In the Bowels of Earls Court

As part of my preparation for Richard III next month, I have been immersing myself in the source material. Including several viewings of the movie versions by both Lawrence Olivier and Ian McKellen. The McKellen version, set in an imaginary 1930s England of civil wars and facism (close to the England that may have transpired had Edward VIII not abdicated on his marriage to Mrs Simpson), is stunningly beautiful in its choice of eccentric locations (as well as in the costumes and props used). Every scene brings on a new and mouth-watering piece of architecture. I have just been reading more about the locations used on Ian McKellen’s website, where I saw this:

Earls Court Exhibition Center is frequently used for rock concerts and opera but no one has ever shown interest in the bowels of the building. The barren, concrete lower levels provided the behind-the-scenes area of the arena where Richard held a Nuremberg style rally. Soviet and Italian inspired murals proclaiming a new order of prosperity, productivity and full employment decorated the walls of the green room.

When I was 17, and was acting as photographer for a new Richmond College newspaper alongside reporter Andrew Gilligan, Andrew and I visited Earls Court station. He told me about the elaborate network of tunnels that existed underneath the station, and together we sneaked inside them while the railway staff weren’t looking. The tunnels really are quite incredible, an underground city. We wondered around them lost for some 30 minutes, dodging into alcoves whenever we heard footsteps approaching, before finally ducking through an unmarked door and finding ourselves in the exhibition space, right in the middle of the Earls’ Court Boat Show (making a significant saving of some £20 on entrance fees). Truly an experience to remember.