East Bank director Tamsin Ace on collaboration at Stratford campus

How Sadler’s Wells East, London College Of Fashion, UCL East, BBC Music Studios and V&A East are coming together at the cultural hub

Image shows Tamsin Ace, a woman with curly blonde hair in a black denim jacket in front of buildings at Stratford's East Bank
East Bank director Tamsin Ace

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East Bank is, arguably, the final great piece in Stratford’s Olympic legacy jigsaw.

Comprising significant bases for five totemic institutions, it’s set to be fully open by the end of 2025 – 13 years after the 2012 Games put east London in the global spotlight.    

Building on the successes of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – including all the former sports venues and the extensive residential and commercial regeneration that has taken place locally – East Bank delivers something different for the area.

Even if just one of the London College Of Fashion, the V&A, the BBC, Sadler’s Wells and UCL had chosen to create a new base in Stratford, it would have been seen as a triumph for the architects of the Games.

That all five are committed to the project gives East Bank a kind of cultural and educational heft that hasn’t been seen in the capital for decades.

With four of the organisations sitting proudly overlooking the park on the edge of the River Lea and UCL a short walk away, the concentration of is palpably powerful.

Image shows a sculpture of the Earth hanging inside a large concrete atrium at UCL East on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
UCL East is now fully up and running

greater than the sum: East Bank

There’s a wealth of potential for collaboration and interaction between the five, but the project isn’t leaving things to chance and happenstance.

Tamsin Ace arrived as director of East Bank in September last year – more or less at the same time the London College Of Fashion began welcoming staff, students and visitors to its new campus.

With UCL East also fully open and Sadler’s Wells East set to launch later this year, it’s her job to help maximise interaction between the organisations for the benefit of all – cementing the cultural legacy of the Games.

“My role is to support and enable all these institutions to come together and to make sure they build on each other’s ideas and resources, while also thinking about how they can connect better,” she said.

“It’s a gift, because all of these partners want to be here and to connect.

“They all want to put down roots and have a home in east London, to listen and learn from the amazing heritage and history of the creative communities that have been in this area long before East Bank was even a twinkle in London’s eye.

“To do that I have the full support of the project’s board, which is made up of the principals of the five main partners.

“I’ve got a pass to all of the buildings so I can work from any of them and also understand their programmes and the different ways they work.

“We have creative working groups to discuss opportunities and plans, so my job is to have my ear to the ground, to know what everyone’s thinking and planning.

“It’s also to be out in the community, being really visible, talking to people and hearing what their priorities are so I can help create links.”

Image shows a computer generated picture of the London College Of Fashion, V&A East, BBC Music Studios and Sadler's Well's East at East Bank
An artist’s impression of how East Bank will look when work is finished

cultural programming

Having studied drama at university, Tamsin initially headed for the classroom after realising that acting and “being a Spice Girl” weren’t really for her.

But life as a teacher wasn’t right either and she wound up working for small arts centres instead.

“I was engaging with children and young people and through that found out about this kind of role – developing ways to get different audiences involved and to unlock and learn from their creativity,” she said.

“I love it when the magic comes together and something you hadn’t thought possible is created.”

After more than a decade doing just that at the Southbank Centre – “implementing festival methodology to create the feel of a bustling port city at arts venues by programming around central themes” – and roles at the Museum Of The Home in Shoreditch and at the London College Of Fashion, she’s come to East Bank to help fulfil its 2012 legacy promise.

“All five of our institutions have got public-facing programmes and my job is to connect the dots,” she said.

“We’re all talking all the time. It’s about collaboration, sharing resources and ideas, and it’s also about embedding ourselves in the community.

“It’s also about being open with our priorities and aims, and properly connecting with people who are living and working here.

“Over the last seven years, the organisations have all been building links with key partners such as schools to build programmes that respond to the needs and values of the people locally.

“Ultimately, we want visitors, students and staff to be able to navigate East Bank’s five buildings and understand how they connect to each other.

“In 10 years’ time I would love to see large-scale programming across all of the organisations that builds on their amazing creativity and skills.”

Image shows a curved concrete staircase at the London College Of Fashion in Stratford
Students and staff are already enjoying the London College Of Fashion’s new base

a new hub for creativity

“I think this place can be as successful as the Southbank Centre – there will be enough for everyone here – but I think they are two very different offers,” added Tamsin.

“There’s a magic about coming to this part of the city with its busy, bustling shopping experience at Westfield and then East Bank for culture and creativity.

“I think if we get the local story right and have a programme that is relevant to the community then we’ll get the world right too.

“Tourists will come because they want to feel they are part of events that really do mean something.”

While University College London and the London College Of Fashion are up and running, something of a watershed moment is coming for the project with the opening of Sadler’s Wells East later this year.

“That will be the first of our cultural partners to have an offering as part of the night-time economy and it will be really exciting to see how the evening shows and workshops change this space,” said Tamsin.

“Sadler’s Wells has also got its hip-hop academy opening, so we’ll have 16 to 19-year-olds learning and practising on-site.

“The building has been designed with an outside and inside feel, so we’re hoping people will get the idea of dance tumbling out into the public realm and people will come to see the next generation of dancers performing or warming up.

“I’m really excited about this summer because this is the time we’re really starting to build that  excitement and buzz – that East Bank is a place you can come and bump into amazing art and ideas.

“It’s a bit of a taster of what’s to come as we build and grow towards total opening by the end of 2025.

“It’s exhilarating and I can’t wait to see how it feels when all five organisations are open. 

“You might be walking from UCL over to the Stratford waterfront and know you’ve got a BBC orchestra rehearsing in one of the studios, a big exhibition at V&A East, dancers performing on the community dance floor outside Sadler’s Wells East and a fashion show being cooked up at the London College Of Fashion. 

“I want everyone who comes here to feel that same sense of excitement and pride we all felt around the 2012 Games themselves.”

Image shows a dancer dressed in black interacting with a staircase ahead of Greenwich + Docklands International Festival in Septemeber
Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is set to come to Stratford in 2024

coming up at East Bank

This summer is when things really start to happen at East Bank in 2024.

Activities kick off with the Great Get Together on June 15 – a free community event at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with activities spanning music, dance, arts, sports and, naturally food.

Then, there’s the UCL Festival Of Engineering on July 15, a celebration of 150 years of advancements in technology, problem solving and creating things.

July will also see London College Of Fashion students present their work, with an exhibition at the East Bank campus, while V&A East will unveil its Made In East London commission – artworks that will be displayed on its exterior.

August is all about the hip hop, with breaking sessions at Sadler’s Wells East scheduled for 3, 5-8 and 9-10. 

Then, September 7 sees the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival pitch up at neighbouring Stratford Cross with its Dancing City programme.

Find our more about the campus here

Read more: How Third Space has expanded its offering at Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via

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Magician Ben Hart gears up for astonishment at Wilton’s Music Hall

Illusionist prepares to dazzle audiences at a pair of London dates at the Wapping venue in July

Image shows magician Ben Hart, a man with short dark hair covering one eye with a brightly coloured peacock feather
Magician Ben Hart began performing magic as a child

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As he’s a magician, it is – of course – impossible to completely trust anything Ben Hart says.

It’s a grey day in London when I call him on a cruise ship in Mykonos where he’s performing.

He assures me the weather is equally crap off the Greek island.

Maybe it is, maybe he just wants to make me feel better.  

Making people feel things is Ben’s trade.

At 16 he was awarded The Magic Circle’s Young Magician Of The Year in 2007, having started practising tricks as a kid.

One of 300 members of the organisation’s Inner Magic Circle, his career since leaving school has seen him perform all over the world.

He’s been a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent: The Champions as well as teach the likes of Tom Cruise close-up illusions for the latest Mission Impossible.

