Guidebooks have never been more niche: the East London park boulders now have their own poster mini-guide that includes a little of their history and if you're into Eastoterica, you can get it from the BMC Shop. If you've never heard of them, then read on:
Two 80-ton granite boulders, transported from Cornwall and installed in separate East London parks in 2008: these sculptures are art that you are supposed to touch.
In 2020, the creative collective Steep Learning Group were climbing the boulders and became curious about their history. To find out more, Steep met with their creator, artist and climber John Frankland, as well as the climbers who have, over the years, contributed to the wealth of ‘problems’: specifically designed and increasingly difficult ways to get to the top of each boulder.
The result of Steep’s investigations is a double-sided folded poster that makes available for the first time an illustrated guide for 85 different boulder problems. It includes a history of how the rocks came to London, and a new text from the artist reflecting on his work today, 13 years on from its installation.
In the interview, John Frankland said: “When the boulders came to London, I had to fight for their anonymity. I didn’t want anything to interfere with their mute presence: no fences, no soft landing, no instructions of any kind, and, importantly, no plaque announcing that they were art or any mention of my name. Nothing. More than this, I saw them as vandal-proof, indestructible (graffiti doesn’t last long in geological time). They could look after themselves. Or so I thought…”
There is a film made by Chris Dorley-Brown that documents the process of bringing the boulders from a quarry in Cornwall and installing them in London. You can watch it online, search for “boulder (John Frankland) 2008”. Or just enjoy the climbing.
All proceeds of the poster go to Project One Climbing. Project One support children who face cultural and financial barriers to climbing. The poster sales will enable the organisation to buy the equipment required to take local children to climb the boulders.
The guide was supported by the British Mountaineering Council, with help from UKC.
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