Royal Docks: How the London Blockchain Conference is focused on finding practical applications as the technology matures

Conference director Alex Stein and sponsor Richard Baker of Tokenovate talk innovation and efficiency

Tokenovate’s Richard Baker will be speaking at the conference

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Blockchain is one of those technologies that can be daunting in its vastness.

First conceived in the early 1990s, not much happened until 2009, when Bitcoin arrived and its profile rose as the system underpinning that and other cryptocurrencies.

Then there was the mostly art-focused explosion and crash of the non-fungible tokens or NFT market.  

But quietly in the background – while the hype has raged – bright minds have been carefully considering what blockchain might most functionally and profitably be used for now and in the future.

What applications does an immutable, secure ledger for practically any kind of data, protected by encryption and distributed across a network of computers, actually have? 

It’s that question which lies at the heart of the forthcoming London Blockchain Conference – a gathering of experts, companies and individuals.

Set to be held at Excel from May 21-23, 2024, the event expects to attract more than 5,000 delegates in person who will be able to listen to more than 150 speakers and dozens of cutting-edge exhibitors working in the sector.

“Its purpose is to move the needle forward on enterprises and governments adopting blockchain technology,” said Alex Stein, conference director.

“What we want to do is cut through a lot of the conversations, which tend to be about cryptocurrencies.

“The event is about how useful the technology can be and its impact, looking holistically across different industries and government – we want to bring everyone together to move those discussions forward and educate people. 

“We’ve held conferences around the world on this topic but last year we made the decision to find a home in London.

“It makes sense because it’s a hub for fintech, finance and regulation, all of which are very important for the technology. 

“That’s why we’ve based it here and renamed it the London Blockchain conference.

“We want it to be the main event for businesses in Europe, and eventually globally, which will show people the practical applications of the technology – people who want to get together and talk about problems and solutions to them.

“This is the event for people with questions about blockchain to find answers – perhaps you’re the person who has been tasked with looking into a solution for your company or you’re a CEO or founder who would like to know more.

“The event is an amazing opportunity to be at the forefront of the technology and to meet people from startups, scaleups, investors and big companies.”

London Blockchain Conference director Alex Stein

One of those individuals will be Richard Baker, founder and CEO at conference sponsor Tokenovate.

He’s an electronics and telecommunications engineer by background and a self confessed lover of low-level engineering – good products and good systems, as he puts it.

“As a technologist, I always look at things through that lens,” said Richard.

“As an exhibitor of applications on blockchain I think the conference is at the heart of what London has always been really excellent at – curating the many faces of financial service offerings both nationally and internationally. 

“Tokenovate specialises in derivative trading  – we’ve built the next generation life cycle engine. 

“It’s a platform for how derivatives are getting tokenised, expressed as smart contracts and executing their life-cycle events on a blockchain. 

“There is no doubt in my mind of the journey that’s under way in financial services – not just in London, but globally.

“We’re seeing something in the order of $16trillion of assets expected to be tokenised in the next five to 10 years – land, property, commercial real estate, bonds and more. 

“This is probably one of the most exciting financial services transformations we have seen in 40 years – a real overhaul – and the economics that go with it as we adopt this new way of expressing value and building products.

“This conference touches on a lot of those really important characteristics.    

“In my humble opinion, blockchain has been one of the slowest technologies to come to market.

“It’s been more than 15 years and there has been a lot of misdirection with the journey of cryptocurrencies – but now we’re seeing businesses and organisations around the world look at it as an infrastructure technology, really focusing on its utility value.

“That’s what this conference is about.”

Both Alex and Richard agree that the potential for the technology is huge, making discussion of its implications and regulation essential.

“It’s fantastic to have people like Richard at the forefront to push the boundaries of what this technology can do,” said Alex.

“There are so many sectors that can be touched by blockchain, such as supply chains and healthcare as well as local and national government.

“There are so many opportunities and we want people to be able to see how blockchain can be a part of their digital transformation.

The conference is taking place at Excel in Royal Docks

“The point of the technology is to make things quicker, cheaper and better. What blockchain gives you in terms of its scalability, speed and stability will eventually change the world.

“It will become the plumbing that everyone expects to be in place and relies on to do business. In 10 years we’ll talk about it in less depth because it will be there.”

Richard added: “As a technologist, I often think in terms of 100 years.

“We’re only 30 or 40 years into a meaningful part of the digital age.

“Built into Tim Berners- Lee’s World Wide Web protocol is the fact that the internet was conceived as a medium of exchange for data but not money.

“There has always been a gap for the right financial system to be plugged in and that’s part of the journey we’re on in society. 

“Crypto has been a use case for the technology – it’s animated how smart contracts work, tokenising things and what a modern marketplace could look like and it’s certainly accelerated G20 regulators looking at blockchain and asking how it will apply to traditional instruments.

“I also echo what Alex says, that as a society we’re increasingly looking for provenance.

“In food, for example, using blockchain as an immutable, time-stamped record keeper, you could know when something was pulled out of the ground, when it was shipped, what the weather conditions were like and who the farmer was.

“I’m sorry to say this but we do live in a world where trust is being increasingly re-sought.

“We have a lot of disinformation and immutable record keeping is one mechanism we can use to help us re-establish that trust. I think it has an important role to play.”

The conference is pitched at all levels with the aim of including as many organisations as possible, so there’s very much a place for those whose understanding of the technology is rudimentary.

“On day one in the morning, we host a session called Blockchain 101,” said Alex. “We also have a session on what a smart contract is and so on.

“We’re located two minutes and 57 seconds from Canary Wharf or 14 minutes from Tottenham Court Road – there’s a whole expo floor and so much content and networking to get involved with.

“I just love bringing people together, out of the office, for face-to-face conversations.

“There will also be a fantastic, informal drinks reception on the first night, which will be really lively. 

“Having lived through the pandemic, when conferences were digital, it’s great to be hosting live events.

“Before the Elizabeth Line was in place, Excel used to feel a little out of the way but now it’s so well connected to the rest of London.

“Our event will take place in its dedicated conference centre, which is perfect for the kind of programme we’re hosting – although we’re certainly looking to the future and will perhaps one day occupy one of its halls.”

Anyone interested in exhibiting at the London Blockchain Conference or participating in its event can find full listings and information online.

Excel is easily reached from Canary Wharf in less than three minutes via the Elizabeth Line


There’s a wealth of potential topics, but what can delegates expect from the event at Excel in May?

“We’ve got seven content-led tracks across three stages, our visionary stage, our big keynote stage and our inside stage – meant for panel-led discussions,” said Alex. 

“There’s also our spotlight stage out on the exhibition floor, so there’s great variation in what’s on offer.

“We’ll have session on the regulatory side of things, blockchain and AI plus blockchain and the Internet Of Things.

“We’ll be looking at business cases and opportunities to innovate in all of these areas.”

In addition to Richard, confirmed speakers include representatives from Channel 4,  nChain, Business Kitz, Ayre Ventures, BSV Blockchain, Project Babbage, Gate2Chain and Family Office Venture Capital.


key details

The London Blockchain Conference is set to take place at Excel in Royal Docks over three days from May 21-23, 2024.