He’s set to appear at Wilton’s Music Hall in his latest show, Jadoo, with performances on July 15 and 16, 2024.

While we chat about his return to London, he casually mentions he’s just been helping Russell Crowe and Rami Malek accrue skills.

These have been used in their forthcoming movie Nuremberg, for a scene where US military psychiatrist Lt Colonel Dougals Kelley shows Hermann Göring a coin trick.

Images shows a man in a white shirt with sand running through his fingers from an unseen source above
Ben aims to astonish his audiences

Ben Hart – teaching the teacher

“I really enjoy teaching other people,” said Ben.

“Part of my work is consulting, and it wouldn’t be possible for me to be a performer if I wasn’t still teaching because the process really teaches me.

“These people are titans – I’ll be showing them a simple piece of magic and suddenly I’ll see something I didn’t expect – weaknesses or strengths that I can incorporate into my own work.

“With movies, I’ve been really interested in when people blink.

“Actors rarely do it because their faces can take up so much space on a screen that movement can be a big statement that might not be necessary.

“In my own work I’ve realised that I blink all the time – even when I’m doing something sneaky, which is a bit of a tell.

“That’s the kind of lesson you learn. Then, when I’m designing work for other magicians, their creativity informs what I’m doing in a symbiotic way.

 “Any artist has to collaborate at some level.

“By tradition, magic is very solitary and that’s detrimental to it as a form.

“By collaborating, I’ve broken down some of the self-inflicted barriers I’ve made for myself.”

Image shows Ben with his fingers steepled, surrounded by light bulbs
Magician Ben Hart says he finds it easier to interact with an audience when there’s a script

Ben Hart – an outsider

Nevertheless, Ben paints himself as a an outsider.

On the cruise ship he tells me he goes for breakfast with his cap pulled down: “The audience is a bit too captive.

“There’s nothing worse than being famous and having an audience that can’t leave.

“They just want to chat but, like any performer I rely on my scripts and I don’t like environments where I can’t do that”.

It’s part jest, but also part truth.

He paints a picture of a man “trapped” by his own talent and early success – at once fascinated by the research and plagued by the ideas for tricks that will take years to realise or perhaps will never be performed.

Should we take him at face value, or is his apparent honesty all part of the patter?

Image shows Ben Hart with symbols painted on his hands running sand through his fingers
Ben says he aims to unlock people’s sense of wonderment through his performances

why magic is a painful process for Ben Hart

“Making new work can be quite a painful process,” he said.

“What happens is, you think of an impossible idea – anyone can do that – and then you do research to see how you can edge yourself closer to that becoming a trick.

“That process for me now takes longer and longer – it can be years.

“There’s usually no light bulb moment.

“A magic trick is a synthesis of compromises – magic is not possible, so you have to make accommodations and work out how the audience can see them as I want.

“It’s also a process that’s difficult to talk about, because the magician’s canvas is the bit nobody sees – that they shouldn’t even be aware of.

“My job is to host an evening of entertainment – all of my choices are about making sure the audience’s experience is amazing.

“I’m not interested in how hard it is to fool them, it’s more about getting them to a place where they can go on the journey.

“I’m like a tour guide who can take them somewhere where they might be able to experience something amazing. 

“As a magician I want to reveal to the audience a feeling of astonishment which is already inside them.

“Everyone knows we’re capable of feeling wonderment, but it’s infrequent that we get to do it. I create this environment.”

That’s exactly what audiences at Wilton’s can expect when Ben takes the stage, albeit with limited props.

Image shows Ben wearing a white suit jacket with his wrists crossed in shadow play
Ben says he insisted on performing at Wilton’s Music Hall as it’s his favourite venue in London

a special venue

“It’s really one of my favourite venues in the whole world,” said Ben.

“I’ve been lucky enough to perform all over the place, but having a venue that’s old and full of atmosphere is incredible – I really love it.

“It’s also a very good venue for magic in terms of audience sight lines.

“Because it’s so stripped back, there can’t be any feeling that there are people hiding anywhere.

“My show is rooted in storytelling and I hope the magic I do has a bit more power behind it than people might have experienced before.

“I have stripped back all the cheesy Paul Daniels stuff. 

“There are no sequins – I don’t insult the audience’s intelligence by getting them to think that a box is empty or anything like that.

“Coming at it from a contemporary stance, I’ve managed to create the kind of magic show you might have seen 100 years ago, but you would seldom see now.

“Almost everything I do depends on objects borrowed from the audience, so they know they’re legitimate – not fakes. 

“I think magic is an incredibly direct and creative form.

“I can get a gasp of amazement from an audience within 60 seconds of the show starting and that’s amazingly efficient theatre.

“The audience goes on a sort of magical rollercoaster during the show – it’s like a theme park level of emotion.

“An object you thought was there, isn’t, or that something isn’t what you thought it was.

“Magic is a kind of mind-hacking, really playing with people’s perceptions and how they remember things – it’s fascinating stuff.

“It reminds us that you can’t trust everything in the world.

“Magicians can hold a lot of emotional power, which can be neglected.

“We need to remember we’re all living in an illusion and this is a magical thing.”

creating new tricks

As for the future, Ben says he has at least 10 tricks that he’s continuing to slave over, although that number just represents the ones where there’s a chance of completion.

“There are loads of things I’d love to do in front of an audience,” he said.

“Most are miles away from being finished.

“I’ve also got a list of stuff I’ve been working on since I was a kid, which I don’t think will ever be performed.

“I’d especially love to do a version of an old Indian street magic trick called the Mango Tree Illusion.

“A seed is planted and – over the course of a 30-minute show – it grows into a tree, complete with fruit.

“The magician then cuts the mangoes off so people can see they’re real.

“The traditional secret is to swap out the trees when the audience isn’t looking.

“There have been many takes on it and I’ve been working on mine for years but whether I’ll ever solve it, I don’t know.”

key details: Ben Hart at Wilton’s Music Hall

Ben Hart: Live is set to be performed on July 15 and 16, 2024, at Wilton’s Music Hall in Wapping.

Both shows start at 7.30pm and last 90 minutes plus an interval.

Tickets start at £12.50.

Find out more about the show here

Read more: How The Body People brings movement to East Wick And Sweetwater

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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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East River Wharf shared ownership may cost less than renting

Legal And General Affordable Homes’ scheme offers compelling alternative with deposits starting at £4,844 for a one-bedroom property

Image shows a collection of residential tower blocks that make up the Riverscape development next to the Thames in Royal Docks. East River Wharf's buildings are orange and at the centre
East River Wharf’s buildings are located at the centre of Riverscape close to Lyle Park

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Rising rents are arguably one of the biggest pressures in the housing market right now.

According to a recent study by estate agency Stirling Ackroyd, tenants are currently paying an average of £1,966 a month for a one-bedroom property near Canary Wharf.

While wider inflation has fallen back to 2.3% and average two-year fixed mortgages have dropped back to less than 5% in May, with cheaper borrowing expected later in the year, rents are forecast to climb ever higher.

One study from Savills predicts more than 6% growth over 2024.

Increasingly, affordable housing providers are highlighting shared ownership properties as a less expensive alternative to renting.

Image shows living area with a wooden floor at East River Wharf
A show home interior at East River Wharf

case study: East River Wharf

Take Legal And General Affordable Homes’ East River Wharf scheme, for example.

Its properties form part of Riverscape – essentially an extension of Ballymore and Oxley’s Royal Wharf development on the banks of the Thames at Silvertown. 

Located roughly 15 minutes from Canary Wharf itself via the DLR and Jubilee line, these one, two and three-bedroom homes are set in a wealth of green space close to Lyle Park in a freshly regenerated part of Docklands.

Neighbouring Royal Wharf boasts a wealth of amenities including a pub, restaurants, shops and health services. 

