September 14, 2009
The classifieds in this issue include two chief executive officer positions!
‘Underground Art’ Has Double Meaning in London
The London Underground, or “the Tube,” is not only a way to travel around London; it’s also a source of artistic inspiration. As part of its Art on the Underground program, the system recently published a booklet containing stories inspired by the system’s Central Line and its staff.
Writer Sarah Butler was commissioned to undertake a six-month residency on the Central Line. During her stay, she worked with more than 100 front-line employees at 45 stations, helping the workers discover their natural flair for storytelling.
The writing project offered an opportunity for the widely scattered employees to work together, sharing personal stories that can now be enjoyed by passengers. The stories tended to fall into four distinct categories:
What’s in a Name? The storytelling project unearthed a goldmine of anecdotes about how staff members got their names.
Meetings with Drivers. Butler rode with Tube drivers and used their conversation as the basis for new short stories.
Central Line Whispers. Butler visited each Central Line station, collecting stories as she went. After inventing two characters who meet on the line, she would describe the story so far, then ask the next staff member to continue the plot.
Across: 3. to search for (4). For an added challenge, Butler created a story mirroring the shape of the Central Line, with 45 paragraphs (representing the 45 stations), each of which contains 45 words and begins with the first letter of a station name. The paragraphs can be read in any order and the story contains a puzzle, as the title suggests.
“Traveling by Tube offers—sometimes—a strange, contemplative slice of time during our day,” Butler said of the project. “It witnesses innumerable dramas, and brings together a phenomenal diversity of people. Ultimately, it connects: people to people, people to places, places to places.”
She described the Central Line as a unique and special place that “draws an invisible line across London, connecting east to west, rising up like the edges of a smile at each end.”
The text of the stories is available online.