All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


The Evil Empire is coming to south Clerkenwell.  The area has a long tradition of being home to scoundrels, robbers and ne'er -do-wells so Goldman Sachs or the 'Giant Vampire Squid on the face of humanity' as Rolling Stone described them are carrying on a long tradition.  They have got hold of the very large ex-telephone exchange at 70 Farringdon Street and will be using it as a centre for carrying on the toxic activities described in Greg Smith's recent resignation letter.

Most importantly though, the existing building, a rather drab modernist block houses the rather wonderful 1960s murals by Dorothy Annan celebrating the wonders of modern communication.  They are painted on ceramic panels in steel frames and were placed to enliven what would otherwise have been a very boring street-scape.
They are quite constructivist and have a sort of English Klee or Miro feel with abstracted imagery of teleprinters, aerials, switching gear, pylons, TVs and so on. Ironically Dorothy Annan was an unashamedly left wing artist.


Check them out soon if you can - the building will soon be demolished.  I don't mind that so much - it is fairly charmless although it is the place that the first international phone call from England was made in 1963. 

Thankfully the murals themselves have recently been listed and so will be saved but who knows where they will end up? As I mentioned here, the statues previously adorning the top of the Unilever building (which is also listed) disappeared into the CEO's Surrey garden during the renovation works so I wouldn't be surprised if these lovely things end up gracing Lloyd Blankfein's Mayfair pad now he knows they are valued.  

The bank had previously wished them destroyed.


Drifting back downstream, it is Tower Bridge is probably the bridge that most of us think of as representing London.  I actually find it rather camp but of course it has some rather tragic and morbid associations.   As well as 'Dead Man's Hole' the river mortuary on the north side, a few years back, there was the incident I wrote of here when 'Adam' a six year old Nigerian boy's body was discovered floating under the bridge.   He was a victim of the Yoruba cult.  I was reminded of this recently by the grim incident of the French boy murdered in London by his sister and her boyfriend who claimed he was possessed by an evil spirit (the un-selfconcious irony is mind boggling).

On a slightly lighter note, several people have come a cropper on Tower Bridge  - especially in the early days when, in an impulse that I completely understand, it was popular to try to leap across whilst the bridge was being opened. One of them, the famous Clerkenwell deep sea diver Benjamin Fuller, leapt in such a grand act of derring do that he ended up swimming with the fishes - a deep sea dive from which he sadly never surfaced.

I will now leave these tales of bodies and bridges despite there being many more to tell.  Here is Glen Duncan reading from the 'Sweet Thames' section of Eliot's The Waste Land.  

It was a piece we did a while ago. I forget why.