Excel is easily accessed via Custom House station on the Elizabeth Line (less than three minutes from Canary Wharf) or Prince Regent DLR.

Networking tickets for the event cost £49, while three-day delegate passes are £399. VIP access costs £799.

Group discounts are available for those buying three or more conference passes.

Find out more about the London Blockchain Conference here

Read more: How YY London is office space fit for 2024 in Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: How Ballymore is continuing to transform Royal Docks and east London

New homes at Riverscape’s The Pearsall building launch as Brian De’ath gives us insight into the firm’s extensive array of future schemes

The Pearsall building at Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme has launched

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Brian De’ath looks at home.

We’re sat in front of the frankly huge, gold-framed plate glass windows in a show apartment in The Pearsall building at Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme.

The effect of this expansive, considered glazing is to portion up the apartment’s views over the Thames of east and south-east London into gilt-edged postcards of a vibrant, ever-changing city and skyline.

It’s a part of the capital Brian’s career in property has deeply intertwined with.

Working for the likes of Berkeley Group, Mount Anvil and Canary Wharf Group, he’s helped countless buyers find new homes here, at developments up and down the river. 

It would be fair to say while those developers have built the structures that have transformed Docklands, his job has been to convince house hunters to live in them, helping to create the emerging communities which have replaced industrial decline. 

He joined Ballymore a little over seven months ago as managing director of sales and marketing and is relishing the opportunity to work on its existing schemes and a rich pipeline. 

Ballymore managing director of sales and marketing, Brian De’ath

“Our industry is very small – people bump into each other all the time – so I got to know my predecessor, Jenny Steen, over the years and I’d always got on tremendously well with her and had great respect for Ballymore as a company,” said Brian.

“For me it was good timing that a position arose at a company I really wanted to work for.

“Looking at what Ballymore has done over the years, I’d been impressed with its level of integrity in terms of acquiring a site and taking the soul of the area into account.

“I think it’s in the company’s DNA to say: ‘We’re going to treat each individual project in its own right and on its own merits’, rather than taking a model and replicating it.

“Instead, the company asks what each development needs and what it can do to enhance the local area.

“I remember being blown away on my first visit to Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms – it was just so good.

“Ballymore was one of the first developers there and for the company to take that leap of faith and imagination was tremendously exciting.”

The Pearsall features large windows with views across the Thames

Simply put, the developer has built a sizeable portion of the east London we see around us today. 

In partnership with EcoWorld it’s delivered Wardian – just over the dock from Canary Wharf on the Isle Of Dogs – and London City Island at Leamouth, which included a new home for the English National Ballet and a vital bridge over the River Lea, linking the area to Canning Town station.

The latter has since been effectively extended as a campus, with Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope project filling a patch of land between the Thames and the smaller river with warehouse-style buildings and townhouses.

Going back a bit further, there’s Providence Tower and New Providence Wharf, Pan Peninsula, Millennium Harbour, Baltimore Wharf, Dundee Wharf and 21 Wapping Lane.

On the Isle Of Dogs, schemes at Cuba Street and Mill Harbour remain in the pipeline.  

While the company’s impact has already been profound on the shape of housing close to Canary Wharf, it’s also been transformational for the regeneration of Royal Docks. 

Working with Oxley, it’s Royal Wharf scheme has seen a town of more than 3,000 homes built beside the water close to the Thames Barrier. 

The Pearsall features open-plan apartments

The partners are currently building Riverscape – a development of more than 750 homes on a strip of land leading up to the river between Royal Wharf and the 100-year-old Lyle Park. 

Just launched at the scheme is The Pearsall building.

Located right on the water, it houses 137 apartments – with one, two and three-beds available – and is due for completion in the summer.

“It’s in a super spot with views across Lyle Park and down the Thames to Canary Wharf,” said Brian.

“You’ve got 100-year-old trees in front of you, with the park celebrating its centenary in 2024 and then there’s the river itself – imagine the sun setting behind the towers on the skyline with the water in front. It’s a great spot and we’re delighted with it.

“Historically if you’d asked me how close I’d want a building to be to the Thames, I’d have always said right next to it.

“But while working for Canary Wharf Group and selling homes at South Bank Place, which has Jubilee Gardens in front of it and then the river beyond, I learnt that having the contrast between the green space and the water can be incredibly special.

Properties feature built-in storage in the main bedrooms

“I get that same feeling at The Pearsall. I think it offers unrivalled value at its price point.

“The quality of the architecture and the interior design has absolutely not been seen in this location before.”

The properties feature open-plan design, big windows, built-in wardrobes, walk-in showers and high quality timber flooring. 

Part of the attraction for buyers will also be the prospect of moving to a neighbourhood that’s well established, albeit one with significant regeneration to come. 

This should mean improved access to nearby Pontoon Dock DLR, a new bridge across Royal Victoria Dock for better access to the Elizabeth Line and an expansive swathe of development by Lendlease as its transforms the land around Millennium Mills. 

But right now residents who move into Riverscape will benefit from Royal Wharf’s extensive offering.

That includes a 25m swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, sauna, jacuzzi and a gym in its Clubhouse, on-site security and a wealth of established businesses including a nursery, cafes, restaurants, a GP, a dentist and The Windjammer pub.

Residents can enjoy views over Lyle Park to Canary Wharf

There are also regular farmers’ markets and community events to look forward to.

However, to consider The Pearsall even at this level of isolation would be to do a disservice to the area and its future.

One of the key things buyers must consider when making a purchase is how likely an area is to be attractive in the coming decades. 

The Pearsall sits at the apex of a scheme that slots neatly into a vibrant community.

This is located in Royal Docks, London’s only enterprise zone, which is currently enjoying billions of pounds of inward investment as public bodies and private companies work to regenerate land abandoned by industry. 

So those making a purchase now are likely to benefit further from such mammoth milestones as the opening of the nearby Silvertown Tunnel, the expansion of Excel and a wealth of future development.

Ballymore itself has two more substantial schemes in the pipeline – one on the other side of Lyle Park at Knights Road and another further east at UNEX-Thames Road, on the other side of Thames Barrier Park.

“To buyers now, we’re not saying you have to be pioneers at all, but part of the attraction of buying here is to be part of the journey that’s coming,” said Brian.

Glazing at The Pearsall portions up the London skyline into gilt-edged postcards

“Ballymore has the fourth largest pipeline of any developer in London and that’s incredible for a privately managed business.

“Knights Road will have around 1,250 homes, although the numbers may change as it goes through the planning process. 

“It’s got a lovely scale to it and, for me, it feels like placing the next piece in a jigsaw puzzle. 

“The east of Lyle Park will be fully developed and accessible to residents and the new scheme will join on to that – ultimately the whole area will be read as one. 

“When you walk around Mayfair or Belgravia, nobody thinks about which buildings were created as part of which schemes – people experience them as single places and that will happen here too.

“We’re also very lucky to have the UNEX site, which will be about 1,400 homes with some very interesting designs coming, including some for light industrial use.

That means an opportunity for great architecture and businesses – a small brewery, perhaps – mixing in with the apartments. 

“We’ll be creating large parks as part of these schemes too and opening up the river.

“We want to work with local stakeholders to do this because we see the value in it for residents and visitors.

