Observations: Pedal to the plastic on an Olympian odyssey

  • @chrisbeanland

It's not quite Homer's Odyssey but last year, inspired by the epic tale, the writer Iain Sinclair and video artist Andrew Kötting pedalled a plastic swan pedalo 160 miles from Sussex to Stratford.

The result is a charming, whimsical new film. Swandown begins with Kötting, who directs, and Sinclair acquiring their pedalo at Hastings. They embark on an expedition by sea to Rye, thence upriver to Tonbridge, Rochester, the Thames Estuary, and finally the fenced-off Olympic Park. "We journeyed through liminal landscapes," says Sinclair.

En route, the pair chat with Kentish locals and share the pedalo, christened Edith after King Harold's mistress Edith Swan-Neck, with fellow flâneurs Stewart Lee and Alan Moore. Dubbed the "Olympic Odyssey", the journey for Sinclair is about his irritation at the Games and its impact on Hackney, where he has lived for years.

The film echoes the on-screen architectural essays of Jonathan Meades and the surreal larks of BS Johnson's film Fat Man on a Beach. "It lurches between Benny Hill and Joseph Beuys," laughs Sinclair. The Odyssey is also a recurring totem. "We thought of mock-heroic voyages," he adds.

'Swandown' is on general release (www.swandown.info)