Caryl Phillips and Johny Pitts, A Bend in the River (2012) was originally hosted by The Space and commissioned by the British Arts council and Art Angel.
When Caryl Phillips stayed in A Room for London, he wanted to challenge the iconic view that greeted him. From Big Ben to St Paul’s Cathedral, it suggested, he wrote, ‘a tradition that no longer really squares with the Britain that we deal with on a daily basis’. His essay, April’s London Address, was entitled A Bend in the River.
Afterwards, Phillips invited the photographer Johny Pitts to join him in a literal and figurative journey in which they would explore the many other ‘Londons to the east’.
It concluded in Tilbury, the Thames dockside some thirty miles away where, in the years between 1948 to 1962, ships arrived carrying immigrants from Britain’s former colonial territories, hastening the country’s transformation into a multi-cultural, multi-racial society. Phillips and Pitts’ journey has evolved into this new project for The Space.
A Bend in the River is a geographical slideshow. It has a soundtrack that includes excerpts from Caryl Phillips’ essay and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and field recordings gathered from the 30-mile stretch between Waterloo and Tilbury in Essex (via Wapping, Billingsgate, Silvertown and Gravesend). It lasts around ten minutes. Headphones are recommended.
Listen to Caryl Phillips’ full essay here