Last year Caledonian Road station customer services assistant Kim Kalan brightened up the ticket hall at the station with her intricate whiteboard drawings, often with accompanying messages and thoughtful poems. Now the self-taught artist, who has switched from using marker pens to acrylics, is staging her very first solo exhibition.
It’s being held around the corner from the Piccadilly Line station at the aptly named Busworks complex, the former premises of the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) which has been converted into flexible offices, studios and workshops. As well as inviting fellow station staff – including her mother Sandra, who works in the ticket office – several of her regular customers, with whom she is extremely popular, were asked along to the preview night.
Called ‘Kimistic Origins – The Caledonian Road Station Artist Revealed’, the show features Kim’s very colourful and highly imaginative acrylic paintings.
Kim is also continuing to produce regular whiteboard drawings at the station to, as she says they “make the day better for my customers.”
The show runs until the end of October at The Busworks, 39 North Road, London N7 9DP and is open on weekdays from 9.30am until 5.30pm. Kim’s work can also be seen on www.kimistic.co.uk
In 2009, Antonio Cortés, an English language teacher from Colegio Cardenal Spínola school in Spain, got in touch with the Museum to tell us about his project ‘Undergrounding London’. Since our first contact, the Museum has kept in touch with Antonio and his students, working together to develop new themes for the ‘Undergrounding London’ project. So when we started developing our collection in preparation for the Mind the Map exhibition, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for Antonio’s story to be captured for our collection. Hear all about the project and see some of the activities in action in their fantastic film:
Since taking part in the Map as Inspiration project, Antonio has continued to work with the Museum, including most recently when he and his students wrote some new labels for our upcoming poster parade ‘What is a Map’. We hope to continue working with Colegio Cardenal Spínola school into the future!
Another of the brilliant projects who took part in our Map as Inspiration project was that of Shota Kuroki and the ThinkQuest team from Kanagawa University High School in Japan. Shota and his team are interested in information graphics, and use Beck’s map as an example of how such a simple idea can have a massive impact on how information is communicated around the world. Their project won the ThinkQuest Japan award in 2011, and the Museum was delighted to have been able to work with the group.
Here’s their video:
After winning the competition, the team sent us some messages:
Hello, I’m Yuki Hirotsu and I took charge of the animation on the top page of our website. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to display our website and video at your exhibition in 2012.
We have been working on this project since last April and we managed to make a good website thanks to your cooperation.
The global exchange between you and us led to the championship.
We hope we go to London where is a beautiful city sometime in the near future.
Thank you very much!
My name is Ryosuke Matsuoka. We sent a video letter to your museum in December.
Thank you for sending ours various kinds of material such as the book, the poster, and so on for my preparation of website. This was the first time for ours to communicate with people in foreign countries without interpreter. I’m glad to send a mail to you again, because I want to let you know about my website. With your help, we won the highest award in the website.
Thank you so much and I`m looking forward to visiting the museum one day.
Over the past couple of years, brand new snazzy trains have begun to appear on the Metropolitan Line. These S Stock trains are gradually being added to the London Underground system, replacing the 50 year old A Stock trains. The A Stock are being removed from the network at a rate of two trains per week, and by the end of 2012 will be no more.
The transition from A Stock to S Stock has been an exciting turning point for some drivers, but the end of an era for others. Capturing the workings of the old trains in operation was identified as a priority for the LU150 anniversary project, so yesterday myself and film-maker Geoff Marshall boarded an A Stock at Harrow-on-the-Hill and accompanied driver Richard Griffin on his journey up and down the Metropolitan line for the day
Having never had the opportunity to ride in a Tube cab before, the experience was incredibly exciting! Stations, tracks and other vehicles look so different from the front of the train, and is was fascinating to see Richard operating the train, stopping at signals, making announcements and following the timetable.
Geoff captured lots of footage on camera, which will be edited into a short film and added to the Museum’s collection. As soon as it’s done I will share it up here, but for now here are a few pictures from my ride!
It’s not every London Underground worker who has a song written and recorded about her, but that’s what has happened to Kim Kalan.
The bubbly customer service assistant at Caledonian Road station, on the Piccadilly line, has been brightening up the ticket hall with her intricate whiteboard drawings – with an accompanying cheerful message for passengers.
As well as being praised by customers, Kim’s colourful drawings were noticed by local musician Eoin Quiery. He was so impressed he decided a write a song about her, which has been recorded on the latest album made by his acoustic rock band, Burning Wheel.
Called Kimmie Song, it can also be found on YouTube and other social networking sites.
“It all began in a small way,” said self-taught artist Kim. “When we used to display notices to the public about delays or other problems, I started to put little drawings on them to brighten them up.”
She then moved on to the whiteboard drawings, working on them in her breaks and often coming in early before her shift begins.
Using white board markers she covers a wide range of subjects, ranging from the Mona Lisa to the World Cup and Armistice Day, always coming up with something special to mark Christmas, Easter and other seasonal occasions.
“I do it purely to make the day better for my customers,” said Kim, who affectionately refers to them as “my lovelies.”
She added: “What’s important to me is the positive effect my drawings and messages have on people; I’m not after any sort of recognition.”
Passengers regularly praise her drawings, including a local professional artist who said he could not do what she does with the white board markers. Other passengers have asked her to draw portraits of them.