“When you look at Ballymore’s investment, there’s no-one doing more in this part of London – it’s something we take incredibly seriously.”

Homes at Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope scheme at Leamouth are still available

ALSO AVAILABLE – Goodluck Hope

Ballymore is currently marketing properties at its Goodluck Hope development, a little further west along the Thames

“This has been a tremendously successful development by Ballymore,” said Brian.

“The scheme includes a wonderful mix of architecture with a mixture of townhouses, towers, low-rise buildings and a refurbished dry dock.

“There’s a grocery open there now and a bakery and cafe as well as all the amenities as London City Island. We currently have about 100 homes left at Goodluck Hope.”

A show home interior at Goodluck Hope


key details

Apartments at The Pearsall start at £435,000 for a one-bedroom property. Completion is expected this summer.

Homes are also on sale at Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope scheme in Leamouth. Prices start at £425,000 for a studio. 

Find our more about Ballymore here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canada Water: Why 2024 is a significant year for British Land’s regeneration scheme

Developer’s joint venture with AustralianSuper is set to see a bridge and market hall open up

An artist’s impression of Asif Khan’s bridge across Canada Dock

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Large regeneration projects are a marathon, not a race.

Their benefits often appear incrementally – a crescendo building to something truly revolutionary for an area transforming the lives of those who live and work in it.   

So it is with British Land’s epic 12-year plan for 53 acres of Canada Water and 2024 is set to be the year where a number of the project’s key parts will arrive. 

As those who’ve already read this piece will know, the first of up to 3,000 homes to be delivered across the site are now on sale.

But this article is about more immediate, material changes that are coming.

Nearing completion, for example, are the luxurious red curves of Asif Khan’s boardwalk, dipping pond and pergola which form the centrepiece of a package of improvements to Canada Dock itself.

Those arriving at the station will be confronted by an enriched waterside habitat replete with reed beds, benches and steps down to the dock edge – all aimed at boosting biodiversity, water quality and access to the blue stuff.

But these installations aren’t just a pretty gimmick – they’re a practical statement of intent, guiding visitors more directly towards what will be the new town centre.

In the meantime, the bridge will also bring people to a new foodie destination that is expected to open up at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.

“While we’re waiting to redevelop it, we’re in the process of taking back the unit that’s currently home to The Range,” said Emma Cariaga, joint head of Canada Water at British Land

“We’re going to convert that into a food, beverage and cultural space, which will start to be symbolic of the sort of programmes we’ll be running locally.

“That will be in place before Christmas and the bridge is set to open around September time. 

“Both should be open before we complete on our first buildings at the end of the year and will be a really good amenity for them.

British Land’s joint head of Canada Water, Emma Cariaga

“They too will have restaurants and cafés on the ground floor – overlooking the water at the front and spilling out into a courtyard at the back.

“What we consistently hear from residents locally is that they love Canada Water but what they need in the short term is more places to eat and drink.

Canada Water Cafe and Leadbelly’s are excellent and this new opening should be phenomenal.

“We also took back a Victorian building near The Engineering And Design Institute to the east of our site, which has now reopened as The Pacific Tavern pub – a grill and barbecue concept that’s doing really well.”

All this speaks to a key benefit of having a single developer involved with a project for a significant period of time. 

British Land, now backed by the financial muscle of pension fund AustralianSuper, knows it has to deliver a consistent, compelling pipeline of amenities and attractions with visitors as much as it is future residents. 

Fortunately it has both the time, money and imagination to do this, having already altered its scheme to include the retention and upgrading of Printworks London as a venue.

“We’ve worked really well with Broadwick, which has run the venue – it surpassed all our hopes and dreams of what it could become,” said Emma.

“It’s seen millions of people pass through its doors over the past six years and, while it’s become best known for electronic dance music, we’ve also had the Canadian Royal Ballet, Secret Cinema, the BBC Proms and a whole range of product launches, conferences and studios using it as a filming location.

“This diversity really gave us confidence that we wanted to keep it as part of the project.

“Ultimately people will come to Canada Water because they live here or work here – but the key to success is also to get them to visit because they enjoy what’s here.

“Printworks has done that – we’ve had visitors not only from across London and the UK but also internationally.

“It has that kind of reach. It will be a catalyst for the site’s ongoing development.”

In addition to housing, plans for Canada Water include some 2million sq ft of office space, 650,000sq ft of retail and leisure space and 12 acres of new public space.

“We’ll be delivering a really healthy mix – somewhere that people will want to live and work, but also great places to come out and enjoy themselves,” said Emma. 

“We have lots of open spaces all around us with Southwark Park on our western boundary and Russia Dock Woodland to the east.

“Then we’ve got our own spaces including the most significant which is a new public park of three-and-a-half-acres. 

How the first phase of Canada Water will look when exiting the Tube station

“That will be delivered alongside Printworks and we hope to start work before the end of the year once we’ve got planning permission.

“Construction will then take about two years.”

Alongside the cultural venue, Printworks is expected to house 158,000sq ft of flexible workspace, and boast 10,000sq ft of external terraces on its third and sixth floors with views across London. 

Also mooted is a full complement of food and drink establishments to keep both visitors and workers appropriately sated.

Coming sooner to the overall scheme will be The Dock Shed – one of the buildings delivered as part of phase one.

Located next to residential tower The Founding, and just a few seconds from the station, this combines 180,000sq ft of office space over five floors with a new leisure centre to be run by Southwark Council. 

This includes pools, sports courts and a gym spread over the basement and ground floor of the structure.

“We’re really pleased to have this facility, which includes an eight-lane, 25m pool because it will provide constant footfall,” said Emma.

That’s something that, with all these plans progressing, is only set to increase in the years to come. 

key details

The Canada Water masterplan covers 53 acres of space on the Rotherhithe peninsula and will see a new high street and shopping destination created alongside 3,000 homes.

Find out more about the plans here

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Property: How Barratt London’s Bermondsey Heights offers Zone 2 value

Developer’s South Bermondsey scheme is on the edge of major local regeneration projects

An artist’s impression of Barratt London’s Bermondsey Heights scheme

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“People are smart nowadays, they’re not just buying somewhere because it’s a great place to live – they’re looking at lots of different elements and whether they’re going to see capital growth on their purchase,” said Yolanda Jacob, sales and marketing director at Barratt East London

“Even if they stay for five years, they want to see a property will be a good investment for them. 

“Buying at the beginning of regeneration is nearly always the best time to purchase, because you’re going to see capital growth because of everything that’s going on in the area.”

We’re discussing Bermondsey Heights, the developer’s latest south-east London scheme. 

When complete, the Ilderton Road complex will house 163 one, two and three-bedroom homes as well as 32 shared ownership apartments, rising to 26 storeys at its highest point.

This includes the Skyline Collection, a clutch of properties spread over the top four floors with an enhanced specification and, presumably, the best views the scheme has to offer.

Barratt has a bit of a track record in building developments in areas that then go on to see vast swathes of regeneration unfolding, with buyers enjoying the upswing in property values and boost in amenities that result. 

Maple Quays at Canada Water and Enderby Wharf on Greenwich Peninsula would be two examples. 

This could well be true for Bermondsey Heights as well.