Residents will enjoy access to a health club with a gym, pool, spa and fitness studio as well as a 16th floor sky lounge with views over the Thames to Greenwich and Canary Wharf.

The apartments at East River Wharf include private balconies, open-plan design and fully fitted kitchens with integrated Siemens appliances.

But, alongside the quality of the finish and the facilities, the key attraction lies in escaping the grind and uncertainty of the rental market.

A deposit of £4,844 could be enough to secure a one-bedroom home at the scheme – 5% of a 25% share worth £96,875.

Monthly costs are expected to be about £1,465.

By purchasing a portion of the property, a buyer can essentially secure a £387,500 apartment with no threat of eviction.

They also enjoy all the freedoms to enjoy living in the space they might expect if it was owned outright. 

In contrast to renting, purchasers of shared ownership homes are not subject to landlord inspections or controls on how they decorate their space, for example. 

Image shows a show home kitchen at the development
Properties come with fully fitted kitchens

capital appreciation

They also own an asset that, in the case of East River Wharf, is highly likely to appreciate.

The area has already undergone extensive regeneration, but there’s much more in the pipeline for Royal Docks.

Major infrastructure and housing investments are in the pipeline over the coming years with homes, businesses and facilities set to be built locally.

Already an attractive area to live in, these developments are likely to bring fresh demand as buyers look east for high quality homes to purchase in the future. 

Royal Wharf is already well served by the DLR and bus routes as well as a dedicated pier for Uber Boat By Thames Clippers services, which run all the way to Putney along the river. 

Image shows the Greenwich Peninsula and Canary Wharf skylines at sunset as seen from Riverscape's residents' lounge
The view from the communal residents’ lounge at Riverscape

secure a property

A spokesperson for Legal And General Affordable Homes said: “The amenities at East River Wharf are best in class, with a state-of-the-art residents’ gym, pool and spa. 

“Plus, concierge services and 24-hour security ensure our residents always feel at home. 

“There is also a primary school located on the development, which is perfect for growing families.

“Whatever your stage in life, East River Wharf is a modern and secure place to call home with shared ownership.”

Under the shared ownership scheme, buyers purchase part of a property.

They pay a deposit and arrange a mortgage to cover the cost.

They then pay a reduced rent on the rest of the property and the appropriate service charge.

Purchasers need not be first-time buyers but cannot own another property.

Owners can choose to increase the portion of the apartment that’s theirs until they own the whole property, in a process commonly known as “staircasing”.

Equally, buyers are free to sell their share either through the affordable housing provider or independently, if they decide to move home.

Image shows a show home bedroom at East River Wharf
Properties at East River Wharf start at £96,875 for a 25% share

key details: East River Wharf

East River Wharf is located at the Riverscape development beside Royal Wharf.

The closest transport link is West Silvertown DLR station on nearby North Woolwich Road.

Prices for a one-bed start at £96,875 for a 25% share.

Call 020 587 2474 for more details.

Find out more about the scheme here

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Little Nan’s moves to a bigger and better location in Deptford

Owner and granson, Tristan Scutt talks about opening 2.0, Flat Butcher and Aunties Ballroom

Image show Aunties Ballroom at Little Nan's 2.0 with a comedy gig in full swing under a disco ball in the shape of an anchor
Little Nan’s new space includes Aunties Ballroom, seen here in full swing

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Tristan Scutt is surrounded by his brain at Little Nan’s 2.0 and he’s all the happier for it.

He first opened Little Nan’s Bar 11 years ago as a pop-up tribute to his late Little Nan Jojo.

Using her furniture and crockery for the decor, he took over a pop-up space behind The Bunker Club in Deptford Broadway.

Success blossomed as customers fell for cocktails in teapots, a wealth of knick knacks and Tristan’s genuine passion for ’80s and ’90s memorabilia.

Then, after several locations, he found Little Nan’s a home at Deptford Market Yard.

Three it’s spent the last eight years occupying as many as four richly decorated railway arches.

Now, however, a fresh chapter has started.

Having endured three years of precarious leases and a reduction in space, following the arrival of new managing agents, Tristan has taken the decision to move on – well, actually just up the road.

Head along the railway line from the existing bar down Resolution Way and, just beyond Villages Brewery, a new wonderland has been created.

Under much larger arches, Tristan has created essentially four venues in one. 

Image shows Little Nan's owner and grandson Tristan Scutt, a man with a pierced chin in a dark blue shirt decorated with playing cards
Little Nan’s creator Tristan Scutt

four venues in one

“First of all there’s Little Nan’s 2.0, which has Flat Butcher above it – a space that can be hired, inspired by Pat Butcher from EastEnders,” said Tristan.

“Then there’s the Grown Grandkids Play Den with air hockey, table football and arcade games.

“Aunties Ballroom is on two levels with a custom-made glittering anchor to celebrate Deptford.”

If that sounds a lot, it’s because it is.

Four times bigger than the Deptford Market Yard space (and with four extra toilets), Tristan has one setting when it comes to interior design and that’s just to go for it.

Everywhere there are display cabinets packed with things.

Fabrics and colours clash amid a riot of leopard print, neon and fake ivy.  

Image shows entry to a brightly lit bar with animal print rugs and neon signs inside
The entrance to Little Nan’s 2.0 in Resolution Way, Deptford

extreme maximalist kitsch at Little Nan’s

“It’s an expression of extreme maximalist kitsch,” said the founder and grandson who has an MA in fine art from Goldsmiths.

“Our decor is nostalgic – there are a lot of nods to Deptford history including the anchor plus cabinets filled with memorabilia and toys. 

“It’s a reference to Deptford Vintage Market, where many of the items were sourced.

“It’s also a celebration of local stores from back in the day like Abstracticus, the Second Time Round shop in Lewisham Way and Aladdin’s Cave.

“I hope it’s somewhere people will feel at home.

“They’ll have seen what we can do over the road and here we can do even more of it and on a longer term basis.

“Anything too empty scares me.

“Our AirBnB holiday home is like this in Weymouth and my flat is like this in Deptford – this is really how I live.

“When I look back at photos of the original pop-up I think it was a little simpler – perhaps I was worried 11 years ago how people would feel.

“Now it’s just: ‘Go for it’.

“I love stuff, I’m a massive EastEnders fan and I’m addicted to Deptford Market, so this is a great reason for me to trawl all the local shops and the stalls to fill the venue.”

Image shows a room at Little Nan's 2.0 filled with ornaments, toys and vintage furniture
Little Nan’s 2.0 is packed with toys, vintage furniture and memorabilia

pleasing the customers at Little Nan’s

“Our cabinets are obviously full of things I like, but I’m also always looking at and listening to what our customers are into,” added Tristan.

“Initially all our cocktails were named after members of the Royal Family.

“Then I realised not everyone was quite as big a fan of the Windsors as I was, so we changed things.

“We have got rid of our Prince Andrew, although we still have a Prince Harry, which dates from before the whole book thing.

“It feels nice to have created these new venues. It’s been a mad couple of months and we’ve had some great guys doing the build.

“My mate, Matt Sargent, has made all the fabrics and then I’m responsible for the rest of the decor.

“Weirdly, it’s been a calming process. 

“I think after what has been a stressful couple of years this has wound up being such a great move for us.

“You always have to turn stuff into positives and, perhaps, this was the kick we needed to find a better space.

“That’s why it feels great. We’d never have been able to do what we’ve done here in our original units.”

Image shows actor Pam St Clement who played Pat Butcher in EastEnders visiting the venue
When Pam St Clement (Pat Butcher) visited Little Nan’s

Little Nan’s 2.0 is up and running

Excited to welcome guests, Tristan has been slowly opening sections of the new venue while the build has been going on.

This is partly, I suspect, because he can’t resist sharing the new spaces.

