With the Olympics and Paralympics approaching, the East London landscape is being reshaped. This Olympic waterscape encompasses the Lea Valley, a system of braided waterways that define the area. Through film and photographs the project depicts how the Olympics and Paralympics transforms the use of these waterways. The film questions what this waterscape means and will mean to the people who care for and live with this changing landscape.

Project Proposal

Creative Campus Initiative Application for Project Funding

Title: Exploring London’s Olympic Waterscape Name(s): Bradley L. Garrett, Michael Anton, Amy Cutler, Terri Moreau, Alison Hess, Ellie Miles

Department: Geography (with English, Music and Media Arts collaboration)
Contact Details: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX,
Tel: 07590 549322, email b.garrett@rhul.ac.uk.

Please use the space below to describe your project overview, linking to the stated criteria:
Royal Holloway, University of London has been chosen to host the Olympic athletes taking part in the rowing and flatwater canoe and kayak events at Eton Dorney during the 2012 games. This choice is a reflection of the Egham/Eton area’s deep connections with London, despite the fact that it lies almost 20 miles southwest of the city centre. The connections between these areas are, of course, tied to the route of the Thames, the United Kingdom’s most well known waterway.

Royal Holloway has a global reputation for producing multimedia based cultural geographic projects as well as a legacy of working on water issues in terms of physical geography [1], development [2] and cultural memory [3]. Using the 2012 London Olympics as inspiration, we intend to cross disciplinary boundaries and use a range of methods to create a short film and selection of accompanying materials about London’s unique waterways and their role in building perceptions of the city. The Thames, which has been referenced in countless books, poems and visual representations, dominates geographical imaginations of the city; however, this project will acknowledge that London is home to at least 15 other rivers [4].

The “other” London waterways are being given voice through environmental activism such as the initiative to “bring back’” the Fleet River running under Fleet Street in Central London, a proposition London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, has voiced support for [5]; transformations on the Bow Back and Lower Lea Valley Rivers taking place as part of the Olympic Village construction [6]; and through a “river-rescue” project initiated by the Environmental Agency which has already uncovered 15km of London’s hidden waterways [7].

These historic and contemporary discussions highlight two important concepts. First, London is a city of water, a waterscape, making the aquatic components of the Olympic games of deep cultural importance to the city. Secondly, London’s waterscape is a mobile proposition, a landscape of shifting ideas and places, of constantly changing uses and cultural perceptions. Just as landscape and culture are interdependent, this proposal suggests initiating an interdisciplinary exploration of these connections between London, water, culture and the Olympics. The goal is to build a visual record of the past, present and potential futures for London’s various hidden and visible waterways in order to further highlight and open the channels of global exchange.

How will this be achieved?
The work will be achieved as a field-based research project in three phases. During phase one, our museum-based geographers, Alison Hess and Ellie Miles, will lead a search of London’s libraries, museum records, and British Film Institute (BFI) archives for photographs and video footage of London’s numerous waterways. Concurrently, Amy Cutler, our resident literary geographer will compile extracts from works which engage with London’s rivers (such as Bill Griffiths’ contemporary sea shanties about water-based journeys through London, from Bow Creek to the Colne Channel) [8].

Phase two is broken into sections A and B. In section A, Bradley L. Garrett, Michael Anton, and Terri Moreau, the cultural/political geographers on the project, will organise the team as they begin a geographical journey, recorded with both film and photography, from Eton Dorney, the home of the Olympic “water village”, to London’s flowering Olympic Stadium, following the flows of the Thames and its tributaries. By traversing the extent of London’s Olympic development via the meandering routes of London’s visible and hidden rivers on foot, by bicycle or by water in the style of a “geographic triathlon”, we will build a visual narrative of London’s waterways and playfully test the suitability and role of the rivers for Olympic sporting. On the way, we will talk to local people who have relationships with these different waterways, splicing these interviews with footage of the landscape journey[9].

Phase two Section B will consist of the group conducting and recording interviews with academics, poets, environmental activists, politicians, policy makers and the various stakeholders involved in the Olympic Village development to discuss their perceptions of different waterways and the difficulties and inspirations they encounter when working within London’s waterscape in light of the Olympic Legacy [10]. Elizabeth Guthrie from the English Department will collaborate in scripting and crafting the poetic elements of the language and themes for the project. Writers Allen Fisher (PLACE) and Iain Sinclair (Downriver) have both agreed to submit new writing and to give recorded interviews on the importance to their interdisciplinary research on London’s rivers.

