Recently I published an article about Love on the Isle of Dogs, the latest work by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague. I am delighted to say that Jude has produced a series of drawings that show Canary Wharf in a very different light. Canary Wharf may be the workplace for thousands of workers but there is no reason that children can turn it into something very different.
My daughter was born on the Isle of Dogs, in one of the self-builds on the Westferry Road. When she was young I would carry her to Mudchute Farm to see the animals. In the 1990s, Canary Wharf was not yet the glassy, chrome wonderland it’s become.
But I can imagine it as a strange kind of paradise for young eyes. There is the fairground ride of the DLR, the circuses, the huge towering, impossibly high mountains of buildings, so clean and crisp. It is a city that doesn’t obey ordinary suburban rules. And the docks, these wide expanses of water have a little magic of lakes, so deep, so close to the buildings. A touch of the Lake District here in London.
Thinking about Canary Wharf and surrounding areas from a child’s point of view took me back to my childhood, visiting places with my father that you wouldn’t expect a child to like. He was fascinated by military history and there are photographs of me sitting on tanks, eating lollies wearing a pretty dress with my smug brother looking as proud as if he had won a battle. I remember how industrial places felt too, the great abandoned factories of the north. I am originally from Manchester and Bolton.
I also thought of my childhood reading and the imaginary places of storybooks. Swallows and Amazons made me think of playing pirates. Even the word circus was evocative and I thought of tightrope walking on the guide rails. The fountains look like someone should be playing in them and I hope with time that more people do, especially children of workers and those who live locally.
Canary Wharf, with its dramatic scale, could re-engage with our inner child’s perception. It can be a tool to look at the modern world as a kind of unrealistic dream. There is a unrealism to the brassy image of shiny commerce. In these pictures I have used its dynamic environment as a trigger of wonder.
Many thanks to Jude for the drawings and text and if you like her work, she is currently raising funds to publish her latest work, Love on the Isle of Dogs – a graphic novel. If you would like to find out more or contribute, click the link here