#6 - Shelagh O'Connor / Somers Town & Kings Cross Post Office / 1980s / 1990s / 2015
It was chucking it down with rain the day I met Shelagh O'Connor. I had a tea at the Somers Town Coffee House beforehand, which I later learned employs a few people from New Horizons. Brolly in hand and dripping, I arrived to a room full of young people sitting on sofas, playing table tennis, chatting and eating: a truly buzzing atmosphere.
Shelagh, who is the director of the centre, came to meet me and took me up to this beautiful wooden panelled room that's used for music / sports and other activities. It overlooks the estate next door, with which the centre enjoys a close relationship.
Shelagh's Sticky Memory dates back to the late 1980s, to Kings Cross Post Office on the Euston Road, where she queued for many hours one night to try to get a place to run the London Marathon. The line extended right around the block and over the course of the night, she witnessed a huge number of female sex workers who were walking the streets, as well as the kerb crawlers that followed them.
Shelagh cites this experience as being fairly formative to the work she continues to do with the centre today, working for and with vulnerable young people, 95% of whom are homeless. At the core of how the Centre operates is the community. In the context of the ever increasing difficulty of finding stable work and housing, Shelagh sees entrepreneurship as key. Skills are taught to enable young people to give ideas a go. And the Crepe Stall on the Charlton Street Market is one of these ideas that has been running successfully for a couple of years now.
Because of the rain, Shelagh and I met again the following week at the Post Office to make the video, which retraces (in fast motion) the marathon application queue she stood in nearly three decades ago.