She is the only woman she knows of working professionally in the male-dominated field and her hand-forged knives, which cost about £300, sell out every month.
When she happened upon the notion of bladesmithing in 2010, she was a community worker on holiday in America.
The Lewisham resident was both beguiled and baffled when she stumbled across a hobbyist knifemaker at work.
- See Holly’s work up close at Cockpit Summer Festival And Open Studios in Deptford from June 17-19, 2022. Entry is free and visitors will be able to meet a variety of crafters in their workspaces and talk to them about their processes.
“That was the first time that I really thought about knives being made outside of a factory and I remember grilling him about how he made them,” she said.
“It sparked an interest in me, but the first five years of the journey into making knives was only in my head. I couldn’t even figure out how to get started, because it was so alien to me.”
Her uncertainty deepened when she was unable to track down any professional knifemaking courses in the UK at the time.
Self doubt made her question whether she could leave her job, helping pensioners and homeless people, which she’d started as a teenager growing up in Dublin.
“I was excited about making knives, but it took a while for me to feel like I could just give myself permission to make something,” said Holly.
“A part of that was because I had done something I felt was socially useful and that transition has been difficult sometimes.”
She spent hours scouring internet forums and watching videos, but the nudge to take action only came when a friend bought her a one-day knifemaking course.
“I didn’t really think that I could ever figure out how to do it, because there are so many aspects, different tools and materials and that seemed mental to me,” she said.
“On the course, we just forged a very basic knife, but I decided I was going to figure out how to start pursuing it.
“Before then it all seemed really abstract, so it took away that mental block I had.”
She still had a hard road to follow to turn it into a career.
“In the UK there’s no professional route into knifemaking,” said Holly. “There’s no apprenticeship, no school where you could go to learn it.”
The only vaguely related course she could find was a City And Guilds in forgework in Scotland. Six months later, she quit her job and headed up there.
“I didn’t make any knives, but that’s where I learned to forge using a hammer, which felt like a good foundation,” she said.
“When I passed, it was really satisfying and gave me the confidence to apply for work in the field.”
She landed a job with Blenheim Forge where she spent three years learning how to make their Japanese-influenced kitchen knives, using their workshop in her spare time to practise and refine her skills.
“I was really open with them about why I was there and that my plan was to make my own knives. I think they actually believed in me more than I did.
“Even though the forging course gave me a lot of confidence, sometimes when I was actually trying to make knives they were so bad it would knock me down.
“But Blenheim were really encouraging and, over those years, I got so much better.”
In 2020 everything changed. Holly applied for and won the Cockpit Arts/Newby Trust Craft Excellence Award, allowing her to move into the Deptford studios with a year of subsidised rent.
“Without that award, it would have been impossible to go full-time because having the workspace isn’t enough,” she said.
“There’s so much equipment that you need. Having that year meant I could set up properly and get better and get faster on my own.”
Today Holly’s knives are in such high demand that she only releases them in batches every month through a newsletter.
Each knife is handmade using steel from Japan and Sheffield and native wood supplied to her by tree surgeons.
“I have pieces from around where my workshop is or I have quite a lot from Hackney at the moment,” said Holly.
“The way I work means I can do things a factory never would because it would be really inefficient to have a tiny piece of a tree from a small street in London.
“But I can pick out those more interesting, unusual timbers and have enough for a few handles.
“I like hardwoods like cherry and apple. They’ve often been felled because of a fungal species that creates these patterns in the wood.
“I put the pieces through a process that stabilises them by pulling resin through to fill the spaces. It means I can use these them even though they’re partially rotten.”
Holly usually has 30 knives at various stages in her workshop and said they were made to be comfortable for home cooks to use, especially women.
“Lots of women I speak to are afraid of how sharp they are and don’t trust themselves to be able to use a sharp knife,” she said.
“That’s something I really want to change, because it’s been so satisfying for me to become comfortable with them and I think having a really sharp knife changes how you feel about cooking, it makes it so much easier.
“When I was growing up, the sharpest knife in my house was one of those plastic-handled steak knives and it was sliding about all over the place and made my whole experience of cooking stressful. I would just resort to choosing recipes without chopping – or use a blender.”
Holly said she was terrified of chopping a finger off when she first started bladesmithing, but after two years at Cockpit, she finally feels confident and is proud of what she has achieved.
“It’s amazing. Sometimes I have to really remind myself of that, because I can get so sucked into the details of really wanting to make the best work I can,” she said.
“I haven’t allowed myself to reflect on this before, but it feels important to, now. This is what I wanted and now I’m doing it.”
The project will see the space, created in the 13th century to keep people out of the Tower, welcome visitors later this year.
The moat is being transformed into a wildflower meadow to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and a team of 100 people have been working since November to preserve the architecture of the site and prepare it for new wildlife.
The sowing of 20 million seeds is now underway and due to be completed in mid-April. Rhiannon said it would then be a waiting game to see if they bloom as planned.
“You have no idea what’s happening beneath the earth and just have to wait and pray that Mother Nature does her thing,” said the 46-year-old, who is head of public engagement projects at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP).
The aim is to create a vibrant sea of flowers, including poppies, sunflowers, gypsophila, cornflowers and cosmos, which will evolve from June to September and attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies and seed-eating birds.
The public will be able to enter the moat via a giant slide or walkway and experience the garden up close throughout the summer.
It is the first stage of a permanent transformation of the space into a new landscape aimed at attracting wildlife and creating a permanent Jubilee legacy.
“We are really excited about that because the Tower isn’t a biodiverse space at the moment,” said Rhiannon.
“We really want to be able to create something that is quite special in the heart of the city that everyone will be able to enjoy.
“We are hoping to attract lots of bees, bumblebees, butterflies and hoverflies because they are all pollinators.
“During last summer’s trial beds, we were amazed to see how many arrived just for a tiny little plot.
“So we really hope to up the biodiversity from that really low-value grassland we had before to a high-value habitat.”
Planning for the project started three years ago with landscape architects Grant Associates, with Professor Nigel Dunnett from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape Architecture brought in to create the special seed mixes.
But a lot of work had to be done before they could be sown.
“The moat is a really historic place and has only been grassed over since 1845,” said Rhiannon.
