If trains powered the industrial revolution can stations power the post Covid-19 future for local communities?
New journeys of exploration providing spaces to bring people together to share their ideas and ambitions and make them real
In November 2018, we adopted Tolworth Station as part of SHEDx Growing Ideas, recognising the potential for it to play a larger role as a flexible and vital community space.
With boarded-up waiting rooms, two vacant shop units and empty poster slots throughout the site, Tolworth Station has been in need of repairs, improved access and activity for some time, but has seen little development, especially in relation to its neighbouring Surbiton Station.
Through SHEDx we began to run events at the Station from celebrating cycling and promoting the local nature reserve, Tolworth Court Farm Fields, to holding live music events and community plays in the car park and, in recent months, creating a space for regular food popups to develop.
With support from key partners and our local communities we have taken a lease on one of the vacant units to create Baking Ideas, a sustainable creative space to liberate and share ideas. The space is equipped with a professional kitchen and meeting space suitable for 20 people.
We've worked with a number of Kingston University students and local residents to begin imagining how this space could be used in the future.
In Autumn 2020, we brought key stakeholders including Network Rail, South Western Railways, local land owners Lidl UK, Guinness Housing Association, Meadow Partners, educational providers, Councillors and Council staff together with the local MP to discuss the future of the station and improvements to the accessibility and fabric.
In February 2021, we commissioned artist WeAreSkyHigh to create a new mural for the station celebrating the wildlife that can be found in the nearby nature reserve. Moving forwards we are planning to create a wildlife garden at the rear of Baking Ideas called The Cutting, and pilot a collective growing space, Crop Ups.
With a reduction in commuting can stations have a different role? Can they offer new journeys of opportunity for social, community, creative and business enterprise ideas - platforms for new approaches to economic activity with each station having its own personality reflecting local needs and ambitions?
Can they offer real opportunities for the ‘post Covid-19’ recovery and the desire to ‘build back better’. We're promoting a future constructed upon four pillars of ‘more local, more mutual, more equitable and more sustainable’. Many stations could offer fabulous spaces for such growth.
Built 1938-9, Tolworth Station is on a line intended to link through to Leatherhead, although it was never completed.
The architectural style is 'streamlined moderne', a popular style for commercial buildings of the period like cinemas. It expresses the idea of modernity, efficiency, machine-made forms, the details made possible by building with a mouldable material, and the clean travel possible with electric trains, of which the Southern Railway (1923-48) was a leading operator.