Mind the gap
Emma is known as the voice of the London Underground, with its famous ‘mind the gap’ announcements. But what do you know about the tube - and about Emma's announcements?
Do you know which station names Emma announces on the London Underground? Test your knowledge.
Some things which you definitely won't hear on the London Underground – but wouldn't life be so much richer if you did?
Links to interesting (and sometimes worryingly odd) London Underground Web sites.
Emma Clarke – the voice of the Underground
Some voiceover jobs, though functional, are simply iconic – perhaps none more so than the announcements on the London Underground. For the majority of London Underground lines, the voice you’re hearing is that of Emma Clarke.
Emma began voicing for the London Underground in 1999 – after being selected from a range of different voices by focus groups in London. Each of the different voices was given a code name, so that there was no way to identify the actual person behind the voice. Emma’s code name was Marilyn – perhaps after Marilyn Monroe, who knows? According to Emma: “I can do a passable impression of Marilyn Monroe performing Happy Birthday Mr President – in fact, if I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked to do that I’d be a very happy woman – but, apart from that, I quite honestly sound nothing like her!”
Nonetheless, the code name inspired the press, and, after Emma was selected as the voice of the London Underground, the London Evening Standard ran a story detailing how Marilyn Monroe would now accompany commuters on the tube to work!
For something that’s as functional as the ‘mind the gap’ announcements, Emma has been surprised by the amount of fan mail she gets, which is sometimes overwhelming – along with requests for MP3s of her voicing various announcements. (This is one reason that we’ve now included some Tube announcements in the demos section of this Web site.)
Emma now voices the announcements for almost all of the London Underground lines – pretty much everything except the Jubilee Line, the Northern Line and Docklands Light Railway.
In terms of how Emma performs for the Tube announcements, she says that the style is very different from either her ‘real voice’ or her other voiceover work: “Speech has to be much, much slower and clearer because of surrounding noise and so that non-English tourists can easily hear what’s being said.”
Unlike most of Emma’s work, which is recorded in her own studio at home, the London Underground announcements are recorded in London and the voice files are processed in Denmark before being loaded on the Tube trains.
London Underground is the only transport system for which Emma provides the announcements.
Did you know?
- The Central London Railway was originally nicknamed the Twopenny Tube – because of its flat twopenny fare and its cylindrical tunnels. The nickname ‘the Tube’ was eventually transferred to the entire Underground system.
- London Underground carries around a billion passengers a year.
- Edward Johnston designed the London Underground’s very distinctive sans-serif typeface in 1916. It has since been modified to include lower case, and is still in use today.
- The London Underground does not operate for 24 hours a day, because of track maintenance, which is done at night.
- The phrase ‘mind the gap’ was first used in around 1968 for the first automated announcement, because it had become impractical for drivers and station attendants to warn commuters about the gap between the train and the platform.