Some Murals – Public Narratives

I found a few pictures of murals painted with my students in the 80’s (Hurstmere School). The third and final one covered both sides of the platform in Albany Park Station, Sidcup and was commissioned by British Rail. We painted three murals in the station in all. The first was on one side of the platform (see video below).

In the third one we were joined by artist Simon Granger. Simon is currently senior lecturer in art at Norwich School of Art. Simon asked how we could make a mural which would remain interesting to commuters who would see it day after day. The solution was to use everyday images chosen at random by students from things they had at home. We hoped that this arbitary juxtaposition of everyday objects would allow commuters opportunities to idly speculate and invent different narratives as they waited for the train. We nudged the sense of an implied but unknown narrative by including enigmatic texts such as ‘and then...’, ‘next‘. So we used chance, tempered by purpose and skill to achieve a successful outcome – genuinely creative (Ken Robinson would have approved). The mural was painted in two weeks by ‘A’ Level art students as part of work experience.

There are no traces left of these murals and the station is currently plainly painted in flat neutral colours.

third Albany Park Mural (7)
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The first mural we painted is shown in the video below (from morning television). This too had a very site specific narrative. The concept was that passengers would see it from a moving train, thus reversing the traditional process of watching a film, with the audience on the train moving past stationary images. So the platform pillars replicate frames in a film and the story is of a journey from London at night to Dover by day. In front of the film we painted a platform with an eye level set at 5′ 6″ so that passengers could inhabit the space. The people and details on the (painted) platform grew from our engagement with the station and the people who used it.

There was a waiting room at the end of the platform at the time of the first mural which brought the painting to an end. A couple years later this was demolished. So we went back and added a second mural completing the wall and replicating the waiting room exactly where it had been. This was done with a small team of 6th formers and included self portraits of the students and other references to their lives. All of these were done with my friend and colleague art teacher Ian Bowell who is now a lecturer in art education in New Zealand. The last mural also included girls from Blackfen School.

9 Responses to Some Murals – Public Narratives

  1. Samantha Pinder says:

    I know I am in there somewhere! I was Dave’s girlfriend all those years ago. I can’t see the painting of me in the video but Graham assures me I’m there somewhere.

    I do wish more schools did things like this now. Stations are so dreary and it’s such a wonderful way to capture the imagination of people that would not usually experience local art.

  2. Steve Armourae says:

    Thanks for these! In 1987-88 I traveled Sidcup to Greenhithe to the naval college and so saw the murals everyday. They were very good

  3. Jeanette Sleafer says:

    I’m so pleased I found your site I work at Albany Park station and have been trying to find out about the mural that the locals tell me about.
    A regular at the station yesterday bought me a wonderful photo her husband took of her against the painting when it was first done.
    I am trying to find out more about the history of the station so this will help thanks.

    • Dan says:

      Hi Jeanette, I am glad you found the images of the Albany Park mural interesting and thanks for taking the time to send a message. I have been in education for a long time now and, in truth, I think it was probably the best and biggest public art work undertaken by a school – but I guess I would say that wouldn’t I. Certainly we were and still are very proud of it and I am delighted that it is still talked about by the community. When we started Albany Park was the most vandalised station on that line so I hope we made a difference.
      Best wishes
      Dan China

  4. Nicola Bull (Dave's wife from the video) says:

    I have just watched your video of my now husband and I nearly wet myself laughing. I went to primary school with him, Graham, Paul and Gavin. Very impressed with the painting and remember it being there for a long time. Dave has been trying to find some footage of their work for some time now so that he can boast to his two girls. Thank you so much for posting it on your website! Not sure if he can boast or if he needs to cringe but we are all loving it!!!
    (Dave says “You’ve aged much better than me!”

    • Dan says:

      Hi Nichola, I think he can, and should, boast. Its good to hear from you and I am so pleased Dave found it . Curiously my wife has a similar reaction. It was a good time and I remember that group of students with the greatest affection. My best wishes to you both and your two daughters. Dan

  5. Graham Baker says:

    Absolutely fantastic. I’d quite forgotten how marvellous the 1982 mural looked. As part of the team that painted it you can’t imagine how old that’s just made me feel! Nice to see it’ll be remembered even though it’s been ‘long’ gone. Thanks for keeping a particularly fond memory alive!! Graham

    • Dan says:

      Hi Graham, Its really good to hear from you. I’m so pleased you found the entry. It really was an excellent (professional) piece of work and something we can all be proud of. I visited the station again on the day I retired (blog entry ‘Just Retired’) and could almost hear the faint echoes of that time. All the very best. Dan

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