Thursday 29 June. 6.30pm. The Loud Life of London
Westminster Arts Library, 35 St Martins Street, London, WC1
‘Waterloo Sunset, Underneath the Westway, Doing the Lambeth Walk, Burlington Bertie from Bow, Baker Street.. In how many tunes has London been evoked, name checked or even played the main character? And the city encompasses a whole other world of sound: birdsong, traffic, street cries, transmissions and myriad others past and present. Come take an audio tour of the city with two sonic explorers.’
Ticket includes an earful of Hendricks Gin Cocktail
Admission: £6.50/8.50 in advance here
‘The sprawling metropolis has inspired musicians and poets since time immemorial prompting many to immortalise their inspiration in song. This is what makes exploring the countless quirks and customs of the capital such an exhilarating experience.
Westminster Arts Library’s Peter Collins ‘will select some of the more obscure, delightful and strange – with a playlist of his own favourites – to provide a whistle-stop musical mystery tour reflecting the social life of the late twentieth century City in song. His qualifications? A lifelong love of living in London and an addiction to the music of the era.’
‘Then, Ian Rawes creator and curator of the London Sound Survey ‘will take us on a sonic tour of the capital past and present featuring rarely-heard recordings of the city’s life from the 1950s back to the late 1880s. These sounds, captured by broadcasters and amateurs alike, bring to life a rowdy, vocal London filled with vigour and eccentricity. Lavender sellers and fortune tellers, fire stations and sewer workers, the vanished songs of schoolchildren, the propaganda and reality of the Blitz – all these and much more are lined up for a night not to be missed by anyone with an interest in the history of London.’
What is your favourite London contemporary sound?
‘One that’s difficult to get to hear is inside Tower Bridge when the road sections are being lifted. It sounds like an orchestra tuning up, very grand and impersonal, which makes it a good signature for the city. Also, trains tooting their horns from a long way off, but you can probably hear that in most cities.’
What is your least favourite contemporary London sound?
‘Jet engine noise, which is hard to escape as so many flight paths go over London. Long mobile phone conversations where the speaker starts to show off with business jargon: run it up the flagpole, let’s touch base, disruptive.’
What is your favourite lost London sound?
‘The lavender seller’s song, which was banned by the Metropolitan Police in 1952. It has a very beautiful and melancholic sound. I’ll be playing a recording of it on the evening.’
Is the city noisier now than it has ever been? If not, when may it have been noisier?
‘Across its whole area, yes due to the increase in air and road traffic. On the other hand, some streets and neighbourhoods may be quieter now than, say, a hundred years ago. Population densities in inner London are lower than they were at the start of the twentieth century, and more people per acre tends to mean more noise. London had a lot more industry in the past and enormous street markets too, some of which were open late into the evening, and they’ve mostly gone.’
At what time of day is the city at its most quiet?
‘This is relative, since there’s always some traffic noise to be heard, but around three or four in the morning is pretty quiet. From April until June the dawn chorus is at its strongest, but doesn’t usually get going until around four or a bit later. I notice some birds, mostly blackbirds, sing at pretty much any hour, and perhaps that’s down to street lighting. Scheduled flights from Heathrow begin around 4.30am.’