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Isle Of Dogs: How The Ignition Platform hopes to set Lanterns Studio Theatre alight

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence has teamed up with Kennedy Junior Muntanga for his latest dance event

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence has created The Ignition Platform

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Tucked away behind glass and green steel just off Millharbour lies the Lanterns Studio Theatre.

The venue, which boasts a vast, 3,000sq ft plus, sprung dance floor, is generally used by major production companies as a rehearsal space – one of the few capacious enough to accommodate the really big shows.

These sessions are typically held behind closed doors away from the eyes of the public. Lanterns, however, is starting to open up to audiences, thanks to Jamiel Devernay-Laurence

Building on Ballet Nights, a show he hosted there in October 2021, The Ignition Platform is set for a public performance at the Isle Of Dogs venue on March 4, 2023.

Jamiel essentially grew up at Lanterns – run by his mother Janet Viola – and following a dance career with Scottish Ballet, it’s where he’s decided to base his newly minted venture, Jamiel Laurence Creation.

“I’ve worked all over the UK,” he said. “I’ve lived in Glasgow, London and spent the past year working in Cardiff, bringing quality dance performances to that city.

“When that came to an end and I was thinking about what to do next, I decided to put on a new intensive programme at the Lanterns Studio Theatre – which is no stranger to new and exciting things, although often there isn’t a performance output.

“We rehearse, without doubt, every major production company in the UK and now some in Europe as well – we’ve just had Theatre Du Chatelet, who were preparing for their production of 42nd Street.

“After spending a decade learning how to put on those shows and seeing the companies in action, I decided it was my go.

“The first thing I did in January was to launch an intensive programme for professional dancers and the response to that was hugely overwhelming – there’s a real gap right now in contemporary dance for professional development.

“I hadn’t realised how big the need was – it was exactly the right time – and off the back of that I reconnected with Kennedy Junior Muntanga who performed at Lanterns as part of Ballet Nights.

Kennedy Junior Muntanga is set to perform at Lanterns Studio Theatre

“Chatting with him about his ambitions was a powerful moment because it made me aware young choreographers are really feeling the pinch.

“There are lots of cuts to the arts right now and that means there are fewer opportunities out there.

“I’m a doer, so I decided to launch Ignition in response – a platform to put work by young choreographers up on stage.

“The first level of that is what audiences will see on March 4. Our budget might be minimal, but what matters is that the dancing will be anything but.

“It’s about showcasing a really big voice in dance that needs to be heard on the Isle Of Dogs – not an area that’s traditionally known for these things.

“I’m very confident there will be an appetite for this locally so that’s stage one – the plan in future will be then to come back with a bigger production the next time.

“Hopefully the third time will be an all-singing, all-dancing, hologram-showing extravaganza.

“The idea is that Ignition will allow choreographers themselves to make a case for why their work should be on stage – then we make it happen for them.”

Tickets for the event on March 4 – The Ignition Platform: An Evening With Kennedy Muntanga – cost £20. The performance is set to start at 7pm.

“The performance itself will consist of a 30-minute trio from A Death Has Occurred, which is a piece that Kennedy has written, taking inspiration from his faith to explore themes of destiny, identity, spirituality and truth. 

“It follows the story of Nebu, a young journalist obsessed with the idea of being his own helmsman, as he struggles to offer himself to God’s plan for his life. 

“Reporting as a war correspondent, Nebu is given a vision that prophesies a city abandoned and left to crumble to the wrath of war. 

“Nebu’s interpretation of the dream leads him to reject God in protest at what he sees. Kennedy uses fiction to bring to the forefront his learning and understanding of accepting a plan much greater than his own, even when suffering prevails.

“He plans one day to turn the piece into a full 90-minute show. 

The Ignition Platform will include a trio from Kennedy’s A Death Has Occurred

“After that, we’re going to have a solo dance by Kennedy himself, created exclusively for Ignition.

“There will also be a Q&A with the choreographer following the performances.

“It’s really exciting that I can take someone like him and give him a platform.

“His dancing is not any recognisable contemporary technique or format, his movement is really from a new place – it’s very contact-heavy.

“The word you see about him in every review is ‘visceral’, and that tells the tale – his work features very muscly, athletic men and women in contact with each other.

“He lives in Finsbury Park, but spends much of his time in Greenwich as the artistic director of Trinity Laban’s Youth Dance Company as well as Kennedy Muntanga Dance Theatre.

“What he does that’s really interesting is that he puts on classes for free every Tuesday night, and they are his practice in action – that’s how he’s refining his voice.”

Jamiel said the March 4 performance would also help to make the case for further events at Lanterns and beyond.

The Ignition Platform is really about support and what I want to do is build an audience who feel like they’re the home crowd for dance,” he said.

“My philosophy is that I don’t think dance on stage is broken as a model – that’s not where the problem is. Instead, it’s the pastime of going to see dance.

“For example, people on dates might go to the cinema or a show and have a meal first – they’d know how to navigate that. But with dance theatre it’s different. 

“Would it be a long show, a short show? Would there be time to eat? Is it expensive or affordable?

“I’d like to achieve for dance what stand-up has for comedy – to have artists practising their craft and audiences getting a raw, accessible version of the work.

“Right now there are too many dancers and not enough opportunity.

“Long term, the goal for Ignition would be to build our own touring circuit – we’d very much like events to be exportable.

“That might be to other venues in London, but we’d also like to connect with Scotland, Wales and other towns and cities in England as well.

“Further afield from this, I would love to have work that could tour internationally. That’s for the future.

“Right now I believe there’s a huge opportunity in Docklands – a place that’s become a growing residential community.

“Lanterns can provide something for people locally where they don’t have to travel to the West End to see high quality performances – it’s right here on their doorstep.”

