A MOVING HOME
'A Moving Home' takes listeners on a journey from London Zoo to Broadway Market via the magnificent Regent's Canal.
Of the 50,000 people estimated to live on the UK canal system, more than half are 'continuous cruisers' meaning they change moorings every two weeks. For boat dwellers in London, this is a tough task with much of the canal being privately owned, under development or restricted. However, the narrow boat community remains tight-knit and it's rare that boat owners will pass each other without some kind of greeting.
This feature begins in the leafy grove of St John's Wood, on the 61' narrow boat home of Augustin Carnwall-Irving, a composer and professional lute player. We can hear birds in the trees, the chatter of morning joggers and the sound of the capital taking its first breath.
We begin cruising the Regent's Canal, passing London Zoo where we hear a cacophony of sound ranging from the black-and-white colobus monkeys, the squabble of African wild dogs and grunts of wild boar. As we move through Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, we eventually arrive in Camden, which marks a change of pace. We hear rolling freight passing overhead, sellers setting up market stalls, goths and punks chatting on canal side benches.
Next stop on the journey East is the first of a trio of locks: Hampstead Road lock, Hawley Lock and Kentish Town Road. We hear Aug back-throttling the engine to get into position and tourists commentating on the spectacle. Then, the cranking of the lock key opening the sluice gate paddles and the gush of the water as it moves through the chamber. We hear the creak of old oak and Victorian iron as the lock door swings open as the boat squeezes through into the lock chamber. The same process is then repeated in reverse.
As we head through Kings Cross we hear the rumble of power tools in new-build apartments far up above and local fishermen casting their lines from the bank. The next key moments on Neville's journey begins when he enter the Islington tunnel. The sound changes completely as he enters this 200-year-old, 960-yard tunnel. Suddenly, we no longer hear birds, people and cars but instead the echo of the engine and the rush of water as the boat cruises through.
As we exit the tunnel the acoustic changes once more with the return of birds, trees and wildlife. At this point, the focus is on our driver finding a place to moor up for the next fortnight. We're cruising slower and closer to the towpath now. It's busy on this part of the canal and narrow boat owners are often forced to 'double park,' meaning that instead of mooring to the towpath they moor to the nearest available vessel. It's customary to ask someone before you moor on their boat so we hear a polite candid exchange as Neville asks his neighbour if they're happy to let him moor alongside.
The beauty of London's canals is their whimsical nature and the unexpected sounds and characters you cross paths with as you meanders through. 'A Moving Home' will highlight the sonic juxtapositions of canal boat life in the bustling city, capturing both its nuisance and charm.
Featuring Augustine Cornwall-Irving
Produced by Ben Tulloh, Kitty McCargo-Walklate and Hunter Charlton
A Burning Bright Audio Production for BBC Radio 3