Remembering the Docklands bomb
Collaboration with George Legg, a project exploring the legacy of the 1996 IRA bomb at South Quay, London.
What are the unwritten memories of an explosion loaded with political significance?
On 9 February 1996 the IRA detonated a 3,000 pound bomb in London’s Docklands, causing £150 million worth of damage, 40 injuries and 2 fatalities. The explosion marked the end of a seventeen month ceasefire, forcing the British government to re-table talks for peace in Northern Ireland. In the mainstream media this event has been read as the IRA successfully ‘bombing its way to the conference table’.
But the bomb had other, often forgotten, consequences. The explosion not only altered London’s built environment, it also transformed human relationships with the city. The bomb revealed weaknesses in the capital’s security apparatuses, prompting a renewed approach to surveillance in the city. Alongside this, London’s Irish communities were placed under the strain of suspicion against the otherwise optimistic backdrop of the peace process. Victims of the attack, meanwhile, continue to fight for compensation and recognition of the damage caused to their families and their everyday lives.
This project was a collaboration between teaching fellow in Liberal Arts and London, Dr. George Legg, and Lucy Harrison, an artist based in London whose work looks at sites and communities in the midst of change.
Together George and Lucy interviewed local residents and members of the Docklands Victims Association about the bombing and its unfolding legacy. Their approach was to experiment in bringing together academic and artistic research methods in response to the unwritten memories and official narratives of this explosion.
Where George’s work tends to be archival and text based, Lucy often operates through video, photography and collaborative exchanges with the public. By combining these approaches Lucy and George made a body of work that looks beyond the bomb’s abstract role in peace negotiations. The work was shown at Republic Gallery, a temporary space within an office building in the Docklands, in March / April 2017. A fold out A1 poster was also produced, designed by Modern Activity, including a text by George. Some copies are still available, get in touch to find out more.
This project is a collaboration between King’s College London’s Department of Liberal Arts and Lucy Harrison, supported by Arts Council England, the European Colleges for Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Cultural Institute at King’s as part of the Early Career Researchers scheme.
Image above courtesy Tower Hamlets Archives. Photographs in exhibition courtesy Tower Hamlets Archives, London Metropolitan Archives and David Charnock.