Thursday, 30 April 2009

Our streets

The young people's manifesto for London "My City Too", was prepared by 1000 young Londoners for presenting to the mayoral candidates last year. The mayor suggests these be taken up at borough level, and I hope these will be discussed at the State of London debate next week.

My City Too Manifesto
  1. Let us have our say and young people will be fully involved in planning, designing and decision-making in their city
    We can’t vote – yet – but it is our city too! We can help improve places and spaces and we’ll use and respect them more if we’ve been asked
  2. We want every inch of the capital to be used and not left derelict
    Even if unused spaces can’t be redeveloped immediately, we’ll help you find new uses for them; when left derelict they are dangerous and make our area look and feel abandoned
  3. We need sheltered places to sit and to meet people that are better designed and well looked after
    Quality design and materials that are well looked after tell our communities that we are worth investing in
  4. We need broader pavements and car-free streets
    Pedestrian areas need to be planned and designed to be safer for everyone
  5. We want lively streets with better and more creative lighting
    Busy, well-lit areas will help us and everyone else feel safe on our streets
  6. We want every generation to have their own corner in public spaces, acknowledging their needs and making them feel welcome
    Separating activity zones for small children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens through soft zoning (floor markings, tree fences, etc) will ensure everyone feels happy about sharing the same public space
  7. We want play and performance areas for young people that are at the heart of shopping centres, main streets and parks
    Design places where we can meet each other and be seen doing something worthwhile while feeling safe
  8. We want playful signs, bright colour schemes and changing public art
    Give our local areas a stronger identity and make them places that we are proud of
  9. We want trees, pools and fountains everywhere
    Greenery and water features have a calming effect and make places feel more welcoming
If some of these feelings are shared by local residents, it would be great to campaign to extend some of them in our area, along with Kings Cross (Battlebridge) access and 20mph streets.. join us at our next meeting or write to us!

Monday, 27 April 2009


To celebrate 27 April 1759, the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft, and her life and work, a group walked from Tavistock Square to Wollstonecraft's tombstone in the Church yard of Old St. Pancras. The neighbourhood walk, discovering and discussing history near the now invisible Fleet River, traversed through Bloomsbury, St Pancras, and Kings Cross - from Tavistock Square to Old St Pancras churchyard, to Wollstonecraft's tombstone.

Short Wollstonecraft biography for participants;
Mary Wollstonecraft, born in Spitalfields, London, grew up with her parents and siblings in Epping Forest, Barking, Beverley Yorkshire, Hoxton, and Laugharne Wales. In 1774 she befriended Fanny Blood and in 1778 began her first job as paid companion to Mrs Sarah Dawson, in Windsor and Bath. In 1781 she returned to nurse her mother - who died in 1782. In 1783 Wollstonecraft started her second job, establishing a dissenting Girls School in Islington, where teachers included her lifelong friend Fanny, and her sisters Eliza and Everina.

In 1787 Wollstonecraft published her first work, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters. In 1789-90 The Female Reader, Young Grandison and Elements of Morality for the Use of Children all appeared, and Wollstonecraft became romantically involved with Henri Fuseli.
1791 saw publication of the second edition of Original Stories from Real Life, and Wollstonecraft began writing A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published 1792. Wollstonecraft's lover Fuseli, his wife and Wollstonecraft came to crisis.

In 1793 Wollstonecraft informally married Gilbert Imlay and had her first daughter with him in 1794, after which he left her, and she repeatedly attempted suicide, latterly in the Thames. In 1796 Wollstonecraft published Letters Written During a Short Residence in Norway Denmark and Sweden. She began an affair with William Godwin, and began writing The Wrongs of Woman. In 1797 Wollstonecraft and Godwin married, their daughter Mary (Shelley) was born, and 10 days after the birth, Wollstonecraft died of septicaemia. Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman were published in 1798. Wollstonecraft's remains at Old St Pancras were later moved with Godwin's to a grave with Mary Shelley at St Peter's Church in Bournemouth.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Wollstonecraft Walk

To celebrate 27 April 1759, the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft in Spitalfields, London

The walk on 26 April 2009 traversed Bloomsbury, St Pancras, and Kings Cross - from Tavistock Square to Old St Pancras churchyard, to Wollstonecraft's tombstone.

