For the last few weeks, the archivists at the London Transport Museum have been doing just that: digging around and dusting down photographs, maps, trophies and film footage from between 1913 and the 1950s in preparation for the launch of 'Sporting London'. Each exhibit has an LT link: advertising posters proposed taking the tube to Wembley or the Oval; publicity films of 1920s Boat Races, Test matches at Lord's and Wimbledon tennis tournaments were all shot by LT's film unit.
Stephen Allen, who put the exhibition together, points out that London's 20th-century history is strongly tied to both sport and transport. 'This was a Golden Age of spectator sport,' says Allen. 'Greyhound racing and speedway were incredibly popular. After the war came the advent of the motor car and the TV, so things changed.'
Some of the film clips would make Fantasy Football League proud, such as the footage of the 1923 FA Cup Final, the so-called 'White Horse' match. 'It was the first Cup Final ever held at Wembley. There were 180,000 people in the ground and they all went out onto the pitch. One policeman on a white horse managed to move them all . . . which is interesting when you compare it with Heisel or Hillsborough.'
Many of the posters are the result of some imaginative commissioning by Frank Pick, publicity manager for the tube system around 1910. 'His vision was to get people to use public transport on weekends, and sport would be the vehicle for this,' says Allen. 'Some of the finest graphic art was done in the 1920s and 1930s, and Frank Pick was like a patron to this. He commissioned big-name artists like Edward McKnight Kauffer, Henry Perry, and Sybil Andrews and Cyril Power, who worked together under the nom de plume of Andrew Power.
And there are titbits for non-Londoners, too. Allen, an Everton-fan, has a favourite: 'It's advertising the 1933 FA Cup Final (won by Everton). We beat Manchester City 3-0. Dixie Dean scored one of the goals. It was the first time numbers were worn on the backs of the players' shirts.' Was it only 60 years ago?
'Sporting London' opens tomorrow at the London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza (071-379 6344). Admission to the museum, including 'Sporting London' pounds 3.95, pounds 2.50 concs, pounds 10 family ticket. Under-fives get in free. Opening: 10am to 6pm, every day
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