Main content

Art installation shines a light on The Cally’s colourful past and present

Cllrs Claudia Webbe, left, and Paul Convery take in Phil Coy's Cally Colur Chart art installation underneath the Cally bridge.

Cllrs Claudia Webbe, left, and Paul Convery take in Phil Coy's Cally Colur Chart art installation underneath the Cally bridge.

View | Download ( JPG - 7.05 MB )
A railway bridge over the Caledonian Road has been turned into a bold art statement reflecting the colourful culture and history of its neighbourhood.

Artist Phil Coy, known for his work combining architecture, film and language, has spent the last year researching the area's history and collaborating with the local community to create Cally Colour Chart. The striking “light poem” has been permanently installed underneath the local landmark known as ‘The Cally’ bridge, near Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Overground station.

As part of the process, the artist spoke with local historians, residents, school pupils and those working in Caledonian Road, inviting them to nominate colours and names for inclusion.

The resulting work comprises continuous lighting that illuminates the underside of the bridge, fading between the poem's 191 colours. The name of each colour appears simultaneously on a four-metre dot-matrix display, creating a new poem line by line. Passing traffic and pedestrians randomly trigger each change, so that the poem never repeats the same pattern.

The work pays homage to the Caledonian Road’s distinct communities and extraordinary past, and subverts the familiar colour charts used in architecture, fashion, design and other industries which dictate our modern-day reference points.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, executive member for environment and transport, said: “The Cally bridge is an iconic and much-loved focal point for the area, and this art installation is a novel and exciting way of engaging the people who live and work here to help shape their own environment.

“It has been a real success and given people from all walks of life an eye-catching talking point on their doorstep and a cultural stake in their community and its extraordinary past.”

The final palette and composition of 191 hues includes colour #149 “By all forgot we rot and rot”, making reference to Oscar Wilde’s time on remand in nearby Holloway prison, whilst colour #120 “Phil Jeffries (1954-2009)” commemorates the local campaigner who devoted his life to campaigning on planning, housing and anti-war issues.

Colour #64, “The March of the Women”, references the anthem of the women's suffrage movement that was famously sung in Holloway prison’s courtyard by a choir of suffragettes in 1912, and colour #182, “Strawberry Strobes”, was suggested by a pupil of nearby Copenhagen primary school.

Other historical references include “Cattle drovers”, highlighting the Caledonian Road’s historic route for livestock sold at the nearby market, now Caledonian Park, while other names range from the poetic, such as “Low moon rise” and “He lay on my banks and looked down at me”, to the more observational “Checking lipstick” and “Oxblood tiles”.

Mr Coy said: “Working on this project has given me an incredible opportunity to get to know the Cally area. Through my research into the Caledonian Road, and talking with people who live there, I wanted to privilege those narratives that are rarely recorded or commemorated.

“The Cally represents an extraordinary layering of history, and in a minor, half-glanced way, the poem is an attempt to reflect that. I love the idea that someone waiting for a bus will see a pacifist slogan from the local offices of Peace News, or colour #99 –  “Identikit facial composite system”. That is a reference to Edwin Bush, the first British criminal to be caught with the help of the Identikit system, and the last man to be hanged at the nearby Pentonville Prison.

“I hope there is also something interesting that may emerge over time, creating a work that makes reference to history, but also has its own longevity so will continue to be part of the area in the future.”

Islington Council commissioned the artwork on the Network Rail-owned bridge with funding from Transport for London, which has also paid for 16 new, creatively designed cycle racks installed as part of a broader drive to enhance The Cally as a distinctive and pleasant local landmark.

Known as The Cally Cyclegs, they play on the traditional Sheffield stand design, incorporating the rear leg of a dog and a chair leg. They were designed by the Klassnik Corporation, which has worked on commissions for the London 2012 Olympics among others.

For more information contact:

Stephen Moore
Senior Media Officer
020 7527 3224
Stephen.Moore2@islington.gov.uk

Cally Colour Chart 1 Cllrs Webbe Convery.jpg

Cllrs Claudia Webbe, left, and Paul Convery take in Phil Coy's Cally Colur Chart art installation underneath the Cally bridge.

View | Download ( JPG - 7.23 MB )