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.”

‘Have you heard a quote? – fill in the comments form below.

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  • I always stand up to give my seat to pregnant women and any older person, and I help people to carry their heavy luggage or help a mother to carry her baby buggy up or down the stairs. It makes me feel good inside.


  • The Goethe poster ‘Nothingis worth more than this day’ brightens my outlook every morning. Absolutely wonderful. Where can I get this poster?


  • “Blame no-one, Expect nothing, Do something.” Bill Parcels

    Barbara J Hunt

  • “Man can provide medicine and show direction, but on nature can truly heal” Dr Vogel, Swiss Naturopath

    Mary McHugh

  • “For me the most important thing in life is love. If you are not in love with your wife you have to divorce, and if you are not in love with your job you must make a change”.

    olowo charles sunday

  • “Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill . I just want to thank you for this inspiring work of art. It has helped me and many others very very much.

    Thibault Detremerie

  • “Desire to leave footsteps for others to follow”-Lisa Mundembe-Chuma




  • I think this is a brilliant idea, i saw just one ghandi poster and was inspired. Everyone feels a little down sometimes on the way to work, nothing like a bit of inspiriatonal quote to lift your spirits, and normally it’s the simplest of quotes that stick with you forever…

    Suzie Bawden

  • “everything is alright in the end, so if it’s not alright… it’s not the end.

    Suzie Bawden

  • How about for example: “Where there’s a will there’s a second cousin”. and: “A double negative never hurt nobody”.

    Bo He

  • I’m a big fan of these posters, it’s really great to see them around the tube. I’d like to volunteer another quote: “If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero


  • ‘a good shepherd shears his flock, he does not skin it’ tiberius caesar

    joey hext

  • Portuguese (Original): “Porque eu sou do tamanho do que vejo/E n�?o do tamanho da minha altura…” English: “Because I have the height of what I can see/Not the length of my stature” in the poem “O Guardador de Rebanhos” by Alvaro de Campos (a heteronym of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa)

    Bruno Santos

  • This is a wonderful project! I am an English teacher in Holland and I would like to dedicate some of my lessons to this idea. Is there anyway in which non-tube drivers can get a hold of a copy?

    Suzanne Oudshoorn

  • ?One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever? ? Chinese proverb


  • I liked these posters and saw a conection with Goethe & Napoleon Quote: by Marshall Lannes, a friend of both men. “The bones in my division cracked like glass in a hailstorm” after the bloody battle of Montebello in 1800. Maybe too graphic ! or a quote from King Pyrrhus: “If we ever conquer again in like fashion, it will be our ruin” Paul Attwood

    Paul Attwood

  • There are a few quotes that i like: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. (Oliver Goldsmith) An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind”. (Gandhi) “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” (Oscar Levant) “An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. ” (Oscar Wilde) Ashley =D

    Ashley Burley

  • Practise makes perfect, so be careful what you practise! – Cupcake Brown

    Candy B.

  • Hi, love the quotes, especially the Goethe one about “nothing is greater than this day”. I came up with a quote that I would like to share with you – it has literally changed my life. It is: Respect other people and respect yourself.


  • I made this quote up: Money can take you anywhere, but without your hopes and dreams you would have nowhere to go.

    Nishel Priya

  • Saw about 3 different posters yesterday whilst out on my travels. Haven’t yet seen ‘Hell is other people’ Jean Paul Sartre. Would be most appropriate for tube journeys in rush hour.


  • Dear Sir , i came across a quote of one of the noblest man and a great leader of all time and would like you to consider to be there on the tube stations,Sir this quote of by Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him):”The strong man is not the good wrestler; the strong man is only the one who controls himself when he is angry”.. Sir as me being a devotee of this great man and his great thought about resistance and brotherhood i would have a privilege to share with others..

    Muhammad Shakir

  • I love this campaign because the quotes really make you think.I like them so much I will be using them as illustartions in my Christmas eve sermon as to how important postive thoughts are.Also Ghandi’s thought of needing to slow down and think.Thanks for the campaign


  • First I want to say that it creates a really nice atmosphere. Second, I have a suggested quote: ‘When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.’ – Jimi Hendrix Source – wikiquote


  • “That man is the noblest creature may be inferred from the fact that no other creature has contested this claim” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742-1799

    Rory Post

  • Where does goodness get you? Nowhere. You are already there. This one of several original observations, which life experience over 75 years has enabled me to articulate

    Raymond LLOYD

  • Think 100 times before you take a decision, But once that decision is taken, stand by it as one man. By Muhammad Ali Jinnah

    muhammahd khan

  • I love this series! The quotations are so relevant to travel and London life. Weldon to Art on the Underground. So important to have more than advertising on our Underground – Something to make you think, something nice to look at, something with impact – More of the same please.

    Cian Flood

  • Great quote from Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it?

    Liz Smith

  • There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake. – The 1st Duke of Wellington

    Aaron Stead

  • Driver: “Bing bong. We are now approaching Goodge Street station. Please remember to take all your belongings with you when leaving the train, including your husband.”

