Ear

Bedlam and silence: the awful sounds of peace

Remembrance Sunday this year falls on 11 November, exactly 100 years after Armistice Day. To mark the occasion London’s Imperial War Museum has a programme of exhibits and events that look at the moment peace broke out.  What comes through strongly is the sonic quality of that moment. On the battlefield, there was an instant silencing of artillery(…)

London without cars

Last Saturday I gained an insight into what London might feel like without cars. As part of the Ride London festival, Waterloo Bridge (pictured) and other roads round the city centre were reserved for cyclists. It was strange to walk along the Strand and hear only the sound of chatter and spinning wheels.For cyclists, the(…)

A Poetic Response to The London Ear

I received this week the best thank you I’ve ever had for a walk: a wonderful poem. It’s called Abecedarian for the future sounds of the city and was written by the poet Sarah Salway who came on The London Ear on Tuesday evening. Sarah penned it afterwards as an example for her students of an ‘Abecedarian’, where the first(…)

Tranquil City

For most of us, our experience of London most of the time is as a noisy fast place. We arrive at crowded stations, rush to work along busy roads, shop to blaring music, and go for drinks in places where we have to shout to be heard. The challenge of finding a slower side to(…)

Celebrating London’s trees

It’s May, the sun is out and the trees are looking good! As well as their gorgeous spring finery, here are five things to love about London’s trees.London’s trees are as much a part of the capital’s human history as are its buildings. Take the London Plane, which is in fact a cross between the(…)

Getting to grips with noise

With International Noise Awareness Day coming up on 25 April, it’s a good time to think about noise: what it is, and what we can do about it.According to the government’s Noise Policy Statement, ‘sound only becomes noise (often defined as ‘unwanted sound’) when it exists in the wrong place or at the wrong time’ causing(…)

The Monument: memorial, fossil, telescope, gnomon

The Monument – the flame-topped Doric column to the north of London Bridge – was once the capital’s tallest building. At 202ft, it’s as high as it is distant from the bakery on Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started in 1666. Visible from all around, it would have reminded anyone who looked up of(…)

Ringing the changes

First it was Big Ben – silenced in August (see London Loses Its Voice) – now, St Paul’s. So, when I led a group into the Cathedral courtyard one Sunday morning expecting them to be dazzled by the change ringing, we were greeted with … nothing.It turns out that the bells were taken down in(…)

London loses its voice

At midday on Monday Big Ben will sound its last bongs until 2021. It’s being silenced so that the clock and surrounding tower can be safely repaired. It will continue to show the correct time. But once the bell’s striking hammer is locked, the clock will lose its voice.Perhaps London, too, will lose its voice. Big Ben represents(…)

City noise and body rhythms

We tend to think of noisy places as ‘fast’ and quiet places as ‘slow’. There’s a rather obvious reason for this: motion – from cars, tube trains, hordes of commuters – usually generates noise. Other kinds of noise, though, have nothing to do with movement. A pub packed with people shouting to be heard above the music might still feel(…)