“There is a lot of archaeology there so as custodians of this wonderful place we had to be really mindful of what had happened in the past.
“There used to be a more grand entrance in the west called Lion Towers, which is just ruins now and a lot of the foundations are under the moat.
“There was another tower in the north that got bombed in the Second World War and the foundations are under that as well.”
Items such as a lion’s skull and the skeletons of a Medieval woman and child have previously been found at the Tower and archaeological trial pits were dug to make sure nothing unexpected would be disturbed.
“There are lots of things that we have unearthed in the moat over the years and we know there’s a lot more,” said Rhiannon.
“This time we have found lots of medieval coins, which will go into our collection and possibly be displayed in the future.
“We also put in 2.4 km of new drainage as part of this project and wherever we have dug we have had archaeologists watching every move in case something was uncovered.
“Obviously I didn’t want to find anything amazing down there because it would have really delayed us.”
Once digging was completed, 10,000 metric tonnes of subsoil and topsoil was brought in to create the best conditions possible for the seeds.
“I have never learned so much about the composition of soil,” said the Stratford resident.
“It’s absolutely astounding to me the lengths you can go to to make sure your blooms will come up perfectly, by controlling the nitrogen levels and fertility of the soil.
“They actually have to be quite low for these sorts of hardy annuals.”
The soil, recycled from a sand and gravel quarry near Sevenoaks in Kent, was carefully mixed with compost and finely grained before being transported to the tower.
“The logistics of getting that amount of soil into the moat and making sure it all came in a timely fashion has been the biggest challenge,” said Rhinannon.
A special conveyor belt was constructed so it could be loaded at a compound on Tower Hill and then tipped onto dumper trucks waiting below.
It was then spread across the 14,000 sq metre moat to create a terrain designed to have movement and flow.
The space was then divided into grids so the seeds from Sheffield-based social enterprise Green Estate could be sown over three weeks from the end of March.
“We have had to think hard about that too,” said Rhiannon. “We don’t want to start at one end and finish at the other, because we want it all to bloom simultaneously.
“It is designed to look nice in June, right through to September, so the garden will gradually get higher and higher and always look fresh.
“It will be very colourful and change quite dramatically as the season goes on, with different waves of flowers coming through. There will be something new to look at every couple of weeks.”
The flowers are expected to start blooming by the end of May, just before the Jubilee celebrations on June 2-5. Rhiannon said she would be on tenterhooks until then.
“We have temporary irrigation on standby in case we have a very dry spring, but hopefully the seeds should just do their thing,” she said.
“I think I’m going to become quite obsessed with the weather forecast over the next few months and we will all have our fingers crossed hoping it is kind to us.
“I can’t wait to stand down there and see some flowers rather than just the soil because it will be such a relief that we have managed to pull it off.”
It is the biggest project the Stratford resident has worked on for HRP and includes the rebuilding of a permanent ramp at the start of the moat to make it fully accessible to wheelchair users.
There will also be quiet mornings for families with autistic children as well as visually described tours.
All visitors will be able to move amongst the flowers on a compacted gravel pathway with volunteers on hand to answer questions, with a plant identifier app being developed for the event.
Tickets will have timed slots with a maximum of 750 people allowed down to the garden every 30 minutes.
Rhiannon said: “The moat is surprisingly large once you get down there, but we are working with local businesses and transport to make sure it is a really lovely experience and not overcrowded.
“We want everyone to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of the garden.”
When branches of The Sushi Co have swept the nation, with outposts in every major city and restaurants every couple of miles in London, remember that it all started on the Isle Of Dogs.
The business opened its first restaurant and takeaway at the eastern tip of Westward Parade opposite Crossharbour DLR in January and already it’s one of three locations in the capital.
Targeting rapid growth, with plans for at least 13 restaurants this year, its owners believe they’ve spotted a gap in the takeaway market and they’re moving fast to claim it as their territory.
“We already had a background in food, running pizza franchises,” said Sam Reddy, who oversees operations on the ground for The Sushi Co.
“We’d seen the trend for sushi and initially we thought we’d become franchisees but we decided to create our own brand instead.
“Doing that gives you a lot more freedom – you are able to determine the quality of everything and you can make decisions much more quickly.
“Personally, two years ago, I’d never even tried sushi so we had to do a lot of research. We ate in so many places, we must have tried every brand in London.”
That included eating at the restaurant of Peng Zheng, whose food impressed so much that The Sushi Co approached him to join the project.
“Peng has designed the whole menu from scratch,” said Sam. “He’s our head chef, so while we’re good at building the sites, finding the best suppliers and investing the money where it needs to be, he can concentrate on creating the right food.
“We told him our idea – to create a UK-wide brand – and he really liked it.”
Part of the reason for that is a shared commitment to the quality of the food. Walk into The Sushi Co’s Isle Of Dogs branch and you’ll see a chiller cabinet with a selection of drinks and a couple of cheery signs explaining that the kitchen hasn’t run out of food, but that all dishes are made to order.
“When we were doing our research, we realised there were lots of brands storing products in the fridge,” said Sam.
“But that’s not sushi. It should never be stored that way and you shouldn’t eat it chilled. It should be eaten warm and freshly made.
“That is what we do. It’s not instant, customers have to wait five or 10 minutes. But because they want to eat good quality sushi, they’re happy to do that.
“Whether a customer has come to the restaurant to collect the food, or it’s being given to a delivery driver, it’s all made and served to order.
“Top sushi restaurants would never put their products in the fridge, so why would we?”
While the first restaurant has some seating for diners to eat in, The Sushi Co has primarily been conceived as a takeaway and is available through Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat.
Sam said: “Our main target is that customers should receive food from our restaurants in under 25 minutes.
“Our focus now is on scaling up because there’s nobody else in this market in terms of delivering fresh sushi. There are some independent restaurants, but we want to grow quickly.”
With an eye on maximising accessibility, Peng and the team have developed a menu rich in sushi and sashimi but that also includes a range of poke bowls, gyoza dumplings and hot meals as an alternative to the core dishes.
“Some people think sushi isn’t for them, but it is for everyone,” said Sam.
“To be honest, I had that feeling two years ago, but not anymore and that’s because I experienced it.
