Tag Archives: anniversary

Collecting for 2013 – Finchley Central’s Platform Garden

Mark Kirwin, a supervisor at Finchley Central, has created a colourful, award-winning garden on one of the station’s platforms.

Practically single-handed he has transformed a derelict piece of ground into an oasis of colour that regularly scoops top awards in London Underground’s annual Underground in Bloom competition.

It all began in 2008 when Mark decided to do something to ‘green’ the suburban Northern Line station.

“I decided to tackle a piece of waste ground about the length of one-and-half tube carriages on the southbound platform, as it’s an area that gets the sun most of the day.”

With help from his partner, Ian, who is extremely knowledgeable about plants, the pair first had to prepare the ground. Working in their spare time, they dug out the area, put down a plastic membrane, covered it with shingle, ballast and stones and brought in 300 bags of soil.

“I started with a blank canvas with the intention of creating a country-style flower garden right here in London, which I think we have achieved,” said Mark.

A wide selection of colourful flowers have been planted out, including annuals and perennials so as to give colour all year round, with pots filled with bedding plants in the summer.

“I had a plan for the garden right from the start and have generally followed a colour scheme using shades of orange and purple,” said Mark.

For three years from 2008 the garden came second in the Cultivated Gardens and Tubs category in the Underground in Bloom competition. In 2011 it received the contest’s top accolade by being awarded the Dennis Sanger Chief Operating Officer Special Award, beating off competition from stations across the Underground network.

Mark said: “I was absolutely delighted to receive the top prize after picking up three second prizes in previous years.”

The country-style garden regularly receives praise from passenger, with children appreciating the animals and other small sculptures that are hidden amongst the plants.

“One woman told me that she always comes to the station at least 15 minutes before she needs to get a train, “ said Mark. “This is so she can walk up and down the platform to smell and admire the flowers.”

Mark has put in an irrigation system so that when he is on leave the other station staff just have to turn on a tap to water the plants to prevent them from drying out.

Text and photo by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Oval Station’s Thought for the Day

Passengers using Oval station on the Northern line have come to appreciate the ‘Thought for the Day’ quotations put up by station staff in the main concourse.

The innovative project began in 2004 and has been taken up by several other stations on the Underground network.

It’s a team effort, started by station supervisor Anthony Gentles and looked after on a daily basis by station assistant Glen Sutherland.

Anthony Gentles said: “We are here to provide a service to our customers, not just to sell tickets. We like to provide a happy and relaxed environment, which is why we have classical music playing at all times.”

The idea behind ‘Thought for the Day’ was to give passenger’s something inspirational to think about during their journey.

Written on a whiteboard near the ticket office, a typical quotation on display has been: “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory,” penned by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Glen Sutherland, who has taught himself calligraphy so as provide clear handwriting on the whiteboard, finds many of the quotations from a specialist app on his mobile phone.

He also uses a book of quotations given to him by a passenger, who inscribed it with the message, ‘From a satisfied customer’.

“The quotations we pick are pretty general so that they appeal to all station users, who come from a variety of backgrounds and ethnic groups,” said Anthony.

Glen often chooses something topical, such as on Mother’s Day. When rioting affected the area in August 2011, he put up a quotation from Che Guevara: ‘We must not let these harsh times destroy the warmth in our hearts.’

“Often customers come up to say how much they appreciate the day’s quotation,” said Anthony. “They ask staff who put them up, with the most common comment being that it has made their day. Some passengers even go out of their way to use the station so that they can to see the day’s message. Others have suggested quotations for us to use.”

One regular passenger who works in a local office has set up a discussion group to discuss the day’s quotations during coffee breaks, while a local teacher uses them in her lessons.

“Being close to the Oval cricket ground, when there is a county cricket game on I often pick a classical quotation as many spectators are a highly educated bunch,” said Glen.  He added that Surrey and England player Mark Ramprakash always stops to chat about the day’s ‘thought’ when he comes through the station.

Often passengers take photographs of the quotations, while one regular who works in a restaurant notes them down and prints them on the menu.

“I once saw a man studying a quotation intently before disappearing down the escalator,” said Glen. “He came back up 25 minutes later and told me he had been thinking about it all that time and now understood it.”

The staff’s efforts have been featured in several national newspapers and on the BBC. Glen has taken advantage of social networking to set up a Facebook page and the ‘thoughts’ have a growing following on Twitter.

“Customers have said that the quotations really cheer them up. If I miss a day and the board is blank, people ask why?”

Anthony said: “It has been a real team effort on behalf of the staff. We are very proud of what we have done, and knowing that it has encouraged other stations to follow our lead.  It has helped us to connect with our customers, who now see station staff more as individuals. It is definitely worthwhile if we can send passengers on their way with a smile on their face.”

