An interview for a Londonist podcast unexpectedly led to finally hearing the truth behind the missing platform 7 at London Bridge train station and became the perfect location to discuss the company’s projects over the last 6-years. Founder John McKiernan explains.
Platform 7 at London Bridge pre 1993, copyright Network Rail
The story behind the missing platform 7 at London Bridge has always been a bit of a mystery. There were a few theories but no actual certainty that I could rely on until yesterday when London Bridge’s Richard Emmins, Network Rail’s customer liaison, provided the answer. There were extensions during 1993 to platforms 1 to 6, allowing 12 carriage trains to stop. These extended platforms cut off track access for trains entering platform 7. It is assumed by Richard that it was easier at the time to just delete number 7 than renumber all the other platforms. And again things will be changing substantially very soon with the expected arrival of a new platform 7 on 30th August 2016…
Londonist podcast interview on platform 7
I was invited to discuss the company I founded, Platform-7, by N. Quentin Woolf for the Londonist’s weekly podcast, a series of fascinating insights into everyday London. I was asked to name a relevant location in which to do the interview and Platform-7 stalwart, Roanna Mitchell suggested platform 7 at London Bridge train station. A perfect suggestion but there was a big issue (I assumed); London Bridge is undergoing a turbulent redevelopment, rebuilding the entire station while maintaining the same train services almost uninterrupted. Platform 7 is a building site and storage area!
An email to the management team at Charing Cross station, who assisted in our Resting Place event in April 2014, provided an email address and within a couple of hours a meeting with the Network Rail manager of London Bridge, Denis Kirk, was arranged.
Denis and his team could not do enough for me and it was clear that not only were they extremely knowledgeable but also very interested in, and proud of, the work they are doing. The changes are staggering. Denis first showed me the new platform 14 and 15, with beautiful swishing roofs. These platforms are as long as the shard is high, 900 feet (306m). All the platforms will be raised to the level of platforms 1-6 and then a large retail area will be built, similar to St Pancras station in London’s King’s Cross, underneath. Richard Emmins described how there will eventually be three platforms through to Cannon Street (1, 2 & 3), two through platforms for Brighton/Bedford Thameslink (4 & 5) allowing 17 trains per hour, and three through platforms to Charing Cross (6, 7 & 8). The remainder will be terminus platforms (9-16).
Platform 7 is actually still there although it would appear to most passengers to be just a very wide platform 8. Denis showed me the platform 7 edge, which runs the old length of the station.
One of the questions for the interview was likely to be where the name for the company originated. Platform-7 the concept had been rolling around in my mind since the mid-2000s, when I owned my small chain of café bars, Moonbow Jakes. The original working title for Platform-7 was Expression Spaces but that did not capture the essence of the organisation I was looking to create. It was during a brainstorming dinner at my house with a number of artists did pianist Julian Jacobson suggest Platform-7. One of the key intentions of the company was to use abstract performance art and exhibitions to encourage people to notice things they see everyday. The fact that London Bridge had 16 platforms but no platform 7, which few commuters noticed, captured the spirit of the idea succinctly.
The interview, while sitting on platform 7 with the show’s host, added perfectly to the conversation on what the namesake Platform-7 has been doing over the last 6-years. We discussed The Tights Ball, Tapescape, Remembrance, performance art, integrity, public space, social inclusion (and exclusion), place and appropriately, sitting in one of London’s fastest changing areas, under the shadow of The Shard, regeneration and displacement. I told of a new 2-year project using scrap collected from Network Rail trackside to discuss the residential depopulation of central London. Named GRABS – Gentrification, Regeneration And Burgeoning Suburbs – the project uses sculpture, spoken word, performance and symposium around railway stations to discuss whether there is a risk the centre of the city is becoming a tourist theme park and playground only for the rich? And as more and more of the existing residents are forced out due to redevelopment and cost of living, could the heart that makes the city beat soon no longer pump? More on this coming soon…
John McKiernan is the founder of Platform-7 Events
I would like to thank Denis Kirk and Richard Emmins for their time yesterday and N. Quentin Woolf for opening up such an interesing afternoon. JmC