“When people see that it’s raw, some wonder if it’s safe to eat, but our brand follows the highest standards of food hygiene.
“We think we’ve developed a really good product, quite different to pre-prepared boxes you might buy at the supermarket and now we just really want people to try it.
“Once people come to us, they will realise how much better sushi that hasn’t been chilled really is.
“The feedback from customers has been really great – in the end you can’t build a business if the product isn’t right.”
As for the future, The Sushi Co plans to roll out branches across London first, with slightly larger outposts in big cities across the country being an ambition for the future.
Food-wise, having found its feet, there are also plans afoot to collaborate with chefs on signature dishes on a regular basis.
The brand serves an extensive range of sushi including nigiri, uramaki, hosomaki and futo maki as well as selection boxes. Hot dishes include the likes of curries, noodle dishes and soups.
“Personally I really like the prawn katsu, which is fried in breadcrumbs,” said Sam.
“But I also really enjoy the rolls we offer, many of which come with special sauces that we also make in-house.
“I really like to eat sushi, but my wife doesn’t, so having that variety on the menu is very important because it means we offer something for everyone.
“Not every takeaway business does this but we think it’s essential.
“There’s still a lot to learn for us on this brand, of course, but the first two branches have been really, really successful and we’ve just opened the third so we’re very excited about the future.
“I really believe you can’t get the quality of food that we’re serving in any other fast food takeaway.
“Of course you can go to an expensive sushi restaurant, but many of our dishes are only £10-12 and we use top quality ingredients.”
The Sushi Co is trading on the Isle Of Dogs and in Chiswick and Holborn with branches in Woodford and Lewisham set to be open by May 9.
Expect to see quite a few popping up over the coming years.
Unusually, this is a story that starts with retirement.
At the age of 49, having worked extensively in commercial property and run a big public company, Andy Lewis-Pratt decided he hated what he was doing, resigned and headed to the Algarve with his wife and daughter.
“I had no intention of doing any kind of work ever again,” he said.
“I burnt all my suits and it was one of the most cathartic moments of my life.”
But after five years of Yoga, tennis and golf, boredom was setting in.
Coupled with a desire to see their daughter educated more effectively than ex-pat life allowed, the family decided to return to the UK.
“Being retired in your 50s in Portugal is great because you find people like yourself – the average age of retirees like me out there was 42 and we had lots of fun,” said Andy.
“But it’s not fine in the UK – I was bored out of my skull, so I started googling some ideas about what I might do before we left.
“Then one of my friends asked if I’d been to this market hall in Lisbon. It was in an old fruit market and it was fantastic.
“There were lots of different restaurants – all kinds of food from all over the world – and communal seating.
“You could get what you wanted, when you wanted it and there were bars too that were full of life. I just loved it.
“Then, about five years ago, I’d travelled to the UK for an ‘old farts’ reunion where I saw an old friend who was CEO of a big property agency and I asked how many market halls there were in London.
“He told me that, while there was street food, there wasn’t anything like the one in Lisbon.”
From those seeds of an idea, Andy swung into action and put a team together, researching the business in Europe and New York.
Convinced this was no passing fad, he raised finance and launched Market Halls with its first location in Fulham in the old ticket office next to the station.
“People loved it, we made lots of mistakes of course, but then we opened our second site at Victoria which was in an old ticket hall that had become a nightclub on two floors,” said Andy.
“I was nervous of that because my old retail background said don’t put anything on the first floor.
“But it had a big roof and so we created a roof terrace and it was an unbelievable success, almost from the moment we opened its doors, it was full all of the time.”
A third site at Oxford Street also proved successful but, at twice the size of Victoria, proved unwieldy and has now been altered to fit the latter’s template.
The original site in Fulham has also closed, more a recognition that to reach its best, the business is dependent on office workers.
Which brings us to Market Hall Canary Wharf – set to officially open on the ground floor of Cargo, off Adams Plaza, on April 7.
“If I’m honest I was reluctant to come here,” said Andy. “I was a bit reticent as to how traditional City suit types would take to my cool venture with independent traders.
“But my colleagues had told me the area had changed. I read up on it and I had to learn that my impression was wrong.
“I spent time on the Wharf and realised it was ready for Market Halls – that’s why we took the lease on the space four months before lockdown.”
So, having overcome the “interesting journey” to get to the point of opening and with the pandemic receding, what can Wharfers expect from the latest hospitality venue to hit the estate?
“Market Hall Canary Wharf is a slightly more premium offering than our sites at Oxford Street and Victoria, but the concept is the same,” said Andy.
“We have eight independent traders that serve bloody good food and that’s their only job.
“As a business, we do everything else – we provide standardised kitchens – so the cost of entry is very low for them.
“There’s no deposit and they don’t have to worry about paying a quarter’s rent up front – we just take a percentage of their turnover every week.
“We look after the clearing of the tables, the dishwashing, the promotion of the venue and we operate the bars.
“They just do what they’re good at, which is making great food with all the hassles taken away.
“We have a long list of people who want to be in our venues but they need to show their quality and that they can serve food fast and consistently.
“In Canary Wharf, the lunchtime trade will be big and that’s 45 minutes. If you can’t cook your food in seven minutes, you’re probably not going to have many customers coming back.”
Visitors to Market Hall Canary Wharf will be free to order from any of the traders and bars, with buzzers given out so diners know when their food is ready.
The opening line-up of eight restaurants includes Le Bab’s modern gourmet kebabs, Baoziinn’s dim sum and Chinese dishes, Mexican cuisine from DF Tacos, Malaysian roti canai from Gopals, fried chicken from Chick Chick Crew and Italian food from Pasta Evangelists.
There will also be Japanese flavours from Inamo Sukoshi and a welcome return to the Wharf by Black Bear Burger, which used to serve up fine patties at Giant Robot before its closure due to the pandemic.
Andy said: “This is a starting place for some with us and growth ground for others, so I’m particularly excited about opening up here.
“People ask me why I do it. I’m not young any more, but I go to the gym and I feel 30, even when I’m not.
“I’m not a foodie, but I love seeing people having fun – joy is the word we keep using – I like to see people having a bloody great time, and that’s why I do this.
“I get real enjoyment in seeing people smiling, laughing and having a blast.
