Tony Blair and New Labour make a great play of their Modernity. Everyone on the internet (apart from Blair himself, of course), everything New British. But the very fact that they need to emphasise their modernity shows that it isn't really there. A forward-looking vision is just there, underpinning everything you do, and it's so unobtrusively important that you don't really need to make lavish, melodramatic speeches about it ("White heat of technology" excepted, of course). That was Harold Wilson's 1964-70 Labour government, and so many aspects of the era are still inspirational, as Martin Parr knows, and anthologised in his book of Boring Postcards.
This is an image worthy of a place therein, not the dull collection of railway photos in which I found it. A beautiful time-capsule of the real New Britain taking shape, fleeing the dusty conventions of the 50s, with their stubborn separation of road and rail. This photo, taken circa 1965 at the Kensington Olympia station developed as a Motorail terminal (and which is now a mundane west London outpost of the privatised railway system) expresses everything you need to know about the mid-60s. The brilliance of the modernist British Rail logo, which replaced the fusty, imperialist, ultra-50s lion-on-wheel "British Railways" logo (simply the change from "Railways" to "Rail" was significant - a long, obvious name replaced by a fast, fantasist identification), and the exoticism of the Motorail concept itself (Archigram Lite, maybe, but still a radical idea for BR). Next to it, the Channel Tunnel is revealed for what it is - a product of a jaded, cynical post-Thatcher era.
The beauty of this image is incredible. Cherish it. Next time Blair tells you how Modern his government is, remember it.
Robin Carmody, January 2000
Other past artefacts:
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