The development features views across London from its communal roof terrace

Over the road to the north, Renewal has plans for some 3,500 homes, office spaces and, potentially, a new Windrush Line station on land surrounding Millwall FC’s ground. 

For context, New Bermondsey is a scheme comparable in size to Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich or Kidbrooke Village.

“House prices locally are forecast to rise by 25%, which is huge compared with other areas,” said Yolanda.

“People who bought at the start of similar schemes in Brixton, Shoreditch or King’s Cross will be very happy with their investment after five or 10 years. 

“These are destinations people now go to for socialising, entertainment and shopping.”

Alongside New Bermondsey, British Land’s 12-year redevelopment of Canada Water – complete with a new town centre – is also within walking distance of Barratt’s scheme and will benefit buyers.

But what will those future residents actually be purchasing? 

“Each apartment will have outside space – either a winter garden or a balcony,” said Yolanda.

“They have open-plan living areas and kitchens with all your appliances, finished to a high specification. 

“Buyers can have the option to choose a colour scheme – they can bespoke the apartment and pick flooring, tiles, carpets and bathroom decor.

“The designs are very fresh, clean and bright. 

Apartments feature open-plan design

“We also offer furniture packages, with designers who can come in and help buyers personalise their home.

“Then there’s a concierge service at the development as well as a podium garden and a roof terrace for residents.”

While some developments come stuffed with facilities, Barratt’s approach in South Bermondsey is to pare back its offering to keep service charges down in a move it believes will be attractive to buyers.

“These days new-builds offer so many options,” said Yolanda. “There are developments offering cinemas and golf simulators, but you’re going to pay a lot for those facilities.

“What we want to do is make sure we’re building homes that are affordable, and where they don’t have the worry of having to pay thousands of pounds a year on service charges, for facilities they may not use that much.

“In the middle of London such amenities can easily be found and we don’t want to tie people into spending lots of money on things they don’t want to use. 

“Our aim is to cover the basics and then leave it up to personal choice.

“That way we can keep the service charge to around £3 per square foot, which is attractive to buyers.”

Bermondsey Heights is located within 10 minutes’ walk of South Bermondsey station for services into London Bridge. 

Residents can also walk 15 minutes to Surrey Quays station for Overground services on the Windrush Line and connections to Canary Wharf within two stops.

One, two and three-bedroom homes are available

“It’s a largely unregenerated area at the moment with industrial units, workshops and warehouses – but there’s a major injection of funding coming and it has brilliant backup with its neighbouring places,” said Yolanda.

“You’ve got Deptford down the road, which has seen quite a bit of a resurgence in popularity as well as Surrey Quays and Elephant And Castle, which have already seen extensive regeneration.

“Then there’s New Bermondsey in the pipeline.

“Bermondsey Heights for people looking for affordability and somewhere they can put down some roots.

“It’s an interesting proposition in terms of pricing – statistics from JLL show we’re about 19% lower compared with other Zone 2 developments across the capital.

“That’s been a huge draw for people whether they’re buying for investment or to live in because they can see lots coming here and that the infrastructure is going to improve.”

An explanation, perhaps, for the fact Barratt’s scheme is already more than 50% sold.

Be quick.

need to know

Properties are now on sale at Bermondsey Heights through Barratt East London.

Prices start at £490,000. 

A new show home is set to launch at the development in May, 2024, with further details available online.

Find out more about Bermondsey Heights here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How DAT Adventures hikes and retreats aim to help participants reach peak performance in their lives

Jenna and Julian Dominique have joined forces to offer physical exercise and coaching in east London, Yorkshire and Vancouver, Canada

Jenna and Julian Dominique run their business from Royal Docks in east London

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There’s an energy about Jenna and Julian Dominique.

Together since their teens, they’ve spent years exploring the globe from their base in east London – often theming trips around physical challenges or experiences – and all while pursuing different career paths.

Jenna, raised in Chingford, is a business, career and pitch coach with a complement of brightly coloured blazers and a speciality in public speaking and hosting events.

Julian, brought up in Leytonstone and Wanstead, is a fitness instructor, personal trainer, tutor and lecturer at the University Of East London, where, more than a decade ago he landed a job at SportsDock just as its extensive facilities were bequeathed to the institution by the American basketball team following the Olympics.

Having settled in Beckton, the couple have brought their talents together to create DAT Adventures

“We first came up with the idea a few years ago and did some research around it,” said Jenna.

“When you’re physically active – thinking about your health and wellbeing – you’re also more productive. 

Participants on an urban hike from Royal Docks to Tower Bridge

“DAT is all about trying to help our clients maximise their potential and improve their performance.”

Starting out with urban hikes from UEL’s Royal Docks campus to Tower Bridge via the Thames Path around the Isle Of Dogs and then venturing to Box Hill in Surrey, the company’s natural evolution is to take its founders’ expertise and combine them on retreats.

“We’ve always travelled – to Egypt, Japan, South America – and we’ve based many of those trips around activities such as climbing or swimming,” said Jenna. 

“Julian has had personal training clients who have said they’d love to do something similar but hadn’t had the opportunity.”

Julian added: “Many are desk-based or working from home, so I’ve been helping them with things like posture – but since Covid there’s also been a lot more on the mental health side.

“We know from our own experience that being outdoors in nature is great for that and from the hikes we’ve done that doing something physical and having tangible goals people can achieve is really good.”

DAT’s urban hikes take in the sights and some local history

This year, DAT plans to host retreats in Yorkshire, with participants tackling the three peaks led by qualified mountain guide Julian in June.

This will be followed by another in Vancouver, Canada, with a range of physical activities on offer.

Both will also include one-on-one coaching sessions with Jenna with a tailored action plan produced to help participants work towards their personal and professional goals – with follow-ups after for guidance and encouragement.

“This is a big year for us, with these two retreats,” said Jenna.

“We’ve spent time in both places testing everything so we know the areas very well and have made friends there. It’s something a bit different, not just Yoga. 

“Our urban hikes have tended to attract city workers – often people with startups or businesses who want to give themselves a bit of a break by getting out of the workspace and exploring.

“With those we’ve offered personal coaching during the hikes and that’s had a really nice impact.

DAT’s next retreat will take place in Yorkshire

“The retreats offer something more structured.”

For Yorkshire, that includes a full three-night itinerary with development sessions woven in around the hiking and the food – all of which is included in the price.

Julian said: “There’s a real focus on nutrition for health and wellbeing – we’re aiming to make the meals quite a big part of the retreat.”

The couple have teamed up with Michaela Hanna, a private chef and MasterChef The Professionals contestant from Yorkshire for their UK retreat.

“People need to consume the calories before they burn them,” said Jenna.

“The goal for us is to make sure we’re doing something really beneficial. What we’ve done already has been really good and the feedback has been great.

“For Yorkshire, guests will stay at the Three Peaks Barn, which offers hot tubs, a sauna, a pool table, beautiful rooms and has amazing views of the Ribblehead Viaduct.”

Julian added: “The challenge is to do the hike in 12 hours – we begin at 5am. I’ll be taking the lead on that.

“We last did it in 10 hours, but that was during the pandemic and the pubs were closed.

“In addition to meals at the barn, Michaela will meet the group halfway through the hike and provide lunch from her vehicle.

