Since the construction site was established in May, the Institute of Physics has been running activities to get to know its new neighbours in King’s Cross better, to become more involved in the life of the community and to run high-profile events to attract the wider public to the area.
On 19 June IOP staff and volunteers took part in the Cally Festival on Caledonian Road, setting up their stand among the stalls and fairground rides, talking to visitors and members of the local community and involving them in hands-on activities such as physics tricks including balloon kebabs and inseparable books.
Hundreds of visitors took part in an activity using beads, pompoms and pipecleaners to create their own particle collisions to take home, with both adults and children joining in and talking to the IOP team about physics.
Then on 13 July the IOP held its annual staff engagement day at the Business Design Centre in Islington, using the opportunity to familiarise staff with the King’s Cross area by inviting them to go on a 30-minute walk taking in some key local sites.
Armed with a map showing the pre-arranged route, the walkers started at King’s Cross Station, moving on to the construction site for the IOP’s new home at the junction of Balfe Street and Caledonian Road, then visited the Cinnamon coffee shop in Collier Street, where, using the map as a voucher, staff could claim a hot drink and a croissant.
Walking through the streets behind Pentonville Road to the Angel, their final destination was the Business Design Centre in Upper Street. There, the staff day included a talk by Sarah Elie, executive director of the Somers Town Community Association, and group discussions to imagine ways in which the IOP could develop partnerships with its new neighbours including the British Library, the Harry Potter shop, the Crick Institute and Urban Partners.
That evening, the IOP held one of its Summer Sessions – open-air lectures with a physics theme – on the Canalside Steps at Granary Square, King’s Cross. An audience of around 150 people, plus passing cyclists, boat crews and casual visitors to the square, heard Dr Jessamyn Fairfield talk about her research into building nanowire connections that “learn”, imitating an aspect of the way synapses function in the brain. Before her lecture, Electronics on the Brain, there was a warm-up act by science troubadour Johnny Berliner, who entertained the audience with songs about dark matter, the possibility of intelligent machines, Newton’s three laws, and the twin paradox, all given a comic twist.
The Summer Sessions series returns to the Canalside Steps on 1 August with a lecture on gravitational waves by Professor Martin Hendry and many more IOP activities in the King’s Cross area are planned.