“The great thing about Market Halls as a concept is that you can come here by yourself, in pairs, in a group of 10, 15 or 20 – it doesn’t matter.
“You can arrive any time, eat what you want to eat and there’s no grumbling about who’s going to pay the bill because mostly everyone has paid for themselves.
“You can come and choose what you like, when you like and then just concentrate on enjoying yourself.”
And here’s a little music, appropriate for stepping into the hall of the food court king…
The scheme, now in its fifth year, is open to candidates who would not otherwise be able to afford an independent education and covers up to 100% of school fees for one place at Faraday Prep School at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth.
Funded by the Fishmongers’ Livery Company, the award may also contribute to the cost of after school clubs, the school bus and school trips. The current scheme will support a place for a child to attend Faraday from September 2022.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to join a growing and exciting prep school for those who might not otherwise be able to attend,” said head Lucas Motion.
“We want the children who receive it over the years to reap the benefits of what we offer here at Faraday.
“We’re a small, independent school, with just over 100 children. All of our systems are geared around individual attention so that we can really nurture, inspire and give children more support when they need it, and provide some stretch and challenge where they need that.
“We have small class sizes, with an average of 14 children.
“From Reception all the way up to Year 3, we have a teacher and a teaching assistant in each class, so we have a high ratio of adults to children to support that ethos.
“We put a lot of emphasis on high-quality interaction between staff and children, and having smaller class sizes really helps us to move them along.
“In terms of our vision and our values, they are all around nurturing children and delivering a good value education.
“I would also mention our broad and creative curriculum, which sets us apart and is certainly unique to Faraday.
“We teach much of the National Curriculum alongside a core knowledge curriculum and we have five specialist subjects, which are taught from Reception all the way up to Year 6 – French, music, dance, drama and sport.
“For example, we have a dedicated specialist sports teacher who is with the children all through their time at the school so they have the benefit of that – it’s a great model to help inspire them.
“An emphasis on high-quality English and Maths is always essential, and I think that, for that reason in primary, sometimes, the more creative subjects can take more of a back seat, but we’re committed to keeping them in the timetable throughout.”
Lucas, who was born in Hackney and now lives in Leytonstone, arrived at Faraday in January this year, having previously held the post of deputy head at its sister institution – Maple Walk Prep School in Harlesden.
He said: “I came across when the previous head, Claire Murdoch, became head at Maple Walk, so essentially we swapped over. That’s made the transition quite smooth and natural because the values and ethos of the two schools are the same.
“Faraday is in an unusual situation – our playground is on a bend of the River Lea – but a real highlight in my first term here has been reaching out to the community at Trinity Buoy Wharf – it’s such a collaborative and creative place.
“I want to continue the work Claire has done here, because she’s done an amazing job. I want to build on that.
“We’re currently a one form entry school except in our current Reception class, where we have two – we’re on a journey of growth – and I feel really excited about where that might lead.”
Selection for the award will be based on interview and references.
Children will be asked to provide their most recent school report and will be asked to undertake a range of activities and assessments.
Appointments to visit the school before applications are made can be arranged. Help with filling out the means testing element of the application is also available.
Those who would like more information can call the school on 020 8965 7374
Canary Wharf’s architecture can seem impersonal – impenetrable edifices of glass and steel, containers for businesses and institutions rather than buildings on a human scale.
But it’s important to remember those vast floorplates are populated by people – individuals with needs, desires, ideas, frustrations and aspirations.
The word ‘company’, after all, can be defined as a commercial firm, or as simply being with others.
In recent years, there’s been an increasing realisation among large organisations that it would both be wise and morally right for them to populate themselves with a much more diverse range of individuals.
The idea is that both they and wider society will benefit from the fresh ideas that brings, while the prosperity delivered by their activities will spread to communities and areas it never reached before.
Such sentiments are at the root of JP Morgan’s partnership with The Sutton Trust to offer Opportunity Bursaries to students for at least the next decade.
The first cohort of 51 students from low income backgrounds recently received awards of between £3,500 and £5,000 – cash that will be put towards facilitating a wide range of experiences and projects aimed at boosting their life skills alongside their studies and improving their long-term job prospects.
They also have the option to work with a mentor from JP Morgan as part of the scheme.
The bursaries are awarded annually to applicants in the UK with the aim of assisting 350 over the first decade.
Around 60% will go to black and minority ethnic students to reflect the additional barriers they face in society.
“We truly believe that we need to create a more inclusive and diverse community,” said Cecil Peters, head of advancing black pathways, EMEA, at JP Morgan.
“Not a lot of people from under-represented communities would think they could get to an organisation like JP Morgan, because they just don’t aspire to do the things that other people do.
“When I was 17 or 18, I never thought I could be with JP Morgan in a role like this.
“But through experiences I’ve got to learn what exists. We think it’s important to give people exposure and experiences that enable them to compete in a world where they might not have seen the opportunity or had the ability to take it.”
Without doubt, JP Morgan would be delighted if some of the recipients wound up working for the bank in future, but it’s not doing this for itself.
“Some of the students may be interested in banking and want to work in our sector, but for a lot of them it’s about how we can help them get to where they want to go in their careers and their lives,” said Jess Ferguson, head of international employee engagement and volunteering, global philanthropy, who jointly oversees the project with Cecil.
“Out of the 51 in the first cohort, there’s one doing film studies, lots of people doing law and psychology – a whole range of different disciplines. They all have varied ambitions for what they want to achieve in their lives. One wants to work in humanitarian law and we heard from someone else who wants to be the next Sir David Attenborough.”
In February 2021, the Sutton Trust launched some research into how university students needed to have essential life skills as well as their academic qualifications, recognising that those skills were really important to employers.
“It found that some students were not accessing opportunities to enable them to get those essential life skills.
“It identified a gap between individuals from affluent backgrounds and those from more socially disadvantaged, working class backgrounds in terms of things like participation in societies, work experience placements and study abroad trips.
“So, as partners with the trust, we started discussing with them how we could help address those issues.”
JP Morgan intends to finance as many bursaries as the fund’s growth allows.
“Every person you can give an opportunity to is now able to compare themselves with and compete with someone from a more affluent background, said Cecil.
