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2012 Highlights

John Bingham-Hall

2 May 2012

John Bingham-Hall

John Bingham-Hall started life as a musician but whilst at Goldsmiths College was drawn into a deep interest in the acoustic backdrop of urban life. This led research towards a more urban research, and John went on to study an MSc in architectural theory at the Bartlett, UCL, with funding from the AHRC to investigate art in public space. Now John writes and consults independently, having recently reported on Detroit for Wallpaper Magazine and Monocle Radio, and curates a public arts programme at The KX Filling Station, a new public cultural venue at King's Cross Central.

Abstract: One Day Listening to the City: a commemorative audio documentary of the old East London Line

One day, on 22nd December 2007, the old East London Line closed. To most this day was utterly unremarkable, but to those reliant on and familiar with the outdated line it marked a significant shift. Communities nestled against the Thames were left in temporary isolation. Train fanatics welled with nostalgia over the vintage rolling stock and incredibly historic stations and tunnels. I, as a regular user and avid listener, sighed a goodbye to its reassuringly un-modern noises which seemed out of pace with the speed and modernity of London transport.

It seemed wasteful that we should lose forever the unique sounds that form such an important part of our memories of the line when clearly it would be comprehensively documented in photos, judging by thenumber of cameras hanging around necks. The acoustic spaces created by the half-empty old stations, the running and dripping water of Wapping station and ‘the Hanging Gardens of Shadwell’, the noisy revving and growling of the trains sat stationary at New Cross and New Cross Gate stations and the particular pattern of clunks, clicks, rattles and rolls emitted by this unhurried and friendly train service.

This paper, then, presents an auditory document of one day in the city, not only as a marker of that day, but as a reminder to city dwellers to spend time listening deeply to and appreciating the sounds that help make each of our urban experiences distinct and replete with personal emotion.