take me to the river
west silverton trail
Asta trail
north woolwich
precious places
ports of call

The West Silvertown trail

gunpowder, flour and flood

This audio trail includes the beauty of Barrier Park, the horror of the biggest explosion ever to rock London and first hand accounts of working life in the riverside factories and dockside flour mills as well as a vision of how this area could change in the very near future. Composed by Jo Thomas.

  If you would like to walk this trail, download map and mp3 files here  
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Walk 1: The West Silvertown trail: Gunpowder, Fire and Flood.

Commentary by Jo Thomas

The area around the Royal Docks sings regeneration, energy and desolation. When the Albert Dock opened in 1880 the Royals became the first docks to be lit by electricity and for the next century most of London’s electricity was generated in the Docklands area. In my composition I have tried to weave a tapestry of mechanical and electrical sounds that reflect the industrial revolution and its adoption of this vibrant electrical power. The musical suggestion of trains, cranes and hydraulic power work as transitions, movements in the history we experience through the archive recordings and recorded conversations. The role of the female voice is especially important within this score.

Women did not have a strong visual presence in the docks, but the support of the mothers, lovers and wives of the men that worked there was ever-present, and many women worked in the local factories. I wanted to capture the delicacy and refined nature of the voice of Anne Griffiths in track two, the gentle tremble at the end of every sentence which captures a moment of suspended time. The score starts with a single pitched micro-sound pulsing gently and creating an intimate sound world that captures her presence.

Music by Machines (track three) is all about the sound of machinery. Bill talks about the rollers and the mist created by the fl our dust. The Mechanical sounds were created through micro-sound impulse, counterbalanced with the lethal beauty of the mist.

The sound world in Barrier Park initially reflects the micro-climate of the low gardens of the Green Dock - an imaginary sound world of tropical animals, micro-objects and micro-melodies. Next to the river the Blitz Memorial reminds us of those who lost their lives in the terrible bombing here, reflected in a simple melodic line resembling a song blowing through the wind over the docks.

With this music I wanted to capture a sense of vast riverscape, remembrance and voice. The melody finally returns to the theme of electricity, current and light while we consider Andrew Mawson’s vision
for the this area as a water city.

Track listings

1: Green Electra
Jo Thomas, Andrew Verner, Bill Perry, Alan Spong

2: Vast Nature, Gentle Voices
Anne Griffiths, Bill Perry, Jo Thomas, Alan Spong, Andrew Verner, Eileen Gibbons, Toby Butler, Kevin Murphy

3: Music by Machines
Anne Griffiths, Bill Perry, Jo Thomas

4: Rule Britannia
Linda May Bingham, Stanley Rose, Keeley Prowse

5: Gunpowder Explosion
Toby Butler

6: Micro Macro Spaces
Phil Riley, young people from the Asta Centre

7: Closing Memories, Future Visions
Eileen Gibbons, Andrew Mawson



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