'The event captured the essential melancholy
of Aldwych beautifully.'
-Andrew Martin, Evening Standard Magazine
In December 1997, the site-specific 'memory play' of the abandoned Aldwych tube station in London was transmitted through a circuit that traversed underground, internet, and airwaves. In the presence of an invited audience, the Aldwych Underground Ensemble (AUE) created a live performance and a simultaneous live-to-air broadcast using old and new technologies. The project channelled the atmosphere and histories of the site as an electric railway station, and in earlier eras as a theatre and an exhibition of cylindrical panoramic paintings. It also reflected on the nature of the thresholds of broadcast radio and the emerging virtual spaces of the internet.
The project was sponsored by Virgin.Net.
The live 'Aldwych mix' was generated using a layer of sound recorded during a research trip to the site by the audio artist Gregory Whitehead, which was played and looped through the ghost station's public address system, echoed and reshaped by the dark subterranean spaces, further merging with live instrumental sounds, performers' and audience's participation, and spoken announcements. Busker Gregory Whitehead played the blues on saxophone; performance artist Michelle Griffiths walked the deserted platforms; actor Richard Washington voiced the announcements; Reid Smith was the performative tour guide for the audience; and artist-filmmaker Stuart Croft installed a moving-image booth in the booking hall. The cumulative, sonorous sound was in turn picked up by microphones placed in the underground tunnels and ventilation shafts, and mixed by Bob Manners in the station's ticket office. The live acoustic mix was fed as a Real Audio stream via a specially-installed ISDN line from the station to Virgin.Net HQ, and then to ORF Kunstradio in Vienna. There Aldwych station joined Kunstradio's Recycling The Future programme and the European Broadcasting Union Ars Acustica group's Station to Station project for The Long Night Of Radio Art, a global simulcast taking place over 24 hours.
The sound work only existed for the duration of the performance/broadcast, to be dispersed and lost in the ether, and recalled as a trace vibration in the walls of Aldwych station.