Writer Sarah Butler was invited by Art on the Underground to undertake a six-month residency on the Central line, to collaborate with London Underground staff in creating new writing.
With 45 Central line-managed stations from West Ruislip to Epping and over 183.5 million journeys on the line each year, Central line staff have little opportunity to meet and engage with each other. Sarah’s challenge was to develop creative strategies to involve the whole line.
In 2009 Central line staff guided Sarah along the line, introducing her to their colleagues and recounting their personal tales. These initial conversations highlighted a very human desire to communicate through story-telling.
The project resulted in four distinct texts: What’s in a name?, a collection of stories attached to staff names; Central line whispers, a tale written by 55 staff from 45 stations over five days; Meetings with drivers, short fiction inspired by Sarah’s conversations with Tube drivers, and a story in the form of a puzzle, along with introductions by Sarah. A booklet of stories was also available at Central line stations for the duration of the project in 2009 and audio stories can be heard via this website. You can also download the PDF of the entire book of stories.
We are indebted to Sarah Butler for her energy and endless enthusiasm. We are also grateful to Peter Tollington, General Manager of the Central and Waterloo & City lines, his extraordinary team, together with all the London Underground staff, whose generosity and support ensured the project’s success.
Central line stories offers the reader a glimpse into the rich imaginations, cultures and experiences of London Underground staff. We hope these stories are a compelling companion on your next Central line journey.
Louise Coysh, Community Projects Curator
Art on the Underground