“It means that when they go looking for a job they can talk about experiences they’ve had beyond their studies, that they worked with the UN or went trekking abroad to do research.
“The bursaries are also an opportunity to create a perception within each student’s community about what can be achieved, hopefully elevating the aspirations of those around them.
“If you’re the first person in your family to go to university, and you do really well, you’re going to pull other people with you. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“Without money it’s hard to access those extra experiences, tough to commit to going half way round the world to do something.
“These kids are smart – I was talking to a young woman at the launch event and she was homeless when she did her A-Levels. She got into Cambridge to do law. These people are the cream of the crop and they have had to fight to get where they are.
“The one thing they don’t have is money, so instead of giving them access to courses, for example, we wanted to give them what they’re missing to help level the playing field.
“It’s about creating equity. Everyone has different needs.
“Black and minority ethnic communities are just as under-served as poor white communities, but they also have the obstacles of racism to deal with.
“So for JP Morgan it was important for us to make sure there was space so they can get those opportunities as well.
“It’s a learning curve and a jump into the unknown for both us and The Sutton Trust. There are no measurable targets – we gave the money freely and willingly and invested it for them to make this work.
“Sometimes you have to do things that way – we give these students lived experiences, but there’s no way of knowing what the impact will be until they’ve lived them.
“The return for us is to hear their stories, not just next year, but in 10 or 15 years. We want to know where they’ve got to career-wise, because they’re just at the start.”
“I feel very proud of what we get to do, because we’re changing people’s lives for the better, and that is exciting,” added Jess.
“One of the ways we’ll stay in touch with them is through the mentoring scheme. We made it optional, but at least 34 of the 51 students have taken up the offer and we’ve had some more who have expressed an interest in it.
“It’s one-to-one matching with a volunteer from JP Morgan – some have come to us and said they’d like someone who works in cyber security or communications, for example.
“What we hope is that the mentor is able to help the young person think about their goals and ambitions for the future – what steps they may be able to take to get there.
“They can also help with things like articulating and reflecting on the skills they’ve got through the experiences funded by the bursaries and how to articulate that to future employers or to themselves. Mentors provide that impartial sounding board.
“It’s the first year, we’ll learn a lot and we will listen to the students’ feedback, but we’ve seen the benefits in our other mentoring programmes.”
THE CHALLENGE OF MOVING THE DIAL ON SOCIAL MOBILITY
Social mobility in the UK isn’t in a good place. There’s much debate about where the nation actually sits in the developed world, but we’re either vying with the USA as the least socially mobile country or squarely in the bottom half of the rankings.
“The Sutton Trust was set up 25 years ago by Sir Peter Lampi with the aim that every young person should have the same chances to get on in life no matter what school they go to or where they live,” said James Turner, the charity’s CEO.
“We work with almost 10,000 young people every year to help them get into university, onto the best apprenticeships and get jobs in some of the most competitive sectors.
“We also work to shed light on social mobility and make sure it remains at the top of the agenda, whether that’s with employers, universities, schools or the Government.
“We’ve known for a long time that barriers to social mobility don’t end at 18.
“Getting into university is a great start but poorer people may not go on to have the same success in their careers as their better-off counterparts.
“We know from employers that education is necessary but not sufficient, so we’d been thinking about ways to address that when we had the conversation with JP Morgan, an organisation that has a deep commitment to social mobility.
“The idea was that we would use these bursaries to support students to do extra things – taking part in clubs, societies, internships, years abroad – to help them develop their skills and confidence, so putting them in a better position in the job market.
“The applicants had to put forward a case – what they would do with the money, why it was important to their employability, their academic work and why they wouldn’t be able to do what they wanted to without it.
“We had 400 applications, which we reviewed alongside JP Morgan and we interviewed the most promising ones – it was a very difficult process to get it down to 51 because of the high quality of applicants.
“The projects students applied for were a real mix – some were about travel, some for training courses, to boost their skills, and others looking to become social entrepreneurs in the UK.
“We really hope this first group will come back and talk to the next cohort to help shape future applications.
“As a project this is the first time we’ve been able to give bursaries like this and it really moves on what we’re doing in a substantial way because of the varied activities they are funding.”
CASE STUDY: HEATHER FERGUSON
In every respect, this is the most important part of this article.
Heather Ferguson – no relation to Jess – is one of the 51 successful applicants for a bursary.
She is 19 and from the small town of Wigton in Cumbria, just north of the Lake District and is currently studying psychology at Durham University.
A qualified gymnastics coach, she recently coached children at a summer school at the university. This is what the money means to her.
“I want to be a researcher – my interest is to explore how we can make children happier in schools via their physical wellbeing, as a way of improving their mental health,” said Heather.
“I didn’t have the best time in primary school, so, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I wondered what I could do to fix the problem.
“Of course, it wasn’t just me that experienced that – a lot of children go through a lot worse.
“But a school is meant to be a safe place. Children spend five, six or even seven hours a day, five days a week there and I feel we have this time where we can really make a difference and shape their lives.
“I’m a young carer myself. When I was at home, I’d have to look after my disabled mother and that’s still the case now.
“When we have kids in school, we have time to help them and make a difference.
“Physical activity is a lot more than just becoming the next Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis – it’s more about keeping ourselves active and how we can introduce children to different types of physical activity in a fun way that will also improve their mental and physical health.
“In 2018 I applied for The Sutton Trust summer school, which they offer each year, and I got onto that and went to Durham University for a week.
“It’s a competitive research post in Canada, and they run it each year, and they take high-achieving undergraduates.
“It’s a great experience to get onto, but I realised that if I did, I would need a little money to support me and to buy a suitcase and things like that.
“So I applied for the bursary to cover things like travel costs, was selected for interview and got accepted.
“Going for the internship was already a great experience because you had to write a CV and an application, which will be very helpful when I apply for a masters and a PhD.
“I’ve been matched with Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which is a U15 university – a bit like the Russell Group in the UK.
“I’ll be looking at how children regulate their positive and negative emotions, a perfect project for me, working for three months over the summer.
“I can see from chats I’ve already had with the professor there that there will be other opportunities opening up too including the chance to work alongside a PhD student.
“It’s an opportunity to develop so many research skills along the way.