“After the retreat, I’ll always be on hand for anyone who wants advice on exercise or nutrition – they’ll also become part of my personal training community.”

This will be followed by a trip to Canada later in the year

Vancouver will offer a similar timetable albeit with an extra night and a greater focus on other activities.

These have yet to be confirmed but, alongside hikes, are likely to include climbing and paddle-boarding as well as an opportunity to take in some of the sights.

What is clear is Jenna and Julian’s passion for delivering memorable, productive adventures.

In essence it’s how they live their own lives and their business is an extension of that.

key details

DAT Adventures’ forthcoming retreat in Yorkshire is set to take place from June 5-8.

Places cost £850 per person or £1,530 for couples and include all meals, accommodation, retreat guide services and personal coaching sessions.

The retreat size is capped at 10 people.

The company’s retreat to Vancouver will take place from October 27-30 and costs £1,850 per person or £3,330 for couples and includes two meals a day, all retreat activities, accommodation, personal coaching and retreat guide services.

The retreat size is capped at eight people.

Travel to the retreat locations is not included in the packages.

Find more information about DAT Adventures here

The Vancouver retreat will include a range of outdoor activities

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Canada Water: How The Founding offers homes with views across London’s skyline

British Land and AustralianSuper’s regeneration of Canada Water see first homes hit the market

An artist’s impression of The Founding

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Just over a month ago, something momentous happened in London’s property market.

British Land and its partner, AustralianSuper, celebrated the topping out of their first phase of development at Canada Water

Dominating that site is the steel-clad edifice of The Founding, the project’s first residential tower, and every inch of its 35 storeys a flagship structure.

While its neighbouring buildings will contain a leisure centre, workspace and places to eat and drink, apartments mean people in residence 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, a potent addition to an already thriving south-east London community.

The building boasts views of central London and Canary Wharf

Over 12 years, the wider 53-acre site will have much more to come but our focus here is on what The Founding will offer as a place to live.

“It contains 186 apartments and the views from every side are fantastic,” said Simon Capp, head of residential sales at British Land. 

“We’re super-lucky in that we’ve got low-rise geography locally overlooking Southwark Park to the west and Canada Dock to the east. 

“Architecturally, it’s special, designed by Allies And Morrison, who have a strong track record in large-scale towers.

“It has quite an industrial, urban aesthetic – appropriate for Canada Water, which historically has been a hard-working part of town dealing with shipping and cargo.

“It has a warehouse-like feel.”

A show home interior at The Founding

Head inside, though, and while there are some stylistic nods to industry, there’s also plenty of home comforts.

“All the interior architecture has been created by Conran And Partners, which has a really strong track record in luxury hotels and premium residential developments,” said Simon.

“We have two show flats – a one-bed and a two-bed – available for buyers to view at the marketing suite.

“The properties feature oak flooring and Crittall-style windows as well as concrete-style worktops, wooden kitchen cabinets and open-plan design.

“The building predominantly houses one and two-bedroom apartments, with around 15 three-beds on the upper floors with fabulous views and studios also available.”

Kitchens include Samsung appliances as standard

Residents can expect Samsung appliances as standard as well as underfloor heating and comfort cooling in one, two and three-beds.

Properties come with LED downlighters and track spotlights in the coffered ceiling areas of living rooms, sizeable bathrooms and balconies with views across London.

“Even for this first phase, we’ve got a very good level of enlivenment in the form of restaurants, cafes and bars,” said Simon.

“We’ve started work on the transformation of the courtyard, which will be completed late this summer.

“The Founding’s proximity to the station means it’s about a minute to get from the building’s lobby to the Tube and Overground services.

“As a residential offer, this is really one of a kind.”

With more than a decade of work taking place locally, The Founding is also well located to avoid much of the construction that is in the pipeline.

By the end of this year work to renovate Canada Dock will be complete meaning residents can move into The Founding safe in the knowledge that no significant building work on the project will take place on adjacent land.

The tower features three roof terraces

Instead they’ll be able to take advantage of Asif Khan’s bridge over the docks and a new food, drink and cultural destination that will be installed at Surrey Quays as regeneration takes place further to the south and east. 

“Canada Water is already a fully established place – a very nice neighbourhood,” said Simon.

“Our Canada Water project is more of a revitalisation  – stitching something really exciting into what is already a well-established community.

“We’ve taken what we’ve learnt from other large scale developments such as King’s Cross and putting that into action.

“There will be a great mix of residential and commercial space and, with the dock, we’re working to increase the biodiversity to make this an even better place to live – a fresh and lively district.”

The Founding itself includes three roof terraces for residents to use as well as communal spaces for work and relaxation.

Further perks include three years’ membership to a London cycle hire scheme as well as bike storage for each apartment.

Ideally located for public transport, buyers can be in Canary Wharf or London Bridge within minutes, with the Windrush Line offering rapid access to the likes of Whitechapel, Shoreditch and Dalston. 

Simon said: “Given that rents are currently high, people are looking to purchase.

“We’ve been getting interest from a mix of buyers including people who work in Canary Wharf, some of whom don’t want to live there and are looking for something a bit different.”

Studios, one-beds, two-beds and three-beds are all available

key details

Prices at The Founding start at £704,000 for studios and one-beds.

Two-beds start at £986,500, while three-beds are expected to start at around £2million. 

Properties come with a circa 500 year lease and an estimated service charge of £6.56 per sq ft. 

Find out more about The Founding here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How YY London is a total refurbishment of one of the Canary Wharf estate’s most prominent buildings

Quadrant Estates and Oaktree Capital Management’s scheme has produced a wealth of cutting edge workspace on the dock edge

30 South Colonnade has been transformed into YY London

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Canary Wharf is going through a period of renewal.

Often quite quietly, buildings on the estate are being refurbished to a greater or lesser degree – taking infrastructure that’s anything up to 30-plus years old and giving it a serious rethink to meet the demands of corporate tenants today. 

Hard to imagine, perhaps, but large sections of the estate were designed and conceived before the internet was a thing.

While work on the likes of 25 Cabot Square and near neighbour One Cabot Square might have gone largely unnoticed – Credit Suisse employees barely getting to enjoy the renovation before the bank’s distressed sale to UBS meant relocation to the City – other projects have been more obvious.

The scaffolding has been up on Citi’s tower for some time and those arriving in Canary Wharf via the Elizabeth Line will likely have clocked 25 North Colonnade’s transformation into Cargo – complete with Market Hall’s street food traders and bars on its lower floors. 

Arguably the most prominent project on the estate so far, has been the complete stripping back and refitting of 30 South Colonnade.

The building now features entrances on two different levels for easier access

One of the original Canary Wharf buildings completed in 1991, for years its orange share price ticker greeted commuters arriving on the Jubilee line while it was home to Thompson Reuters. 

It was bought by Quadrant Estates and Oaktree Capital Management in 2019 and, with the completion of the project to update it, one of the most recognisable buildings in Canary Wharf is now ready to embark on a fresh adventure. 

Renamed YY London after its distinctive cladding, reportedly its top four floors are set to become home to the UK’s most valuable fintech company, Revolut.

The biggest success to come out of Canary Wharf Group’s Level39 will not have landed far from its One Canada Square origins.