1. Gandhi's statute (Fredda Brilliant)
2. BMA House by Lutyens
3. The Place Centre for Contemporary Dance Flaxman Terrace - (accessible)
4. St Pancras New Church - NeoClassical
5. Camden Town Hall - 1930s Landmark for Borough of St Pancras
6. St Pancras - the origins, Borough and Station
7. Argyle Square Kings Cross
8. St Chads Well Kings Cross, by the Fleet River
9. Regent Quarter regeneration
10. Kings Cross Station rapidly changing
11. Platform 9 3/4 - Hogwarts Express
12. German Gymnasium
13. Camley Street Reserve - Nature in Kings Cross and the Regents Canal
14. Old St Pancras Church - return to Wollstonecrafts tombstone memorial

1. Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) was a prominent political and spiritual leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the pioneer of satyagraha—resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience, firmly founded upon ahimsa or total non-violence—which led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. He is commonly known around the world as Mahatma Gandhi.

Tavistock Square is uniquely significant. Statue of Gandhi by British sculptor Fredda Brilliant, was gifted to London by the Indian High Commissioner in Britain in 1967, installed in 1968, and unveiled by the Labour prime minister of the day, Harold Wilson. (
There is also a memorial to conscientious objectors (unveiled in 1995), busts of Virginia Woolf and Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake as well as a cherry tree planted in 1967 in memory of the victims of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

2. BMA
BMA House, a grade II listed building, was originally designed for the Theosophical Society before the First World War. Sir Edwin Lutyens' wife, a theosophist, introduced him to the Society's President Mrs Annie Besant who subsequently commissioned Lutyens to design a headquarters for the Society.

3. The Place Flaxman Terrace - (accessible)
The Place is the UK’s premier centre for contemporary dance, uniting training, creation and performance in one unique building. Working with dancers from age 5 upwards, The Place brings new talent into the dance profession and guides artists through their careers. The Place’s activities include London Contemporary Dance School, Richard Alston Dance Company, The Place Prize and the Robin Howard Dance Theatre, together with pioneering education, outreach and professional development projects.

4. St Pancras New Church
The church is on Euston Road, in the northern boundary of Bloomsbury. It was built as a new principal church for the parish of St Pancras, which once stretched almost from Oxford Street to Highgate. The Old Church became a chapel of ease (and now has its own separate parish). During the 19th century many further churches were built to serve the burgeoning population of the original parish, and by 1890 it had been divided into 33 ecclesiastical parishes.
The steps of the church were one of several sites used for floral tributes after the 7 July 2005 London bombings.

5. Camden Town Hall
Camden Town Hall is the town hall for the London Borough of Camden, located along Euston Road (opposite the main front of St Pancras railway station) and Judd Street to its rear. It was built on the site of Georgian terrace housing in the 1930s in the neoclassical style and extended in the 1970s

6. St Pancras
Saint Pancras, the saint martyred c.304 AD
St Pancras was originally a medieval parish which ran from close to what is now Oxford Street north as far as Highgate, and from what is now Regent's Park in the west to the road now known as York Way in the east, boundaries which take in much of the current London Borough of Camden, including the central part of it. However, as the choice of name for the borough suggests, St Pancras has lost its status as the central settlement in the area. The district now encompassed by the term "St Pancras" is not easy to define, and usage of St Pancras as a place name fairly limited.,_London

7. Argyle Square
The Argyle Square Sound Trail was a participating feature in The London Architecture Biennale 2006, which ran from June 16-25 2006

Battle Bridge The area was previously a village known as Battle Bridge which was an ancient crossing of the River Fleet. The original name of the bridge was Broad Ford Bridge.,_London

8. St Chads Well
St Chad's Well stood near the 'Battle Bridge', an ancient arched bridge which crossed the Fleet. The area surrounding the bridge was called Battle Bridge until 1836 when a statue of King George IV was erected at the meeting of what are now Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross Road and York Way, thus Battle Bridge became the 'King's Cross'. The strongest tradition associated with Battle Bridge is that the name commemorated the final battle between the British led by Boudicca, and the Romans. Boudicca and 80,000 Britons are said to have been slaughtered here.

9. Regent Quarter
"King's Cross is set to become one of London’s liveliest urban areas, with its business and residential communities diversifying in response to regeneration and investment."

"Regent Quarter is a major new development in the area, boasting a refreshing mix of refurbished Georgian and Victorian buildings and state of the art new construction. Providing space to suit all tastes, preferences, and uses, offering large scale, high specification office buildings and smaller studio-style offices."

10. Kings Cross Station
King's Cross station is a major railway terminus opened in 1852. The station is located on the edge of Central London, on junction of the A501 Euston Road and York Way, in the Kings Cross district and within the London Borough of Camden on the border of the London Borough of Islington.

