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September 2, 2011


Sounds of Euston Station … Under Surveillance!

by soundlandscapes

I SPENT TWO DAYS in the UK this week. At the bottom of my little street I caught the 43 bus to the Gare du Nord in Paris and from there I caught the Eurostar. Two hours and fifteen minutes after leaving Paris I alighted in London St. Pancras station. I still marvel at how quick and convenient this journey is and of course, St. Pancras was looking as wonderful as ever.

There are two other main-line railway stations within a stones throw of St Pancras. Across the street is the ugly and claustrophobic King’s Cross station thankfully undergoing a serious makeover. Further up the Euston Road beyond the British Library is Euston station.

It was here, with some time to spare, that I decided to venture inside and record some of the atmosphere.

In Paris I feel free to record sound and to take photographs in public places without giving it a second thought. I’m sad to say that don’t have the same feeling in London. It’s said that in London you are captured by a video camera three hundred times every day and I can well believe it. Euston station is littered with video cameras at every turn. I would have liked to have taken photographs inside the station to illustrate the sound I was recording … but I didn’t. I just had the feeling that pointing a camera would have brought the wrath of God down upon me.

I completely understand the very real concerns about security and the need for vigilance in our modern world but isn’t there also a case for balance? Who actually watches these miles and miles of video footage?

I have to admit that coming back to Paris was a breath of fresh air.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 3 2011

    You have captured a great sense of space here despite your misgivings. Do you think that there is a sense of freedom in recording when you are in a foreign country? I know a lot of travellers feel that the laws and police don’t apply to them as strongly compared to when they are in their home country.

    • Sep 3 2011

      Thanks Jay. I think that, when in a foreign country, sometimes ignorance of the law is a great advantage – even if it’s not an excuse if you get caught! I shouldn’t though feel that the UK is a foreign country since I have a UK passport. However,what makes UK feel foreign to me is the over enthusiasm with which health & safety and security issues are tackled. It seems to me that the legislation is gold-plated and taken to extremes. As I said in the blog piece, it should be about getting the balance right.

  2. Sep 3 2011

    Oops, i meant when comparing living in Paris you might feel a bit more freedom having not grown up under their law. I work with migrants who invariably speak of the Australian police and security as laughable, whereas I feel quite differently.
    But yes, the feeling of being under a suspicious watchful eye isn’t at all pleasant.

    • Sep 3 2011

      Sorry Jay, my mistake, I misunderstood. The French though do take security very seriously but they seem to have a better perspective on getting the balance right. One seldom feels the ever present watchful eye here even though, in some places, it is certainly there.

  3. Sep 4 2011

    I have noticed how different it sounds upon reading the text Des. Anyway… Did you say hello to Ian while in London?

    • Sep 4 2011

      Thanks Vladimir. My trip to London was very brief and arranged at short notice so, whilst I walked past Ian’s office, sadly I was not able to say hello. Maybe next time.

  4. Oct 5 2011

    CCTV footage seems only ever used after the event to find out what happened, I can’t recall an event where perps where caught from CCTV observation committing a crime.

    I haven’t had any grief recording or photographing. Indeed I once went round the City of London collecting pics of people under CCTV cameras but the project didn’t work out. Didn’t have any trouble taking the shots though.

    There’s something deliciously ironic about a stealth sound recordist feeling uncomfortable being anonymously watched 😉 Agree that CCTV has got out of hand in the UK, though, merely for being omnipresent even if it is ineffectual.


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