But what will its staff and other future tenants be getting from this reinvented chunk of real estate?

“It’s a people-centred design, which will know where occupants are and will respond to them,” said Yohance Harper, partner at Quadrant.

“From the community point of view, the downstairs reception lets you link into a space where you can have coffee, be comfortable and come and sit, away from the office.

The building offers a range of floorplates with various finishes available

“It also gives you planned interaction with other floors and colleagues, which is always great.

“The LED display as you come in is inspired by the Reuters news ticker, but also connects to the water, nature and the weather outside – so visitors will always have a varied experience.

“The systems have all been designed to tie together to make the building a really comfortable environment to work in.

“People are coming back to the office now and they want a Grade A space – this building addresses that really well.”

A tour reveals an attractive package for firms considering a move. Underfoot there are floors tiled in outsize terrazzo, a living tree in the multi-level reception area and access in direct from the Tube exit for the first time. 

The building’s curious central void has been filled in housing lifts and lobbies with sustainable walnut flooring and a central staircase that’s been deliberately exposed and lit to encourage people to walk between levels rather than take the lifts.

In fact, there’s a focus on wellness throughout with antibacterial bannisters, UV filtration systems and plenty of cycle storage that comes complete with changing facilities and showers.

Nearly all floors also have outdoor space, with a communal event space and terrace on the roof that will host wellness classes from Third Space once a quarter.

Tristram Gethin of Quadrant Estates

Gone are the small square windows and white marble cladding of the original design. 

YY is all about big, bold glazing, plants draping down its exterior and bathing in healthy light inside and out despite being at work.

“We had a year before the lease expired when we bought the building to work out a scheme for it,” said Tristram Gethin, founding partner at Quadrant.

“We brought in architects Buckley Gray Yeoman who have done some stunning refurbishment work and they came up with what you see today.

“We took off the top two floors and added three new ones, relocating the core services into what had been the atrium.

“Outside space was a key requirement and we’ve added that on every level except the 12th floor and also added an incredible terrace on the top.

“Today we have a 415,000sq ft building ranged over 14 levels and we’re extremely proud of the space we’ve created – it’s fantastic.

The top four floors of the building will reportedly house challenger bank Revolut

“It’s a complete change of design and feel for a building in Canary Wharf and it’s been really well received by everyone whether that’s workers in the offices or residents.”

With two restaurants and a cafe also set to take space in the building, those lamenting the loss of All Bar One and The Slug And Lettuce have plenty to look forward to.

While the identity of the future hospitality offerings remains under wraps, there’s recognition that adding to the mix on the estate is all part of what makes it an increasingly attractive proposition for companies.

“In the City, we’ve seen a huge take-up and the supply of Grade A office space is limited,” said Tristram.

“Canary Wharf still offers very good value for money compared with the West End where you’re looking of rents at £120-£200 per sq ft. 

“In the City, new Grade A office space is going to have to be £85-£100 and so a new development here makes sense.

Most floors have outdoor space including one with a vast wraparound terrace

“For us, the rents are around £55-£65 – exceptionally good value.

“YY London is slap-bang in the middle of Canary Wharf with the DLR and the Jubilee stations so close – it couldn’t be more central.

“The Elizabeth Line is only a two-minute walk away. 

“I’m a great believer in the Wharf. A mixed-use destination is much more attractive to people coming in and that’s what it’s become.

“There are more people here now than ever before and it’s continuing to grow all the time.

“It’s quite a young population living here too, which is also good.

“I think the Wharf has been reinventing itself and many people have not been so aware of that.

“Some remember only the estate as it was 15 or 20 years ago and see a very changed place when they visit now.

“I think Canary Wharf Group is doing a fantastic job promoting the area, but that needs to continue so that people become more aware of what it has to offer.”

One of those attractions is sustainability – something the YY London project has at its heart. It’s an all electric building and benefits from being a refurbishment rather than a completely new venture.

Yohance Harper of Quadrant Estates

Yohance said: “We’ve reused and maintained a lot of the main structure by really going into great detail with the design team. 

“Buildings are one of the major contributors to carbon emissions around the world and that’s helped us reduce our impact on the environment.

“Then our tenants’ presence inside will be key.

“YY London responds to that in every way whether it’s the lights in the lifts to the air temperature and lighting in a meeting room that’s been booked.

“All these things help the building to be more efficient in terms of energy.

“We feel all this is a very solid statement in the next step of development in this area and it’s going to be very exciting to see what else it inspires.”

All electric, YY London is targeting an impressive array of sustainability measures including BREEAM Outstanding with reduced water consumption, smart systems, low energy lighting, central heat pumps and a great deal more.

With Canary Wharf Group’s initiative to bring a wealth of biodiversity to Middle Dock in partnership with the Eden Project, right outside YY, there are, perhaps, no greener locations to admire the coming flora and fauna.

But make no mistake, Quadrant and Oaktree’s scheme is certainly not austere or uncomfortable.

From its richly planted roof terrace to the numerous partnerships it intends to enter into with local businesses, life at YY London should be rich, from dry cleaning to getting your bike fixed.

This place has it all. 

The top floor of YY London features communal spaces including an outdoor terrace

key details

Space at YY London is available now, with tours available to interested parties.

Floorplates of 30,000sq ft or more are available on levels one through nine at present.

Find out more about YY London here

Read more: How Kircket is set to bring its Indian cuisine to Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How The Pelligon breathes new life into the East Wintergarden

Broadwick has refurbished and renamed Cesar Pelli’s events space, making it a blank canvas for organisers

The East Wintergarden has been renamed The Pelligon – image Henry Woide

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Having served the Canary Wharf estate for 21 years, the East Wintergarden is no more.

Well, not exactly. The exaggerated steel and glass barrel vault of the events venue’s roof will continue to preside over functions – but new operator Broadwick has given the place a makeover.    

The Pelligon – renamed for the building’s architect, Cesar Pelli – has seen its original interior replaced with a more functional, blank canvas – leaving clients free to dress and adapt the space to their needs.

Gone is the zig-zag marble floor, the warm brown panelling, the glass balustrades and Cesar’s trademark stainless steel.

Instead Broadwick has gone for white cladding and a practical dark rubber underfoot with a lighting rig tastefully sprayed in unobtrusive matte black. 

“Canary Wharf Group is quite keen on developing culture on the estate and, now we’ve moved our office to Wood Wharf and launched Broadwick Studio underneath, this looked like a good opportunity to bring the East Wintergarden into the 21st century,” said Simon Tracey, group CEO at Broadwick, during a sneak peek of the venue this month.

“We’ve gone for a very simple palette, trying to make it as neutral and hybrid as possible, that is our strategy.

The interior of the venue has been given a neutral makeover with new spiral staircases so guests can easily access the mezzanine level – image Spaces And Stories

“You could do literally anything in this space and we’ve installed state-of-the-art production facilities to make that as easy as possible.

“What we try to do is to imagine making events simple for organisers – so The Pelligon has got great access and is a totally blank canvas space, allowing brands to put their stamp on the place – it’s very exciting.

“We’ve done three things to the building itself.

“We’ve simplified the colour scheme and brought it up to date.

