Ah, there’s a worthy fight. Thames Water are holding ‘open’ consultations about the new tunnel to emerge in Southwark, a massive disruption, and locals are understandably up in arms, supported by the likes of actor and Starship Enterprise captain Patrick Stuart. In many ways Southwark is already under enormous pressure with the building of the Shard, and the attack on a memorable Pugin building too, but we must pause to realise the extraordinary history of that whole district. Locals and actors banded together to save the stones of the Rose theatre in the 1980’s and maybe it is time to realise what we have around us in London, but it is the tip of the iceberg.
First the road to the road to Canterbury, after Becket’s murder, and the place of Chaucer’s pilgrims, then the vital area of Stewside and theatreland, with The Rose, Swan, Globe and Hope theatres, in a space of fifty years that saw the greatest flowering of literature this country has ever seen, immortalised in Shakespeare. Then the George Inn and streets many great writers walked, from Daniel Defoe, to Dickens, who would visit his father in the Marshalsea Prison. It took a can do American actor, Sam Wanamaker, to drive the modern Shakespeare Globe project, but without wanting a dead theme park, do we have no sense of ourselves, identity and pride anymore? The story of Southwark, second only in importance to the City of London for hundreds of years, and much in opposition too, is quite extraordinary, and if places have a spirit, which is so much there around Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, and much besides, defend it. The City of London, driven by business, so much won that story, which once banned players inside the City walls, as organisations like Thames Water now think only of its own disconnected expansion. Wake up Thames Water and do something else.