Tube quotes bring cheer to London commuters

LONDON • The daily grind of London commuting is being brightened by black marker pens and whiteboards.

The hall of Oval underground station already looks more like a living room than a Tube stop - with plants, a small library and music such as Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 playing.

Here on the city's Northern line, station employee Glen Sutherland whips out a black marker and writes up the "Thought for the Day".


It's a case of choosing them carefully - you can't put anything political, sexist, about religion.

MR GLEN SUTHERLAND, on what he avoids when searching for quotes on the Internet to write on the whiteboard.

The latest quote appearing on the large whiteboard - strategically positioned in front of escalators used by thousands of people daily - is from Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho:

"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure," it reads.

The Oval station tradition began in 2004, to brighten up the station and distract passengers - particularly during peak times.

Mr Sutherland hunts down quotes on the Internet, he says, wary of what should be avoided. "It's a case of choosing them carefully - you can't put anything political, sexist, about religion."

Mr Sutherland often chooses positive messages - "When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love", is one, from Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Oval's whiteboard also provides advice, or may take inspiration from the news, paying tribute to celebrities who have died such as David Bowie, Prince and Muhammad Ali. There has also been encouragement for Olympic athletes and a birthday message for Queen Elizabeth II.

And the initiative at Oval is spreading to several other stations and even their neighbourhoods.

"Beer is the answer, but I can't remember the question," reads one pub sign near a Tube station.

Other messages use humour rather than positive public relations, such as outside a cafe in Stockport: "Come in and try the worst porridge that one woman on TripAdvisor had in her life".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2016, with the headline 'Tube quotes bring cheer to London commuters'. Print Edition | Subscribe