With the help of National Lottery funding, Southbank Mosaics’ Blake’s Lambeth Project has brought the work of poet William Blake up to date on the streets of London. Four of London Waterloo Railway Station’s desolate railway tunnels have been turned into attractive well-visited street galleries, lined with 70 mosaic murals based on Blake’s words and paintings, in celebration of Lambeth’s most famous artist and poet.
Blake lived on nearby Hercules Road from 1790 to 1800 and he always wanted his work to be in the public realm. This is something he failed to do in his lifetime, but thanks to 300 volunteers from Southbank Mosaics, his dream has been achieved. The volunteers were made up of a diverse mix of people, including young offenders on community payback schemes, people experiencing mental health problems, people with learning impairments, school and university students and citizens of all ages.
The work has been guided by artists Tessa Hunkin and Jo Thorpe, world class mosaicists who have worked on high profile projects including some of the mosaics installed in Westminster Cathedral. They helped teach the volunteers the techniques of planning, designing, making and installing the mosaics.
“The Mosaics have been completed to a fine art standard – we would never have gained permission to install work of anything less than the highest quality in the South Bank area of London,” said David Tootill, Artistic Director of Southbank Mosaics.
He added: “Our local authority, Lambeth, has identified that attractive public spaces have a positive impact on wellbeing, and we know that increasing wellbeing leads to improved prospects for people.
“Local people have gained employment (half the staff team started as volunteers), and have also been helped with references and sign posting to other training education or employment opportunities. Local people have helped to make public spaces more attractive and safer, their contribution has been acknowledged, they can see the durable difference they have made, and have gained a sense of civic pride from this. Local people have been able to learn about William Blake, painter, poet, philosopher and visionary, and someone who celebrated equality of all people, and who is an important part of their own heritage.”