As part of the Totally Thames Festival in September there will be a novel opportunity to see some of Sir William Arrol’s engineering, inside the Tower Bridge bascule chambers, whilst listening to a performance of Iain Chamber’s composition “Bascule Chambers”.
All the steelwork for Tower Bridge was manufactured by William Arrol & Co. Ltd. in Glasgow and shipped down to London for construction. Bascules are the steel sections of the bridge which lift to allow passage of tall ships underneath. The bascule chambers are massive, brick-lined spaces which house the counterweights that enable the bascules to be raised. Iain Chamber’s composition is based around the sounds made as the bascules are raised, so essentially the bridge becomes the musical instrument and is supported by 4 brass players. The premiere of the composition will be the first ever public performance inside the chamber.
Sir William Arrol was very fond of music and often held live performances in the large wooden panelled hall at Seafield House. I don’t suppose that, as he supervised work on Tower Bridge, he ever imagined that the chambers would be used as a venue for a musical performance although he may have commented on the acoustics of the cave-like space.
Performances of “Bascule Chambers” are being held on 26th and 27th September. Further information can be found on Iain Chamber’s website and the Tower Bridge Exhibition website.
Due to popular demand the FoSH exhibition Sir William Arrol: A Renfrewshire Connection, has been extended until Saturday 15th August. There has been a lot of interest in the exhibition particularly after the coverage in the Paisley Daily Express and the success of the Forth Bridge getting UNESCO World Heritage Status. So for those of you who have missed it or would like to see it again here is a second chance! See the Heritage Centre webpage for opening times and contact details.
Also, if you are in the vicinity there is an exhibition on the Scottish artist George Wyllie, “THE WHY?SMAN” in Paisley Museum, next door to the Heritage Centre.
The exhibition looks at some of Wyllie’s most famous works, including A Day Down a Goldmine, The Straw Locomotive, The Paper Boat and Spires, and also includes work that has not been previously exhibited.
When Wyllie was a young boy growing up near the Glasgow shipyards he liked to draw and make models of the cranes he saw around him. While still at school, he was offered a job in the crane-building department of Sir William Arrol & Co. based on the strength of this work. Jan Patience, tells us there is a good Arrol story in her forthcoming biograhy of George Wyllie.
The free exhibition runs from 17 July to 13 September. See the Paisley Museum webpages for further information and opening times.