A Thames Tale (2)
Long term readers may remember one of my very early posts being about the curious A Thames Tale, a sculpture/installation on the river-side wall of Greenwich power station, installed during the millennium year, and attributed to artist Amanda Hinge. If you do remember back that far you’ll know I spent most of the post moaning that so much local knowledge is lost almost immediately it’s created – no one seemed to know who Amanda Hinge was (not even at the council archives) or why she created A Thames Tale.
Well, I have news for you. Last week, I was actually contacted by Amanda’s partner Dominic, and I was finally able to ask Amanda herself about the sculptures. She says
“I had only been living in Greenwich for around a year and I’d fallen in love with the decaying romance of the old docks along the Thames path. This was before they decided to clean up the river walkway and there were still creaking, rusty old barges and cranes along the river path. I used to spend a lot of time there. At the same time I was writing my dissertation on narrative and mythic structure in children’s fiction. If ever there was a fertile ground for a children’s story to arise, the Greenwich river walk was it.
I was also inspired by an artist called Mark Dion who had, at that time, recently had an exhibition of his installation of categorised and displayed objects from an archaeological dig that had taken place on the banks of the river Thames. The exhibition blew me away with the complex narratives and connections between antiquated, prosaic, precious and disposable objects. This led me to looking at the flotsam and jetsam we see floating on the river’s surface in a new way.
From this I collected floating objects from the Thames using a net and casting them in plaster. I used these to play around with compositions for tiles for the walkway. Your local residents, the Boyle Family, were a great inspiration.”
Ah yes. That flotsam and jetsum. I was particularly impressed with the slightly scary hypodermic syringe, though I’m also rather fond of the milk bottle and the amoeba – TGP
“I wrote a childrens’ story which has more parts to it than the installation, but I had to edit it otherwise it would have been too big. I decided to make the tiles into more of a narrative as I loved the way many buildings in London, if you just look up, are covered in mythic beasts, ornamentation and characters from ancient stories and myths. I felt that if I created a myth or story about that part of the river maybe it might help people, (more likely children) look at the river in a magical and imaginative way. I’ve always been for keeping a bit of magic and mystery in our daily lives.”
I was interested to know who Stan, the little boy in the story, was based on.
“Bizarrely enough Stan wasn’t based on any one boy in particular, but when it came to installing the work with a rather eccentric and lovely Welsh builder Bill, an old man was taken to visit the wall and see the work being installed and his name was Stan. He lived in the Huguenot hospice next door and had lived in Greenwich all his life. He had worked on the docks many years ago and used to like walking along the river.”
When Amanda said that she had written a much longer story, I got very excited and asked her if maybe she could create a PDF version that people could download and read to their kiddies as bedtime stories after a nice, bracing walk along the Thames Path. Amanda tells me that she does still have the original, illustrated story, but that it needs a little tidying, which she’s going to do in between commissions. I promise to let you know when its ready. Meanwhile, if you are a children’s publisher looking for a lovely London-based picture story book, I’ll be only too happy to pass you onto Amanda…
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