Sunday, 25 May 2008

A St Pancras Feeling

Images : Rhys Jones, April 2008

I made a visit to St Pancras International station recently on a wet evening at the end of April. It has been a while since I was last there. A lot of building work and disturbance to the original structure of the station shed and the hotel has taken place with the arrival of the Eurostar terminal in November 2007. I was struck though by a sense of atmosphere in the older parts of the station. The new concourse was full of people buying gifts, pulling luggage, gathering children and making ready to board the 'trains de grande vitesse'. Set quite apart, cathedral-like and with a sense of the spiritual, were the hidden parts of the station structure - the magnificent roof, the solid iron-girders and the passage ways. In this quiet part of the station stands a brass statue of John Betjeman, the poet, writer and broadcaster who did much in the 1960s to bring about the preservation of the station when others were for pulling it down. Betjeman stands looking up at the roof with the same awe that one would give to any of the magnificent churches and buildings to be found in the city of London. That part of the station had 'a quiet walk in the City of London on a Sunday' feel. An atmophere anyway! The Paul Day brass sculpture 'The Meeting Place' stands in this part of the station. As Day says himself when interviewed by the BBC 'it needs to look like it was always meant to have been there'. For me, though, it doesnt. It feels out of place and not at all the place where people would want to meet. People meet a few floors underground at the moment and this statue cuts a very lonely appearance.

There are as many opinions about this piece of public art as there are days in the year. Maybe it needs to be visited again in a few months time.

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