LABYRINTH - Art on the Underground

London Underground, Network and Stations. LABYRINTHS

Alphabet/ic and Lines
Breaking the Guinness record!
My Journey My Memories

Although I recall a few references to Labyrinth in connection with the London Underground and LT150 it was photographs on and inside the front cover of the November 2013 issue of Underground News published by the London Underground Railway Society which really focussed my attention. The captions to the photographs on the cover sum up perfectly the Labyrinth Project and I reproduce them here.

Front Cover: Labyrinth is a large-scale permanent Art on the Underground Project to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Underground. Encompassing the concept that making a journey on the Underground is analogous to entering a classical labyrinth, Mark Wallinger has created 270 unique designs (one for each Underground station) consisting of a circular labyrinth with the entry point indicated by a red cross. In common with much Underground signage these artworks are executed in vitreous enamel. Each artwork is numbered out of 270 and this relates to the order in which stations were visited during a Guinness Book of Records tube challenge on 14 December 2009. The location of the artworks varies from station to station ranging from booking hall or platform to waiting room. Two examples of Labyrinth designs in their environment are (Top) at Hampstead next to the reproduction heritage tiled name of Heath Street on the southbound platform and (Lower) at Marylebone where the present access subway from the mainline station divides into entrance and exit passageways past originally the lower lift landing.

Inside Front Cover: A few examples of Labyrinth designs at various central London Underground stations. 1 St. John's Wood (199) 2 Camden Town (177) 3 Warwick Avenue (54) 4 Baker Street (58) 5 King's Cross (172) 6 Bethnal Green (144) 7 Marble Arch (136) 8 Tottenham Court Road (138) 9 Westminster (101) 10 Canada Water (71) 11 Pimlico (105) 12 Borough (67) and 13 Oval (109).

These artworks on the inside cover are superimposed on a vertically elongated Underground map over the actual stations.

In 1972, with the introduction of the Go-As-You-Please four-day travel card on the London Underground and London Buses (plus a free trip on the two-hour Round Sightseeing Tour), I decided to see how many stations I could pass through in one day. I started at West Harrow, this being where I could catch the four-car Chesham shuttle going into service. I did a report for the October 1972 issue of Underground. This prompted a letter in the next issue from the then current holder of the Guinness record, a Les. R.V. Burwood, Brasenose College, Oxford. A whole new round of challenge attempts started and the Society adjudicated.

On Monday 17/7/72 I started my attempt to visit all Underground stations in one day. I was only 35 although I had worked out the buses I still had to do some running. From my Underground News article I example two quotes.
At Watford, "Here the first setback occurred because the first 336 bus doesn't start before eight o'clock". I set off at a trot through extensive road works in front of Watford Town Hall to catch the last of the four Bakerloo morning peak trains from Watford Junction by a hairsbreadth.
From Cockfosters, "By now the sun was high in the sky and the opportunity was taken to pick up a 107 bus to High Barnet". I had walked quite a long way before, seeing the bus coming. I trotted with my arm out towards the next request stop.
It is interesting to note I covered 234 stations out of a total then of 276, six more than currently and including, in peak hours, the Aldwych and Ongar shuttles and Shoreditch.

With the Labyrinth Project I decided it was time to actually visit every station, locate the artwork and photograph it. Having found some discrepancies contact was established with Louise Coysh, Curator, Art on the Underground. In going round I have found London Underground staff both very helpful and interested. At one station I watched as the Supervisor checked through the CCTV until we located it in the far reaches.

On 18/1/14, a week after the end of the 150th anniversary year, having visited all stations and photographed the plaques in situ where they are installed, my web pages were ready as far as those I had visited. Gunnersbury was the 240th. I will continue to fill in the gaps.

On 30/1/14 I have added an extra page, Breaking the Guinness record!, in the order of the current record including line and connection details. Where surface connections are used I have added in bus route suggestions although this is not in the spirit of the record.

Update on 10/6/14 - Perivale was the last plaque to be installed. An extra page has been added, My Journey, giving the dates and times of photographs of the plaque at each station. An interesting statistic is that when station hopping the average time between photographs, which includes locating the plaques, is 10.8 minutes.

Update on 30/6/14 - Visit times in My Journey page have been corrected. In both cameras I have used the time was incorrect for a period. This was realised when comparing original times with station clocks and departure board times in the photographs. This applies from Pimlico to Gunnersbury. NB some stations were rephotographed at a later date.

Update on 7/1/15 - My Memories of my trips added

Hammersmith (District and Piccadilly) is interesting depending on what time of the day you visit

At times I have explained to both travellers and staff the background to the Project.

For the long-term it would complete the Project for posterity to have a small permanent sign underneath each plaque giving the details. Also, maybe when the last plaque goes up, a poster campaign around the network recording the achievement would round the Project off.

Plaque Artwork and Logos Transport for London and Mark Wallinger.
Photographs Tony Morgan.

Alphabet/ic and Lines
Breaking the Guinness record!
My Journey My Memories

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