by Fiona Thompson
I will count what counts:
Dragonflies and damselflies.
Clean water heralds.
View from the lakes: a Barbican resident speaks out
It’s a hot summer Sunday afternoon at the Barbican. Outside, concert goers are gathering to hear Nicola Benedetti play a new violin concerto by Mark Simpson. People are sitting by the edge of the lakes, their bare feet dangling over the water.
A plane overhead. The cascade of a fountain. The clink of ice in a luminous orange cocktail. A mallard leads her chicks in formation across the pea-green waters. Pigeons roost on the AstroTurf, unconcerned by passers-by.
Constructed in the 70s along with the rest of the estate, the Barbican lakes flow past the front of the arts centre, more or less following the line of the underground railway from Barbican to Moorgate.
We’re here to meet Colin Carp, spokesfish for the aquatic residents of the Barbican lakes.
What’s the Barbican like as a place to live?
I’ve lived here since I was a fry. I like it. I’ve always had a soft spot for Brutalist architecture. Got all the family here, all the algae we can eat, plenty of space to stretch our fins. Can’t complain.
What do you think of the other residents?
We get on well with all the surface dwellers. The pigeons keep themselves to themselves and the mallards are generally bobbing about in the bullrushes. The moorhens, though, they’re cheeky little scamps.
What’s the best thing about living here?
One upside of living next to a cultural landmark is we get to meet lots of musicians. They come and peer at us; some dress up as penguins.
We sing to them, but they think we’re just opening our mouths to be fed. It’s strange – you’d think they’d appreciate the melodies.
What do you sing? The Sea Symphony, La Mer?
Absolutely not. We’re freshwater fish and proud of it. No saltwater sea shanties for us. We compose and sing our own tunes: Ode to a Mardy Mallard, If I had Legs, The Day the Pike Came.
The Day the Pike Came?
That’s a song that’s been passed down through the ages. It tells the story of the dreadful day they put a pike in the lakes. The big bad pike who ate my ancestors. Only a few escaped, by hiding behind a waterfall.
Terrible story, beautiful song. We sing it at the Lake Dwellers’ Festival every year, just before we play Aeroplane or Heron? and Pin the Tail on the Tench.
Are there any tench in the lake?
No. That’s what makes it such a good game.
Read Philip Dundas’s 26 Habitats urban greenspaces centena and essay.
Read Samantha Xia Symonds’s 26 Habitats urban greenspaces centena and essay.