Stories from the Sewer
a mural created by John Walter in collaboration with sixteen pupils from Riverside Primary School, commissioned by Tideway, 2017
About the work:
History, direct observation, fantasy and mythology all find a place within this epic collage of images, which plots the narrative of an imaginary sewer - a deep and mysterious realm beneath Bermondsey. Here, Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mister Fox brushes shoulders with Old Father Thames, London’s very own River God; here a family of gigantic fatbergs (masses of solid fat and unmentionable household waste that conglomerate in sewers) and various superheroes play beside Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer of the Victorian sewer built after the Great Stink of 1858. Alongside their imagined characters you can also find the children’s self-portraits, and forms based on the rubbings they took from the street’s manhole covers. The mural also features a drawing of the CEO of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, creator of London’s new super sewer.
Feedback from passers-by included: “I took a picture of it on the first day and thought: Wow!” … “It brings lots of energy when I walk to work in the morning.” …“It's amazing. Before it was really boring but now it is an attraction. People come to see it.”
Visitors to the walk and talk event, held as part of the Totally Thames Festival, were particularly interested to hear about the direct participation of the schoolchildren, and enjoyed the direct insight into artistic process they got from the artist.