Walk and a Talk with…Megan and Emybelle

1. When did you start working in the area?

Megan

I’ve lived in the area all my life, but I’ve been interning at Eurostar for five weeks on the New Digital Partnership, working on anything that doesn’t include trains! Last week I had the opportunity to visit Lyon for some fieldwork into package deals.

Emybelle

I started working in the area at the start of August on the Energy and Environment and CSR team at Eurostar. I’ve been analysing and comparing energy data, which is very different to what I do at university, and it’s been a great challenge to tackle.

2. How has the area changed since?

Megan

When I was younger there were a lot of places my mum didn’t let me go to, because they were too dangerous. Over the last five years, there’s been a lot of construction in the area and a fair amount of gentrification.

Emybelle

Which is probably for the betterment of the community, in a sense.

Megan

There’s also a lot more tourism here now, especially in Granary Square, and UAL have brought international students to the area too. There’s also more housing than there used to be, which is always a good thing for London. The companies moving in are great for the area, especially because they’re giving local schools amazing opportunities that other schools don’t have access to, something we really benefited from.

Emybelle

It’s great that a lot more companies are reaching out to students, there seems to be a genuine interest on their part in helping. Eurostar, where we are now, have been amazing. I can’t thank them enough for their help in French, the schemes they’ve run and where I am now. There are also a lot more spaces for families and young people to relax and hang out, the area’s being really well utilised now.

Megan

There used to be nowhere for all of us to go, but now there’s a lot of choice with restaurants and open space, which is much nicer than it used to be.

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

Megan

I love Granary Square Steps. When I’m in London I’ll come here to chat with friends and just sit for a bit, but the fountains are great too. I’ve skateboarded through them, which is a bit messy, but it’s a lovely area to have fun.

Emybelle

The canal’s my favourite part of the area. I love walking, and walking along the canal is the best, and it’s better for your health. The canal running through the area celebrates the area’s history, and it’s a chance to get away from Euston Road and the pollution there.

4. What do you love about our neighbourhood?

Megan

It’s a really calm atmosphere here now, it’s easier to relax and it’s a lot safer, and going to Granary Square at sunset with a blanket, that’s something I really love being able to do here.

Emybelle

As a student there are more places to study now, like Kings Place, which is a really cool space to be in, and the British Library. There are also great schemes going on, like the Homework Club. King’s Cross is just the perfect place to be a student now.

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

Megan

I really love the fountains in the summer, and the boot sale which is always interesting, and more affordable than other local markets. There’s also a market near Maria Fidelis run by locals. They get to celebrate their culture, which is good, because we have to recognise that their culture has become part of the local history.

Emybelle

The Skip Garden have been doing a lot of work on regeneration, helping young people understand the environment and sustainable living. I’m really interested in finding out more about what they do and how they contribute to the area.

6. What is your favourite story about the area?

Emybelle

Not so much a story, but getting free stuff… all the time. On Thursdays we used to walk from school to Eurostar for the Homework Club, and we’d get Coke, Lucozade, Lipton Ice Tea, all the time… for free!  

Megan

While working with Eurostar they asked my manager and I to take part in a photoshoot for their website. We went to Granary Square Steps – during the heatwave – and I was wearing jeans and a long t-shirt. It was sweaty and gross, but it was great fun making connections with people and lying around having our photos taken, and we got free stuff!

Emybelle

I’m sensing a theme… My more serious favourite story was from when I was in school. We went to an Urban Partners showing of Shane Meadows’ Somers Town at Kings Place. It’s about an Eastern European immigrant and a boy from northern England arriving in King’s Cross, and it shows their day to day life in Somers Town. It was such a funny film, and it brought everything back full circle to a place that wasn’t safe, but now is, to a place where these people lived, that we went to school in.

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

Megan

I would say the best community initiatives have been things like the Homework Club with Eurostar, and Google inviting students into their offices. Anything where big companies reach out to the community to create a good impact, especially when they can benefit young people in the long run by creating opportunities and connections.  

Emybelle

The best community initiative has been the Homework Club; it was a great chance for me to study whilst getting the help I needed. I hope in the future other young people can benefit from it too.

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

Emybelle

Because of the nature of King’s Cross being a national and international station, I think homelessness is something that’s only going to get worse. Although, on a local scale, there’s only so much you can do about that.

Megan

The area becoming more expensive. The more they build, the more people might not be able to afford it, it will just be people moving into the area who have the money to buy. But what about the families here, and the people who have been here for generations? As property prices skyrocket, it also means a rise in homelessness in the area.

Emybelle

The other problem in the area is that for those of us living or studying in Somers Town, we didn’t really know that all of this construction was happening, unless we were involved with life in this part of the area. It meant that a lot of people didn’t know what was available and accessible to them, and they felt a lack of connection to what was coming in. When you put King’s Cross and Somers Town together, there isn’t much cohesion; they’re two separate worlds.

Megan

You have to make sure that the area’s history is retained, whilst it’s being developed to become better.

Emybelle

How far can these improvements be taken before history gets erased? Erasure might be something to address in future. Young people are the driving force in areas and having people from Somers Town being invited into businesses in King’s Cross, and vice versa, will help develop respect and will give people the opportunity to really understand the area through another person’s eyes. This is a great area, the location’s brilliant, the transport links are incredible, but we need more communication here.

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

Megan

More buildings, more companies, and hopefully more green spaces. Right now it’s building up, but it’s a construction site. It would be nice to have more green space in between the concrete buildings, especially for young people growing up in the area. I’d also like to see the history preserved.

Emybelle

I’d really like for the air quality to be better in ten years, for the local authorities, local businesses and residents to come together and do something about it. I’d like to hope that there are more green spaces and family-friendly places, as well as young people feeling comfortable and confident, especially for young people from a less privileged background who are in the area. They should make the most of the international businesses here, and shouldn’t feel intimidated by the workplace and competition.

Megan

When companies reach out to schools, it would be great to see them reach out to families as well. If in ten years the community could be built up to include families as well as businesses and students, that would be great.  

10. If our neighbourhood had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Megan

Happy by Pharrell Williams: I’m happy living here, and hopefully always will be.

Emybelle

Hometown Glory by Adele. A lot of startups, young businesses and established businesses are very proud to be here, and it’s turned into a real hub. It’s London’s perfect in between: not too fun, not too serious, and it has its own character. Everyone here is proud to be here, proud of their heritage and proud of their culture, what has come and what’s still to come.