In Soho the walls have …. noses

I am sure that you are well acquainted with the phrase “Walls have ears”. In the artistic London district of Soho, however, the walls have … noses! Let’s find out who actually put them there and why. But first, let me share with you that Soho’s noses are not easily spotted, even though they are located on some of the most iconic buildings in the area. In order to see them, you have to know in advance that they are there. Tourists who have heard about them usually try to go around the neighborhood and “collect” all of them, namely seven noses sticking out from the walls in the most unlikely places

The noses are actually an artistic installation, the work of the artist Rick Bukley, installed in 1997. These are plaster enlarged replicas of his own olfactory organ affixed to certain buildings. In the beginning there were quite a few more (the rumour says that the noses were 30), so far the mentioned seven have survived

What impelled the creator to put them in famous places in the neighborhood? In 1993, the still active IRA – Irish Republican Army – detonated a truck bomb near Bishopsgate, causing casualties and destruction. After this incident, video surveillance was introduced and video cameras were monitoring the streets. Rick Buckley believes that this surveillance violates the liberties of citizens, that the cameras “stick their noses” into people’s affairs. Inspired by a group of avant-garde artists and revolutionaries from the middle of the 20th century – the Situationists – the author expressed through art his criticism towards the state. He installed the noses without initially explaining anything to his audience – the passers-by. The first urban legends started: that one of the noses was Napoleon’s, another was Admiral Nelson’s nose, etc. It is also said that whoever finds all the noses and removes them will acquire great wealth. Meanwhile, the owners of the buildings furnished with noses had removed some of them. Tourists know about the Seven Noses of Soho.

Where are they located? We will tell you in case you decide to take a road trip through the artsy district for the purpose of discovering them. You can see one mounted on Admiralty Arch, Great Windmill Street, Meard Street, Bateman Street, Dean Street, Endell Street and D’Arblay Street. Unfortunately, the latter has recently disappeared, and the Meard Street nose is possible to be a false one, placed there by another person.

And how to solve the riddle with the meaning of the noses? It was in 2011 when Rick Buckley explained the true meaning of his installation to a journalist from the Evening Standard newspaper and thus the protest against street surveillance becomes public knowledge.

Dear friends who are learning English, we hope that we are offering you interesting and fascinating articles every time, so that this can give you the opportunity to follow a story as well as its translation.  In such a way, you will progress in your learning, and this is a step forward that we are happy about sharing it with you. Stay tuned for our next material! Don’t forget to read the English version of our blog as well!

Author: Iveta Radeva

Image: John O’Shea/Flickr

Training Centre Raya London is a new and fastly developing English Language School specialized in teaching English as a second language. Founded in 2015 we are small enough to provide a personal service, but large enough to have very good facilities and resources for the students to learn English in UK.