Get tickets and more info on The Ignition Platform here

Read more: How Matthew Jameson is bringing the revolution to life on stage

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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
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Limehouse: How Mark AC Brown’s Dead On The Vine won at Smodcastle Film Festival

East End-based filmmaker’s second feature takes three prizes at Kevin Smith’s inaugural event

Filmmaker Mark AC Brown

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Mark AC Brown has a smile on his face when we meet at The Star Of The East pub.

It’s a venue the Limehouse-based filmmaker knows well – a grand palace of a place on Commercial Road filled with comfy leather upholstery where he can often be found working away on scripts.

The smile is not down to the welcoming atmosphere, however. It’s because his second feature film as writer and director recently won best drama, best actor and best ensemble at the inaugural Smodcastle Film Festival on its world premiere. 

Dead On The Vine, which is set for its UK debut later this year, is a film that was never meant to exist.

Originally from Yarm, a town nestled in the bend of the River Tees in North Yorkshire, Mark grew up wanting to make movies.

“I always wanted to be a filmmaker since about the age of three, when I saw lots of great films like The Wizard Of Oz, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Jason And The Argonauts,” he said.

“I also got to see a huge number of inappropriate movies thanks to my aunty and uncle, including Deliverance because he liked the banjos.

“It wasn’t easy in the North East when I was growing up. There wasn’t a film industry or even the possibility to dream really, but I kept it in my head and just watched endless movies.

“I made a few films with my brother and my friends, but that was it until I went to university in Liverpool where I tried to do it a bit more.

“I was on a general media course, not specifically about making films, though – a huge error on my part – and I was useless at it.

Dead On The Vine is set on a vineyard

“I meandered through, enjoying life but not doing anything significant. I was just lazy, I had no motivation.

“I passed by 2% and that was only because I did really well in the parts related to making films or writing them.”

Having moved back to the North East, he tried a different course and made some films with people he met there, one of which won an award and spurred him on to move to London.

In his 20s he was writing furiously while working in Wetherspoons to support himself.

With people he met through a writing course, he created a company called Joined Up Writers, creating plays for the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington – “tickling success” when BBC radio offered to mentor him.

“I was struggling in my head at the time and thought they didn’t mean it so, after a couple of meetings I didn’t follow it up,” he said.

Returning to film, he wrote scripts for shorts and found fresh success in an industry that often moves at a glacial pace.

“One of the shorts was screened at the Raindance film festival and I got noticed by a producer who asked me to write an 18th century drama about the first black boxer in Britain,” said Mark. 

“It’s called The Gentleman, but the producer who was involved was also producing The Expendables, which became an unexpected success, so they went off in that direction and my film didn’t get made.

“There was lots of promise, lots of fun, but I was sad because, had it come out, I’d have been paid a lot more.

“I currently have four different versions of it – a play, a six-part TV series, the film and a monologue in my desk.”

Further successful writing jobs followed, before Mark decided he wanted to get back behind the camera.

Mark and the Dead On The Vine team receive their awards from Kevin Smith

“I had always wanted to be a director first, rather than a writer, but I had to write my own scripts because no-one else would, so I fell more into writing,” he said.

“In 2015 I made a short film called Corinthian, which did well at festivals and I liked doing it.

“We did that on a tiny budget and through that process I worked out how to shoot a feature in 10 days.

“So I called up my mates, told them I’d write parts for all of them and they all said yes.

“That was my debut feature Guardians – shot in the house in Limehouse, where I live, and featuring St Anne’s Church and the Queen’s Head pub, where we shot from 11pm-4am.

“It was a very silly comedy and won quite a few awards, which set me on the path I’m on now.

“Through that film I met my producing partner Laura Rees.

“Our next project was a film called Limpet and then the pandemic arrived and just killed our plans dead.

“Fortunately I’d got a couple of writing jobs, which tided us over a bit but as soon as they finished, I was going crazy with nothing to do.”

He called Laura up, who suggested doing something with a small cast in a vineyard where she was staying.

Plucking an idea about two suspicious guys who break down and end up on a farm from his archive, the pair set about assembling a bubble of cast and crew for what would become Dead On The Vine.

Mark said Dead On The Vine was inspired by Fargo

“We got together this crew of incredible people who were desperate to do something,” said Mark.

“They liked the script and Laura called in some old favours, so we had this amazing crew – being in a vineyard in the middle of summer was also quite appealing.

“It was 77 acres, you could be outside, socially distanced and in an incredible environment. The film almost has the feel of a  western about it – Fargo was a big influence.

“Theses two chaps, one of whom has had an epileptic seizure and is unconscious for the first 20 minutes, come to a vineyard where the two women owners are preparing for a make or break wine tasting evening to save their business.

“Certain things happen, bits of violence pop up, some revelations occur that cause everyone involved to make some very important life choices and moral choices about how they want the rest of their lives to go – do they want to save their businesses, their lives or each other? It’s a darkly comic thriller – certainly not grim.”

With work nearly complete, Mark and Laura entered the film in writer and director Kevin Smith’s first Smodcastle Film Festival in New Jersey.

“Two people who saw it there randomly described it as if Reservoir Dogs had been made by the BBC,” said Mark.

“Kevin Smith has been an inspiration to me – his film, Chasing Amy, was one of those movies that gave me a boost when I was at university.

“I saw it and thought: ‘I want to write like that’.

“I first met Kevin while he was walking his dog in the small town where the festival was held, and I was completely nervous about approaching him.

“My friend David had no such qualms and went right up to him – he was lovely.”

Dead On The Vine won in three categories including best actor for Tom Sawyer and ensemble cast – including Mark’s partner Victoria Johnston who he lives with in Limehouse, close friend and frequent collaborator David Whitney and Sheena Browne.

Filming took place under Covid restrictions

“I am one of those people who gets disappointed if I don’t win at awards ceremonies,” said Mark.

“At Smodcastle, the reaction the film received at the festival made us believe we might take something home.

“But you still can’t be prepared for the moment when you win. When we got best ensemble, we sat back, pleased. Then when Tom won best actor it was even better.

“But then we won best drama and I was in a daze and didn’t realise what was happening.