Text and images by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Clapham North’s Thought for the Day

Tube staff that put up ‘Thought for the Day’ messages at Clapham North station say the project has been an overwhelming success.

“Our customers really love them,” said station supervisor Gary Dorrithy, who was prompted to follow a similar scheme introduced at the nearby Oval station, also on the Northern line.

“Lots of peoples take photographs of what we write and many of them tell us they post the ‘thoughts’ on their Facebook or other social networking web sites so that others can enjoy them.”

He said that staff had received numerous letters and notes of thanks from regular customers since the scheme began, usually saying how much they appreciated the daily messages of inspiration. Many of the letters are along the lines of, ‘I was having a really bad day but the ‘thought’ you put up made me feel so much better.’

“The quotations or sayings can often be very therapeutic and it makes the station staff feel good to know that we have put a smile on a passenger’s face.”

The high level of appreciation shown by station users has led to Clapham North receiving a London Underground Customer Commendation for its high level of service.

Customer services assistant Dave Walcott said: “We try to put up a new message in the booking hall every day, using the Internet to find something suitable.”

“Regular customers look out for the day’s message and we soon get reminded if we don’t put up a new message every day. Some customers even choose to travel from here rather than from another station on the line because they look forward to reading them so much.”

He added that passengers often stop and suggest to a member of staff something suitable they can use in the future. “There’s a centre near here which is visited by lots of theatrical people and they give us useful quotes from Shakespeare and other famous writers.”

It’s not only passengers who are cheered up by the thoughts. “Occasionally a member of staff will say that a specific message has really hit home and helped them during a particularly stressful time,” said Gary Dorrithy.

“One of the first things we do after opening up early in the morning is to write out the day’s message,” he added. “It has become part of our regular routine and something that all the staff is keen to help out with.”

Text and images by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Hampstead’s Hidden Garden

Green-fingered staff at Hampstead station have transformed a derelict piece of wasteland into an award-winning garden.

Hampstead is the deepest station on the Underground network, with platforms 192 ft deep, 310 steps and the longest spiral staircase on the network.

A long-neglected concrete area behind the station’s street-level ticket hall contained waste bins and was covered in rubble.

After deciding to improve the space, hours of backbreaking work carried out by station supervisor Neeta Patel and her colleagues have turned it into a colourful garden full of fruit and vegetables.

Initial work involved building a series of raised beds and filling them with around 80 bags full of soil, with the pathways between them covered in bark.

A wide variety of fruit and vegetables was planted in the first year, among them strawberries, herbs, courgettes, gooseberries and peas, with the bins hidden behind barriers.

After entering Underground in Bloom – the Tube’s own annual gardening competition – for the first time in 2010, the garden scooped the Dennis Sanger Chief Operating Officer ‘Special’ award for the team’s efforts.

The garden was then enhanced with a variety of flowers, many taken from cuttings in Neeta’s own garden, and colourful hanging baskets. This led to Hampstead winning the fruit and vegetable category for growing a variety of edible treats in a challenging environment in the 2011 competition.

“It was a double surprise to win two top prizes in our first two years of entering the competition,” said Neeta. The prize money went towards buying more plants and garden equipment, including a small greenhouse and a garden seat.

The garden now has an olive tree and a peanut bush, with seeds for some of the more exotic herbs and vegetables brought back from Neeta’s family home in India.

There is even a wormery bin, providing rich environmentally-friendly liquid fertilizer to help plants grow.

All of the work is done by station staff in their own time  They include station assistant Mary Fisher, station supervisors Stephen Ryan, Bernard Bradley and Naresh Patel, and cleaner Abbey Bola.

“It’s a great place for us to relax during our break or after a stressful shift,” said Mary Fisher. “Looking after the garden has given us something different and fun to focus on all-year-round.”

“Creating and caring for the garden has really boosted staff morale,” said Neeta. “It’s a true working garden, with all of the harvested crops used by staff in the station’s kitchens. It’s very satisfying to have created something out of nothing and just a pity that our customers can’t see it.”

Text and photos by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – High Barnet’s Station Garden

It’s not every station on the Underground network that has an award-winning garden complete with sculptures, hanging baskets, fruit trees and a pond!

Nevertheless this is exactly what staff have created in their spare time at High Barnet station, on the northern tip of the busy Northern line.

The driving force behind the gardening project consists of duty station manager Marc Jones, supervisor Darren Brown and customer service assistant Eric Alflatt, all keen and knowledgeable gardeners

Marc began the greening of High Barnet in a small way in 2007 with help from the group manager’s assistant Lisa Sainsbury. They started out by planting flowers on a small plot of ground, but soon became more adventurous.

“There was a large area of derelict land on some sloping ground by the side of the station which we decided to turn it into the main garden,” said Marc.

Other members of the station staff became involved and they all chipped in to help transform the bare site.