King's Cross forms the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line, one of the UK's major railway backbones. Immediately to the west is St Pancras station, the terminus for international Eurostar trains, and the two stations share King's Cross St. Pancras tube station on the London Underground network.

Website about efforts by the local community to keep the streets of Kings Cross in London clean and live-able. See also

11. Platform 9 3/4
The ride on the Hogwarts Express starts from King's Cross railway station platform 9 3/4, which is invisible to Muggle eyes and is reached by walking through the barrier between platforms 9 and 10.

12. German Gymnasium (51° 31' 56.45" N, 0° 7' 32" W)
The German Gymnasium is in Pancras Road, London close to the new international railway station of St Pancras. It was constructed in 1864-65 for the German Gymnastics Society, a sporting association established in London in 1861 by Ernst Ravenstein. The German Gymnasium was designed by Edward A Gruning and built by Piper and Wheeler.
Laminated roof timbers showing cast iron fillets and supporting brickwork.,_London

13. Camley Street Reserve
Camley Street Natural Park is an urban nature reserve near King's Cross in central London and within the London Borough of Camden. Comprising 0.8 hectares (2 acres) of land on the banks of the Regent's Canal – near St Pancras Lock, the park is a sanctuary for wildlife and an education centre. It is run by the London Wildlife Trust. A visitors' centre caters for casual visitors and school parties, though tours must be booked. A variety of habitats co-exist in the park's small environs, including wetlands, meadow and woodland, which attract insects, amphibians, birds, and at least six species of mammals - not counting homo sapiens!

14. Old St Pancras Church
St Pancras Old Church is a parish church on Pancras Road in the London Borough of Camden. It is believed to be one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in London and in England, although the building itself is largely Victorian. It forms part of the Church of England and is dedicated to St Pancras, a Roman martyr. The surrounding area and its international railway station are named for the church and parish.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, St Pancras was famous for its cemeteries, and as well as the grave yard of Old St Pancras Church, it also contained the church yard cemeteries of St James's Church, Piccadilly, St Giles in the Fields, St. Andrew's, Holborn, St. George's Church, Bloomsbury, and St George the Martyr Holborn.[4] These were all closed under the Extramural Interment Act in 1854, and so the parish bought new land near East Finchley, so that burials could take place far away from the city at the new St Pancras Cemetery.[5] These deserted cemeteries were left alone for over thirty years until the building of the Midland Railway, meaning bodies and graves had to be removed. The famous author Thomas Hardy was involved in removing many of the graves whilst he was studying architecture. Particularly, he added a number of stones around a tree, now known as Hardy's Tree. [6]. The cemeteries were later disturbed in 2002 - 2003 for construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, but much more care was given to the removal of remains, than in the 19th Century.

Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft 27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797 was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and feminist. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

She was buried at Old Saint Pancras Churchyard, and a memorial to her was constructed there, though both her and Godwin's remains were later moved to Bournemouth. Her tombstone reads, "Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: Born 27 April 1759: Died 10 September 1797."

Mary_Wollstonecraft (wikipedia)
Mary Wollstonecraft twitter
Kings Cross

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Student Living Eco-Fair

Living Streets South Camden and Kings Cross was invited to an Eco-Fair at the imposing-looking NIDO student housing at 200 Pentonville Road. The fair coordinator, geography enthusiast and environmentalist Anup Patel and another other resident assistant Nili received us with a tour of the building facilities and display room.

On the stall, Lisa Tang and I discussed a draft constitution for Living Steets South Camden and Kings Cross. Student-residents including Sara, Madison, Anna and Carla showed interest in arranging a walking audit and neighbourhood orientation tour for new Nido residents in June. Suggestions included confidence building for women walking at night, and learning about cultural landmarks, to complement the existing student orientation, which touches mainly on hospital, emergency and how to procure an oyster card.

A male visitor to the stall complained he found difficulty waking up early enough to allow time to walk to Uni near Regents Park - we later discussed the merits of walking along Euston Road in comparison to a route taking in Bloombury and Fitzrovia Squares, Tavistock, Gordon, Fitzroy etc., and walking with friends.

An amusing insight into resident life - and communication between neighbouring students in these towers of single occupancy apartment rooms - came from overhearing from two women entering the lift together; "would you skype me later on?"...

Radical Islington Walk

A large group of local people came out for walk around the area, from Copenhagen Street, through Amwell Street to Penton Square, Percy Circus, Clerkenwell Green, Spafields, Finsbury Town Hall, and to Myddleton Square and finally the Angel Inn, where connections between Dhadabai Naoroji, Mahatma Ghandi and Mary Wollstonecraft were discussed.