London’s Blue Badge Tourist Guides sometimes have to take their groups to or meet them at Saint Pancras International Station where the Eurostar train arrives from Paris and Brussels. This is surely London’s most impressive railway station. It stands next to King’s Cross from where Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Grainger set off to go to Hogwarts school from the famous platform nine and three quarters. Although many people go into King’s Cross for the photo opportunity at the 9¾ platform sign it was the outside of Saint Pancras which the filmmakers used to represent the station when it was shown in one of the Harry Potter movies.
People entering the interior of Saint Pancras International Station can now see a new Tracey Emin LED sculpture twenty-metres long with the message in bright pink saying “I want my time with you.” Emin is a notorious and controversial modern British artist, whose most famous work is probably her bed, which she put on display at the Tate Gallery surrounded by empty vodka bottles and used condoms. Although she has never married or had children, there is a romantic streak to Tracey and she has said that she would have liked to have had a romantic meeting with a lover at a railway station, traditionally a place of meetings and farewells. The words also serve as a message of welcome to visitors from Europe at a time when the country is preparing for Brexit.
Saint Pancras International Station: Tracey Emin Neon Sign, I want my time with you. Photo Credit: © Edwin Lerner.
You see the bright pink “I want my time with you” Tracey Emin LED sculpture as soon as you alight from the Eurostar train. It is the fourth artwork to be displayed at Saint Pancras by a member of the Royal Academy as a part of Terrace Wires, a programme of new art commissions by internationally famous artists. Made from LED, at twenty metres long it is the largest piece Emin has ever produced and it hangs from the Grade One listed metal and glass roof of the station in front of – but not obscuring – the famous Dent clock which tells people if their train has arrived on time.
Beneath the new Tracey Emin LED sculpture are two lovers embracing as they either greet or say goodbye to each other. Popularly known as The Lovers, its correct name is The Meeting Place. This nine-metre tall bronze statue was created by Paul Dent and is the most striking work seen in the station. A smaller statue nearby shows the poet and preservationist John Betjeman dressed in a three-piece suit with a hat and coat, like any old-fashioned commuter travelling to work. Betjeman has a particular place in the hearts of those who love Saint Pancras because he worked so hard to preserve it from demolition in the 1960s when its extravagant Victorian gothic style of architecture had fallen out of fashion. Betjeman is one of Britain’s best-loved poets and his books still sell in great numbers. He also started and for many years wrote the ‘Nooks and Crannies’ column in Private Eye magazine, which campaigned for the preservation of old buildings. Old-fashioned poet and modern artist – they are both parts of the public art found in London’s finest railway station.
Saint Pancras International Station in London: The Meeting Place (The Lovers) sculpture by Paul Day. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
Saint Pancras International Station in London: John Betjeman Statue by Martin Jennings. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.