Ooh, Interesting! Mind The Gap

August 14, 2015

This week, we seek to tell what must be the loveliest story about the London Underground because hey, it’s Friday and we can all do with a warm tale to take us into the weekend.

Here at Sternberg Clarke, we provide speakers for events. Have you ever wondered what may happen if that speaker doesn’t turn up? Well, that’s partly why you book through an entertainment agency, because we can sort that problem out for you without you having to grace the stage. (NB: If you do have to grace the stage and speak, here are a few tips to help you through it.)

But let’s imagine you can’t afford to pay your speaker due to the royalties they were demanding for their performance. This is a problem that TfL faced back in the 1960s for their famous “Mind the Gap” message. As such, a sound engineer working for the company – Peter Lodge - decided to use his own voice instead and that was used for many years.

More recently a number of actors have lent their voice to the message with stars such as Stephen Fry being heard for charity at particular stations. One theatre actor, Oswald Laurence, was heard throughout the Northern Line for many years until his voice was slowly phased out, ultimately only able to be heard on the northbound service at Embankment.

When this too was replaced by a more modern voice, his widow Margaret was so devastated that she wrote to TfL to explain that she missed her husband so much and dearly loved to hear his magical voice when journeying around London, deliberately taking a trip through Embankment just to hear it. Providing Margaret with a copy of Oswald’s recording, TfL also decided to reinstate the voice to just this one particular tube stop.

So whenever you take a trip through Embankment on the northbound Northern line service, listen closely for a man telling travellers to “Mind the Gap”, for you are only hearing it to cheer up an elderly lady. Isn’t that just lovely?

Bonus Fact: You may be wondering why 'mind the gap' is used at all. Back in 1968, drivers were no longer able to issue warnings. It was impractical and slowed the service down. A decision was taken to record an incredibly expensive digital soundbite to ensure that the message would be able to be used far into the future. Because it was so expensive, the shorter the better, as the message would also be written on station platforms. So utilising just ten letters and three syllables, "Mind the Gap" was the perfect fit.




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By Henry Fosdike