Asked what she thought when she found out that Eoin Quiery had written a song about her, she said: “I was very surprised. How often do people get a song written about them?”
Kim, whose mother Sandra works in the station’s ticket office, also writes science fiction in her spare time. Her first fantasy book is complete and Kim is currently waiting for an agent.
“My ambition is to become a full-time writer,” she said. “In the meantime I will continue with my ticket hall drawings and am so glad that they have met with such a brilliant response from customers.”
The role that women play at Transport for London, and in particular London Underground, was one of the themes the Museum wanted to explore during this year’s collaborative collecting project. TfL graduate trainee Laura Sullivan, who currently works in the planning department at London Underground, signed up to be one of the Museum’s community collectors for the LU150 project. Laura is a member of the TfL Women’s Staff Network Group and was keen to explore the ways in which the other members could contribute to the LU150 contemporary story for the Museum. We decided that attending the International Women’s Day celebrations on March 8th was an ideal opportunity to meet lots of the women, allowing us to capture their experiences of working for TfL.
Photographers Heather McDonough and Rod Morris came along, capturing beautiful portraits of around 30 members of staff. Everyone who took part was also asked two questions:
– what does working for Transport for London mean to you?
– what are your hopes for the future with regards to women’s roles at Transport for London?
The responses were varied and very interesting. They included:
” I love being part of something everyone in London has an opinion about – whether positive or negative – it means I am working on a railway that people care about, and I can make a difference.”
” TfL is such a key part of London and it makes me proud to be working for the organisation. I see myself as an ambassador for the organisation and if anybody criticises its services I give them the facts and figures, to make them understand the enormity of what we do.”
” I feel like I am part of something important. How rare is it that millions of people see the result of your hard work every day?”
” I think the future is very bright for women at TfL. We have the opportunity to contribute to making TfL a world class organisation that we can all be proud of.”
” That there will be no barriers, perceived or otherwise, to doing any job at TfL. I’m looking forward to the first female managing director!”
The Museum is going to add the portraits along with the responses to our permanent collection, as a record of what it’s like to be a woman at the Tube at 150 years.
What does your Oyster card holder mean to you? Did you get it for free, buy it especially, or receive it as a gift? Do you use it as a wallet or just to keep your Oyster card safe?
Oyster wallets come in all colours, patterns and styles, from simple plastic holders to fancy leather and fabric cases. Companies across the capital have created their own holders as forms of advertising, with wallets being handed out all over the city every week.
As part of the LU150 celebrations, and in partnership with Andy Wallace from Transport for London, we went out to Acton Town earlier in March to find out more about what people store their Oyster cards in. If they were willing, we asked members of the public to swap their current holders for a new one, collecting the story behind the significance of the ones they donated.
Some of the stories were great, from wallets people have had since Oyster started in 2001, to pretty ones given as gifts, as well as holders purchased overseas. We’ve so far collected around 70 wallets for the Museum’s collection, all with their own great stories and anecdotes attached.
If you’d like to donate your Oyster card holder to the Museum, get in touch!
Two supervisors at North Acton station have created an award-winning garden that provides all-year-round colour to the delight of passengers.
The Central Line station’s glorious displays scooped first place in the Cultivated Garden category, as well as coming runner-up in the Best Overall Garden section, in last year’s annual Underground in Bloom contest hosted by TfL.
The man-made flower beds are the work of supervisors Terry Murrell and Bharat Vagani, built with the help from other station staff including contract cleaner Abraham Soubair.
It all began in a small way back in 2005 when Bharat, a veteran of 22 years with London Underground, put up some hanging baskets on the platforms to brighten up the dingy surroundings.
When Terry Murrell, with London Underground for five years, transferred to North Acton from Embankment, Bharat persuaded him to share in his vision of bringing a lot more natural colour to the station forecourt.
Months of hard work followed. Working by hand, they brought in around 15 tons of soil to create the extensive raised beds, which are edged with railway sleepers. All of the work was done in their spare time, including days off and during annual leave.
It was a true labour of love as the station has no vehicle access and all the soil had to be brought down a long slope from the nearby road.
As well as nurturing the flower beds and hanging baskets, Terry and Bharat grow up to 24 different varieties of vegetables in pots.
They receive a small annual ‘gardening’ grant from London Underground but contribute their own money to buy additional plants and garden tools.
Their hard work has not gone unnoticed. As well as winning numerous Underground in Bloom awards the green-fingered duo has received several commendations on the TfL website.
They have also been filmed for The Tube, a six-part documentary on the activities of London Underground staff, being shown on BBC Television.
Passenger response has been extremely positive. “Customers often take photos of the gardens, while one woman recently offered us a job looking after her garden,” said Terry.
“Another elderly lady, who uses the station twice a week, said the flowers reminded her of the displays she saw at suburban stations 40 years ago, and has helped make her feel safer when travelling.”
He added that their efforts have spurred one regular customer to tackle his own small garden, which he had neglected for years.
“It has been very satisfying to plan and create the gardens and to know that our customers appreciate all our efforts,” said Bharat.
“We are doing it for them, so that they feel happy when they come through every day and see splashes of colour, whatever the season.”
Words and photograph by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend
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.
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.”