“The rest of the cast had legged it up to the stage, and I was right behind them: ‘This one’s mine’. 

“Then I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to be a sycophant, so I just garbled some pleasantries about the crew deserving the thanks because were all in a bad place and they really stepped up, coming into an unknown situation – then a legend like Kevin Smith had said what we made was good, and it made it all worthwhile.”

Dead On The Vine is set to get its UK premiere in east London later this year although exact dates and times are yet to be confirmed.

Readers can watch Mark’s first feature Guardians via Amazon Video.

Meanwhile, Laura and Mark continue to work on the production of Limpet.

He said: “Dead On The Vine was never really meant to exist – we see it as a bonus film because it gave us purpose and saved our sanity over the lockdowns.

“It really shows off what I can do as a director and Limpet is a bigger film so hopefully people might trust us with a bit more money with that on the CV.”

Read more: How Matthew Jameson is bringing the revolution to life on stage

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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
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Deptford: How artist Alice Gur-Arie digitally paints her photographs to create her work

Based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside, Alice has just released a second digital book of her pieces

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Alice Gur-Arie has always been creative.

“I’ve been writing since I could first hold a pencil and dabbled in various things when I was a teenager in school,” said the artist, currently based at Art Hub Studios in Creekside, Deptford. 

A career as an advertising creative and then manager of agencies saw her work first in her native Canada, then North America, Europe and India.

“I’d done what I set out to do – to work internationally in a multi-country environment and I was successful,” she said. 

“I wanted to go back to my creative roots – that was 10 years ago – and so I got myself a little studio in Deptford and started to take pictures. 

“I also had a lot of photographs from my travels – but I didn’t want to be a straight photographer.”

Instead, Alice taught herself to paint her photographs digitally with the aim of creating something new.

The body of work she has created is varied and extensive, with images that are colourful, monochrome, three dimensional, two dimensional, photographic and almost entirely abstract.

Red from Alice’s Love On The Rocks series

“I never change the composition of the original photograph – it is what it is, it’s like a canvas,” she said.

“When choosing the ones to paint, I have a vision in my head – sometimes I achieve that and sometimes I can’t.

“Sometimes I can do it in several different ways – it’s always possible to repaint images.

“Each time I create an image, it goes back to being a writer, because I’m telling a story. There’s no absolute point where they’re finished.

“I just have to ask whether I’m satisfied with it and whether it says what I want it to say.”

The word, perhaps, for Alice’s creativity is “instinctive”. She looks at a photograph or a collection of objects and imagines what they could become.

“I have a series called Love On The Rocks,” she said.

“I took the images in Iceland – it was cold and raining while I was taking photos and my husband said he was going for a walk.

“There was a volcanic hill behind us and I took pictures of him as he walked along the ridge. He couldn’t see it, but I could see the outline of a woman in the shape of the hill. 

“For another series, I’d always wanted to do something with layered hills.

“In Portugal I got to a summit and just saw this amazing vista in front of me.

Eastern Hunt from Alice’s series The King’s Lodging

“So I started snapping away and, after I’d painted them digitally, I realised there was a romantic story in there, so I called the series The King’s Lodging.

“Each piece within it has its own title and the idea was to tell a story by displaying them together so the viewer could create the narrative in their head.”

Alice’s latest project has been to create a second digital book of her work, based on the Chinese Zodiac.

“I have a friend – John Vollmer – who is an Asian scholar,” she said.

“He sent me a picture of a snake from some archive in celebration of the year of the snake and I thought we could do a better job.

“We started collaborating for the year of the horse – I painted a photograph of the animal and he wrote the text. I wrote a story to go with it and once I’d done that I knew I wanted to do all 12 animals.

“It took a number of years, but the result was my first book Twelve: Shengxiao Zodiac Creatures In Art And Words featuring 32 images and 12 short stories. 

“Then John told me about five, which is an important number in Chinese philosophy. That led me to create Five: Wuxing Elements In Art And Words with a foreword by him.”

Alice’s latest digital book features 81 artworks, about 25% of which were made specifically for the project. 

Rebirth from Alice’s series The King’s Lodging

“While there are no stories in the book, I have written a poem for each of the elements. I want readers to really respond to the art in Five.

“I love landscapes and seascapes and ‘seeing’ is important to me. I want people to see things in a different way – familiar, but unfamiliar.

“It’s fantastic to have people look at and talk about your work because they see things in it that you don’t.

“For example, I made a piece from a photograph of the tailpiece of a stringed instrument and people saw a boat in the final work.”

While the majority of Alice’s work is created digitally, she also creates sculptures, including recent pieces using found objects.

Nightlife In Blue

“I don’t like sitting at a computer all day long, but my paintings don’t get made if I don’t do some of that,” she said.

“I’ve always loved working with my hands and I have an idea that I will also make collages from my finished digital paintings.

“With the wall hangings, I had some different kinds of rope and just started to play.

“The fairy stones – ones you find that have natural holes – are from the Mediterranean and Ramsgate.

“I’d had them for years, having collected them, and I thought I’d do something with them that has different textures.

“I’m fascinated by texture in all my work. I try to make a big thing of that in my paintings because we live in a world that’s anything but flat.

“First, it’s about the photography. I have to go out and take the image. If I didn’t do that, you wouldn’t have the picture.

“Then the paintings sit within a range – a set of dimensions.

“That means I can achieve results that are more photographic while others are more in the middle or much more abstract.

“I often strive for the sweet spot between those two things that combines them both, but sometimes the painting won’t let me go there.

“They take varying amounts of time – it really depends on the picture and on me.

“I have a painting from India that took me 10 years because I kept going back to it.

“It wasn’t saying to me what I wanted it to say, so I put it away and would bring it out every couple of years and try again until it was finally complete.”

Alice’s works are available for sale online.

