Willesden Junction Station opened in 1866 helping to transform Harlesden from being farmland and a village into a growing working class area with new cheap housing. Migrant labour mainly from Ireland laid those tracks, and more much-needed workers from the Caribbean and India were later to become WJ staff. In1896, there were 271 members of staff at the station including porters, signalmen and shunters.
In November 2019, Rose Rouse was awarded a grant by the Brent 2020 Culture Fund to create the Willesden Junction Poets; a collective exploring the station in more depth through words and art. This resulted in a book of nine poems with illustrations BeWILDering - titled after its nickname Bewildering Junction, coined at the end of the 19th century because it was such a maze of platforms. The typic illustrations were done by Keira Rathbone and are a wonderfully integral.
"Our aim as poets was to unravel, re-frame and celebrate Willesden Junction through all of our very different perspectives." Rose Rouse
Rose found poets through social media, word of mouth and during a presentation at the Brent Artists’ Network. She found typewriter artist, Keira through Brent 2020 producer, Caren Owen.
And on 1 March 2020, they started their visits to the station – adventures which were to re-shape their ideas and feelings about Willesden Junction.
"We paid a night visit in drizzly March which felt like being in an Edward Hopper painting; we were accompanied by Disappearing Worm Wood director, Tereza Stehlikova who sees this landscape as an enchanted land; we had a revealing walk with botanist, John Wells where we identified forty different sorts of plants including the bristly ox tongue and mugwort; railway expert Ian Bull confused us with all sorts of architectural information as well as a quote from William Morris warning his daughter about the deliberate arrangement of the station to cause the missing of trains; and local resident, Michael Woods startled us with his knowledge of freight trains and their contents." Rose Rouse
Brent 2020 are excited and proud to be able to bring this compelling read and beautifully illustrated book to the community for FREE. Download below and explore Willesden Junction's labyrinth of entrances and passages yourself.
WATCH THE POETS PERFORM THEIR PIECES
Legend by Andrea Queens, Founder of AQ Arts
How Many Feet by Elizabeth Uter, actress and award-winning poet
Closely Observed Pigeons by poet Sue Saunders
Changling by Ian McLachlan, founding member of Poets For The Planet
Building on Stilts by Rose Rouse, who created the Willesden Junction poets
On Platform 4, by Iman Hamid, soulful poet
STOP, by Nick Moss and read by Sue Saunders