“We’ve improved the flow of the venue – the mezzanine used only to be accessible from outside the main hall, so we’ve put in two staircases and we’re also now using the front doors as the front doors.

“Then finally, we’ve updated the back of house facilities including extending the kitchen facilities, which were previously too small to cater for the kind of events people wanted to do here.

“We’ve given it everything it needs to operate as a modern day venue with a vibrant feel.”

Following its rebirth as The Pelligon, Wharfers can expect a number of public events as well as private affairs – delivering a bit of a cultural boost to the southern edge of the estate.

“The original East Wintergarden was designed as a utility space for Canary Wharf, but I think even they would say it’s a fantastic location in need of updating,” said Simon.

The mezzanine level can now be accessed from the main hall – image Spaces And Stories

“What they were interested in, when talking to us, was preserving it as an amazing space for conferences and weddings, but also attracting brand experiences and launches.

“We’ll also be working to our skill-set in terms of music and consumer-led awards ceremonies, jazz festivals and gigs. 

“Now the space is more of a blank canvas – it opens it up and Canary Wharf is turning into a place where people don’t just come to work, but also to visit, to live and play.

“We’re very much part of that journey.

“Because of the type of business Broadwick is, when people come to our offices, they are routinely amazed by what Canary Wharf has become.

“From a predominantly financial business district, it’s changed into something entirely different and a thriving residential area.

“People need culture and – Broadwick believes that and Canary Wharf Group believes it. Collectively we can bring that to the estate.”

Located minutes from the main Jubilee line exit and a short walk from Canary Wharf’s Elizabeth Line station, The Pelligon is well placed for incoming audiences as well as local businesses who may wish to use the waterside venue for their own events.

It’s a venue Broadwick is keen to see thrive, having relocated its operation to the Wharf while British Land works on updating Printworks London at Canada Water – part of a 12-year regeneration of 53 acres on the other side of the river.

But the completion of that project – expected in 2027 – won’t see Broadwick abandon the Wharf.

“We will be moving our entertainment team back there, because it will once again become a big venue – but we’ll be retaining staff here,” said Simon.

“We have a lot of venues across east London and there seem to be a lot of opportunities in this part of the capital.

“Broadwick has its heritage in festivals and we’re still in that world, but those events can be very up and down.

“One wet date and it takes the business a couple of years to recover.

“What running venues does is enable you both to control the weather and to finesse what it is you’re doing in those places every single week.

“With annual festivals you have a debrief, you learn things, but it takes an entire year to put them into practice.

“With a venue, we can sit down right away and analyse what went well and what didn’t. Did we have enough bars?

“Were there enough toilets? What was the customer experience like?

“Were the staffing numbers right? What was the feedback on socials?

The Pelligon dressed for an event – image Spaces And Stories

“We’re fanatical about that process and we can react immediately.

“What’s most important for Broadwick is creating amazing experiences for people and running venues allows us to do that better.

“We’re also a property development company at heart.

“We’ll look at opportunities, develop spaces, turn them into events and leisure venues – then put our own content in and take them to market.

“We’re always interested in talking to as many people as possible because we’re not big enough on our own to activate all our venues. 

“Fortunately there’s a whole world of brands, corporates, film and TV companies who we love to work with.

“Our model is to build these spaces and develop them so they are as good as they can be. Then we’ll back them by using them ourselves and work with other people as well.”

Into that mix drops The Pelligon.

But what will Broadwick’s clients do with it?

key details

The Pelligon is now available for event bookings including conferences, brand launches, performances and weddings.

The venue can accommodate up to 1,000 guests depending on the set-up and extends to some 900sq m of space.

Find out more about The Pelligon here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Blackheath: Why Mohamed Mohamed isn’t sentimental about his sculpture Old News

Piece depicting Boris Johnson’s face in precisely sliced newspaper can currently be seen at Blackheath’s Millennium Circle

Mohamed Mohamed’s Old News, as it appears today on Blackheath

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As we stand beside the head of Boris Johnson on Blackheath, a young spaniel scampers up and urinates on it.

After I mention to the four-legged critic’s owners that I’m with the artist who created the sculpture, they’re immediately full of apologies and dash off with the same nervous energy as their canine charge. 

Mohamed Mohamed, however, welcomes the act.

For him, Old News, is just that.

He’s already set fire to it at Speaker’s Corner and, having been made, run its course and suffered symbolic destruction, it has now returned to the streets of Greenwich like the discarded newspaper it started life as.

He’s not sentimental about it – surprising, perhaps, given the effort that went into creating it.

“I built my own machines so that I can physically sculpt things,” said Mohamed.

“I’ve been an industrial designer since the age of 14 and, after graduating from the London College Of Communication, I’ve worked for large format fabrication companies in their research and development departments.

“When the pandemic struck I’d just signed a lease on a workshop in Greenwich and then I was furloughed.

“With Old News, I had been developing slicing capabilities – how to accurately cut an object at higher and higher resolutions.

Old News shortly after completion – 6,277 pages of newspaper

“3D printing uses this technique and it’s similar to the idea of pixels in an image. 

“The first thing I made was using sheets of cardboard, then sheets of metal and then newspaper at 0.3mm per slice.

“The first Covid lockdown was kicking off and I collected newspapers.

“I had to remove the staples from every copy and iron each sheet. While I was doing that, I was thinking about what to make and Boris’ face was everywhere.

“I produced a digital version of him using photogammetry, which uses images from many different angles to create a 3D map.” 

Mohamed used this to cut some 6,277 newspaper pages, working in layers of five to precisely reproduce the former prime minister’s head in three dimensions – stacking them on a steel base plate with precisely calibrated bars holding them in place.

Artist and designer Mohamed Mohamed

“To iron the newspaper took a week, to cut it was three weeks, and to assemble it was me in a dark room for another three,” said Mohamed.

“There’s a level of dedication – of sacrifice to be able to make something honestly like that. Before I made my own pieces, I made work for lots of other people.

“If an artist uses a 3D printer or wields a violin themselves, that’s one thing. If you’re paying someone to do it for you, to me, that’s something else. 

“I’m not qualified to judge whether it’s better or worse, but for me personally, I have to physically feel the sweat on my brow, and that links me with my work – that I have physically done it.”

During our conversation, the topics of truth and process come up consistently. Both sit very much at the heart of what Mohamed does. 

“I have been making art as a way to sharpen my skill-set for as long as I can remember,” he said.

“It’s a gymnasium for my brain – you create geometry or a thing that doesn’t have to solve a problem – I just have to challenge myself to do it.

“In an art setting, you’re just expressing what’s inside you. 

Detail from Penny for Your Thoughts – Heads, 2023 – made with found pennies by Mohamed

“While I work, I pick up litter and that’s what my sculptures are made from. I’ve always been very much into environmental causes  and we’ve got a lot of stuff going into landfill.

“If you’re creative, you can turn those objects into something else.

“So I collect lots of things – I’ve picked up coins, a toothbrush and gambling pens on the way here – I have thousands of them in a bucket and I have lots of buckets of different things.

“I listen a lot to the Quran and I see the fineness of art in the world around me.

“The purest art would be the sunrise itself – then a painting of it, a scan of that printed out and so on. 