“I’m just so grateful to have been awarded this bursary and to the Sutton Trust for helping me get into Durham.
“I wouldn’t be able to go to Canada without it. If there is an emergency with my mum, I might have to go home and I don’t have money lying around for a plane ticket.
“This takes the worry out of that – it provides me with the extra security I need to go there and take part.
“I come from a low income background, my siblings and I were on free school meals for a time.
“I’m not looking to be in a job where I just make as much money as possible – I’ve always thought that if you have a roof over your head and you can have the odd holiday here and there, then that’s enough.
“I want to be in a job that makes a difference. Research is the area that will do that for me, helping children in schools. That will pay me more than money ever could.”
“I call it an urban resort,” said Doug Acton, head of sales and marketing at Berkeley Group and the man responsible for driving the success of its Poplar Riverside development.
“It’s close to nature and it has facilities such as a gym, a pool, a spa, a cinema room, shops, bars and restaurants.
“It could almost be a self-contained little town, but it’s open to everyone – somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle of Canary Wharf.”
To describe Poplar Riverside as ‘tucked away’ is both accurate and somehow inappropriate.
Officially launched in June last year, the development covers a 20-acre site, will take around two decades to build and will see about 2,800 homes delivered in the East End.
This is major regeneration by Berkeley division St William – a project that will also provide a new 2.5-acre public park, a couple of bridges across the Rvier Lea, 500m of riverside walkway, 90,000sq ft of commercial space. The list goes on and on.
But take the 20-minute stroll over to the site from Canary Wharf to the soft tranquillity of Leven Road on a sunny day and you’ll find it’s something of an oasis, albeit one where the concrete superstructures of its first phase have quietly risen.
The waters of the Lea flow lazily past as cranes perform their slow-motion ballet. There’s something happening here and it’s only just begun.
“When people come here, they’re really excited about the regeneration story – they can see it’s a part of this massive growth corridor that’s happening along the river,” said Doug.
“They can see the potential with our investment in things like the bridges – how that improves the connectivity to Canning Town station.
“The challenge for us is getting more people to come here. Once they see it, they know it really is a transformation, that it’s a step change.”
And “step” is the right word, because Poplar Riverside is a scheme of many levels.
There are the public parks and walkways themselves and, of course, the river, all framing the buildings.
Then there are raised podium gardens for residents, underground parking and private balconies lining the pointed elevations of the brick-clad blocks.
It’s partly the attraction of these features that have seen buyers purchase about 100 of the 156 homes at the first building in the first phase of Poplar Riverside – Calico House.
The next to go on sale will be Porter House, which is right on the river and is expected to hit the market in July.
That will be followed by Bowline House and Sisal House, which all together complete the first phase with 643 properties.
“With Porter House we’ll be launching three-bedroom homes for the first time to go alongside the studios, one and two-bedroom homes available,” said Doug.
“It’s right next to the Lea so many will overlook the river and enjoy views across the London skyline.
“They will also benefit from the Leven Banks park, which includes a children’s playground, so it’s an exciting block to release.
“One of the things we’re really good at as a company, having learnt from projects like Royal Arsenal Riverside in Woolwich and Kidbrooke Village in Greenwich, is that you would never know, as a resident, that construction is going on.
“We commit to the landscape nice and early, not as an afterthought, so people moving in can enjoy it.
“We’re also constantly speaking to our residents to get feedback and find out what they want and what they don’t.
“One of the things we’re creating at this development is the Riverside Club – 16,000sq ft of facilities that will help foster community here.”
Laid out over two floors that includes a co-working space, a cinema room, meeting rooms and a games room as well as a residents’ lounge, a spa, steam room, sauna, salt room and a 20m swimming pool.
“We also have The Great Room,” said Doug, who was recruited by Berkeley from the luxury hotel industry to help it deliver the kinds of facilities normally found at such resorts at its residential property developments.
“It’s somewhere to work, play and meet just so people can have that strong sense of community.
“We’re really keen to create that feeling of togetherness and that goes for families as well – it’s not just for adults.”
The homes themselves feature floor-to-ceiling windows, underfloor heating, Bosch appliances in the kitchens and Italian terrazzo worktops.
All have some form of outdoor space and the two-bedroom show home features a jack and jill main bathroom, effectively offering both bedrooms en suite facilities.
“There’s mood lighting in the bathrooms and good storage comes as standard,” said Doug.
“There’s even a nod to the golden age of industry with the taps and that’s a theme we’ve carried throughout the properties.
“The principal bedroom has built-in wardrobes and there’s an option to have those in the second bedroom too.
“We know storage is really important, so we’ve also put full-height cupboards in the kitchens to maximise the use of space.”
Properties currently on sale at Poplar Riverside start at £410,000. The earliest completions are expected in the second half of this year.
The Poplar Riverside sales and marketing suite, which includes a two-bedroom show apartment, is open for viewings.
When I was a young child, my parents gave me an old typewriter to play with. I loved hitting the keys, hearing that distinctive, hypnotic clacking sound, twisting the knob that made the roller revolve.
But I couldn’t really comprehend what it was for. Even though this was the 1980s, by the time I came of age to make marks on paper, computer keyboards had already replaced the old mechanical machines with their inky ribbons and staccato rhythms. Fun for a kid – a relic of a bygone age, perhaps – but nothing more.
It’s fortunate James Cook didn’t have that experience.
While studying A-Level art in 2014, he developed an interest in inventive ways to make marks, drawn to David Hockney’s iPad paintings.
“Then I came across Paul Smith, who had used typewriters,” said James. “What really caught my attention was his story.
“Born in 1921, he suffered with cerebral palsy his whole life. At the age of 11, his parents gave him a typewriter because he couldn’t hold a pencil.
“But, instead of writing, he ended up creating drawings, which was his passion. He only learnt to speak and walk as an adult, but at the age of 11 he was already creating these amazing pictures – drawings of the Mona Lisa and it fascinated me that it was even possible to do such a thing.
“Immediately after I had read about him, I started trawling around charity shops trying to find a typewriter – at first without much success.
“Then an elderly couple in one of the shops overheard that I was looking for a typewriter and told me that they had one belonging to the man’s late mother.
“It had been sitting in the attic for about 40 years, not being used, and they suggested that I could come round and collect it.”
