Transports of delight (2): On the light railway

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The Independent Culture
Peter Fink, an artist from London, won Second Prize for a reader entry.

As an artist who works with laser (commissions have included Light Year, the massive light installation for Canary Wharf's New Year display), Fink proposed installing images along elevator shafts and corridor walls.

'As people travel up and down,' he explains, 'they would see constantly- changing light displays on translucent panels. The idea is to create a mood - to disturb the sterility and anonymity of the Underground system.' In an interactive display, patterns and colours would be dictated by the time of day and the seasons. 'When people are feeling stressed during the rush hour there'd be a slow rhythm of pinks and blues and whites; in the evening, when people are going to the theatre and discos, it would be much faster.'

His ideas were particularly liked by the judges because they underlined 'the little-appreciated fact that the guided transport system is one of the most exciting modern technologies'. Indeed, Fink himself has long felt that the London Underground decor harks back to the early 1960s. 'They're not using the enormous possibilities that art has opened up in the last 20 or 30 years.'

Poems on the Underground, a scheme run by novelist Judith Chernaik, was an 'Independent'/ Gulbenkian plaque winner.

Almost 115 works, from Burns to Elisabeth Bishop, have been issued since the scheme began in 1986. London Transport gives its support by providing 4,000 free display spaces in the carriages, and covering the pounds 10,000 production costs. The British Library gives a small grant.

Each poem has to be approved by the Advertising Standards Authority, but only the erotic metaphor in the medieval lyric, 'I have a Gentle Cock', ever caused any concern. Other poems have proved difficult, says Chernaik, citing Elizabeth Bishop's One Art (see above) on the theme of loss and love. 'But it's well worth ploughing through . . . People are generally very pleased to have something to read. It lifts the spirit, amuses . . .' Sad love poems, she adds, tend to do particularly well.

The scheme has proved so popular that a book of the complete set is into its seventh edition, having sold 40,000 copies. Everything is invested back into the programme.

(Photograph omitted)