Using discarded used railway sleepers to help create terracing, the garden features lots of flowers, apple and pear trees, attractive hanging baskets, with large wooden sculptures donated by a local sculptor.

“We have planted lots of evergreens to keep the garden looking attractive all year round and put in various seasonal bedding plants,” said Marc. A small lower garden area features a pond.

The station receives a small annual gardening budget from London Underground, with the staff contributing in terms of buying plants.

We do all the work needed to maintain the garden in our spare time, either during meal breaks, staying late or on our days off,” said Darren.

High Barnet was one of the winners in the 2011 Underground in Bloom the Tube’s own annual gardening competition, coming third in the Hanging Basket category.

The station has also won quite a few other Underground in Bloom prizes over the years, plus picking up top awards in the Barnet in Bloom and London in Bloom competitions.

“We know from customer reaction that the colourful displays we have created make the station more welcoming and attractive,” said Marc. “We have had a great deal of positive customer feedback, with some regular passengers donating plants for us to use.”

In 2011 over 70 stations, depots and service control rooms took part in the Underground in Bloom competition.

Text and photos by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Angel station’s Thought for the Day

Staff at a busy London tube station who display humorous ‘Thought for the Day’ quotes have followed it up with a popular web site – and can boast of being featured on Japanese television!

It all began in 2011 when Customer Station Assistant (CSA) Ken Walters, who works at Angel Station on the Northern Line, heard about a suburban station where passengers dropping off their partners in the morning were banned from kissing them goodbye.

Apparently it was causing traffic holdups in the station car park,” said Ken. “I thought this was quite funny and wrote on our ticket hall whiteboard that ‘Kissing is allowed at this station’. As it seemed to make our customer smile, after talking to colleagues we decided to continue to put up regular light-hearted quotes. The aim is to get customers to stop and smile when they pass through the station, as they are often in a rush and feeling stressed.”

Helping Ken with his daily dose of ticket hall wisdom are fellow CSA’s Devika Webb and Rathees Kadadcham.

One of the first jobs for whoever’s on duty to open up the station to passengers each day at 5.40am is to put up that day’s thought.

“We sometimes get them off the internet or we make them up,” said Devika. “Regular station users are so used to seeing them now that they tell us off if we don’t change them every day.”

The jokey quotes also appeal to schoolchildren as well as adults and many travellers, including tourists, take photographs of the day’s offering.

The Angel trio has put up a comment box in the ticket hall where people can leave their own quote suggestions, which usually go on display within a couple of days.

“Lots of people who don’t even use the station come in off the street just to see what’s on the board that day,” said Ken.

Rathees is the trio’s computer wizard who knows his way around the internet.

He has set up the ‘Thoughts of Angel’ web site (www.thoughtsofangel.com), billed as ‘your daily dose of fun, laughter and thought’.  It features images of each day’s message and is seen by around 300 people daily.

Every image is archived and visitors to the site can vote for the message they like best. The site is linked to Twitter and Facebook, increasing its exposure, and several hundred people subscribe to its email newsletter.

The site has been picked up by blogger Annie Mole and is featured on her ‘Going Underground’ blog, which takes an irreverent look at aspects of the London Underground network. It also features on the Time Out and the islingtonpeople blogs.

“Annie, who lives locally, takes a picture of the ‘thought’ every day and downloads it onto her site, which has a link back to our site,” said Rathees.

Internet exposure led to the station being featured on Japanese television.

“NHK, their national broadcaster, found out about our web site and sent a crew to interview us and also some customers,” said Rathees. “The item featured in a documentary they made about the world’s underground systems, where we are described as the ‘human face of the underground’.”

“Feedback from passengers about the whiteboard ‘thoughts’ has been very good,” said Ken.  “Many of them stop to thank us for brightening up their day, and we now get presents at Christmas. What I think it has done is to make us more human, not just uniformed, faceless staff they rush past every day. I’m really glad I started with the quotes. It’s so nice to be able to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Text and photographs by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Underground Staff Initiatives Project

For most Underground passengers, the experience of your local station may be little more than entering, touching in your Oyster card, descending to the platform and then boarding your train. You may pay little attention to the station around you and not know very much about the staff who work there.

Some Underground staff however have decided to try and buck this trend by making their station environment more interesting and enjoyable for their passengers, colleagues and themselves. Whether it be making more personal announcements, introducing a Thought for the Day scheme, or brightening up the physical environment with a station garden or platform flower bed, there are some amazing things taking place across the network which the Museum wanted to collect.

Museum Friend Stephen Barry, a retired journalist, has been on a mission to track down these amazing initiatives over the past few months. Stephen visited stations across the city, speaking to staff, meeting passengers and taking photos of the great projects which are taking place. These stories and images are to be shared on this blog  as a series, starting with Angel station’s Thought of the Day.

Huge thanks to Stephen for his hard work. We hope you enjoy them!