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Agnese Sanvito’s London Queues

May 1, 2020
by the gentle author

Photographer Agnes Sanvito sent me this series of her pictures of queues

Highbury Park

Stoke Newington Church St

Stoke Newington High St

Highbury Park

Belsize Lane

Albion Rd

Highbury Park

Stroud Green

Highbury Park

Stoke Newington Church St

“For the past few years I have been documenting people queuing to board a bus, buy a coffee or see an exhibition and most recently, during the current lockdown, for all essential needs.

Coming from Italy, queueing is an alien phenomena to me. No one else queues as the English do. Hungarian-born British author George Mikes wrote, “An Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.”

My fascination with queues starts with how people organise themselves into a fair and orderly line. Within this framework, different quirks of behaviour and posture emerge, people are checking their phones, reading, kissing, or just simply staring at the line and feeling satisfied that the queue grows.

Since the lockdown and the requirement of two metre distancing, the lines are growing even longer at local groceries, DIY shops, post offices, pharmacies and supermarket in my neighbourhood.

I hope my pictures lift you up and grant a new perspective on this strange yet significant moment we are living through.” – Agnes Sanvito

Waterloo Rd

Canary Wharf Station

Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Chalk Farm Rd

Peter St

Borough Market

Albion Rd

Stoke Newington High St at Christmas

Photographs copyright © Agnese Sanvito

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. Greta Kelly permalink
    May 1, 2020

    It has to be said, the British are the most disciplined nation in my opinion when it comes to queuing. Makes life so easy for everyone. While living in Germany I got some bruised ribs in so-called queues. I suppose both “Methods” are related to the situation after WW Two.
    While visiting my sister in Manchester some years ago, I placed myself in no particular order at a bus stop. A double decker was due and about four/five passengers were waiting. A few more arrived before the bus. As it was approaching an “Orderly Queue” formed. I hung back…….didn’t really matter as I was bound to get on.
    As the bus was about to stop, I was beckoned forward where a gap was waiting to be filled……by me! Everyone knew their place and mine as well. I was pleasantly surprised. Long may this “Queue Culture” last!

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 1, 2020

    Great photos to capture these strange times.

    As an true born English person I absolutely agree about our passion for queues, and I have always been happy to stand in a well ordered line.

    But the important thing is it MUST be FAIR… woe betide anyone who tries to jump to the front!!

    And one of the blessings of the amazing sunshine we have had during so much of lock down is that joining the queue stretching right around the supermarket car park was a time to soak up a few bonus UV rays.

  3. May 1, 2020

    Love the topic and the photos, esp the Veg van. I still bear the body scars from the 80’s from my 1st attempt to board a tram in both Thessaloniki and Turin during the rush hour. Never knew grandma’s have such sharp elbows. Queuing quietly and mostly good naturedly is one of the few British ways of life that I am fond of. Not to mention the web of randomn conversations and/or laughter than can bubble up between strangers. It remains a completely foreign language to many our our global cousins for understandable reasons. Idiots is a politie adjective.

    At more melancholic moments I see queuing as a symbol of 1 of our worse traits (better narrow this to the English tribes) our ability to SUFFER QUIETLY at massive cost to ourselves. Outcome of which we reap as we sowed e.g. Brexit or current Gov Flipwittery. Even our public protests are almost silent compared to the Greeks, Italians, French…..

  4. Ursula Whitbread permalink
    May 1, 2020

    Thank you for making me smile looking at English QUEUES. Little did we know how lifesaving an activity this would be !

  5. Christine Thomas permalink
    May 1, 2020

    Interested to see Canary Wharf queue as it’s about the only station left where even in ‘normal’ times people form orderly queues – at least on the Jubilee line platform heading south.

  6. May 1, 2020

    There’s another European country with wonderful queues, Portugal. Spain is a disaster regarding queues, everyone tries to jump them. Great pictures.

  7. May 1, 2020

    Love the photos, and the intent behind them.
    We have a “go to” phrase here in New York if someone jumps the line:
    “HEY!? — I’m WAITIN’ here.”
    Said with authority, a certain amount of volume, and a whole lot of New York entitlement.
    Mostly, it works.

    The pure folly of attempting to stand in line in Italy !? — Don’t even get me started.
    As always, you Brits have it just right.
    Stay safe, all, And thank you GA for taking such good care of your readers.

  8. paul loften permalink
    May 1, 2020

    I recognize most of these places being born as a Stokie. You can spot the pre and post virus queues they don’t have the same joie de vivre. I have been in some nice queues and some nasty queues. I can’t say I have enjoyed the queues that I have been in lately although I did have a very nice conversation with a lady standing behind me in the long queue at Aldi the other day. Sadly I could not understand much of what she was saying thanks to the muffled voice behind the mask

  9. Bernie permalink
    May 1, 2020

    Am I mistaken to believe that the habit of orderly queueing was largely induced by London Transport’s use of cartoons by David Langdon during the ’39 – ’45 war? My memories stretch back only to 1940, so I do not know if people queued before the war (and curiously it is not something I have ever come across in my quite wide reading).

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