Walk and Talk with Virginia Vanni

I am originally from Florence, but since 2011 I’ve lived in locations across Europe. As an undergraduate student, I moved to London and was living very close to King’s Cross, on the other side of Euston Road.

In 2016 I returned to London to work at the Italian Chamber of Commerce for the UK, and in January 2018 I started working at Evergreen Reputation where I was Project Manager for Urban Partners for almost two years. I really enjoyed contributing as a key player in this vibrant area.

The time has come for me to move again, and at the end of August, I’ll be starting the next chapter of my exciting journey, this time in Berlin.

1. When did you start working/socialising in the area?

In 2011/12 when I was living in Cromer Street I used to walk down to King’s Cross to take the tube, or to go to The British Library. It was very convenient to live so close to such a big station in London, however, it was under refurbishment and I didn’t manage to see King’s Cross in its magnificence until I came back in 2016. One day I found myself in Granary Square walking next to the fountains and I was honestly confused… when did all of this appear?

Since I joined Urban Partners in 2018 I have spent most of my time going from one office to the next in King’s Cross; but my friends and I started to meet there for drinks, as it’s such a beautiful, relaxing and convenient area for people living in London.

2. How has the area changed since then?

From 2011 to 2016 the area has changed dramatically. I still remember King’s Cross under an ugly green coverage just before the Olympics, it was chaotic and messy. Now it’s still chaotic, with thousands of people passing by every day, but instead of being messy, it’s vibrant and beautiful. Many businesses moved to the area and more are yet to come. There is always something new happening and thanks to Eurostar coming directly from Belgium and France, Facebook moving to the area and Google building their new HQ there, I truly believe this area is now the new European Tech Hub.

3. What’s your favourite place in the area and why?

The green steps in Granary Square. They are my office on a sunny day, my park for reading a good book when I want to relax, as well as my meeting point to hang out with friends.

4. What do you love about our neighbourhood?

That it is extremely varied, you can find fancy restaurants and local activities next to each other. You can come to the area for many reasons; work, shopping, eating, drinking, going to school, events. It is extremely well connected to everywhere in London and so easy to reach. Despite the fact it is so central, it feels calm and relaxing, especially the area along the canal by Gasholder Park.

5. What’s your favourite community activity in the area?

The events of the now rebranded #UPComms Network (previously called #UPSocialMedia). I love learning new things from great experts, and have found ways of using them to promote the area.

6. What is your favourite aspect of the work Urban Partners does?

I love how businesses are committed to improving the area and engaging with the local community. Having worked for UP, I am amazed by all the incredible people I have met who really care about the neighbourhood and the people living there. I love the continuous interaction between businesses and communities, and I love the commitment from businesses to engage with local people and vice versa, the enthusiasm of the local community (especially the youth) in getting involved in new projects.

7. What’s the best community initiative you have seen in the local area?

The Homework Club, definitely one of the most innovative and easy to reproduce ways to include the young local community within local businesses, as well as contribute to the personal and professional development of youth in the area. Furthermore, volunteers love it!

8. What challenges will the area face in the future?

If you’ve walked through the area at least once, it is not difficult to understand that more and more buildings are appearing, more businesses and retailers are moving to the area. I believe the hardest challenge will be to maintain a balance between the community and the businesses. The Euston redevelopment will cause the area to become more expensive, and pushing locals to look for somewhere else to live will have to be avoided. This is the first reason why Urban Partners (previously named The King’s Cross Business Partnership) was created, and one of the main purposes UP volunteers continue to work towards.

9. Where do you see our neighbourhood in the next ten years and what kind of image will it have?

I see the area expanding even more. I see the Euston as being an extension of King’s Cross and St Pancras following the redevelopment of the station and surrounding area. I see many Wellbeing Walks connecting walkers and cyclists from station to station and business to business. Most importantly, I see employees and locals living in the area and working together.

10. What famous quote would you use to describe Urban Partners and why?

“To Infinity and beyond!”