King's Cross Voices

Cultural Life in King's Cross

King’s Cross’ affordability and proximity to central London have attracted a variety of characters over the years, especially artists and writers. These have included Mary Shelley (born in Somers Town in 1797 and daughter of the early feminist writer Mary Wollstonecroft), Madame Tussaud (who exhibited her waxworks in the now-demolished London Horse and Carriage Repository), William Thackeray, Dr Roget (of Roget’s Thesaurus), George Gissing, Paul Nash, and the Bloomsbury Group which began in Gordon Square before the First World War.

Several members of the group, which took its name from the area, lived in neighbouring houses. Some of the group's residents , who had a great influence on the English modernist movement in art and literature included Leonard and Virgina Woolf, Clive and Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster and Duncan Grant. Virginia Woolf lived in Mecklenburgh Square for a few months, being bombed out in 1940. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the nineteenth century Indian educator and Islamic reformer, lived at 21 Mecklenburgh Square. Mohammed Ali Abbas, who lived at nearby 33 Tavistock Square, studied and then practiced law in London and was one of the founders of Pakistan.

In more recent times famous sons and daughters include the comedian Kenneth Williams, whose parents ran a hairdressers in Marchmont Street (the premises are still used for this purpose) and who continued to live in King’s Cross throughout his life.

The area has a number of community organised annual events, such as the King’s Cross County Show. These showcase local talent and enterprise helping to reinforce the area’s strong community networks.

In 2008, Kings Place, London’s new concert hall, opened in York Way. The building is also home to the Guardian and Pangolin art gallery. Another eminent gallery to be open in the district in recent years is the Gagosian in Britannia Street.

King’s Cross is also home to The British LibraryThe Place (contemporary dance theatre and school) and the Canal Museum.

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