Artist Paul Elliman leads a walk through London’s West End in search of unmarked police cars. Accompanied by a small group of specialists from different backgrounds, this walking discussion moves through a range of themes, from techniques of subterfuge, to emergency response, communication, surveillance, and the historical use of sirens in London.
With contributions from Paul Elliman, police analyst and adviser Graham Wettone, architect and kerb scholar Julian Lewis, film locations historian Roland-Francois Lack, artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, and soprano Charmian Bedford.
Film locations historian Roland-Francois Lack offers an account of two lost films from early cinema made by electrical engineer and pioneering film maker Robert Paul – On a Runaway Motor Car through Piccadilly Circus, and Sensational Fire Engine Collision (both c.1900). For the former, Paul attached a camera to a car in order to stage a high speed 'phantom ride' car chase through Piccadilly Circus, the latter film involved the spectacular crashing of a fire engine close to Marble Arch.
Paul Elliman discusses the historical use of sirens in London, exploring how emergency vehicle sirens can change or create the space in which they operate. Elliman is interested in aspects of language acquisition, and the mimetic relationship between the built environment and our own means of communication.
Soprano Charmian Bedford then performs some examples of emergency vehicle sirens using the human voice.
Reflecting on the relative silence of the UK police communications network TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) which is blocked to the public's ears, artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan talks about the emergency phone calls archive and its role in providing sonic evidence in legal trials long after an emergency call has been made.