I first heard about the tube train trapeze artist back in 2004 from a printer friend who was working at Westferry on the Isle of Dogs. A number of printers had reported seeing the strange sight of spectacular acrobatics been performed in the empty carriages of passing early morning tube trains.
Intrigued by these reports I started making early morning rides on the East London Line in search of this mythical acrobat. Eventually I got lucky, it was about 6.15 and I was heading south between Shadwell and Wapping when a north bound train passed providing a momentary glimpse of a figure suspended by her feet from the trains hand rail.
After this initial sighting I felt a greater urgency to make contact, to find out what drove her to go out in the early hours, whilst most people where still sleeping, to carry out these isolated and lonely poetic acts. When I finally caught up with her she seemed amused that anyone should be remotely interested in her morning ritual. I was surprised by her age, early 50's I guest. I spoke to her about politics, about Henri Lefebvres' “Production de l'espace” but she seemed disinterested. She told me that she had learnt trapeze as a child and that through her performances she had learnt the rhythms of the trains, that each tube line was like a musical score composed of sequences of movements, a smooth section followed by a rapid bend, then a crescendo of erratic rocks, a slowing of tempo then the still of the station. I started to imagine her trapeze as a dance, a dance set to the silent composition of the train’s movements.
She told me she was leaving
in a month, that she was going travelling and hoped to find some ware to live in southern London Europe. I hoped wherever she settled had a tube network.