Noon At Beach Point

Read more: Discover Space Lab at APT Gallery in Deptford

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Isle Of Dogs: How Ten Days at The Space brings Russia’s Revolution into the present

Theatre maker Matthew Jameson talks putting history on stage to reflect our troubling times

Theatre maker Matthew Jameson has created Ten Days

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History isn’t something that exists trapped between the pages of dusty books, for Matthew Jameson.

The playwright, actor and director doesn’t just see echoes of the past in the present – for him, it’s much more immediate than that.

So his forthcoming production at The Space on the Isle Of Dogs may be the story of what happened between February and October 1917 as the Tsar was overthrown and the communists rose to power. But it’s something else as well.

“I didn’t want Ten Days to be a piece of historical theatre, something that happened more than 100 years ago, which we can only learn lessons from,” he said.

“These kinds of things are ongoing around us, so I wanted the play to be in a contemporary setting – Europe 2023 – scarily close to where we are now.

“The characters are in modern dress and we have a diverse cast who will better reflect our own times than Russia in 1917.

“We also have a lot of video and tech to help to convey some of the scale of the events we want to portray.”

The production is set to run on various dates at the east London arts centre from March 14-25, 2023, with performances at 7.30pm and a pair of Saturday matinees at 2.30pm.

Matthew said: “People should look forward to something epic – it’s a story that covers the breadth and scale of the overthrow of Russia’s ruling family, the establishment of a provisional government and the eventual rise of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

“It has a cast of 10, of which I am one, and we’ll all be playing multiple roles.

“Among others, I’ll be Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko  the unlikely leader of the assault on the Winter Palace – a slightly baffled, befuddled and depraved man.

Ten Days is something I’ve been working on for about a decade.

“I completed a masters in dramaturgy part-time over the last couple of years and the focus of that was on creating a play as a final project – this was the vehicle to complete it.

“It’s gone through various iterations and I’d never quite finished the draft, but through doing the course, I’ve now completed the whole thing – redrafting, streamlining and editing to reflect the ongoing chaos the world seems to be experiencing.”

Matthew isn’t new to putting real events from the past on stage.

Raised in the North East, he’d always wanted to be a performer and became involved with a company called the Heretical Historians whose play The Trial Of Le Singe brought him to The Space for the first time in 2017.

“That was as a visiting actor, but I really enjoyed being part of this institution,” he said.

“The play was about the story of the Hartlepool monkey and we were doing this post-Brexit, reflecting the idea of a conflicted, anti-European England.

“That’s when I first found The Space and I’ve never really left.

“A lot of the Heretical Historians’ stuff was telling previously untold true stories from history and bringing them to life for a modern audience.

Ten Days is set to run at The Space from March 14-25, 2023

Ten Days feels like an extension of that. It’s a new company – BolshEpic Theatre – and it’s all about bringing the truth of history to life and making it accessible.

“A lot of my previous work was focused primarily on comedy and entertainment.

“Now I feel there’s a lot of stuff happening in the world that requires our response to be a bit more measured and serious.

“Within that, telling the story of the Russian Revolution is something that is directly relevant to the present. 

“Although there’s a lot of entertainment in the story we’re telling, there are also more serious parallels we need to explore, and you can’t do that simply through comedy, although it does help the medicine go down.

“There is the war in Europe at the moment and the apparent collapse of some democracies across the world – it’s been exhausting to keep up with what’s been happening while writing.

“What I want is for audiences to be able to take a look at what it means to live through a crisis and to ask: ‘What hope can we have for democracy?’.

Ten Days doesn’t give a definitive answer to that, we just present what happened. In Russia back then there was mass industrial action and it feels like we’re getting close to a general strike now.

“They had four heads of state in the space of a year. We’ve had three prime ministers and two monarchs.

“I don’t know whether that’s a cause for optimism that things can change, or a cause for worry that things could get worse.

“I think that in Russia in 1917 they really didn’t expect a revolution and that was one of the fundamental things that caught everyone by surprise.

“It’s not something that tallies with the Soviet version of history – a planned uprising of the people – or the rightist take – a well-calculated palace coup.

“The revolution was something in between, which was messier and muckier and, as a result, far more real and funny.

“What we’ve found is people don’t necessarily know that in the period between the Tsar and the Bolsheviks there was an elected government, where Russia could have turned into a European-style democracy.

“In Ten Days, we take things chronologically with a Sergei Eisenstein-style short film sequence showing the story as you think you know it – Lenin comes in and chucks the Tsar out, resulting in freedom for the people.

“That isn’t what happened but you need to see it as a reminder.

“There’s something about the truth of history that fiction never quite matches up to.

“As a writer you can aspire to be as absurd and ridiculous as you like, but as soon as you write something as silly as the truth people often won’t believe it.

“Hopefully, people will see our posters and think: ‘Lenin – OK, let’s see what this is about,’ but they may not know the other figures so it’s a way of introducing them to the audience.”

Tickets for Ten Days start at £5 and are sold on a pay-what-you-choose basis

Read more: How South Dock Bridge connects Canary Wharf and the Isle Of Dogs

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Three Mills: How Harris Science Academy East London is looking to the future

Principal Mark Taylor says joining the Harris Federation puts school on a very solid foundation

Harris Science Academy East London recently opened its new building – Custom House

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Change is under way at Three Mills Island.

In September last year, the East London Science School joined the Harris Federation – a trust comprising more than 50 primary and secondary schools in and around London.

Originally founded as a standalone free school in 2013, the newly named Harris Science Academy East London has become part of a much wider family of institutions and has its eyes firmly on the future.

The ultimate plan for the academy is a move just across the Channelsea River into purpose-built premises as part of Berkeley Homes’ vast TwelveTrees Park.

This development will see some 3,800 homes and other amenities constructed on land between the River Lea and West Ham station.

In the meantime, however, the academy remains based across two sites – The Clock Mill and Lock-Keepers – for Years 7-9 and 10-11 respectively, having last month opened a new sixth form facility at Three Mills.

Principal Mark Taylor said: “The new building is called Custom House and was historically used for checking goods coming in and out of the area.

