An artistic response

To celebrate 125 years of Tower Bridge, artist Di Mainstone was commissioned to create a film exploring a make-believe world caught between dream and reality.

The film reimagines Tower Bridge as a giant musical instrument, drawing inspiration from one of the first women to work on the Bridge - Hannah Griggs, who cooked for the Bridge Master and his family between 1911-1915. Hannah plays the role of musical maestro to pluck the strings and ‘play’ the iconic London landmark.

Mixing the real with the imagined, the film explores Hannah’s life in the famous Towers via a specially composed musical narrative that weaves through one of many remarkable personal histories from 125 years of the Bridge. Focusing on her love of plants, the dreamlike work sees Hannah researching the connection between music and plant growth, working to develop larger and more ambitious tools to help her ‘play’ Tower Bridge like a giant musical instrument.

About the artist

Artist Di Mainstone has previously developed instruments to create music from the Brooklyn Bridge, Clifton Suspension Bridge and most recently Sunderland’s new Northern Spire Bridge. 

She is an award-winning WIRED innovation fellow who specialises in creating playable bridges and wearable sonic devices. The New York Times has featured her as one of their ‘new generation visionaries’ of the international digital art scene.

Who is Hannah Griggs - Image of Hannah Griggs

Hannah Griggs was a cook at Tower Bridge in the 1910s, and she was also a keen gardener. In the film, Di Mainstone imagines Hannah to be experimenting with music. She creates the sounds of the Bridge to help her plants grow. It seems to be working.

Listen to Hannah's world


Left: Image of Victoria style food cans holding flowers. Right: Stylised image of Tower Bridge overgrown with flowers

Based on truth

The idea for the film began when one of the Tower Bridge team overheard a conversation on the Bridge one day. Susan Belcher was telling her friends the tale of her grandmother Hannah Griggs, and how she became the Cook-in-Service to the Bridge Master. Within days the Bridge’s Exhibition Manager was in touch and Susan shared Hannah Griggs’ story, and how she lived after spending several years in the workhouse that eventually became St Olave’s Hospital.

Today Hannah Griggs, along with other former workers, is commemorated with a plaque on the pavement of the Bridge.

Making the Bridge sing, stylised text with ivy vines over the image

Artist Di Mainstone has invented a phantastical world, where Tower Bridge sings and nature takes over. She has created instruments to ‘play’ the bridge and recorded their magical sounds.

Storyboard sketches for making the Bridge Sing

1. Storyboard sketch showing piano hammers.
2. Concept sketch of Hannah using a large bow to play the Bridge.
3. Drawing for an imaginary music box making music from the rivets.

Watch the film

The final film was originally shown as part of a temporary exhibition inside Tower Bridge’s Engine Rooms, to mark the Bridge's 125th anniversary.

Stylised horizontal rule