Thames to Dunkirk

01 Front cover

02 opening

03 Beginning

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18 Channel crossing P 13 Admiralty

19 page 14

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Thames to Dunkirk by Liz Mathews

Texts by BG Bonallack and Virginia Woolf

Handmade paper, watercolour mixed with Thames water, acrylics and ink, conservation adhesive; lettered with a brush, a wooden clothes-peg and a Thames driftwood stick.

Book closed 1 metre high x 70cm wide and 12cm deep.

Book open (free-standing) 1m high and approx 17m long

Thames to Dunkirk was the largest book in the British Library’s Writing Britain exhibition May – September 2012:

Liz Mathews with Thames to Dunkirk in the British Library

The Thames is a character in itself, from Chaucer to Conrad and TS Eliot. Writers’ responses to it ebb and flow, feeding it like so many tributaries, sending it off in new directions. And so our perception of our physical geography is shaped.  We all play our part… as artist Liz Mathews has done in Thames to Dunkirk, a 17m-long book containing a watercolour map of the Thames… By using a piece of driftwood as a pen, her work embodies this creative continuum.

Genevieve Fox in The Telegraph, 3rd April 2012


Thames to Dunkirk by Liz Mathews in the British Library’s 2012 exhibition ‘Writing Britain’

A new short film follows Thames to Dunkirk with BG Bonallack’s poem voiced by his grandson Christopher Peters, and Virginia Woolf’s lines from The Waves by me, Liz Mathews, in an atmospheric soundtrack. Click or touch screen here to view the film.

Read more about Thames to Dunkirk at the British Library in Roughened Water, my guest-post on the British Library’s blog, by clicking here.

Thames to Dunkirk is still the largest book in the British Library’s permanent collection, and can be accessed with a reader’s ticket. The Library has provided the following information:

‘Thames to Dunkirk is now catalogued with the shelfmark HS.85/37, and is available to be seen by readers at the Library.  The book is restricted therefore an application to see a restricted item form must be submitted.  The application can be completed at the Library or remotely by letter or email.  When someone applies to see the book they will need to make an appointment as the book cannot be requested to one of the reading rooms but will be made available for viewing in the Manuscripts Study Room.’

I’ve really enjoyed looking at the Thames to Dunkirk installation online – what a unique piece, with the two texts woven together as they are, yet standing jarringly separate – Woolf’s message so raw and abiding.

Katie Webb, 10th May 2015 

And for more information on the two texts and the making process, please see BG Bonallack, Virginia Woolf’s diary and the making of Thames to Dunkirk.

All photographs © Liz Mathews. The page-by-page photographs of Thames to Dunkirk were taken at St Matthew’s Church, Bethnal Green, London by kind permission of the Rev Kevin Scully; the photo of Liz Mathews with Thames to Dunkirk in the British Library was taken by Frances Bingham. Please don’t use any of the photos on The Dunkirk Project without permission.

To the River of Stories.

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