Extended facilities go deeper than the bathrooms and entertainment areas.

2.0 will have room for a proper kitchen and there are plans to invite chefs in for pop-up collaborations in due course. 

While Aunties Ballroom can be set out as extra hospitality space, it also lends itself to performances beneath the rich satins, silks and quilts that coat its walls. 

“We’ve now had our first event there – a comedy night called Your Friend And Mine hosted by poet and comedian Jack Scullion, which went really well,” said Tristan.

“We especially want the ballroom to be multi-purpose.

“There’s no static furniture so we can have it set up in so many different ways. It can be used for performances or decked out with tables and chairs.”

Image shows a lit cabinet filled with playing cards, toys, records and a bust of Pat Butcher in the style of Queen Victoria
Little Nan’s 2.0 is filled with nostalgic items including a bust of Pat Butcher as Queen Victoria

whole venue hire

“Here, all of our spaces can be opened up and used as one or sectioned off,” said Tristan.

“People can hire the whole thing or, for example, we might have Little Nan’s open and a workshop up in Flat Butcher. 

“I’m excited to see how people use the space over the summer and how it evolves. 

“It’s the start of a new chapter and I think we’re really ready for it. It’s 11 years since Little Nan’s started and it feels good to be doing this in Deptford.

“We’d been looking for a new space for a while. It’s been an opportunity to really think about what we’re doing after 11 years of Little Nan’s.

“Before the eight years in Deptford Market Yard, we’d done the pop-ups.

“Our new location is a nod to everything we’ve done before.

“It’s all that we have learnt about how to put on really good events for customers’ birthdays, hen-dos and other celebrations.

“That’s what we’ve done under these two huge arches.

“With the move, we wanted to have somewhere we could really spread our wings and express what we want to do and that’s what we’ve done.

“We know our customers love our outdoor space and we have that here as well, but we have so much more inside too.

“I’m really excited to see people come in.”

With things in a fluid state as the venue gets fully up and running, the best place for updates is Little Nan’s Instagram feed, which can be found @littlenansbar.

Stay tuned for news of opening hours and future events.

Image shows a richly decorated space with different coloured fabrics and cabinets of 80s and 90s objects
Aunties Ballroom is on two levels and can be configured in many different ways as there is no fixed furniture

key details

Little Nan’s 2.0 is located in Deptford’s Resolution Way.

Hours are subject to change as things get under way, but the venue is currently open Fridays and Saturdays from 5pm-12.30am.

Find out more about the new site here

Read more: How The Body People brings movement to East Wick And Sweetwater

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Why Kidbrooke Square shared ownership homes offer security

NHG Homes senior sales executive Daniel Jennings talks value at the south-east London development

Images shows a computer generated scene of Kidbrooke Square, four blocks of brick-clad flats around a central square with a red tiled building
An artist’s impression of how Kidbrooke Square will look when finished

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Daniel Jennings is perhaps NHG Homes’ most potent asset in marketing shared ownership properties at its Kidbrooke Square development.

The senior sales executive is on something of a personal mission to spread the word about what’s available to prospective buyers, having seen the benefits for himself.

He said: “Before my current role, I was a sales account manager for big tech companies in America.

“I did very well, winning awards and becoming the firm’s top salesperson worldwide.

“About four-and-a-half years ago, my now wife and I bought a shared ownership property from an affordable housing provider.

“That was a three-bed in the Beckenham area, with underground parking.

“I’m from west London, so I came all the way over to the south-east of the city, where the value for money is amazing – there’s the greenery, the parks and it’s away from the hustle and bustle.

“I realised how much not having that had affected me, so I wanted us to live where we could walk around and feel the fresh air.

“We couldn’t believe that a three-bed was affordable – it was a dream to us.

“Buying a home that’s 1,000sq ft in London gave me an appreciation for shared ownership as a product.

“We were planning to get married, wanted to start a family and so we moved into the three-bed. But then the pandemic happened and I got made redundant straight away.

“We’d moved in December 2019 and I can remember thinking how lucky we were to have lockdown in this beautiful property.

“I decided I wanted a role where I could make a difference.”

Image shows a man with glasses in a white shirt with a beard, Daniel Jennings, a senior sales executive for NHG Homes
NHG Homes senior sales executive Daniel Jennings

working for NHG Homes

“I wanted to help other people feel like I had, so I thought I’d try to get my feet wet, joined NHG Homes and sold seven properties in my first two weeks,” said Daniel.

“Since then, I’ve been promoted and now, when I talk to buyers, I don’t really have to sell.

“I just show them what we have, talk about my experiences with shared ownership and how I felt when I bought into it.

“Then we talk about pros and cons options and what makes sense for them, what their goals are and what’s right.

“We really try to focus on them as people and try to find something that works.

“This includes thinking about location, commutes to work, the safety of the neighbourhood and whether there’s enough light and space.

“We even look at which way a property faces and whether the buyer is a morning or an evening person.” 

Image shows a show home at Kidbrooke Square with wooden floors and comfortable furnishings. The room is an open-plan living area with a kitchen
A show home at Kidbrooke Square’s Borsberry House

what’s on offer at Kidbrooke Square

Kidbrooke Square itself isn’t exactly without attractions.

The development, which includes a mix of tenures, is located on the doorstep of Kidbrooke station.

This is ideal for rapid connections to Lewisham (for Canary Wharf and the DLR) or direct trains into the City. 

The scheme features a concierge service, residents’ gym facilities and private podium gardens.

It also boasts landscaped grounds, plans for a cafe in what’s currently the marketing suite and its own dedicated bus route. 

Further benefits include being close to Berkeley Homes’ extensive regeneration of the Ferrier Estate, which has seen many local amenities arrive in the area. 

These include shops, a pub, a cafe and the playgrounds and the extensive spaces of Cator Park

Greenery nearby is something of a theme.

Kidbrooke Green Park, Manor House And Gardens, Blackheath Common, Greenwich Park and Charlton Park are all within a 15-minute bike ride or half-hour walk of NHG Homes’ new properties.

Then there are the homes themselves.

These feature balconies or winter gardens, open-plan living areas with wood effect flooring, fitted kitchens with Zanussi appliances and porcelain tiling in the bathrooms. 

All come with high quality sound proofing, air filter technology plus communal heating and hot water systems.

They make for a compelling proposition in comparison to the prospect of renting privately.

Image shows a modern fitted kitchen with white units and Zanussi appliances
A kitchen in a show home at Borsberry House

security in shared ownership

“Shared ownership means buying a home for life,” said Daniel.

“You can do what you want, no-one’s going to kick you out.

“You can put your pictures up, paint your walls and there won’t be any difficult conversations with landlords about rents going up.

“Being a tenant can be tough.

“By the time you see a property and call, it can be let, or you have to make a decision on the spot when you see it.

“With shared ownership there are so many options.

“Take someone earning £40,000 or £45,000.

“If they put down a £9,000 deposit, 10%, they can get a one-bed and then feel comfortable with their income and paying their bills each month.”

Image shows a computer generate scene of lawns and flowerbeds between blocks of apartments
An artist’s impression of open space at Kidbrooke Square

escaping tenancy with a home at Kidbrooke Square

“Most people who are renting are sick of sinking their money into paying someone else’s mortgage,” said Daniel.

“With shared ownership, you’ve got equity that you can build on and what you’re paying in rent, which is capped, is going to a good cause – it supports communities by building more affordable housing.

“Then, if you want to sell your share, you’ll get support from us and the fees will be cheaper than an estate agency.

“Most people – I’d say around 80% or 90% – who buy a shared ownership home are first-time buyers although you don’t have to be.

“That means we exercise patience – we know they will want us to talk them through everything and really break down all the elements of how it works.

“People have a lot of questions about how rent increases happen and why service charges can change.

“But these things can seem scarier than they actually are.