“The academy was previously on three sites with the sixth form based in facilities at Eastlea Community School.

“The opening of Custom House means we can bring those students back to the Three Mills site, which is very important.

“Sixth formers should be the leading students in any school.

“From the point of view of unity and the vision of the school it’s perfect. It brings us together and helps to create a common purpose in terms of what we’re trying to do here.

“Having those sixth formers on this site shows our younger students where they can get to – it really makes a difference if they are visible.

“The building itself has been renovated to a high standard by the film studio that’s based next door to us and, as it became clearer that relocating the sixth form would be beneficial, the Harris Federation team secured it for us and set it up properly for our staff and students.

Harris Science Academy East London principal Mark Taylor

“It has some beautiful, traditional features and a lovely layout but with modern facilities.

“We are expecting Lord Harris to open it on March 9, which will also mark the official launch of the Harris Science Academy East London.”

Joining the Harris Federation is a big change in itself for the institution. The organisation educates tens of thousands of pupils in the capital and employs thousands of teachers.

“Primarily what the federation brings to us is the organisational infrastructure to support what we are doing – something that can be challenging for an academy on a temporary site like we are,” said Mark.

“It has the resources to ensure that we have everything that’s appropriate to a modern school setting in terms of safeguarding and in areas of compliance.

“The federation also offers an enormous amount of teaching support. It has subject consultants to help our staff deliver the best education to our students that they can and to help teachers as we continue to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

“The federation has a wealth of experience that we can draw on to ensure our students get the best outcomes possible and has a strong track record in doing that.

“This includes a focus on the progress of every child to make sure they are doing the best that they can.

“We are distinctive in offering three science subjects all the way through the school for as many children as possible and we hope to maintain that approach.

“But we also have a really strong humanities offer including Latin, Mandarin and modern languages.

“Right now, our focus is on exam performance and ensuring students are getting the right results.

“We know what assessment data our students come to us from primary schools with and what that means they are capable of and it’s our job, through good teaching, support and experience, to help them achieve that.

The academy is currently based at Three Mills Island

“What the Harris Federation gives us is a really solid foundation for the academy so that we can make that happen.

“We look different to other schools in the area – we aren’t surrounded by fences and we’re currently based in historic buildings – and we want to stand out.

“We offer a great range of subjects and last year we held our first week of enrichment activities since the pandemic.

“This is time for all students off timetable to go on trips and visits and pursue activities over and above their normal school work.

“We are hoping to run that again this year, this time for a fortnight.”

Looking further into the future, the vision for a 1,000-student capacity building to house the academy at TwelveTrees remains a tantalising prospect.

“The plan is for a modern school with a really strong identity,” said Mark.

“The plans look amazing and for parents and students coming into the school it’s something that is going to be great.”

For now though, there’s a sense of shared purpose and the buzz of change in the air at Three Mills as a new chapter opens.

Read more: How South Dock Bridge connects Canary Wharf and the Isle Of Dogs

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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
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Canary Wharf: How South Dock Bridge connects the estate to the Isle Of Dogs

Knight Architects design director Hector Beade-Pereda talks dockers hooks and slender elegance

An artist’s impression of how South Dock Bridge will look when finished

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East London has a bit of a problem with bridges. Crossings are proposed, ideas generated and fancy images created.

But few make it as far as actual physical existence. Notably none of the various schemes to cross the Thames east of Tower Bridge have, partly because of the scale and cost of such projects.

The latest proposal for a new crossing across West India South Dock does, however, appear to have momentum and purpose with it.

Planning permission for Knight Architects’ design for South Dock Bridge was granted in December, detailed design work is now ongoing and construction is expected to start this year.

Tower Hamlets Council is behind the scheme and is currently working to acquire the appropriate chunks of land necessary and permission to build over the waterway.

A long time coming, the project is needed due to the creaking capacity issues of South Quay Bridge.

This swinging silver crescent moon, with its rattling aluminium planks and dramatic cable suspenders might have provided a dramatic backdrop for zombie horror 28 Days Later and spy flick The Constant Gardener, but functionally it’s always been a bit of a bodge.

Originally twice its current length its graceful S-shape was sliced in two when development narrowed the dock and it wound up sitting uncomfortably high at the point it arrives on the Wharf. 

Anyone who’s braved the journey at peak times knows the little stone stairs do nothing to help the awkward flow of pedestrians on or off the estate – a rare planning error in an area that’s otherwise mostly frictionless for walkers.

The case for a new crossing is obvious. The Isle Of Dogs has an ever growing population meaning demand for routes into Canary Wharf as residents walk to access its amenities is on an ever upward trajectory.   

So what of the new proposal, which will connect South Quay Plaza with Upper Bank Street? 

Knight Architects’ design, which will be built for the council in partnership with engineering firm Arcadis Consulting and moving bridge specialist KGAL Consulting, is the result of responses to a previous outline design.

Knight Architects design director Hector Beade-Pereda

“South Dock Bridge was an atypical brief for us because we got involved in 2019 at the second stage,” said Knight design director Hector Beade-Pereda.

“In this case, many decisions, including where to cross, had already been made and had partly gone through a consultation process.

“We built our understanding of the site on the outcome of that process and designed a different bridge in response to that. 

“There are some things that are the same. Our design is also a bascule bridge with the moving portion of the bridge towards the north. 

“The position across the dock is the same, but the bridge is different because the public suggested we should consider various factors and almost start from scratch in agreement with the council. That’s what we did.”

When finished, South Dock Bridge will be Knight’s second crossing over the waters of the West India Dock complex. 

Canary Wharf Group hired the firm to design its Water Street road bridge, which links the older portion of the estate with Wood Wharf, just around the corner from the proposed site of the new bridge.

Knight’s Water Street Bridge

“South Dock Bridge also has a section that is a bascule bridge that can be raised,” said Hector.

“While the two won’t be seen together, they can be experienced by walkers on the same journey, so we wanted to do something similarly understated to that design.

“They both have to respond to the water and to the Canary Wharf buildings around them.

