The Woman with the Key to London's Water ; peopleAs Amy Sharrocks Opens Her Museum of Water Display in Soho, She Tells Susannah Butter Why She Is an Aqua Addict -- and Her Plans to Get Boris Swimming the Thames
Butter, Susannah, The Evening Standard (London, England)
AMY Sharrocks is the woman who wants to get Boris Johnson swimming across the Thames. "He's so going to love the idea," she tells me over peppermint tea. We are in Soho, where the artist, 43, is creating a Museum of Water and Water Bar near the site of the pump that once supplied the area. The comment about Boris is part of Swim the Thames, another water-related project -- planned for 2015 - - which will stop traffic on the river so people can swim across it.
Sharrocks grew up in a house near the canal in Camden. Her father is Sir Torquil Norman, who designed the Polly Pocket toys and bought the Camden Roundhouse for Pounds 3 million on a whim in 1996. She also has a "previous life" working in music and signing the band Urban Cookie Collective, which had a number two hit with The Key the Secret in 1993. When I ask about it she squeals as if she has been caught out. "Music publishing was my second job after leaving university. I loved it. I still sing 'I've got the key, I've got the secret' every time I'm looking for my keys." But today we are talking about water.
Over the past few weeks Sharrocks has invited people to give her bottles of water that are precious to them. This morning she collected water from a holy river in India, bathwater, and tap water with pebbles from a Greek beach in it -- all from children at Maple Walk school in Harlesden, near her home. She will display them in old cabinets, alongside a water bar, where people can share a jar of London's finest and tell their water stories. "I've been surprised at how many people have given me water and got involved. There's water from all over the world and the joy of public art is that it draws people in who wouldn't usually go to a gallery, and encourages conversation."
The exhibition is part of a series of events organised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to celebrate the legacy of the epidemiologist John Snow, who in 1849 traced the source of a deadly cholera outbreak to a Soho pump. "I've been assured there's no cholera in the water we're serving at the bar," says Sharrocks. "But the idea creates a frisson of excitement."
What does she make of the mania for expensive bottled water, with Pounds 50 a litre Volcanic served at Claridge's? "They spend so much on marketing but we've got the good stuff. …