“I’m able to use my personal experience to show them that my rent, for example, might have risen £60 a month but a property in the private market might have gone up £300 or £400.

“That helps calm people when they have that understanding.” 

Image shows a show home bedroom at Kidbrooke Square with a bed, desk, chair and brightly coloured art on the walls
One, two and three-bedroom homes are available at the scheme

key details

Shared ownership homes at Kidbrooke Square start at £91,875, £113,125 or £158,750 for 25% shares in a one, two or three-bedroom apartment respectively.

Monthly costs for the above are estimated to be £1,344, £1,550 and £2,042 including mortgage payments, rent and service charge.

Find out more about shared ownership homes at the development here or call 020 4579 2974

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Third Space Wood Wharf boosts east London club’s fitness offering

Studios for Reformer Pilates and Hot Yoga plus a new 20m swimming pool add to Canary Wharf’s already unbeatable health and fitness facilities

Image shows a bright turquoise swimming pool surrounded by light brown limestone times at Third Space Wood Wharf
Third Space Wood Wharf boasts a new 20m swimming pool and spa area

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Third Space Canary Wharf is already at the top of the fitness tree when it comes to facilities.

On its own, the Canada Square club offers a vast array of workout spaces, studios, machines and equipment.

There’s a pool, a climbing wall, a crossfit-inspired strength and conditioning space and a combat area with a boxing ring.

Nothing else on the estate comes close. And the facilities are only half the story.

The studios and gym floor are home to hundreds of classes each week, all included in the monthly fee.

This means members can indulge in everything from spinning to sound baths, HIIT sessions or weightlifting.

Image shows Colin Waggett, CEO of Third Space wearing a white shirt with floral detail round the collar
Third Space CEO Colin Waggett

unveiling Third Space Wood Wharf

But with the opening of Third Space Wood Wharf club, that offering and capacity has received a massive boost – essentially beating an already unbeatable proposition because access is included with membership of the Canary Wharf club as standard.

Expansive new studios mean Hot Yoga and Reformer Pilates classes are now available at for the first time on the estate.

There’s also a fully equipped training space and a swimming pool at the 15 Water Street location, which is spread over two floors above Tribe hotel and Dishoom.

“When I joined, we had four clubs and three brands – it was abundantly clear that the right one to grow was Third Space, which brought together serious business and lifestyle propositions,” said Colin Waggett, Third Space CEO.

“It had a brilliant name too, so the initial challenge was to bring those four locations, which included the former Reebok Sports Club in Canary Wharf, under the Third Space name.

“Having achieved that by 2017, we started to look at new sites including one near Fenchurch Street and then Islington.

“We were gradually building and we started looking at Wood Wharf in 2018.

“It’s been a long time coming, but that’s reflected in the quality of what we’ve created here.

“We decided that for Canary Wharf and Wood Wharf we would only have one membership so people don’t have to make a choice between the two sites.

“If you buy into one club, you get access to both.

“By doing that, it’s made it easier to get the proposition right at Wood Wharf.”

Image shows the new club's main gym area including a bright red track for training on
The new club features a large, well-lit multi-functional training area

the Third Space Wood Wharf proposition

“It provides something different to the main Canary Wharf site – more of a country club feel with the pool and spa,” said Colin

“We’ve also got a massive, multifunctional training space.

“Then, over the last five years Reformer Pilates and Hot Yoga have become ever more popular and that’s why we’ve built those studios.

“The former, especially, is having a big moment and, had we not built the Wood Wharf club, we’d have put facilities into our Canada Square site. 

“We have to watch the big trends and change our space allocation in both clubs over time to reflect them.

“Right now that means less cardio activity and fewer cross trainers but more racks for weightlifting and greater space for our mind and body offering with Yoga, Pilates and sound baths.”

Image shows Third Space Wood Wharf's Hot Yoga studio with black rubber yoga mats on a wooden floor
Third Space Wood Wharf has a dedicated Hot Yoga studio

growing from experience

Colin knows a thing or two about keeping abreast of developments in the industry.

Having joined Fitness First in 2004 as chief financial officer, he was running the company a year later and presided over its growth from 250 locations in 10 countries to 500 in 25, expanding into the Middle East, south-east Asia and Australia. 

Striking out on his own, he founded studio fitness concept Psycle in 2012, which included a branch in Canary Wharf’s Crossrail Place albeit before any trains were running.

While on that journey, he met the owners of Reebok Sports Club, who were acquiring Third Space and ended up joining the company as CEO in 2015.

While the pandemic meant pausing plans for expansion, the brand is now very much back on track with sites in Battersea, Wimbledon and Clapham 

“Next year we’ll open three or maybe four clubs – which could make seven in two years – and that’s a lot,” said Colin.  

“These are all sites we signed four years ago so we’ve known they were coming and we’ve been preparing for them.

“Our business is property and people. The property side happens very slowly, the design, construction and the rest of it.

“The people side can happen quite quickly – we usually need a team of 50 or 60 people to open a club.

“About half to two thirds of them are already working in one of our clubs.

“It’s all about getting the skills and culture right, which is what we spend time preparing for.”

“It’s always a challenge but that is what we’re here for.

Image shows Reformer Pilates machines in a room with a wooden floor. The machines are cream with black plastic details
The Reformer Pilates studio features equipment for group sessions

keeping that quality

“Preserving the quality we have at our existing clubs is a complete obsession with new openings,” said Colin.

“Our mantra is we get better as we get bigger – so we work really hard to ensure that’s the case. 

“The golden rule when opening a new club is always to promote internally. Our heads of department will be two-thirds internal as well.

“The things we’ve been investing in, knowing these openings have been in the pipeline, are recruitment, training and education.

“We have a significant team of master trainers who are out there recruiting instructors and training them up to the standard we want them to be at.

“We’re in the fortunate position of being able to recruit the best.

“Our Canary Wharf and Islington clubs both have what we call  Academy Teams, which are gateway jobs for people looking to become personal trainers.

“Our smaller clubs also help because that network provides career pathways which help us fulfil that mantra of being better.”

Image shows a Third Space trainer helping a man with is boxing technique
Third Space Canary Wharf already has a wealth of facilities including a fully equipped combat area

evolving the Third Space Canary Wharf site

With the Wood Wharf launch well underway, the refurbishment of the Canary Wharf club is itself an ongoing mission. 

The space formerly used for The Pearson Room is set to be repurposed as a mind and body space to cater for the upswing in demand for Yoga and sound baths, while the existing studio will likely be filled with more Reformer Pilates machines to accommodate larger classes. 

It’s all part of a carefully curated mix that’s designed to give frequent users the best deal possible.

“We’re great value if you come regularly and terrible value if you don’t,” said Colin.

“We don’t have membership contracts. If people want to leave, for whatever reason – life’s got in the way, they’re too busy – then they should leave feeling good about us.

“Our aim is to never let people down, but to recognise that some will cease training.

“One in five of our new members is actually someone returning to us.

“For all the things available to you, our price per day or per visit is extremely good value.

“It’s about an investment in something, a good use of time.

“We’re aimed at people who are prioritising their fitness and want good experiences – members who are trying to get the most out of life in busy London.

“We meet their demands as these change and evolve.

“With a master trainer in charge of each area of fitness, they’re always looking at our programme to see what’s performing, how it can be improved or refreshed – a bit like changing a menu at a restaurant.

“You want to keep your favourites, but you want new attractions too.”

Image shows Third Space master trainer Clare Walters hosting a sound bath in a Yoga studio
Sound baths are increasingly popular across Third Space’s clubs

new thinking at Third Space

“One of the things we’re doing more of across our clubs is focusing on that whole spa experience with saunas, plunge pools and hydrotherapy,” said Colin.