After a few squirts of WD40, James got the mid 1950s Oliver Courier going and began to experiment.
“I was lucky I picked that typewriter up and that I didn’t give up straight away,” he said. “As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that there are some models that just don’t work for this kind of work.
“But what I had was a very expensive, very mechanically precise machine. If this hadn’t been the case I might not have stuck with it.”
Perseverance paid off however and James now makes his living generating work on his collection of 40 typewriters, painstakingly using them to tap out artwork, either from life or photographs.
It’s exacting work, with drawings typically taking between a week and a month to complete.
“Usually the typewriters have 44 keys, so I have those parameters to work within and choosing the characters to use is one of the most interesting parts of making these drawings,” said James.
“I’ve been doing this for about seven years now, mostly part-time, and more recently full-time, and I’ve learnt by trial and error which particular character works.
“If I’m drawing a portrait, and I need to recreate someone’s skin complexion, most people want to be seen in the best light, so even skin tones require a character that has a large surface area, like the ‘@’ symbol.
“That’s also good for shading, which can be achieved by hitting the key more softly.
“If someone has dimples or freckles, then I might use some asterisks, because it’s a much sharper mark, whereas the underscore is a perfect shape for drawing horizontal lines in an architectural drawing, like the bottom of a window sill, or doing brickwork.
“Achieving curves is very difficult, especially if you’re working across multiple sheets, because they all have to line up.
“Typewriters inherently want to go from left to right so they’re great for straight lines, but not so good for verticals and curves.
“So what I’m doing is using my left hand to ever so slightly twist the paragraph lever by a minuscule amount while I’m typing to create a curve, like the roof of The O2, for example.
“I can’t think of any other way of drawing that requires you to use both hands in this way. Your right hand is on the keys and your left hand is responsible for making sure you stamp that mark on a very precise point.
“Once it’s been made that’s it, there’s no way of undoing it – I won’t use Tippex so mistakes become part of the drawing.
From April 1-10, the largest ever exhibition of James’ work ever gathered together is set to be held at Trinity Buoy Wharf, with many of the pieces created at the east London location in Leamouth. Entry is free.
“Visitors will see the biggest collection of my work to date,” said James.
“It’s mostly pieces from London locations, usually drawn on site with views of places like Greenwich Park, the Thames Path and Trinity Buoy Wharf itself.
“What’s also important for the work is to add a second layer of information, so the drawings are not just about piecing together various characters, they also contain concealed messages or hidden lines of text.
“I’ve often done that more recently when I’ve been working on location and I’ve spotted something, or when a thought pops into my head, especially if it’s the middle of winter.
“I did some of the drawings in January and it was pretty cold outside, so a lot of the messages are me complaining how cold it was.”
Every weekday during the exhibition, James will be hosting free workshops for those who’d like to try creating their own typewriter art.
He said: “When people look at my art, usually it’s not enough, they want to know how it’s made.
“The idea is these groups of about five will get to sit in front of a typewriter and have a go.
“It won’t be creating finished masterpieces, but hopefully we’ll have some fun and it will be a start.
“They can bring along pictures to inspire their typing or I can provide them for reference.”
All of theses businesses pulse and buzz with the passions of the people behind them. It’s why the area draws ever increasing numbers of people seeking independent places to hang out.
It’s also why Bluethroat’s owners thought their idea could work.
Brothers Landi and Ari Mucaj had been talking about starting a business together since 2013.
“I’ve lived in Deptford since 1997 and I’ve worked in many central London bars,” said Ari.
“I started working as a kitchen porter and then got a job as a chef, which I did for about three years.
“I’d finish work about 10.30pm and then go behind the bar and wash glasses for fun. I fell in love with being behind the bar and that’s what I’ve done ever since.
“I’ve worked mostly in central London in places like the Cuckoo Club and Chinawhite and I ran the bar at Maddox for about six years.
“Every time Landi would come to see me in central London he would always say: ‘We should do this ourselves’.
“That was really my plan all along, at least for the last 10 years, trying to save up and do it.”
In 2018 Ari quit his job and teamed up with Landi, who had been in Deptford himself since 2001, to look for premises.
“We were searching and then we thought, what better place than Deptford?” said Landi.
“We’d seen a lot of changes in the area over the years, so when we saw an opportunity here, we thought it would be the best place to build something.”
The brothers took one of the larger brick arches at Deptford Market Yard, more or less next to the train station itself, and set about doing just that.
“Instead of doing it somewhere else, we thought it’s just around the corner, we can walk home and it’s the perfect place,” said Ari.
“We found this fantastic space here – it was a shell when we got it and we’ve built it from scratch.
“It took about a year to build it – we didn’t know anything about doing that so the fact we have this location and that we’ve created it from scratch is crazy, but it feels amazing.”
Landi added: “I fell in love with it really – the whole experience of setting up a business. It’s had its ups and downs and it probably took us longer to open than most other places, but we learned a lot in the process.”
Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan. Just days after Bluethroat opened its doors, the first national lockdown came into force and they slammed shut.
Like many hospitality businesses, the brothers have since been riding a rollercoaster of uncertainty, most recently closing at Christmas as the responsible thing to do, despite the lack of official government direction to do so.
With restrictions lifted, however, both Ari and Landi can’t wait to run their cocktail-focused establishment unfettered.
“This is the first chance we’ve had to run in a normal market, there’s been a lot of opening and closing,” said Landi.
“Our plan remains very much the same and it’s about refining our formula.
“Firstly, we’re really passionate about our drinks, delivered with great service. We’re also a very good restaurant.
“We are a place where people can come and chill out and have some really good cocktails.”
Walk into Bluethroat and that focus is unmistakeable. The bar’s shelves are laden with spirits, ready to be whipped into a multitude of alcoholic concoctions.
“This is where my brother’s experience comes in,” said Landi. “We have about 11 drinks on our menu, all of which we’ve created for Bluethroat.
“There are boozy ones and lighter drinks, some that are bitter, fruity, bitter, sweet and sour – something for every taste.
“We are constantly working on the list and evolving it, but we really enjoy asking customers what they like and then building something for them.”
Bluethroat – named for a small member of the thrush family with a distinctive blue collar and a powerful song – also develops seasonal drinks, with two of its four spring specials already in hand.
