What is the city but the people?

Jeremy Deller

A work of art for Tube drivers
1 February 2009 – 1 September 2011

Part of the following series:


Jeremy Deller has been working with Tube drivers and operational staff on the Piccadilly line to produce a new work of art – a booklet of quotes entitled What is the city but the people?

The passport-sized booklet will be given to operational staff on the Piccadilly line from February 2009. Drivers and platform staff will be encouraged to use the quotes in their daily communications with customers, building on the rapport that many already have with their customers and helping to enliven millions of journeys by adding an element of unexpected humour.

What is the city but the people? aims to generate a more positive atmosphere during peak times. It also encourages the many voices of the Tube’s staff to re-enter the environment of the network, bringing some of the personalities that have made it famous to the fore once more. Coming from a wide range of philosophical, political and historical sources, the quotes present a thought-provoking rumination on life in the city, especially when heard on the London Underground.

The artwork was introduced to Piccadilly line staff through a series of special book launches hosted by comedian Arthur Smith, well known for his stand-up routines. Smith spent a day travelling with a Piccadilly line driver to experience life behind the scenes on the Tube at first hand, before passing on helpful tips to drivers and station staff on communicating with public audiences.

Deller said: “Originally, when asked to think about a project for London Underground, I suggested a day of no announcements on the Underground, but obviously this was not possible, so I came up with the idea to give staff a collection of quotes and the idea grew from there. I often wish announcements were more personal and reflected the realities and absurdities of living and working in a big city. I think the travelling public enjoy some humour and unexpected insight during their journey.”

Phil O’Hare, General Manager of the Piccadilly line said: “This is a great opportunity to add something extra special to the service we provide: we get excellent responses from the public when LU staff personalise their announcements, and my hope it that this project will inspire those who work on the Piccadilly line to engage with customers beyond the artwork, bringing a personal touch back to the forefront of our world-class tube service.”

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