“At one time it was thought they just felt nice but increasingly there’s a real purpose to spending that time, whether for the physical or mental benefits you get from them.

“Sound baths, for instance, are curiously absorbing and a really nice treat.

“If you’re training at a high intensity, adding in softer programming to a club gives our members greater value.

“The ambition is that one day every one of our clubs will close with a session.

“People can then train in the morning and come back at the end of the day for what’s essentially 45 minutes of meditation – that would be wonderful.

“Wood Wharf itself has quite a different vibe to our other clubs – it’s beautiful to look down on the water and the streets below from the third floor.

“Some people will prefer to train there or just come for specific classes while mainly using Canary Wharf. It could just be where the mood takes them on the day. 

“The club generates more capacity for us and, now that it’s open, we’ll be doing more to sell the two offerings together.”

need to know

Club membership at Third Space Canary Wharf, including access to Third Space Wood Wharf currently costs £217 per month.

Group access for the brand’s clubs (excluding Mayfair and Islington) costs £245. 

Find out more about the new club here

Read more: How The Body People brings movement to East Wick And Sweetwater

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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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Eclipso Life Chronicles brings evolution to Westfield Stratford City

Virtual reality experience sees guests transported back in time to meet exotic creatures of the past

An image of four people wearing black virtual reality visors to explore Eclipso Life Chronicles
Visitors don VR headsets to explore Eclipso Life Chronicles

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Eclipso has unveiled Life Chronicles, the latest virtual reality presentation to arrive at its Westfield Stratford City facility.

The experience is a collaboration with content producer Excurio and the Museum D’Histoire Naturelle of France, takes visitors on a time-travelling romp from the first creatures in the primordial soup to the emergence of early humans.

It’s the second immersive experience to play at the east London facility and is now running concurrently with pyramid exploration adventure Horizon Of Khufu.

Lasting 45 minutes, Life Chronicles sees participants don VR headsets to pursue a robot guide called Darwin and scientist Charlie as they travel through 3.5billion years of evolution on a quest to return to the present.

Along the way they both offer snippets of information about the environments and some of the animals encountered.

While the story is linear in nature – a quest to recover lost pieces of tech – the various places presented can be explored freely by visitors, who can get up close with a range of sharply rendered digital flora and fauna.

Images shows a rendering of ghostly humanoid shapes in a forest environment from Life Chronicles
Visitors appear as ghostly shapes, guided by Charlie and Darwin

excited by Eclipso Life Chronicles

“We’ve been super excited about this content coming to London,” said venue director and UK spokesperson for Eclipso Karl Blake-Garcia.

“It’s been a year in the making and it’s a topic that people may not have revisited since they were at school.

“What we find, especially with adults who bring their children, is that they fall in love with the subject all over again.

“What we wanted to do was present these environments so people can have those moments of nostalgia while learning about evolution and dinosaurs when seeing them as if they were standing right there.

“It’s an incredible experience and there’s nowhere else you can do something like this.

“While the most popular part of the experience is probably the Jurassic era, the more obscure moments in Earth’s history are also really appealing to a lot of people because not everybody knows about them.

“Personally, I love entertainment that gives me that ‘wow’ reaction.

Image shows an artist's impression of dinosaurs meeting Triceratops in the VR experience
The experience features and encounter with dinosaurs

finding a favourite

“My favourite part of Life Chronicles is probably walking on the edge of a cliff just after encountering some prehistoric dwarf elephants – that’s very cool.

“But I also love being under the sea and seeing the ancient aquatic life in the oceans swimming past.    

“No matter what you’re interested in, there are things that will resonate.

“The experience covers plant and animal life as well as early human history and it’s very important, because the Earth’s past is a really big part of who we are today and why we are the way we are.

“The biggest joy we get at Eclipso is seeing the raw, unfiltered emotion from people leaving the experience.

“With our Egyptian experience, I’ve seen people come out in tears of joy because they’ve got to experience the pyramids.

“VR is like magic – I love that Eclipso is able to create these really beautiful moments for people – it’s touching and amazing to think that all they are doing in reality is walking around an empty space that has some black and white stickers on the wall.

“I can’t wait to see what the reaction will be to Life Chronicles as we see more and more people join us for the experience.”

Images shows an artist's impression of prehistoric sea creatures in the VR world under the ocean
Visitors travel back to the ancient ocean

accessibility at Eclipso Life Chronicles

Eclipso’s VR jaunts are suitable for a wide range of participants including children – although those visiting will need to be able to stand and walk for 45 minutes without a break.

 While in the virtual landscape, participants see people in their group as named ghostly outlines, while participants in other groups simply appear as anonymous human shapes (so visitors can avoid bumping into each other). 

Real walls appear as bright red grids to prevent the immersed from bumping into them.

This rendering shows microscopic creatures as they appear in Eclipso Life Chronicles
Life Chronicles includes a trip to the primordial soup

tried and tested

While significant efforts have been made to ensure the info imparted by Charlie and robot cube and time travel device Darwin, is historically accurate, the attraction of Life Chronicles is really in its visual chutzpah.

There’s some sort of plot that means it’s necessary to collect techy orbs, strewn throughout our evolutionary past, but the joy is more in the journey, than the destination. 

With VR goggles on, a wonderful, if somewhat stylised carousel of worlds unfolds as we ride a trilobite, narrowly miss a collision with an Icthyosaur and get caught in a Mexican stand-off between T-Rex parents and a group of Triceratops. 

But as each new location pops into view, there’s an irresistible temptation to simply kneel down and fixate on the subtle textures employed to render a tiny insect or the feathers on a parrot. 

While there’s a spot of video game gimmickry as we shrink, grow and fly on imaginary platforms, the real magic comes in simply seeing extinct animals wander out of the undergrowth.

It’s as close as the current tech will currently allow to that burst of excitement when one encounters a real wild animal.

The only frustration I felt was that I couldn’t pick up a tiny prehistoric horse and bring him home – maybe that’s the 4.0 iteration.

Images shows a painting of dwarf elephants as they appear on a cliff edge as part of the experience
Dwarf elephants feature in Eclipso Life Chronicles

need to know

Life Chronicles is currently running at the Eclipso Center at Westfield Stratford City.

The facility is open from 9am at weekends and from 11am on weekdays. Adult tickets start at £21 with tickets for under-18s and concessions costing £18

Find our more about the experience here

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Fairview set to launch homes at The Silverton and One Goodmayes

Developer will unveil schemes in Royal Docks and Seven Kings, benefiting from wider regeneration

Image shows The Silverton by Fairview, a grey brick block of flats with trees in the foreground
An artist’s impression of The Silverton by Fairview New Homes

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Alongside the attractions of an area and the specific amenities at an individual development, uppermost in buyers’ minds is a question – how smart am I being, placing my capital in this place? 

While none of us are capable of foretelling the future – who in the early 1980s, for example could have predicted the rise and success of Canary Wharf – we can consider the likely path an area’s fortunes will take.

This is clearly something Fairview New Homes is keenly attuned to as a developer.

Its Dock28 scheme in Woolwich, for instance, is well located for buyers to take advantage of the plethora of improvements that have arrived locally via neighbouring projects as well as those still in the pipeline.

It’s a theme that certainly flows into the company’s next development launch in June.

Image shows a computer generated scene of a roof terrace with plants in raised beds and views over the Thames in London
An artist’s impression of the roof terrace at The Silverton

Fairview prepares to launch The Silverton

The Silverton is a collection of 78 one, two, three and four bedroom apartments located just south of North Woolwich Road.

This means residents will benefit both from nearby Thames Barrier Park, but also the amenities of Royal Wharf – an extensive swathe of development by Ballymore, which boasts a pub, a pharmacy, shops, restaurants, cafes and a pier for Uber Boat By Thames Clippers River Bus services. 