Phase three will bring together the materials collected and produced by phase one and two. This phase will be run by Bradley L. Garrett [11] in collaboration with Royal Holloway’s Music, Media and Arts Departments, providing an opportunity for doctoral students to assist in the editing and representation of the exhibition materials.

Please explain the outcomes of your project and how these could be incorporated into an exhibition: 
The outcome of this project will be a 30-minute high definition film about London’s waterscape, which will be explored through the narrative of a “geographic triathlon”, contextualised by archival and interview footage. This video, we hope, could be projected on a 30-minute loop during the June exhibition, surrounded by panels showcasing relevant texts, poems and photographs gathered from phase one of the project. Alongside these, we would include collected opinions about the past, present and future of London’s waterscape.

The project will be conducted over the course of one month, with one week devoted to historic/literature research (phase A), one week for filming (phase B), and two weeks for editing, photo printing/mounting and compilation (phase C). The best time to undertake the work would be the beginning of spring, when the season caught on film and in photographs will give a visual sense of “leading up to” the Olympic games, though interviews can be started much earlier to suit interviewee schedules. The resulting work can be delivered to the Creative Campus Initiative Committee by the end of spring in time for the exhibition.

Please give details of any potential partners (this could include artists/art organisations):
Within the geography department, we have worked to include a wide range of participants, including two cultural geographers, one political geographer, two museum-based geographers and a literary geographer. We will also seek insight from individuals within physical and development geography on an informal consultation basis. Outside geography, we have sought collaboration with the English department [12] the media department [13], the music department [14], and local activists and artists [15].

Amount of Funding Requested (bids invited from approx. £200 - £5,000):
We are ideally requesting a £5,000 grant.

Please explain how the funding will be used:
We are requesting the full £5,000 grant for four reasons. Firstly, this project will be very equipment-dependant and funds will need to be set-aside for these materials. Although Bradley L. Garrett can provide most of the filming and photography equipment, associated materials will need to be purchased such as camera batteries, lights, tapes, microphones etc., to suit the different environments we will be shooting in. We would also like to purchase a simple GPS device to track our geographic journey. Any materials purchased will be left in the geography department for future research projects or returned to the CCI upon request.

Secondly, there will be production costs associated with the printing and mounting of photographs collected during the journey and acquired from archives as well as museum fees for rights to reprint. We would additionally like to keep a fund open to offer to potential interviewees and collaborators on the project, which may help to encourage greater participation.

Thirdly, the research phase will involve accessing materials at a cost, such as archival footage and photographs for the exhibit. Similarly, any music used for the film will require payment for commercial use, or in the case of a collaborative composition, payment for studio space and recording.

Finally, transportation costs for the team will be provided from the fund, and we may need to hire equipment for the “triathlon” such as bikes and kayaks for section A of phase two. With limited space here to outline the expected costs, we would suggest that an itemized expenditure list, as well as any other clarifications sought, can be provided by emailing b.garrett@rhul.ac.uk.

1 See Professor David Simon’s work on the River Nile: http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/Simon/bujagali.html

2 For an example, see the work of alumni John Butterworth: http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/Alumni/butterworth.html and staff member Dr. Duncan McGregor: http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/mcgregor/research.html

3 Dr. Toby Butler’s award winning memoryscape project can be found at http://www.memoryscape.org.uk/index.htm

4 http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/284-londons-lost-rivers/

5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/River_Fleet

6 http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk/olympics

7 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/08/river-restoration-london 

8 Other important contemporary sources include the Thames-based sections of Allen Fisher’s legendary poetic project on London in the 1970s, Place. Texts being considered to represent the literary history of London’s waterways include E. M. Forster's Howard's End, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Wordsworth’s “Upon Westminster Bridge”, Sir Phillip Sidney’s “Epithalamion”, T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year.

9 Patrick Keiller’s film London could serve as inspiration here: http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/497617/index.html, as well as William Raban’s Thames Film: http://www.luxonline.org.uk/articles/peter_ackroyd_on_william_raban%281%29.html

10 http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/publications/5161.aspx

11 See http://bradleygarrett.com/documentaries for details of past film projects.

12 Elizabeth Guthrie, a PhD candidate in the English department, will assist with scripting and writing issues.

13 Editing may be offered to the media department to allow students to assist with a campus-wide creative project.

14 Olly Sapsford from the Royal Holloway music department has expressed interest in possible collaboration.

15 Artists we have approached about potential collaboration include Dr. Helen Scalway: http://www.gg.rhul.ac.uk/Scalway and Laura Oldfield Ford: http://savagemessiahzine.com/driftstart.html