Hedonists, rat catchers, jazz-lovers and hacks help London come alive after dark at Night Shift, an illuminating new exhibition at London Transport Museum celebrating the nocturnal lives of Londoners and the transport heritage that has met their needs since 1913.
Night Shift – London After Dark sees the Museum’s curators delve deep into the history of travel after dark, reflecting on the capital’s glittering nightlife as well as the darker wartime years.
Designed to entice pleasure-seekers, brilliant posters from the Museum’s archives highlight the rise of the West End and the growth of the leisure economy, while evocative archive photographs and films document the transport needs of the night workers of Fleet Street and the subterranean lives of rat catchers and ‘fluffers’.
From Tube sheltering in the Second World War to the burgeoning 1980s clubbing scene, through to hard hitting safety campaigns and the new possibilities of neon, the exhibition explores London’s night transport from the spread of electric power through the jazz age to the present day and beyond, offering real insight into the history and future of the vast transport network that weaves its way throughout London once dusk has fallen, yet many Londoners never see.
The exhibition features six focuses, moving through time, beginning with the transformation wrought by electricity:
1. The pleasure seekers and shift workers – electricity fundamentally changed how Londoners were able to use their city for play and work, from the enticing bright lights of theatreland to the capital’s first ever night shift workers.
2. Brighter London – the end of the First World War saw light flood into the city again as people were persuaded to reclaim their city. Jazz shows prevailed and flood lighting became a form of entertainment, with zoos and even Underground stations being completely lit up. This section of the exhibition features London’s most experimental after dark Tube station, Sudbury Town, which had a huge neon sign until 1958.
3. Blackout – travel during the Second World War was dramatically different from the lit-up pre-war years. Posters shied away from bright lights, focussing on the darkness of the blackout and helping Londoners travel safely throughout the city, abiding by the capital’s strict curfews.
4. Never had it so good – following the Second World War, London saw an increase in prosperity, with cars increasing in number on the city’s streets, and the use of public transport decreasing as a result. This section also shows the night maintenance to Underground stations and tunnels that became so crucial when people used them as air-raid shelters.
5. Nightclubbing – London Transport discovers that it has a new audience – the ‘disco goers’ – and launches a campaign to target the city’s night clubbers and dwellers. The night bus routes start to expand into the network we know today.
6. 24-hour City – This space comprises contemporary interpretations of the city after dark, featuring a newly created kirigami by artist Marc Hagan-Guirey aka ‘Paper Dandy’. The piece has been produced in conjunction with the National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Night Shift – London After Dark runs from 11 September 2015 to 10 April 2016. The individual ticket price is £16 and a special London by Design Pass is available at just £20, allowing visitors the chance to view the Night Shift exhibition as well as other great events and exhibitions throughout the London by Design Season.
An exclusive night time viewing on 11 September 2015 from 18.45 – 22.00 features a bar, a silent disco, a DJ and curator-led tours. Tickets cost £12 and also include free entry to Mabel’s Bar – Covent Garden’s newest and prettiest late-night lounge spot.
For advance booking information, call +44 (0)20 7565 7298
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