The excitement for me as an artist lies not in exploring the unknown but in how I can effectively organise a visual arrangement that reflects the atmosphere and intensity of an environment, evoking a precise moment of the day under specific light and conditions. I hope you enjoy the work

Feature of the week  06/01/2019

Foot Tunnel, Silvertown

A grade 2 listed building, the entrance to the Foot Tunnel at North Woolwich was the brainchild of Will Crooks, a labour MP who fought to improve the lives of the working Londoners and whose name can be seen on council estates all over the East End. This structure was opened in 1912 and originally only intended for use when the Woolwich Ferry was not operating. During the early period it would have been impossible to imagine the ambiance of today’s locality, which has gained an almost surreal vibe rather akin to a ghost town in the middle of nowhere. In 1937, the hustle and bustle of this district was reinforced by the introduction of trolley buses to ferry dock labourers and ancillary staff to and fro from Stratford, Canning Town and other surrounding areas. North Woolwich became an important terminus, not only for dockworkers but also for those who worked south of the river and preferred walking through the Foot Tunnel rather than crossing on the ferry.

 

I first saw the Foot Tunnel on a glorious Autumn Day a few years ago when I did a ‘walkabout’ in Silvertown. At the time I was enthralled by the clarity of light, which for me has become a signature of the East End, probably due in the most part to the introduction of the clean air act in the 1950s and 60s. This has been enhanced by the reduction and demise of dirty industries along this part of the Thames but, in its wake has left behind a near desolate, neglected appearance to the once vibrant streets. If one goes further upstream to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, on any day of the week you will see huddles of tourists gathering around its entrance where souvenir shops and cafes await expectantly.

 

When I began painting this scene I was aiming to capture a place where the daily activities of living were once abundant, but which have now been passed by, quite literally with cars speeding through, to and from the Woolwich Ferry, and further emphasised by the shutting down of the docks. The mass exodus of those employed in the wharves; the subsequent closure of the pubs, shops, even the police station have been replaced by ghosts... I could even imagine tumbleweed blowing through the picture as I painted it!

 

Gone too are the trolley buses of yesteryear and the hullabaloo of a busy terminus- they ceased to operate in the early sixties. The Foot Tunnel was closed for modernisation and refurbishment in 2010, reopening over a year later but I do wonder how much longer it will last with the planned Silvertown extension of the Blackwall Tunnel due to be constructed here - as a proposed toll crossing. I wonder what the previously mention Will Crooks would have made of it all?