like this:

But I also discovered some pretty cool books, magazines, leaflets and other stuff, like Rojo magazine, Creative Review, Pictures of Walls and Islands Fold. Probably all well-known to creatives, but not to me, and I was enthralled.

Then I managed to give the Esther Stocker exhibition at Museum 52 a quick look. I’d say you can give it a miss, because it is mostly one room with this as its centerpiece:

It’s meant to be ‘an abstract composition in space’, and that it certainly is. I liked it, but for about 2 minutes.

The best part was the V&A Museum of Childhood. I was motivated to go there after I read Charlie Gower’s post about his visit there recently. Their current exhibition of Olympic posters through the ages is really worth looking at. I was amused to see this one which was part of the collection for the German Olympics in 1936, which roughly translates to ‘a call to the youth of the world’ (thanks, It is meant to be a take on the influence of branding and corporate sponsorship at the Olympics.

I also loved this quote by Plato that I noticed there:

So true.


A couple of fun things that I noticed yesterday during a walk around London:

Yeah, have a hearty laugh, all of you! I couldn’t stop for a while after I saw that!

And then, at the Southbank Centre, an installation by United Visual Artists titled ‘Volume’. From the website: “Volume is a sculpture of light and sound, an array of light columns positioned dramatically in the centre of the garden. Volume responds spectacularly to human movement, creating a series of audio-visual experiences.” The site has some really well-taken photos, go take a look.

As an aside, Joel Gethin Lewis from UVA spoke at Interesting2008 as well.

I also found more pictures of it on Flickr, courtesy pingmag.