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HomeCommunityHarrow transport worker dazzles central London Tube station with captivating art-inspired poetry

Harrow transport worker dazzles central London Tube station with captivating art-inspired poetry

A poem by a creative transport worker from Harrow-on-the-Hill about a mural at Brixton station is now displayed at St James’s Park station for the next year, as part of TfL’s Art on the Underground’s writer in residence scheme.

Talented Anthony Okolie’s poem ‘Ode to the Mother’ is inspired by the large-scale public artwork by Jem Perucchini over the entrance of Brixton Underground station. ‘Rebirth of a Nation,’ responds to the diverse narratives of the area and in recognition of the local murals painted in Brixton in the 1980s.

The bright and reverent mural draws from the Ivory Bangle Lady, the name given to the North African occupant of an ancient grave dated to around the 4th century, which Okolie says “conjured the notion of the strong women and mothers often taken for granted and seldom acknowledged as much as they could be.”

‘Ode to the Mother’ has launched as an artwork poster on the platform of St James’s Park station, and is on view for a year, with the 45-line poem arranged across four panels.

Anthony has worked for TfL for six years as a Customer Service Manager at Harrow-on-the-Hill station. As a creative writer and filmmaker in his spare time, he is inspired by history, psychology and the so-called ‘mundane’ aspects of everyday life, portraying authenticity and realism in his work and highlighting the different perspectives of people going through similar, if not the same, routines and emotions.

By day, Anthony helps with the smooth and safe daily operation of the busy interchange in northwest London, helping people get to where they need to be on the Metropolitan line.

Art on the Underground’s Writer in Residence scheme was established in 2022 to highlight and amplify the creative voices within TfL, creating engaging responses to art across the network.

Harrow transport worker dazzles central London Tube station with captivating art-inspired poetry Harrow Online
Harrow station customer service manager and writer Anthony Okolie. Image: TfL

Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons OBE, said: “Anthony Okolie’s poetry celebrating the strength of women and mothers will be a delightful new addition to London’s transport network.

“Not only do our TfL workforce deliver a brilliant transport service, they have a host of remarkable talents and I can’t wait to see and read these poems on the underground as we build a better London for everyone.”

Eleanor Pinfield, TfL’s Head of Art on the Underground, said: “TfL’s diverse workforce is full of untapped talent and it’s been fantastic to see our resident writers showcase their writing skills alongside their operational roles. The range of works exhibited with our Art on the Underground programme provides rich inspiration for writing about important themes such as gender equality, while St James’s Park Tube station is the perfect place for Okolie’s work to be seen by thousands of Londoners and visitors to the capital.”

Art on the Underground Writer in residence, Anthony Okolie, said: “To have this great honour bestowed upon me by Art on the Underground was a truly humbling experience and I’m eternally thankful. I felt the weight of responsibility to carry on from the exceptional writings of the inaugural resident writer, Ayesha Kundi. I hope my poem can resonate with and perhaps intrigue whoever gets the opportunity to read it. I also hope others are inspired, as much as I was, to share their creativity in the upcoming open call for Writer in Residence next year.”

Okolie’s first piece to be displayed with Art on the Underground was ‘DESCEND and DISSENT’, written in response to the 2023 Art on the Underground performance by with artist Barby Asante last year.

The inaugural writer in residence, Ayesha Kundi, delivered a spoken word performance at Uniqlo’s flagship London store, featuring her poem ‘Stooped in Courage,’ initially exhibited at various locations including Heathrow T4 and Brixton Underground station. St James’s Park station witnessed increased activity during the pandemic, peaking at nearly 250,000 entries and exits on London Marathon day.

Transport for London (TfL) is promoting poetry across its operations, coinciding with Cambridge University Library’s acquisition of the Poems on the Underground archive. London, a perennial muse, inspired numerous poets, including Benjamin Zephaniah, whose ‘The London Breed’ celebrates the city’s diversity. A fresh collection of poems, centered on themes of love and diversity, now adorns trains, featuring classic authors like Byron and Brontë alongside contemporary voices such as Seni Seneviratne and Marjorie Lofti.

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