Lifestyle: East End writer wins grant for Brooklyn Bridge book

14:18 31 January 2014

Erica Wagner by the Brooklyn Bridge, Photo: Adam Nadel

Erica Wagner by the Brooklyn Bridge, Photo: Adam Nadel


A writer from the East End has won a £20,000 grant to write a book about the man who built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Erica Wagner - a New Yorker by birth and east London resident of 20 years - started her research for the book this month after winning the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award in December.

The annual award was set up three years ago as part of the Eccles Centre’s push to use and promote the library’s American and Canadian collections.

Writing her biography of American engineer Washington Roebling will see Ms Wagner pour over hundreds of documents at the British Library.

Ms Wagner said she wanted to write the book to tell the story of the man behind the iconic landmark - his heroism, sacrifice and determination to build a bridge across the East River.

“I think the Brooklyn Bridge is a great work of art,” she said. “It’s one of the most recognisable structures in the world.”

“When people think of works like The Marriage of Figaro and Ulysses, they know the names of Mozart and James Joyce, but they wouldn’t be able to tell you who built the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Ms Wagner says she feels very connected to the East End. Her great grandmother was born in 1888 in Fashion Street near Brick Lane - a stone’s throw from her current home in Columbia Road - and her son goes to school at Bethnal Green Academy.

She said that without the grant from the library, the book would have been much harder to produce.

“It was really thrilling news,” she said. “The British Library is such a wonderful place.

“To win the award from the Eccles Centre is a really amazing thing. It makes me feel very proud.”

The Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, will be published by Bloomsbury in 2015.

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