“In form, the designs are actually pretty different. Water Street is a straight line, whereas South Dock uses more organic-looking, curved shapes.

“What we wanted to do was design something that would be respectful to the dock.

“We wanted something low profile that wouldn’t compete in scale with the buildings around it or the other existing bridges over the dock.

“We have made a big effort to make it slim, slender, elegant and attractive whether it is open or closed.

“It is a two span bridge. It has a pier in the centre of the dock. Before, the plan was to have more piers, but we wanted to have the minimum number to respect the water as much as possible.”

The bridge as it will be seen from Canary Wharf

Another potent influence on the design was the heritage of the local area – reflected by the form of the bridge in two ways.

Hector said: “One of the things that came out of the original consultation was that the bridge should pay tribute to the area’s past, so we thought quite a lot about that.

“We could have designed something that was triangulated, quite industrial but that would have been impossible if we were to keep the bridge slim and slender.

“So we looked at the shapes of the cranes that were used in Docklands – many of which were curved and elegant – and took inspiration from them.

“They looked like the contemporary industrial designs we see today.

“At the Museum Of London Docklands, we also saw the curved hooks that were used by dockers to help unload cargo from ships.

“They are the most beautiful things – really, really lovely – and that is reflected in the design.

“We will also make the surface of the bridge feel like the deck of a ship using angles and steelwork to convey that. 

“This is why South Dock will have a different design language to the Water Street bridge even though they both stem from some common principles.

“South Dock will be cantilevered with counterweights so, from a sustainability point of view, it will need less energy to raise it.

“The curved forms also help the bridge respond to its internal forces quite strictly and that means you can use less material to build it, meaning it weighs less and requires less force to move.

The bridge will open for tall ships

“In finding a form that harmonises those forces, we have also found a design that responds to the history of the area and the council has been a very supportive client.”

Designed to last some 120 years with proper maintenance, the new bridge will be exclusively for pedestrians – an extension of the existing pedestrian spaces at either end. 

Hector, who has been designing bridges for 22 years, moving to the UK from Spain eight years ago, said: “My understanding is the focus for cycling will be on improving routes on the edges of the Island.

“The existing bridge is already thought to be the second busiest pedestrian bridge in London so this one will get a lot of use.

“The new bridge has been designed to cope with a high level of traffic and will probably be more used than some of the other bridges we have designed.

“That’s something to be really proud of.

“I have been designing bridges for more than two decades and it’s still always a very special moment when something becomes reality – when you can see the full structure at the end of several years’ work.

“In the future, I would love to design a bridge over the Thames – that would be a good one. For me, the important thing is designing bridges that are needed, that really serve a purpose.”

With east and south-east London continuing to experience population growth and regeneration, perhaps he’ll get his wish.

The bridge as it will appear from South Quay Plaza


The London Borough Of Tower Hamlets cabinet member for regeneration, inclusive development and housebuilding Cllr Kabir Ahmed said: “We are delighted that the strategic development committee has resolved to grant planning permission for the South Dock Bridge – there is no doubt a need for this project as significant new development around the docks on the Isle Of Dogs has increased pressure on pedestrian routes and connections in the area. 

“This pressure is particularly acute at South Dock, which separates the significant housing growth area from the commercial centre and transport connections at Canary Wharf.

“Along with this development, the addition of the new Elizabeth Line station will attract more pedestrians and there is also a need to improve access to South Quay DLR station. 

“The existing bridge is currently approaching its capacity at peak times in terms of comfort levels.

“We know through our consultation that construction of the bridge is welcomed by residents of the Island and, of course, our residents are at the forefront of this decision. 

“The bridge will help to reduce congestion on the DLR and link new development at South Quay with Canary Wharf and Wood Wharf.

“It will be designed to accommodate projected pedestrian flows well into the future.

“Further to this, the bridge will greatly improve access to public transport links, which will aid connectivity and support access to jobs, retail, and other services at Canary Wharf.

“The pedestrian aspect will promote active travel, with its associated health benefits, and encourage a shift from less active travel behaviours.

“In resolving to grant planning permission, the Strategic Development Committee noted that the new bridge was a high-quality and elegant design that is considered appropriate to its contemporary surroundings. 

“I echo this sentiment and anticipate that the bridge will be a positive addition to the area and encourage continued interest and investment in the Isle Of Dogs and surrounding areas, bolstering our local economy, and creating a place that’s accommodating for residents and visitors alike.”

Read more: How Barry’s is challenging east London businesses

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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
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Poplar: How Canary Wall is offering climbing sessions from £6 near Westferry DLR

London Climbing Centres’ east London bouldering facility includes a training room and Yoga studio

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“New climbers are always surprised by the warmth of the climbing community – spend an evening on the mats and, if you’re ready for a chat, after an hour you’ll have made a bunch of friends,”  said Sara Petersen, manger of London Climbing Centres’ (LCC) Canary Wall.

Located near Westferry DLR station under a series of railway arches, the facility offers an extensive range of bouldering walls including one outdoors.

There’s also a training room, a Yoga studio, a cafe and a gear shop on-site.

Bouldering is a sub discipline where climbers take on short, often demanding challenges using holds on walls that are less than four metres high. 

Deep crash mats underneath provide safety instead of ropes and harnesses, allowing complete freedom of movement. 

Fitness-wise, climbing offers a comprehensive all-body workout helping to build strength, flexibility and endurance.

Then there’s the mental challenge of working out the best ways to move to reach the top.

The complexity of the challenges, which are typically colour-coded and graded for difficulty, also has another benefit.

Bouldering can be a sociable activity

“In bouldering, climbs are trickier, both physically and mentally, to complete than in roped climbing,” said Sara. 

“That’s why we call them ‘problems’. You’ll need to rest and assess each climb before tackling it, which is when conversations with those around you typically strike up.

“Usually you’ll end up working out the problem together.”

To help foster that community Canary Wall, which opened its doors in August 2020, offers a calendar packed with social climbs, induction sessions and friendly competitions. 

