This month we meet Krithika Ramesh, Project Officer in the Major Projects and Strategic Transport team in Southend-on-Sea Borough Council. Krithika is passionate about encouraging people to take up active travel, especially cycling, and would love for you to join in too!
- When did you start your current role and where had you worked before?
I started working as a Project Officer in the Major Projects and Strategic Transport team in Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in 2015, focussing on urban design and place-making projects. Prior to 2015, I was working for Sustrans (a UK sustainable transport charity) leading on a neighbourhood project called ‘Pocket Places’. The project explored unused or poorly used pockets of spaces along Queensway and London Road in Southend, with the view of transforming them into more welcoming, people friendly and vibrant community spaces. We hosted a number of free events and workshops over the two years of the project to create temporary and semi-permanent interventions.
One of the most memorable ones was the celebration of PARK(ing) Day. Started in 2005, PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform parking spots into temporary public parks. So there we were with grass turf covering the parking bays on London Road, lots of beautiful planter, cafe tables and chairs. The pop-up park became a little oasis where mums, kids, shoppers, employee, shop owners, cyclists, pedestrians etc stopped to break their routine journeys to share ideas for the neighbourhood, join in for some free yoga, painting and origami.
- Why did you want to work in active travel?
I was working on designs for sustainable buildings and realised that they needed to be connected by sustainable transport for it to make a difference. Whilst working on a scheme for replacing the central air-conditioning system of a building in Cardiff with natural ventilation, we were talking to employees using the building about their carbon footprint and simple ways by which they could reduce it. These conversations highlighted the important role of transport in creating sustainable neighbourhoods. The building needed to be designed to help the users make better travel choices, for instance by providing showers, changing rooms, bike storage for cyclists, etc.
- What’s the best thing about your job?
Working within a passionate and supportive team. When I first moved to Southend-on-Sea, I had no friends or family in the area. Despite the differences in cultural and professional backgrounds, I found it very easy to connect with most people in the team. They have always been supportive whilst still being honest about my ideas and suggestions. There is a real sense of community in the team, which helps improve morale and creates opportunity for us to learn from each other.
- What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on an exciting neighbourhood improvement project called SUNRISE. SUNRISE, in Southend-on-Sea, aims to facilitate and implement collaborative ways to address mobility issues at London Road and Victoria Circus.
The concept of ‘co-creation’ is at the core of the project. Co-creation includes dialogue and engagement with residents and stakeholders at every stage of the project, from identification of local needs, developing new transport solutions, implementing as well as evaluating them at the end of the project.
Over the summer, we will organise events where we will use temporary street furniture, temporary paint, planters etc. to enable local stakeholders to test co-developed solutions for improving Victoria Circus and London Road. The results will form the basis for new design solutions that will be implemented as permanent changes by the end of the project
We are hosting regular workshops and drop-in sessions as a part of the project and welcome participation from everyone in Southend. To find out more about the project please visit http://civitas-sunrise.eu/ , email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on twitter (@Sunrise_Southend) and Facebook (Sunrise Southend).
We are working in collaboration with other neighbourhoods in Europe, one each in the cities of Bremen, Budapest, Jerusalem, Malmö and Thessaloniki. Each neighbourhood is running similar participatory co-creation processes to address local mobility issues, creating opportunity for co-learning.
- Tell us about an event that altered the course of your life/and career…
Moving from India to the UK marked a significant change in my life and career. After completing my Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and working for an Architecture studio that focussed on vernacular architecture, I came to the UK to do my Masters in Sustainable Design. At that time, my intention was to gain some specialised knowledge and then move to a different country to set up my own business. Growing up I was constantly moving from one city to another and had become accustomed to the thrill of discovering new places and people. However, I fell in love with the UK and decided to put my roots down here. It has helped me improve the quality of my life, develop stronger friendships and given direction to my career. I do still travel the world as much as I can!
- The person who has influenced you the most is…
It sounds somewhat cheesy, but I have to admit it is my parents who have had the greatest influence on my life. My parents have always put friends and family first, but also gave a lot of emphasis on education, personal development and seeing the world.
- Work life balance – what leisure activity you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy dancing. I am trained in Indian classical dance and enjoy Bollywood dancing. I also like Salsa and Hip Hop. When I have more time, I like travelling. I usually travel to see my friends around Europe, in the U.S or India. For the last 6 years, my best friend, who lives in India, visits me and we travel to a new city as our annual tradition.
- Something about you people would find surprising…
Most people who know me would describe me as an extrovert. Whilst it is true that I now enjoy talking to people and come across as outgoing and unreserved, I used to be painfully shy. My job requires public speaking, engagement with stakeholders, facilitating workshops, design meetings etc. This along with my experience in amateur drama and university level debating, helped me improve my confidence.
- What’s your greatest fear?
Fear of missing out! I want to never miss any special moments in my friends’/family’s life. I once travelled from London to India for a long weekend to attend a wedding in the family and to Canada the following weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. It was a very hectic week at work and I couldn’t take time off, but I wasn’t willing to not be there for my cousin or friend on their special days.
- Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Albert Einstein – to ask him how he made it back in time to attend the dinner? Then get him to bring the others who need to time travel.
Mahatma Gandhi – to hear the story of freedom fighters for him.
Michelle Obama – to talk to her about the Trump admiration.
Sundar Pichai – to directly tell the CEO of Google all that I want Google assistant to be able to do in the future.
Kalpana Chawla – I just want to give a high five to the first Indian women who went to space.
Nelson Mandela – to be inspired!
Beyoncé – to liven up the dinner with her music.
JK Rowling – to make up stories if at all there were any dull moments.
- What would your super power be?
Power of mimicry! This would give the ability to temporarily mimic anyone’s skill or power. I could fly like a bird or swim like a fish to get where I want.
- What’s your favourite food?
I have always loved Asian street food as I feel it best reflects the local flavours of any place you visit. As a child I used to wait for the evening when the sun went down and all the vendors filled the streets in Delhi with the aroma of delicious fried food I was denied at home. The vendor’s innovative chants and colourful display of food alone would generate a crowd around them. Some of my favourites include gol gappa (round, hollow puffs filled with flavoured water and potatoes) and papri chaat (crisp fried dough wafers known as papri, along with boiled chick peas, boiled potatoes, yogurt and tamarind chutney). My favourites from my travels to other places include Tao Hoo Song Kreung (Thai tofu street food) and Banh Mi Roll (Vietnamese bread dish). I also love Sushi, which surprises some people as I am a vegetarian, but there are so many vegetarian options that I feel spoilt for choice.
- What’s the worst job you ever had?
From the age of 5 to 12, I was the unpaid entertainer at all family weddings! I had to welcome all the guests to the wedding party with singing and dancing in the interest of cost saving! I was told it would help my dancing (to be fair it probably did), but I remember always hating it as I used to be extremely shy.
- What thing would improve the quality of your life?
More time to spend outdoors in the sun.
- What’s coming next for you?
Completing travelling to 30 countries this year! As a part of my extended 30th birthday celebration this year, I want to complete 30 countries. My trip to Croatia with my husband on my birthday was no. 27 and I want to visit 3 more countries by the end of the year.