Poster Archive

I was overjoyed when I heard about the new art tours offered by the London Transport Museum.

History Lesson: Over the last 100 years or so, the London Underground has been a powerful patron of the arts. It commissioned art from both students and established artists, which were then made into posters to grace the walls of the tube.

Some of these posters were blatant advertising (like the astoundingly un PC poster from 1915 below), but most used a more subtle approach. Ever see underground posters telling you about the exciting London nightlife? The latest West End shows? The food, festivals and bright sparkling lights? They don’t actually care about your cultural well being – they are just trying to stagger out rush-hour. Not kidding, for the last 100 years London Underground has been trying to convince passengers to stay in London after work – just so the tube doesn’t get clogged up.

The Tour: The tour is run four times a year out at the MASSIVE London Transport depot in Acton. For £10 you get a 75 minute tour of their poster archive (they have a copy of every single poster since the start of the company, thats over 7,000 posters!) as well as getting a chance to see some of the original artwork up close.

You don’t get to riffle through the collection yourself (the draws are locked for obvious reasons), but they have a selected few on the walls for you. Still a brilliant chance to see these rare posters and learn a bit about the history.

Highlight: Seeing a copy of the Man Ray poster from 1938 – worth over £100,000.

P.s. I discovered this gem in the Ian Visits email a couple of weeks ago – if you haven’t yet signed up, what are you waiting for?

TFL Poster 1915

Yesterday on my commute I saw a lady on one side of the tube cough. A bit of phlegm projected from her uncovered mouth and landed on the jeans of the guy sitting opposite. Everyone one the tube (understandably including jeans guy) was horrified. But the plague infested woman didn’t even know what had happened as she was too involved with her game of Fruit Ninja.

Forgive me if I don’t include a photo on this occasion.

Shudder.

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This was the first full week back and work and by god was I an angry commuter. So my ducks, here is a list of donts when using the London underground at rush hour.

1) Don’t read your kindle while walking between tube lines at a station, you can wait till you are standing still

2) Don’t let your toddler make their own way up the stairs while exclaiming what a big boy/girl they are – you are taking up the entire staircase

3) Don’t stand on the left

4) Don’t start pushing to get off the tube before the doors are open – the people you are pushing past will probably be getting off too

5)  Don’t make a pregnant lady/old person stand while you pretend to ignore them

6) Don’t stand on a crowded commuter train with your handbag wide open – I have scruples so I won’t take your wallet and iPhone but just don’t be that stupid

7) Don’t be a Beatle 

8) Don’t wait till you are at the barrier before trying to find your Oyster card

9) Don’t play your music loud enough for the entire carriage to hear it – your tough guy demeanor is really ruined when we all know you are listening to Destiny’s Child

10) Don’t jump in when the doors have already started closing – they will smoosh you and it will make the rest of us late

Now, after that list of hatred is my one glimmering bit of hope, the appearance of an underground ninja on the district line.

A man in a pinstriped suit, holding a briefcase and reading the paper, stands in the middle of the carriage and holds onto nothing. Throughout my entire journey he does not falter once, he does not bend and he does not jump. He simply stands in the jerking, leaping train and maintains his balance.  Legend.

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If you ever come to London, you have to visit the London Transport Museum. It’s not just for train-spotters in raincoats, its also for runawaykiwis in raincoats.

Public transport in London is woven into the cultural fabric of the city. The tube hid families during the blitz, the route master buses became an international symbol of London on the move, it dictates how late you stay out and where you live, it is a topic of conversation (just not while you are actually on it), it broke down class restrictions by forcing you all to smell each others armpits and it gets me to work each day.

The London Transport museum celebrates all of this – the mechanical, historical, social, design, technological and statistical.

And they have a new map exhibition ‘Mind the Map’, which looks at how the tube map was created and art that has been made from it. My favourite has to be the typography poster by Tim Fishlock (above). He created the entire alphabet from the curves of the tube map – the perfect typeface for a city on the move.