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Community Rail Week: Arriva Rail London celebrates community projects at South Tottenham station with unveiling of artwork by local students

26 May 2023

As a day-to-day fixture in many people’s lives, railway stations can often be much more than just a travel link. At South Tottenham station, colleagues from Arriva Rail London (ARL) have transformed the London Overground station into a thriving hub of community activity for local residents.  

Over the past three years, station assistants Azaz Khan and Ray McDonagh have worked tirelessly to convert a large area of waste land at the station into an oasis, with constantly changing and evolving displays of flowers and beds for vegetables throughout the year. The work on the garden has evolved into a number of projects with the local community, opening up new relationships and changing attitudes.  

The latest ARL-funded project, which has been unveiled to mark the end of Community Rail Week, has seen art students from Gladesmore Community School design and produce eight pieces of artwork for the station. The artworks are inspired by the iconic Transport for London roundel, illustrating the values that the community in South Tottenham upholds.  

Gladesmore Community School’s art department said: “Gladesmore Community School is proud to have been asked to take part in this art project showcasing the different values and talents of our young Haringey residents. Our year 7 and year 8 students, with funding from Arriva Rail London, have created these station roundels to brighten up the urban area, and invite the local public and South Tottenham station users to celebrate and appreciate our diverse community through the eyes of future generations.” 

Charlotte Whitfield, Customer Experience Director at Arriva Rail London, said: “The dedication and passion that Azaz and Ray have demonstrated to create wider change in the local community is truly inspiring. From a bakery providing wooden pallets to a gardener bestowing expert knowledge on soil pH levels, the response from the South Tottenham community has been fantastic. Local residents recognise the value of the community work at their station and want to be involved, offering help, advice and ideas. This feels like just the start of something very special for the area and its people.” 

Groundwork for a growing community  

In 2020, Azaz and Ray started work on clearing the waste land, preparing the ground and putting in steps and pathways. Azaz also built a shed to use as a workshop for repurposing materials such as crates and pallets into seating areas, fences, planters, shelving and signage for the garden. The two station assistants have dedicated much of their own time to keep the garden blooming, staying late into the evening outside shift hours and on days off.  

The first project with the local community came about in September 2021, after a chance meeting between Ray and a teacher from a nearby primary school. Ray asked if the school would like 25 sponsored plants for pupils to use in lessons around nature, which the children were thrilled to receive. The positive response led to this becoming a school-wide initiative in the following year, with all fifteen classes receiving 48 plants to nurture.  

Ray discovered that the neighbouring high school, Gladesmore Community School, had a gardening club for its students. He approached the school with the opportunity for students to grow fruit and vegetables in the station garden, with planters and seeds provided. A group of students and teachers jumped at the opportunity, visiting the garden once per week to tend to their patches growing carrots, garlic, gooseberries and much more.  

The gardening club at South Tottenham has become so popular amongst students that a waiting list has now been set up. Many of the pupils live in built-up areas without access to a green space, meaning that this is one of the few opportunities they have to interact with nature.   

This opportunity has now been extended to Earlsmead Primary School, who are currently growing a range of vegetables in the station garden. Ray and Azaz are also looking after 12 silver birch trees for the school, which were provided by Pendarren House 

As well as these projects, the team at South Tottenham are continually finding new ways to further enrich the local area and its community spirit. The dedication of Azaz and Ray has not gone unnoticed, as they have recently been announced as finalists in the National Rail Awards for the Outstanding Personal Contribution category.