“For work colleagues and businesses, the centre also offers social events, team building and corporate membership deals.

Sara said: “We’re always thrilled to introduce climbing to those who’ve never tried it before. 

“It’s always so exciting to watch someone discover their new favourite sport during their first ever climb and know that we’ve helped grow the community just that little bit more.”

Standard adult day passes at Canary Wall cost £15 at peak times, £11 for off-peak and £6 for super off-peak (9am-11am on Sundays).

First-time climbers receive a discount card that can be used to claim 50% off a second visit and half price shoe hire, a five-entry pass for £47 including shoe hire and 10% off climbing shoes at LCC shops. 

Monthly memberships cover access to all walls run by LCC with prices for off-peak deals starting at £55. 

Punch card packs are also available with £240 for 20 climbs, bringing the price down to £12 per session. 

Canary Wall, which is located on Trinidad Street in Poplar, is open weekdays 6am-11pm and 9am-9pm at weekends.

Canary Wall is located under a series of railway arches

Read more: How Barry’s is challenging east London businesses

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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
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Canary Wharf: How firms can compete in The Battle Of The Wharf at Barry’s

Barnd is challenging businesses to a two-week contest in February at its Crossrail Place studio

Barry’s is challenging local businesses in Canary Wharf

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what’s all this?

Barry’s in Crossrail Place is hosting a competition for businesses based in and around Canary Wharf.

tell me more

It’s called The Battle Of The Wharf and takes place over two weeks in February.

how does it work?

Teams of three or more people from a business or organisation take part in as many classes as possible at Barry’s Canary Wharf between February 14-28, 2023.

what’s involved?

For those who don’t know, Barry’s is home to 50 or 60-minute exercise classes billed as “The Best Workout In The World”.

These take place in a crimson-lit studio called The Red Room and are based around high intensity interval training using treadmills, dumbbells and bodyweight.

what will happen?

Participants can expect to burn up to 1,000 calories per session under the guidance of instructors, who curate potent playlists of uplifting beats to spur people on.

is the Battle Of The Wharf for anyone?

First timers or Barry’s regulars are all welcome to sign up for the contest.

Teams of three or more can compete, but the bigger the team, the more chance of winning

who wins?

The team with the most classes taken wins both glory and two weeks of complimentary walk-in classes. That means the bigger your team, the more chance of winning. 

are there terms and conditions?

Participants must be signed up for classes to count. All classes must be taken at Barry’s Canary Wharf in Crossrail Place, using the registered email address for the contest.

Businesses can sign up for The Battle Of The Wharf here

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

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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
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Isle Of Dogs: How TLZ Movement is tackling waste in fashion from Craft Central

Founder Nadia Piechestein repairs, reworks, alters and creates clothes at The Forge in east London

Nadia Piechestein of TLZ Movement

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At the heart of TLZ Movement is the joy of taking something that already exists and changing it to make something new.

Nadia Piechestein studied fashion in Buenos Aires before going on to found one of the first ethical fashion brands in Argentina. 

Her clothes were made with sustainable khadi cotton, made by a cooperative, with the clothes produced by another cooperative in the city that offered classes to former prisoners to help with their rehabilitation.

As a dancer herself, her styles focused on costumes for performance as well as pieces to exercise in.

Relocating to London a few years ago, with her husband Herman, she arrived with her collection in the UK, bought a sewing machine and initially started making clothes here.

“But then I decided not to make any more clothes at all, because I think we already have enough on this planet,” said Nadia. 

“My idea was to make existing clothes better so people can keep them rather than throwing them away.

“So I stopped making clothes and I started repairing, customising and altering them. 

“That’s what I do for customers, but I also teach people how to do it themselves.”

Nadia at work in her Craft Central studio on the Isle Of Dogs

TLZ Movement is now located at The Forge on the Isle Of Dogs’ Westferry Road and is a member of Craft Central, the charity that runs the facility.

Nadia essentially offers three core services.

She reworks existing garments, using up-cycling and dead stock materials from other producers that would otherwise go to waste.

She uses these to refresh and customise clothes for their owners to give them a new lease of life.

Nadia also offers a more standard alterations and repairs service to ensure clothes fit correctly to start with or to rescue damaged garments.

For this she is happy to create visible or invisible repairs depending on her customers’ desires.

Then there are her workshops at The Forge, where participants can learn mending techniques, how to use a sewing machine, copy their favourite clothes, weave and rework. 

“I’m not against the theme of having a bright new garment – that’s my inspiration,” said Nadia.

“If you’re bored with a piece in your wardrobe, you can bring it to me and I will put something new into it.

Nadia uses scraps of fabric to create new clothes

“That way you get the feeling of having a new piece of clothing again.

“The best way is to think of it as caring for your clothes, as keeping them and continuing to love them. It’s also something nobody else will have.

“For Christmas this year, I asked friends for garments they no longer wore – I didn’t tell them what I was doing.

“Then I reworked them, gave them back and my friends were amazed. When they wore them, they had that story to tell.

“When I make visible repairs or additions, the more people can see the time and effort that has been put into something.

“It connects the owner with the maker and shows how much you care about a garment.

“Here at Craft Central and in London, I collaborate with other makers and textile businesses a lot, using pieces and scraps of fabric that would otherwise go to waste.”

Nadia also sells iron-on patches to repair of customise garments with

In a world of ceaseless pressure and communication, the convenience and discount pricing of fast fashion is an ever-present temptation.

Never in the UK have so many garments been available to consumers so cheaply. 

But at what cost to those engaged elsewhere in the world making them – or for the planet in terms of the resources necessary to produce them and the inevitable waste mountain they create?

To help address some of these issues, Nadia has created iron-on patches that can be used both to repair and customise clothes.

Made with khadi cotton sourced from India, they can be applied with a normal household iron, so no need to get out the thimble.

Available in a variety of designs with prices starting at £18 for six, they are aimed at time-poor individuals looking for a rapid fix or update to their apparel.