“Customers will always find something new,” said Landi. “We’re getting ready to launch one made with Haku Vodka from Japan.
“We just love the taste of this spirit, made completely from rice, and we mix that with a bergamot liqueur and blackcurrant to make a sweet drink with a hint of spiciness. We think people are really going to like it.
“The second cocktail we’ve created for our spring menu is based on whisky with a fig liqueur and mulberry syrup.
“We make pretty much all our own syrups in the bar using a range of techniques such as sous vide and hot and cold infusion.
“The drink has a creamy taste and we also infuse the whisky with violet leaf to give it a beautiful aroma when you’re drinking it.”
Ari added: “When we opened, I gave Landi a crash course and now he’s a genius behind the bar. One of our challenges since opening has been finding bartenders with experience.
“But I think local bars are taking over in terms of quality – you can find cocktails that are as good here or in places like Hackney, as you will get in Mayfair.
“I worked in central London for 20 years and the quality here is no different.
“You are seeing people who are going out locally to get this, instead of making the journey in.”
While its extensive collection of bottles, rich brown hues and speakeasy vibe mark Bluethroat out as a haven for drinkers, the brothers hope that its food offering will be a welcome surprise for those ordering.
“We change the dishes all the time, but we serve Mediterranean and modern European food,” said Landi.
“There’s always something new, but we love seafood. There are a lot of Italian influences because our chefs are from Italy.”
Ari added: “We serve a lot of fish – black cod, king prawns and salmon – and we do specials every week.
“I think people are a bit shocked that the food is as good as it is because of the way the bar looks.
“We started off serving smaller plates, but we’ve extended the menu because people wanted more food.”
The primary focus remains the liquid though, and, having worked widely on the city’s bar scene, Ari is keen to build the bar’s reputation in the capital.
He said: “Ultimately we want to be known as one of the best cocktail bars in London. That’s our ambition.
“We’re taking things slowly and we haven’t really promoted ourselves yet. We wanted to grow organically and for people to find out about us that way.”
Bluethroat is open Weds-Sun. Cocktails typically cost between £10 and £11. Small plates are £6-£11 and bigger dishes around £14.
Then a fresh opportunity presented itself. His colleague at the south London venue – Emilie Parker-Burrell – was leaving to become general manager of The Pearson Room in Canada Square in preparation for its post-pandemic reopening last month.
“I knew she was going to Canary Wharf anyway and I was looking to do something else,” said James.
“So I came over to see the venue – it was a blank canvas, which was very appealing, so I thought I’d give it a go.
“I’d loved working with Emilie at Upstairs and I think we work really well together.
“I’d never had a job in this part of London before or really visited it – it’s very new to me – so I was quite surprised by the number and quality of the bars and restaurants on the estate.
“The Pearson Room is owned by Third Space and we had a briefing from them, to make sure we have dishes that work for what they’re doing on the health side of things, but we’ve had pretty much free rein to do what we want in the kitchen, which is great.
“We’ve created a menu that’s a little bit more casual than some of the other venues around here, food that’s a bit more laid back, but we’ll see, over the coming months, what Canary Wharf wants from us and we’ll adapt what we do.”
Guests will find the familiar warm browns of the venue filled with the scents and flavours of James’ creativity, ranging from healthier options to more decadent temptations.
Starters (£7-£14) can all be served as mains and include the likes of seared tuna with watermelon, sesame and ginger; quinoa, mint and spring vegetable salad; and poke bowl wakame with daikon and shiso.
Larger plates (£16-£21) include dishes such as roast chicken with carrot salad and whipped Feta, foraged mushroom risotto and pan-roasted cod with white bean, tomato, mussel and prawn stew.
“Flavour is the number one thing we look at here,” said James. “It’s the reason to go out for dinner – to be hit with great big flavours – and that’s what we do throughout our menu.
“I really like simple food. When I was younger, everyone had ambitions to win Michelin stars, but the older I get, the cooking and the food become more relaxed and I think that’s a much better direction to go in.
“I want people who eat my food to be full, content and happy having experienced some bold flavours. A full restaurant, with happy customers, is success in my eyes.
“Staff play a huge role in that. The team of people I have around me is absolutely phenomenal.
“I have great faith in my colleagues. They are all outstanding chefs and we’re all on the same page in the kitchen – everyone can work on every section.
“We discuss the whole menu at the end of every session and, if we need to tweak, we do, and so it carries on.
“We never sit still – we’re always looking to be better, and hopefully that will show on the plate.
“We did an incredible number of tastings before we opened and I love the banana tarte tatin because I have a sweet tooth, but my favourite dish is the cod.
“I’ve always loved eating cassoulet – it’s a chef thing to try and get a huge amount of flavour out of it and this recipe started off as a dish we used to have for lunch in the kitchen.
“There are lots of fresh herbs in it, and lemon at the end, which is very French.
“With mussels being in season at the same time as cod, and the prawns adding a bit of luxury – we use the shells for the sauce – it’s great that it’s become a restaurant dish.
“One thing I hate is to change the whole menu on one day – it’s a recipe for chaos and disaster.
“After we’ve been open for a couple of months, then we’ll start introducing new dishes when ingredients are in season.
“We will have an ever-changing menu so when people come there will always be something new.
“It keeps the chefs on their toes as well and gives them a chance to develop their own dishes, get these on the menu and get a bit of recognition.”
The Pearson Room’s bar has also been refreshed with a new cocktail list including beverages such as Fraisier (East London Dry gin with Fraise liquor, lemon and raspberries) and Hoist The Colours (a showstopping combination of Discarded Banana Rum, coconut syrup, pineapple juice, lime juice and kiwi).
James said while there were plenty of healthy options on the menu for those visiting Third Space, The Pearson Room was very much a separate entity.
Plans for the future include creating more dishes inspired by the venue’s wine list, bringing in a dry-ageing cabinet so guests can see the meat they will be eating and setting up an oyster bar to pair with the English fizz on offer.
The Pearson Room is now open Monday-Friday from 10am for lunch and dinner. The venue is also available to hire for events with an extensive range of food and drink options available.
James said: “You have to be approachable – we’re always happy to work with people so they get what they want.”