Last Updated on June 21, 2019 by Stephanie Onderick
It starts with a quiet walk up the side streets on St. Albans Grove. These ones are usually noiseless with not much going on except Builders Arms housing all the tired people that are kicking back after a day on the job. Other than that the streets remain undisturbed. Then, you turn the corner and hit Kensington High Street. At eight o’clock on a Friday evening it is easy to understand the chaos that paints this popular strip. Every turn you make there is something to be seen and a world of emotions to be felt. I am here to speak of Kensington High Street specifically on an autumn’s Friday night; I am here to display it in all its glory from the wind down of the workday to the spark of the evening festivities. After all, this stretch of hurried feet is always bustling with various stories being written as people’s lives move along.
Although I am not from the city and become stressed with the crowds, I will always find it interesting to watch and experience ‘what is London’ in its raw metropolitan form. I do enjoy observing people and High Street could not be more opportune for doing exactly that. I have seen High Street during the day. It is always frenzied with people whether they are shopping or on a lunch break. Specifically to Friday evening it was rather fascinating to witness something I would consider a ‘shift change’ between lunch service and dinner service at a restaurant. I saw females in pencil skirts and males in button downs heading home for the day from their job and then I saw others ready to go out; Men were dressed smart and women clinked down the pavement in heels. You can also count on seeing the evening runners in their running shoes and leggings defying the crazy thought of working out in the cold. The street is completely and consistently diverse and I believe that is simply incredible to step back and witness.
Kensington High Street is merely two long running sidewalks with shops on opposite sides. You can find anything from notebooks at Rymans and clothes at H&M, to camping gear at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. It stands true to diversity from the people that fill it to the shops that line it. This location was made for the battle of satisfying a person’s every necessity; and High Street tube station creates easy access to this luxury by bringing in the crowds, along with, countless bus stops visited often by the icon bright red double deckers to take you anywhere after. The design is like a tunnel that just funnels people through. It leads you to master the art of weaving through a crowd. I will tell you one thing, coming to High Street during what I officially deem a ‘shift change’ leaves little room for movement, but it makes this strip what it stands to be today.
It is honestly crazy to me to try to even begin to fathom the history that this stretch has seen. This area is one of 35 major centers in the London plan and I cannot grasp how many stories we would hear if the walls could talk. It is my personal understanding that High Street Kensington has always been a sight for fashion development. Correlating with fashion development is social development which continuously guides this area to progress. Today it is a main shopping street as could be observed on my Friday evening stroll. However, even though entirely true, I feel ‘a main shopping street’ does not cover what this location expresses itself to be. High Street is the people. It is the busses. It is the black cabs and the route of the desired location. It is the tube station and the reasons why people are entering or leaving the tram. High Street is the history of details as to why people have travelled time and time again on its sidewalks. To say it is a ‘major centre’ is not enough because it is so much more in its purest form.
How funny is it that you can take a location, such as High Street, and strip it to its rawest form in order to grasp the marks of history that created such an area to exist and continue to progress. I say I am not a city girl because of the crowds, but it makes it quite easier to deal with when I just take a step back to take in the beauty of the chaos. That Friday evening, every person had a mission and a destination to continue their story in this wild game we call life. High Street stands to be not just a shopping centre, but a roll of the dice in deciding your next move. From rushing home from work to kick your feet up to putting on your best shoes to let your hair down, this stretch on an autumn Friday night was anything but ordinary. Human culture is what drives this area forward and all it takes is turning the corner from the quiet side streets to access this incredibly jaw dropping stretch that Londoners and visitors have equally opened their lives to.
This post was contributed by Stephanie Onderick, who spent her fall semester studying abroad with AIFS in London, England.