The Silverton is also close to Ballymore’s UNEX site, which is expected to be developed in the coming years – part of the wider multi-billion pound regeneration of the Royal Docks.

Set to launch on June 1, 2024, Fairview’s scheme offers prices starting at £400,000, with all homes featuring private terraces, balconies or winter gardens. 

The scheme also boasts landscaped podium gardens, with some apartments also able to access a roof terrace on the ninth floor with views over the Thames.

Fairview New Homes sales manager, Sohail Saiyed, said: “The Royal Docks is one of London’s most exciting new neighbourhoods, with a huge amount of money invested in the area and more to come in the short and long-term future. 

“There’s already a thriving community here along with excellent transport links and all the amenities you could need.

“With average flat prices in the Royal Docks sitting at around £460,000, The Silverton represents real value with our homes starting at just £400,000. 

“We also work with a number of schemes such as Deposit Unlock and Own New to help give first-time buyers that little boost they might need to purchase.

“While we’ve always prided ourselves on primarily helping first-time buyers onto the ladder, with a wide range of different specifications, we’ve truly got something for everyone at The Silverton and with further regeneration planned in the coming years, buying in the area makes for a sound investment.”

The Silverton is located within easy walking distance of pontoon Dock and London City Airport DLR stations offering rapid connections to the City, Canary Wharf and Woolwich.

A computer generated image of Fairview New Homes' One Goodmayes scheme showing blocks of brick-clad apartments and landscaped gardens
An artist’s impression of One Goodmayes by Fairview New Homes

developer set to launch One Goodmayes

The Silverton isn’t the only development that Fairview is set to launch next month.

The company’s One Goodmayes scheme will be unveiled at an event on June 22, 2024, and aims to attract buyers east along the Elizabeth Line.

Located between Seven Kings and Goodmayes stations – a seven-minute walk east or west, respectively, the development will see a total of 102 new homes built

Studios, one-beds and two-beds will all be available, with prices starting at £275,000.

Each property comes with a private balcony or terrace and fully fitted kitchens with integrated appliances.

There’s also a communal roof terrace with views over London’s skyline for residents to access.

Sohail said: “Situated at the heart of the Crossrail corridor, Goodmayes is a rapidly up-and-coming neighbourhood with buying prospects rivalling the likes of neighbouring Stratford. 

“Officially launching on June 22, we are already seeing strong interest in the development from buyers and investors alike.

“We’re confident One Goodmayes represents real value in comparison to many other areas of London, without sacrificing on transport links or nearby amenities, making the development a great option for first-time buyers. 

“We’ll be able to welcome our first residents at One Goodmayes as early as September this year.” 

Locally, the area is surrounded by parks including Seven Kings and Goodmayes as well as South Park.

There’s also an extensive selection of amenities including shops, bars, restaurants and supermarkets.

The development’s proximity to the Elizabeth Line means residents can expect journeys of less than 30 minutes to Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street once at Seven Kings station.

That location also means direct access to areas such as Farringdon, Soho, Oxford Street and Paddington.

One Goodmayes is located between Goodmayes and Seven Kings stations on the Elizabeth Line

more on Fairview New Homes’ launches

The Silverton is set to launch on June 1, 2024, with prospective buyers able to book viewings and enjoy a glass of Champagne as they see what’s on offer.

Email or call 020 8131 4030 for more details.

One Goodmayes’ launch event will take place on June 22, 2024.

Email or call 020 3603 2533 for more details.

Find out more about the developer’s projects here

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My Friend AI app aims to help youngsters with mental health issues

Strategia Data Sciences is developing a platform so schools can use technology to aid their students

An image of Stephen Smith, CEO of Strategia Data Sciences, a man with short cropped grey hair wearing a T-Shirt and a dark jacket
Strategia Data Sciences CEO Stephen Sharp

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It took me a while to get what Strategia Data Sciences’ project is all about.

The company, which has offices at Canary Wharf’s tech community – Level39 – has created My Friend, a digital platform aimed at helping identify and address mental health issues in children

This is a big problem. In 2022 about 25% of those aged 17-19 were thought to have a mental health disorder (up from one in six in 2021).

Around half of such issues are thought to become established before the age of 14 and about 10% of children aged five to 16 in Great Britain may have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.

I realise after my interview with Strategia CEO, Stephen Sharp, that comprehending what he and the team are trying to do is tough.

That’s because it requires an unpleasant admission that – despite the backdrop of grim statistics – kids are being failed by what’s currently in place and things seem to be getting worse. 

It’s not that the idea of using an AI-powered avatar to help children with their mental health is better than face-to-face human interaction.

It’s that, for many right now there isn’t really a lot of help available – few nets to catch this sort of thing early.

An image of a lonely boy looking out from a rain-streaked glass balcony
Strategia has create My Friend to help address mental health issues in children

building solutions

“Strategia was set up to create innovative technology in areas such as health, education, sustainability and the environment,” said Stephen.

“I spent about 40 years working in investment banking technology and had a good career in that.

“But I wanted to do something that could give back to society, that would help people in need.

“A colleague of mine who works in Dubai had been talking to a school out there about something completely different but there were some proper horrors that really resonated with him.

“So we started talking about how we could build a solution – an application – that might help kids in school. 

“We did some research and found there were lots of text-based things where kids could  send questions and get answers.

“But then, the next thing was they were being told they should talk to a psychologist for $150 an hour.

“We decided we didn’t want to go down that path. Instead, we’ve been working with conversational artificial intelligence since January.

“AI is transformational and we’ve got to the point where we’re running a pilot in a number of countries with children talking to our app and getting the right responses.

“It’s built on the back of ChatGPT – as everything is these days – but we’ve created the model in the middle, which controls the input and output. It’s always supportive, passive and acts as a friend.”

A girl sits alone reading a textbook in a classroom
My Friend offers children a way to interface with their school through an AI-powered app

branding My Friend

Specifically, My Friend features Kano, an avatar designed to appeal to the app’s audience of eight-to-12-year-olds.

“We’ve gone with a non-gendered super hero teddy bear and his pet dog,” said Stephen.

“We didn’t want there to be any gender or race barriers to using the app or to get involved with political issues in what we’re doing. 

“The platform works in partnership with a child’s school. Staff can monitor the conversations a child has with it so, if a kid is being naughty in class, for example, they might be able to see why.

“It’s important, of course, that the children know this up front – that they’re aware their issues can be addressed.

“The platform forms a neutral, objective interface between the child and the school and removes any bias. 

“It’s also designed to remove any concern a child might have about talking to an adult if they have a problem. 

“With My Friend, they’re talking to a character who’s on their wavelength.

“It’s not just communicating about their challenges either – during testing, children have asked Kano about dinosaurs, for example, and the platform can give them information like this too.

“At present the application is browser-based, but we’re working on turning it into an app which could be accessed via the iPads kids are routinely given.

“Today there are 740million children in primary schools – if we help only 0.01%, that’s beginning to change the way people think.”

Much has been written about the potential fragility of AI – it’s capacity to simply make up plausible-sounding facts and present them as truth in what the tech community charmingly refer to as “hallucinations”. 

But the Strategia is well aware of the potential pitfalls and believes it has created enough safeguards and guide rails to prevent My Friend pushing out nonsense.

A boy sits alone with a teddy bear on some wooden planks
Mental health issues can start early in childhood

safeguarding My Friend’s users

“We’ve been really prescriptive about the responses it gives,” said Stephen.

“If a kid wants help, the app will seek to understand what the problem is and present a congenial approach to the conversation.

“Everything we’ve seen it produce has been accurate – we’ve asked it all kinds of nasty things, including whether it will help build a bomb and we’ve always had the right responses.

“In that case, it simply told me it was illegal and changed the subject. 

“We’re precise in what we do, so our first question was how we get the technology to stay honest and protect the children using it.”

