The author Reni Eddo-Lodge and the actor and activist Emma Watson are spearheading a project to create an alternative map of the London underground that celebrates women and non-binary people who have shaped the city.
The pair are working with writers, community organisers, curators, museums, and historians, as well as asking for submissions from the public, to identify the names of “remarkable women, non-binary people, and women’s groups” to feature on all 270 tube stops on their updated version of the iconic underground map.
Eddo-Lodge, who wrote the best-selling book about racism in Britain, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, and Watson, announced their plan on social media this week.
The project is inspired by the work of writer Rebecca Solnit and geographer Joshua Jelly-Shapiro in New York, who produced a similar alternative map of the NYC subway for their book Non-Stop Metropolis. The book, and poster of the map, sparked a city-wide conversation about how gendered its public spaces are, and how people collectively think about the history of their cities.
In the UK, the project, called “City of London Women”, is being organised by the Women of the World (WoW) Foundation, a group which puts on feminist arts festivals around the world.
We are SO excited to announce we are working with @renireni, Rebecca Solnit & @emmawatson to support their public history project to reimagine @TfL’s classic Tube map. #cityofwomenlondon will celebrate women who've made their mark on the city. Get involved https://t.co/Uc5l7OuUSmpic.twitter.com/ZQpYecwaqj— WOW - Women of the World (@WOWisGlobal) July 20, 2020
“The project aims to identify remarkable female or non-binary Londoners who have had an impact on the city’s history in some way," the London organisers told reporters.
Some of the names will be famously connected to their neighbourhood — such as Amy Winehouse, who has been suggested for Camden tube stop, or Virginia Woolf for Russell Square — while others will be lesser-known activists who had a big impact on their part of the city.
"Some of these people might be household names, others might be unsung heroes or figures from London’s hidden histories,” the organisers from WoW explained. “Others might be drawn from arts, civil society, business, politics, sport, and so on.”
Their statement continued: “So many remarkable women and non-binary people have made their mark in the greater London area, the list of possible station names is dizzying. We will never think of the tube — or public space — the same way again!”
Solnit and Jelly-Schapiro will be helping the UK’s project too. The new London underground map design will be published later this year.
Solnit wrote of the New York project: "How does it impact our imaginations that so many places in so many cities are named after men and so few after women? What kind of landscape do we move through when streets and parks and statues and bridges are gendered … and it’s usually one gender, and not another?"
We can’t wait to see what gets produced. If you want to participate and put in a name for a heroic activist to represent your local tube stop, you can add your thoughts here.