    Ric Carvalho

  • Success is the result of foresight and resolution, foresight depends upon deep thinking and planning and the most important factor of planning is to keep your secrets to yourself. Imam Ali (A.S)


  • ‘Today’s economy is created by us, and how well that society functions depends in large part on our imagination of its potential.’ Karl Marx

    Nilesh Hirani

  • Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein


  • London is a nation, not a city – Benjamin Disraeli


  • Love is painful but also joyful it is sometime unfair and sometime more than fair just try to be on the right end…by Moise Olenga Kasongo


  • “Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.” – Kahlil Gibran


  • Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted. – John Lennon


  • “you don’t need a ticket to get to the best place you will ever be. All you need is good works and a willing heart” -kelvin oba-

    kelvin obareti

  • I heard a fantastic quote which would be very apt for London Underground – When a man is tired of London, he is tired of Life – Samuel Johnson, Love it


  • art on the underground makes it a more pleasant place to be,i have a quote which i think will make people feel good. ” everyone is beautiful to someone”

    Marc Gaywood

  • Anything that can make that grotty underground a bit nicer is a great idea! I love the Gandhi quote and the poster, makes me slow down and think… Another quote that came to mind “Lead, follow or get out of the way”, Thomas Paine.


  • My favourite announcement by a tube driver on the old East London Line pulling in to New Cross Gate. “The front carriage is closed due to vomit”.


  • Just wanted to say thank you for the thought provoking quotes on the tubes, the ghandi quote puts a smile on my face every day. I would also like to suggest a quote as below. ”the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” Nelson Mandela


  • Love this concept. It challenges the mind to contemplate things over and above whether or not you are going to catch that ladies cold, or get to the meeting in time. Here’s one I heard the other day that I really found helpful. “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less” C. S. Lewis.


  • I travel on the central line to art college in Central London near enough every day to come across merely just the poster advertising this project, it was the one with Napoleon Bonaparte’s quote: “A throne is only a bench covered in velvet” and this inspired me for one of my very own art projects!! I think this is a great idea and would love to see more of this around London..it can only make it a better place. Thank you very much!!


  • I enjoyed the Gandhi quote about speed while hastening on tothe Jubile line at Westminster. I had just been reminded that the French writer Pascal has said “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know “. That’s a thought which could accompany anyone’s day !

    Maureen Green

  • Have seen the posters of these on the tube and they’ve really grabbed my attention. A superb idea and great art direction, some of the best Art on the Underground ads I’ve seen, really made my morning. You should make the quote book and posters commercially available – and maybe get more of the drivers to read the quotes out. I think London needs to be a bit more philosophical in the mornings.

    Anthony Stamp

  • I love this idea. It helps us in our daily life. It inspired this quote from. Yogi Amrit Desai You Begin with you You Travel with you You Arrive with you The journey to truth is from the alone to the alone.

    Cintra Brown

  • I think this is a great project. Unfortunately my regular journey in to work doesn’t include the Picadilly line, but I have seen the posters up and think they look fabulous. It would be great to see jpeg of all the posters online, or for them to be made available to buy. I’m a big fan of the design that the Underground produces, keep it up!


  • I would also like a copy of this book simply because it would add some increased interest to my journey (if it will increase my chances I’d also like to volunteer for a late night track walk to – one of my fantasies…) I consider the Underground the Lymphatic System of London – an essential circulatory system, often under appreciated that helps cells (us!) get from A to B. Many people only pay it attention when is all goes wrong but for day-to-day runnings (and regularity) the Tube is an excellent space (value-for-money leaves a lot to be desired though that can be said of London’s public transport in general). The idea to give drivers the opportunity to personalise the multitude of mundane messages they are required inflict upon the travelling public is an inspired way of helping to reduce the stressful and often monotonous journeys Londoners have to make each day. The most enjoyable rides I have on the Underground are when drivers make little jokes over the tannoy and encourage po-faced passengers to crack a smile or even for the more brave to make eye-contact and laugh with each other. Next to these for enjoyment are the Art installations/displays/performances – WE NEED MORE pictures, poetry, music or beautiful architecture/design on the tube. More posters like the Off To Work (Nylon Uniform) and Vintage/WW2 series, more musicians and installations like those at Gloucester Rd. The Underground structure is already beautiful from an architectural point of view, all it needs is some detail to the paintwork a la columns on the district line platforms at South Kensington (love the flower pots and wrought-iron work there too) at the older stops and uplighting at the newer stations like that of Westminster to highlight the fact. I could (and often do) wax lyrical about the wonderous structure that is the London Underground Network but I shall summarise for those that don’t have all day – to enable passengers to get more enjoyment for minimal input encoura


  • Quotes. Driver on the Piccadilly line: “Bing bong. We are now approaching Hammersmith station. Please remember to take your belongings with you when you leave the train. Bing bong.” At Acton Town: “What passes for normal service has now resumed on the Piccadilly Line. The next train is due in two minutes.”
    Mike Bisacre


  • I would just like to echo the sentiments of Nat, but from the perspective of a deprived Manchester commuter ;-) It would be great to learn who the publisher of the profound sayings booklet is, to perhaps be able to donate to the cause for a copy.

    Ian Ball

  • I don’t understand why tube announcements cannot be stopped for a day, to be honest there is so much variability between various journeys that I have a hard time believing that there are strict rules on the subject. Often I have been on the tube for 30minutes plus without hearing a single announcment. Other times there is one every minute. The more you repeat something, the less likely people are to pay attention, travelling abroad we realise just how ridiculous the announcments on our tubes have become (indeed even a trip on some overground rail trains illustrates that fact). I suggest some clearer guidelines are made on the subject and the frequency reduced to only those essential announcements.


  • I heard the report on this project this morning on Radio 4, what a charming idea! I use the Piccadilly Line to get to and from work each day and now I’m full of anticipation that I might be lucky enough to hear one of these interventions from the staff to brighten up my day. Art is more than decoration which this project proves, it’s got something to say. Art on the Underground is really exploring the exciting potential of their unique venue and audience, I can’t wait to see what comes next!

    Olivia Rickman

  • this project looks (and sounds) great! i’m not a driver on the tube, but i wonder i could get a copy of the booklet myself.

    Nat Foreman

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