My Friend is still at the testing phase so Stephen and the team don’t yet have all the answers.

They’re still working on how schools will use the platform, which might see conversations colour-coded to help organisations identify potential problems – but feedback has been very positive.

Stephen was keen to stress that no personal data on the children is collected by Strategia, with only the schools able to see who is talking to Kano. 

Based at Level39 since October, the team is keen to collaborate locally as the project unfolds.

tacking a range of issues with My Friend

“We’re trying to build something that can address a whole spectrum of problems children face,” said Stephen.

“I live in a small village in Buckinghamshire and, until I spoke to a local school, didn’t realise the poverty in what I thought was an affluent area. 

“There, a single parent might have three jobs – their child might have to go to school alone, come back alone and cook their own tea.

“If that’s a seven-year-old, for example, that neglect is frightening.

“For children everyday life can be a problem and we want to help.

“If we save one life by doing this, it will be worthwhile.”

key details

You can find out more about Strategia Data Sciences and My Friend via the company’s website as it continues to develop and trial the technology.

Find out more about Strategia Data Sciences here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via
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Sweheat Sauna in Royal Docks plans growth for the summer

Royal Victoria Dock installation is at Expressway, next to City Hall and is owned by Victoria Maddox

Four women in bathing costumes chat on wooden benches in a sauna
Women enjoy a sauna in “Dunck” at Royal Docks

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Sadiq Khan has another four years as Mayor Of London and doubtless, a long list of things to attend to from his base at City Hall at The Crystal in Royal Docks.

One way to tackle that stress might be to pay a visit to near neighbour Sweheat Sauna, a mostly open-air installation just outside Expressway on the edge of Royal Victoria Dock.  

While Sadiq’s popularity has won him a record third term in office, demand for Sweheat’s services is also growing with a second sauna and a plunge pool both set to arrive on site in mid-June, boosting capacity from its existing 12-seat facility. 

There’s also talk of a hot tub, should Sadiq prefer to support a growing business by immersing himself in a warmth beyond that of the London electorate.

The whole installation is the work of sauna activist and entrepreneur Victoria Maddox.

Having discovered a passion for the waterways of east London while working at the Alfred Le Roy cocktail barge in Hackney Wick and as a gardener at ecological regeneration project Cody Dock, she had her first wood-fired sauna in a converted horse box on the banks of the River Lea. 

“It was called Warmth and was owned by women who wanted me to get naked before wrapping me in a bundle of leaves – it was 100ºC, right on the edge of the river,” said Victoria. 

“Working at Cody Dock was quite a different environment from where I live in Croydon – it broadened my horizons a lot.

“There we were, taking saunas and throwing buckets of cold water over each other.”

Image shows Victoria Maddox, a blonde woman with blue eyes who owns Sweheat Sauna
Owner of Sweheat Sauna, Victoria MAddox

on a journey

Hooked, she joined the owners and helped take the sauna to Brighton in 2018.

Its success and the growing interest in wood-fired sauna, led her and others to create the British Sauna Society – originally a Facebook group that became a not-for-profit organisation in 2020 aimed at developing and promoting sauna culture in the UK.

Before this, however, Victoria had already acquired the sauna that stands in Royal Docks today for her first company, Nature Spa.

“Dunck” started life as a horse sauna in Nottinghamshire – built in Germany to aid the animals’ recovery after races.

But with its four-legged clients less than keen,  it had become a toasty hangout for stable hands and was up for sale on eBay. 

Once bought and converted for human use over the pandemic, Dunck entered service touring to Warleigh Weir near Bath, the town of Glastonbury, Gloucestershire, Cornwall and Dorset.

Spells at Community Sauna Baths in Hackney Wick (where Victoria was a founding board member) and the New Docklands Steam Baths in Canning Town followed before relocation to Royal Victoria Dock when Sweheat opened up 10 months ago.

“We are an arts and culture facility – our sauna can be used as an amphitheatre – a crossover between a space to relax and a place of entertainment,” said Victoria.

“We have a wonderful list of events, but in between that, what I like to do here is to get people to enjoy their natural experience close to the lovely water of the dock – there’s an energy that makes everything so much more relaxed here.

“It’s grounded and it’s not pretentious. Social pressures should be off when we’re in the sauna, so I tell people when they come in that it’s not about endurance, it’s about enjoyment – that they should make themselves at home.

“There’s even a kettle, so they can make a cup of tea.

“People do chill out and have conversations – then, after 90 minutes, it’s done and they feel a million dollars.”

Two men sit on a bench in in the Royal Docks facility wearing bathing shorts and sauna hats
Sweheat Sauna is about more than getting hot in a wooden box

free and healthy

Bathing costumes are required  at Sweheat, although clothing optional sessions are also offered.

“That first sauna with Katie Bracher and Warmth at Cody Dock changed everything – none of the other saunas I’d had before this really did it for me,” said Victoria.

“It gave me a different perspective – seeing people I worked with running around naked.

“Having a sauna session is an investment in health and wellness, primarily because it de-stresses you.

“Secondly, and what most people don’t understand about sauna is that it’s a sweat-bath – it’s about detoxing your body and cleaning it from the inside out.

“Sweating pushes the muck out, so you couldn’t get any cleaner, even if you were to sit in a bath for hours, or have a really hot shower. 

“Sauna is the cleanest you’ll ever feel – have a sweat-bath and a really good scrub down. Your skin will feel amazing for days.” 

An image of the outside of Sweheat Sauna showing a green wall and a tree with a blue sign for the facility
Sweheat Sauna is located at Expressway near Royal Victoria Dock

experience and events at Sweheat Sauna

Sweheat, which is run by Victoria and her son Aron Rogers, offers the simple combination of saunas in Dunck and a cold water plunge.

Clients are invited to repeat the process as many times as they like during a 90-minute session. 

Located close to both watersports centre WakeUp Docklands and Love Open Water’s swimming facility at the western end of Royal Victoria Dock, it naturally complements their cold water offerings. 

Beyond that core, however, the facility offers a programme of events aimed at allowing people to experience different aspects of sauna culture.

These include a Full Moon Sauna Ceremony which combines the core offering with guided meditations, performances, live music and nature immersion.

Mythic Sauna features storytelling, while German-Style Sauna is for enthusiasts of aufgass, a practice that uses essential oils and traditional towel wafting.

There are specific sessions for men and women and Queer Tales For Queer folks – billed as an evening of sweat, relaxation and storytelling.

“Our standard price is £20, which is affordable when compared with a meal or a night in a the pub,” said Victoria. 

“Taking a sauna will get you some fantastic health benefits and you’ll feel amazing afterwards.

“I feel Sweheat is a bit anarchic – we’re doing something different and it’s all about how we interact with each other socially.

“We’re also right next door to the Mayor Of London. 

“Saunas make people shelve their ego a bit and allow them to connect more on a human level – participants can forge bonds of friendship and trust that might otherwise be a struggle to create.

“This is the first sauna I’ve operated on my own and it feels fabulous.

“Every day is perfect for a sauna.

“In Britain we have this mindset that you can’t do anything unless the weather is good.

“But sauna really liberates you when you’re very hot and then step out into the elements. It’s magical.” 

Three women in bathing costumes immerse themselves in a blue swimming pool of cold water at the east London installation
Cooling off after a session in the sauna at Royal Docks

Key details – Sweheat Sauna

Sweheat Sauna is located on the edge of Royal Victoria Dock beside Nakhon Thai restaurant on land belonging to Expressway.

Standard sessions cost £19.99 for 90 minutes of sauna and cold plunging.

Events start at £24.99, with booking for all available here.

The sauna is open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 4.30pm-10pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am-10pm.

Sessions at 8.30pm are clothing optional, with clothing required at all other times.

Find out more about the sauna here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via
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