Monday, September 3, 2012

Hidden delights of London: Phantom Railings

If you walk from Gower Street to the back of the British Museum, at the corner where Keppel Street meets Malet Street you will find the most delightful sound installation called ‘Phantom Railings : an interactive sound sculpture’.  The old iron railings along a high wall surrounding the gardens at the back of Gower Street were removed during the Second World War to be used for the war effort, as all railings were, and for some reason have not been replaced.  You can still see the metal stumps left behind.  As I walked past, my walk was interrupted by loud plinking and plonking noises.  I stopped and looked around to see where they were coming from, only for the noises to stop, too.  When I started walking again, the noises started up again, and I realised they were being controlled by the pace of my steps.  By this time I had reached the large gates to the garden, which displayed a notice explaining that this was an installation “to evoke the phantom of a lost iron fence”.  The footsteps of passers-by recreate the sound of somebody running a stick along metal railings. 

Delighted with this unexpected source of art displayed so discreetly in quite a hidden corner of Malet Street, I walked up and down several times, changing the speed of my steps and creating my own tiny symphony of sound. 

And to round off my morning, I settled down to an Espresso at a little café round the corner, only to be charged £1.00 for it, the cheapest in London yet right in the centre of town.  And it was served with a smile and piping hot, just as I like it! 

What pleasures we come across in such unexpected places! 




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