London, as a destination and location has shaped and influenced my writing since the formation of Comfortably Adventurous. When the Global Pandemic closed the city it invoked an isolar feeling, many of its most famous and recognisable attractions closed for the first time in living memory to such an extent their very survival today remains tenable. I’ve been fortunate in recent months as the galleries and museums returned to some form of normalcy to have the opportunity to visit and observe the new normal in the cultural sphere, a fascinating if uneasy sense of how the world has changed. As we grew into the Summer, I decided to reflect back on a number of my personal highlights of the capital in preparation for their reopening, the reality has been more stranger than I could have envisioned.
One influence that brought some comfort was a legacy of London in the digital sphere, its representation and use across a variety of media from TV to Film and in the modern world today, Gaming. In 2018 when writing for Around The Bonfire I decided to undertake a project using the video game Assassin’s Creed Syndicate to document and chart the accuracy of the Victorian era setting of the game to the many real world locations featured in this title. Packing up my Camera and a sturdy pair of walking boots, I hit the streets of the capital capturing a variety of images from some of the cities most recognisable locations. It was a great experience and allowed me to put together a number of articles that still remain one of my most popular series. It was the first, tangible, objective outcome I had achieved through the medium of gaming.
It stirred an ambition to create more of these singular form projects looking at how the city has been presented in the digitised realm and compare it to the reality of the world I live in. Some aspects and locations are well known and need no introduction, the Palace of Westminster and St Paul’s Cathedral are so well documented and used they require little effort or indeed endeavour to present an article on them. They have become a crutch, a way for cinematographers to quickly establish the city as a location without delving more into the intricacies of its locations. That for me was motivation, to start looking through and watching decades of film, tv and game series to compare and contrast the fictional worlds depicted on the small and silver screen to their real world counterparts whilst highlighting and bringing to life some of the lesser used areas of the city.
Certain series and franchises sprung to mind immediately, the Mission Impossible films throughout the entirety of the series has used London as a location at key pivotal points, the most recent of which Fallout I happened to be in town when the running sequence was being shot across Blackfriars Station roof over the Thames. When I was working in Paddington for a year, the London fight sequence for the fourth Jason Bourne film was shot and filmed besides the Paddington Basin off the Grand Union Canal. It was sitting here having lunch one afternoon that inspired me to start looking to research and document some of these filming locations, it fascinated me and I hope to a broader international audience would be of some interest. It was a project I was looking to develop as I transitioned over to Comfortably Adventurous which seemed like a platform to explore the digital and real worlds, the founding purpose of this project.
The launch trailer for the latest iteration of the Watch Dogs series set in a near future interpretation of London introduced a way to continue where my work on Syndicate had concluded two years ago. Using this new, virtual prism of my home city and exploring a more modern and contemporary view on it. There will of course be some artistic interpretations and adaptation but from what I’ve seen certain areas and attractions do look remarkably similar to their real world counterparts, for me it’s a playground to explore, and then an opportunity to go out and see how it compares to the world how it exists today. Though more limited in scale, the depiction of Piccadilly Circus as featured in the Modern Warfare campaign was of interest when I viewed the level in action in recent weeks. Maybe even an opportunity to bring my Syndicate articles over to Comfortably Adventurous.
The city has featured extensively over the past few decades in various forms and guises, away from the familiar skylines and attractions, its unique historical architecture and design make it a fascinating backdrop to craft a narrative against. From the use of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich as featured in the movie Patriot Games to a more modern and contemporary use in the spy series Spooks. It blends a societal transition between the modern advertising and capitalistic endeavours of American culture and the more defined historical buildings of European society with a functioning and defined personality of its own. For me, over the next year, a clear direction and strategy to start reviewing and experiencing media linked to London and then exploring the real world away from the digital one. In the absence of international travel in the short to medium term, it allows exploration and discovery a short distance from my home.
Coming Soon: ‘Patriot Games‘ – On location at the Old Royal Naval College
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