Brunel 200 Legacy Once's 'Brunel's Billiard Table.
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Brunel's Billiard Table

Once formed in 2002 as a partnership of three artists working collaboratively in a wide range of art forms to create unique celebratory events with people and communities. They work around the three key themes of participation, interactivity and context.

Their original brief for their Brunel related project, consisted of creating poetic, art interventions on trains running along the GWR line, from London to the South West. Three artists spent time ‘in residence’ on the train, following the line, each looking at and absorbing the train and its route from different perspectives, such as the passengers perspective, visual, aesthetic and practical scientific angles. This interpretation of what is known as Brunel’s ‘Billiard Table’ (due to the flatness of the line), was then presented to the passengers in order than they reflected on their journey, its heritage, engineering and beauty.

The artists developed material using poetry, imagery, dialogue and textures, which were woven together to create a single piece of work. The artwork was printed on leaflets and handed out on the train to passengers.

Once's 'Brunel's Billiard Table.

Comments on the leaflet produced from passers by, included,

”It says what I had always thought really, about that line.”

“It’s made me think more about what I do every day on the train.”

“I’m going to send it to Australia, to my daughter, she loves Brunel and this train line.”

Once were pleased to be able to reach people that wouldn’t otherwise have been touched by the Bristol celebrations, and envisaged that their artwork would have been seen by over 6,000 people travelling on the trains.

An except from a poem, about the journey from Penzance to London, which formed part of the leaflet:

Now the sea comes in to meet us.
Ice on the edge of the mud flats and the rocks turn red.
Dartmoor looms, gorse leaning over to kiss us.
Each station brings a new voice as we dance across the land.

Cranes and ships and lots of grey.
On the Albert Bridge everyone’s peering.
We move to get a better view
Of our tail coming round behind us.

At each stop we lose more people.
It gets so quiet. So still.

Parallel lines and crossing points.
We remember other journeys, other trains.

Once's 'Brunel's Billiard Table.

Photography: Mark Simmons.