“Patches can go in the washing machine at less than 40ºC and should last a long time,” said Nadia.

“I would encourage people to think that wearing them is a statement about Planet Earth.

“It shows that you care about the environment and it spices you up as a person.

“People can buy them online and use them to create any shape they want – they just need to cut them.

“It’s something that can be really creative and they are great for kids too who are always putting holes in things.

“With TLZ I’m really happy with what I’m building here now.

TLZ Movement’s patches can simply be ironed on to clothes

“I’ve been part of London Fashion Week and London Craft Week – I really want to boost what I’m doing now and expand in east London and into the City. 

“It would be great to see the patches stocked in small shops so that people can embrace repairing and customising their clothes.

“The majority of my customers are from the Isle Of Dogs and I have so much gratitude for that – there are no words. I love them.

“I also want to reach a new audience through teaching so people can understand all the good things they can do.

“That’s why I’ve started creating team building events for businesses and organisations. 

“People can come with their colleagues, have some drinks and learn the basics of sewing before being challenged to repair a garment that they can then take away.”

Nadia also works with arts companies to give performance costumes new lives after their stints on stage.

TLZ Movement’s next event is set to take place on February 18.

People are invited to bring damaged garments to The Forge for a free mending session using her signature patches between 11am and 4pm. 

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

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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
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Deptford: How APT Gallery is set to be filled with artists’ collaborative experiments

Co-curator Nicola Rae talks science, art and why she’s not completely sure yet what will go on display

Nicola Rae is reflected in a mirror from a telescope

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If you think this article is going to explain exactly what will fill the Art In Perpetuity Trust Gallery from February 16 to March 5, you’re in for a disappointment.

But sit with Space Lab co-curator and artist Nicola Rae for a chat about the exhibition and you can’t help but feel a little awed by its ambition.

Her studio space at the creative enclave on the banks of Deptford Creek is currently festooned with tripods as part of her collaboration with the Gravity Laboratory at the University Of Nottingham

These await various pieces of equipment that will focus on a series of fluid vortices, part of an investigation into gravity, water and acoustic waves. 

Magnets will spin, stirring liquids in tubular glass vases, while a camera is used to capture something called schlieren distortions.

Quite how it will all come together is still a work in progress.

This is just one of seven co-creative experiments conceived for Space Lab by Nicola and co-curator Ulrike Kuchner, an artist, astrophysicist and creative producer.

“We have spent more than a year on this show,” said Nicola.

“We put in an application for grant funding to the Science And Technology Facilities Council and were amazed that we got everything we asked for.

“In a way we shouldn’t have been surprised, because Space Lab is an incredibly exciting project.

“Ulrike, as a post-doc researcher at Nottingham, has a lot of connections and she feels strongly that often collaborations are not as in-depth as they could be, focusing instead on public engagement or the dissemination of research by scientists.

“So we set off with the idea of going deeper. We also wanted the artists and scientists to have a really big space for the work they create.

“We call Space Lab an expanded field of experiments –  it is the idea of going beyond limits, outside the remit of scientific experimentation.

“Everyone involved is very interested in process. I haven’t seen all the finished work yet, including my own, but we have set really ambitious targets.

“Some of it will work and some of it won’t. Some will change in curation from how it appears in the studio when it’s placed in the gallery.

“We want all those elements to be free flowing, allowing things to happen.”

While the experiments are too complex to list comprehensively here, one to watch out for is bio-designer Anshuman Gupta’s BioBorgs – biocomputers that imagine a reality where organisms can act autonomously, based on environmental threats. 

These respond to the research of collaborator and exoplanetary astronomer, Amaury Triaud, into the Trappist-1 system.

Its planets are most optimal for evidence of life beyond our solar system.

“We wanted to set this ambition that the artists would contribute meaningfully to the science,” said Nicola, who has been based at APT’s studios since 1995 and has taught at the Univeristy Of The Arts London since 2006.

“My work will be a series of experiments working with liquid vortices and I’m making the scientific equipment myself.

Nicola will be creating liquid vorticies as part of her collaborative experiment

“I’ll be working with quinine and coconut oil in the water to create different densities.

“There will also be magnifying glasses and different equipment on tripods and there will probably be a performative element as well.

“At the heart of it, we’re trying to communicate a fascination with phenomena and the scientific process – something that’s so often seen in labs but less so outside them.”

Aside from the seven collaborative experiments, there’s another strand to Space Lab. 

As part of the process of putting the exhibition together, the curators have been working with Tech Yard creative technologist Jazmin Morris to create a series of workshops for young people.

Titled Space Labs: Stars In Your Eyes, these have seen astrophysicists going into Lewisham schools to explore the themes of the exhibition and have a go at creating their own pieces. 

“The big surprise for us was how enthusiastic the children were, particularly when talking about science questions, and there’d be a big sea of hands going up, asking really good questions,” said Nicola.

“We thought there might be a lack of interest, but not at all.

“We will be featuring some of the students’ work on screen at the exhibition and we’ll be inviting their families and friends to see that on the last weekend of the show.

“I hope anyone who comes down to see Space Lab feels really intrigued and excited.

“Astrophysics is seen as quite elitist but this is all about reaching out to people who might feel they could go into this field.

“With new telescopes generating a huge amount of data, this is really an expanding area.

“It’s not just about the children, but also changing the minds of parents.

“This is something that’s come up in research again and again – kids listen to their parents and it’s really sad that children who are good at maths are told they shouldn’t go into these areas.

“When you go into these astrophysics departments, you see how varied an environment it is – people from different countries around the world – and that’s very exciting to see. 

“Although we’re artists and creative technologists, one of the lovely things that comes up in the feedback we’ve had is how many of the children participating in the workshops are now considering science as a career.”

Space Lab is set to go on show from February 16 to March 5 at APT Gallery in Creekside.

Entry is free.

Read more: How Atis aims to nourish and satisfy Wharfers

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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
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