In autumn 2013, we invited you to explore the streets and architecture of London on the big screen in our Urban Wandering: Film and the London Landscape season. With particular focus on East London, we found ourselves with a starring role in one of the season’s films, Elevating London, a fascinating documentary by Chris Bevan Lee investigating the abandoned pedway system in the City of London – and one of the most iconic features of the Barbican Estate.
Watch the full film above and find out more about the making of the documentary as we speak to the director about his experiences on the Barbican highwalks.
- What inspired you to make this documentary?
I had seen some images on a few retro blogs and the idea of this lost vision made me incredibly excited and nostalgic. There wasn’t much information out there on the walkways and there were only a few photographs so this and the fact that no-one else had made anything on the subject that motivated me to get started. It turned out to be a perfect time to do it as a lot is now being demolished – so much has changed in the area since I began the film that my own contemporary footage is now archive.
- What was the most interesting discovery about the Barbican you made while researching the film?
I don’t think I ever appreciated the craftsmanship in the stonework until I was shooting the estate and noticed how sculptured it was – the rough textured concrete was in fact, pick axed by hand. The word ‘brutalist’ is often used but it certainly doesn’t remind me of buildings like the Tricorn Centre, which I grew up being intimidated by on trips to Southsea. The Barbican is a true original.
- Do you have a favourite spot in the Barbican Centre or Estate?
It has to be walking along Gilbert Bridge over the lake. I use this part quite often and it gets me every time. It’s a spot that really gives you an idea of not only the scale of the Barbican, but of the feeling you get from being at that elevated level. It’s especially beautiful in the summer and I always spend the short time whilst I’m walking over the bridge with my head panning from left to right. There’s so much to look at.
- Where else in London would you recommend other city wanderers explore?
Anyone who hasn’t taken a stroll through the alleyways around the Bank and St Paul’s area should absolutely do so. Burgon Street, Wardrobe Terrace, St Michael’s Alley and Castle Court spring to mind, with well-maintained old shop facades, cute pubs and pretty churches. You can easily waste a few hours weaving through it all.
About Chris Bevan Lee
Having started out in the film and television industry, filmmaker Chris Bevan Lee made the move to advertising where he has worked on a number of large campaign projects – creating short documentaries for companies such as Land Rover, Nokia and Transport for London. The 2009 documentary Far from the Sodding Crowd was his first film that explored the unknown side of the UK and The Pedway: Elevating London continues the theme of the eccentric and cements Chris’s passion for factual storytelling.
Read the article that inspired The Pedway: Elevating London, Michael Hebbert’s The City of London Walkway Experiment