“I know I’m not going to be at the top of that hierarchy, but I can take secondary creations like empty bottles of beer and turn them into something else. 

“For me, it’s about taking objects which have been discarded – that someone felt were worthless – and giving them worth.

“I gather things then ask what skill level I’m at and what physics and technology will allow me to do.

Mohamed’s Cleave, 2020 -made with playing cards and a #7 clamp

“I use things like CNC machines or 3D scanners, but I’m not deluding myself – they are just tools, no different than a pencil.

“They allow me to produce what I want to create better.

“The beauty of it, for me, is the engineering element. Anthony Gormley is one of my favourite artists and I like how his pieces are made, how the magic is done, which no-one ever looks at.

“People might appreciate the message of a piece, but if an artist concentrates too much on that, they end up trying to sell you a message.

“Then what’s created is no longer art, it’s just decoration. 

“When I work, I am trying to distil my skill level – my entire life’s work – into a physical object and then move on.

“I’m not then sentimental about that piece – it’s made.” 

Mohamed, who has Palestinian roots and lives and works in Lewisham, uses the example of a tree.

While its trunk, branches, leaves and blossoms might appear impressive at any one time, he says he sees the whole growing process – the complete history of the entity.

He said people looking at his art were often considering the fruit of the tree, rather than seeing this story.

It’s one reason why those viewing his work may wish to be wary of interpreting his pieces as overtly political.  

“The fact Old News features Covid and Boris is irrelevant to me, but significant to others,” he said.

“The beauty of art is that it doesn’t have to mean anything to me – I’m just the vessel for the thing and other people analyse it.

“If I was making Old News today, it would be about the Palestine conflict – 10 years ago, it would have been about weapons of mass destruction.”

Detail from Rock Paper Scissors, 2021 – made with marble, dagger and money

need to know

Old News can currently be found at the Old Donkey Pit, also known as Millennium Circle, at 0º longitude on Blackheath. 

Find out more about Mohamed Mohamed here of find his work on Instagram here

Read more: How St James’ Bow Green development is at one with nature

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How Canary Garden is bringing some life to land beside South Quay Plaza

The newly opened market hosts a cafe, food stalls, a florist and workshop facilities beside the dock

Canary Garden is located on South Quay overlooking Canary Wharf

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One of the criticisms levelled at regenerated parts of London is that they can lack atmosphere.

Crisply manicured parks might look great as the promise of “public realm” is dangled before planning officials.

But the Isle Of Dogs is littered with odd chunks of land that don’t really do anything. Perhaps there’s a tiny kids playground, a few benches, a fountain or a sculpture.  

So it was with a paved area of dockside waterfront on the corner adjacent to Sierra Quebec Bravo (a rebrand from the rather unimaginative South Quay Building) and South Quay Plaza’s Hampton Tower.

Despite its impressive views over West India South Dock towards Canary Wharf and Wood Wharf, this neatly finished open space had no obvious function – other than as a thoroughfare for pedestrians enjoying a waterside walk east, before diverting down to Marsh Wall to cross the Millwall Cutting bridge.

Canary Garden’s Oscar Tang

Enter Canary Garden founder Oscar Tang, local resident and entrepreneur.

“My wife Nadine and I live in one of the towers at South Quay Plaza and one of the things we’ve observed is that people have started to move in after the pandemic and the demographic is ever-changing,” he said.

“There are younger people from every corner of the world coming to the Island, but we’ve also found there are not many activities going on.

“The developers have built this infrastructure for a high density of residents, but not necessarily the amenities – there’s not much feeling of community.

“That’s why we thought it would be good to do something.”

Thus Canary Garden was born, a project to inject some life into an underused patch of land that’s just about to get into its stride. 

Part cafe, part farm shop, part florist and part street food market, Oscar’s vision has arrived in the form of a series of greenhouse-like structures and wooden kiosks that will offer an array of attractions.

 “We thought this place was really under-used and it could be much more fun – that’s where it all started,” he said. 

“During Christmas we started to test out a few things to see what the neighbourhood was interested in and what people wanted.

“The immediate local area can be awfully boring at weekends – even the Pret is closed on Saturday and Sunday or after 4pm or 5pm on weekdays.

“We wanted to make this somewhere people could bring their family for a chilled out session and to enjoy a bit of sunshine, hopefully.

Florafind sells bouquets and offers floristry workshops

“We often go out to the countryside for a bit of freshness, a change of mood from the concrete city.

“That’s what we wanted to create here at Canary Garden.

“It’s based on wooden structures because we really wanted to build this as a reflection of nature.

“One of the disadvantages of living in an apartment in a city is that you don’t have a back yard and nowhere outdoors to spend time.

“At Hampton Tower there are 56 storeys, 2,000 people living on-site, but there is not much around the area – why not create something like a backyard?

“The idea is not too complicated.”

Already in place is a cafe, with indoor seating spread through three greenhouse-like structures.

Also up and running is Florafind, a florist offering bouquets and workshops.

Then there are a series of pine food kiosks which, from this month, will offer an array of culinary delights.

“We will have five food traders in total,” said Oscar.

“We’ve picked them from all across London and have tried to create a theme – at the moment the focus will be on oriental dishes.

“Each will celebrate a different cooking technique or niche dish.

“The first has a focus on the marination of ingredients, for example.

“The second will serve a particular type of noodles from the Chinese city of Suzhou, which is close to Shanghai.

“It’s a very traditional soup dish with one kind of noodle, two kinds of base, three kinds of topping.

Richly flavoured vegetarian noodles from Lu at Canary Garden

“The third will be Hong Kong street food, cooked by a lovely couple who graduated a few years ago and started their own business to bring the younger generation’s understanding of the cuisine there over to the UK.

“Then, the fourth will be a halal barbecue – who doesn’t like that over the summer with a bit of drink? 

“Finally, we will also have a rotating trailer spot, where we’ll have guest traders when we sense there is a seasonal thing people might want.

“The next will be serving Malaysian cuisine with laksa on offer.”

With matcha brownies at the cafe, already a firm favourite, readers could be forgiven for thinking that Canary Garden is simply a food hall with great views and plenty of outdoor space.

But Oscar’s vision for the site is wider.

“We also intend to host other workshops and events including afternoon teas,” said Oscar.

“We’re already in touch with other organisers to see what we can include.

“That might include calligraphy, watercolour painting and aromatherapy.

“We’re also looking at theoretical beekeeping without the insects.

“We’re also working in partnership with the Wutian Martial Art Institute, which is based around the corner, so when the weather is warmer their kids can come and enjoy the outdoor space and do some activities.”

While separate entities, recent arrival Theatreship and forthcoming arrival Artship, will be neighbours to Canary Garden – something Oscar believes fits well with what it offers. 

“We have collaborated and for me, I call it toothbrush and toothpaste – two things that go together very well,” he said. “It works perfectly for their audiences.” 

key details

Canary Garden’s cafe is currently open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30am-5.30pm. Food stalls are open from noon-8pm.

Group workshops at Florafind take place on Saturdays and Wednesdays and cost £90 per person for two hours.

Times vary and refreshments are included. Children’s workshops are available too and start at £55. 

Find out more about Canary Garden here

Read more: How St James’ Bow Green development is at one with nature

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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