The poem speaks as the multi-tonal voice of the city, articulating the stories that dwell within the cracks in the walls, tucked away in street corners, buried deep beneath the earth. It envisions the different souls that have passed through the space, the ways their presence has influenced the shape and sound of Smithfield, and the traces they have left behind.
Dharker was particularly interested in the history of Smithfield, the way the old lived beneath the new, the past interacted with the present. The film Charlotte Ginsborg created in response to the poem reflects this, following the journey of a wandering soul dressed in medieval garments, displaced from her time. Seemingly invisible to passing members of the public, she walks through modern day Smithfield travelling paths she used to frequent, though the scenery is now vastly altered.
Throughout the project, Dharker ventured deep beneath ground level to visit the ‘city beneath the city’ – the TFL staff at Farringdon station, osteologists and their skeletons in the basements of the Museum of London, Crossrail workers tunnelling through previously uninterrupted space. We hear insights from some of these people throughout the film, scattered in amongst the words of the poem itself, which is narrated by Dharker as well as by other members of the community.
Roxanne Black – Medieval Character
Catherine Moloney – Customer Service Supervisor, Farringdon and Barbican Stations
Don Walker – Senior Human Osteologist, MOLA (Museum of London Archeology)
Andy Scholes – Site Manager, Farringdon Station, Crossrail
Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. She lives in Barbican and has written extensively about the City of London and identity politics and has a strong interest in heritage and place. Dharker’s work is on the British GCSE and A Level syllabus and she is a fellow of the royal society of literature.