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Rotherhithe: Why UK Wallball is launching courts at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre

Organisation’s CEO wants facility to be used as an urban playground to help boost Londoners’ activity

The courts have been installed at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre
The courts have been installed at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre

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Sunlight streams down onto the freshly minted wallball courts at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.

I bounce the rubber ball and slap it vigorously with my hand.

My opponent steps in, makes an easy return, I dash forward striking the yellow sphere deftly into the bottom right hand corner of the wall, where it bounces back into the court and lands stone dead. The point is mine.

I lose all the other points, of course, but then my opponent is founder and CEO of UK Wallball and a former European No. 1 singles champion. So I don’t feel too bad.

Dan Grant and the governing body for the sport he runs are on a mission to get as many people as possible outside, active and bouncing balls against walls.

Installed in partnership with British Land, the two UK Wallball courts on the Rotherhithe Peninsula will be free to use (if you’ve brought your own ball) and can be turned to any number of game variations following their forthcoming launch on May 12, 2022.

Dan said: “Wallball is a simple, accessible sport where you hit a ball against a wall with your hands. Lots of people will have done it at school – called it pat-ball, Eton Fives, one-wall handball – there are lots of different names for it, but ‘wallball’ is the one they play around the world.

“This is the one wall version and it’s the international standard.

“Basically, you have one big rectangle marked out on the wall and one big rectangle on the floor. The main thing is – all you need to do is hit the ball with either hand so that it hits the wall and lands in the court.

“It can bounce once before it’s hit again and then you rally away until it either bounces twice or it goes out.

“The way it’s scored is that you get a point for each rally won on your serve – if you lose the rally then it’s your opponent’s serve. Games are usually played up to 11, 15 or 21 points.

“The easiest way to think of it is that it’s like playing squash against one wall – but there’s no line to hit it above, so you can hit it low and kill the ball.

“For the service, the ball has to hit the wall and land in the back half of the court and then it can land anywhere in the box.

“There’s also a blocking rule – if I hit the ball and then don’t move, I’m a legitimate obstruction that the other player has to try and get around.

“You can’t rugby tackle the other person out of the way – it’s a non contact sport – so they have to get round you to get the ball back.”

UK Wallball CEO Dan Grant pictured at the new courts

Having travelled the world playing the game Dan subsequently trained as a doctor, so his interest in promoting sport goes beyond pure publicity and is firmly rooted in the physical and mental benefits of outdoor activity. 

“Our aim at UK Wallball is to try to get as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible active.

“In cities where grey space is increasing and green space is disappearing, we think people should use walls for things like this.

“There are official rules, but our motto is: ‘Any wall, any ball, anytime’. We don’t care how people use the courts, so long as they are being used.

“If people want to invent their own rules, they absolutely can. This whole space at Surrey Quays can be used for a lot of other things – not just traditional wallball.”

The Rotherhithe installation is the first multi-court facility for free use in the country.

Alongside the two playing areas is a third space where those waiting to have a go can hang out, spectator searing and a vending machine selling balls and gloves.

Dan said: “Last year, we did our first proper community court at Bankside, which was also a really vibrant installation.

“That was us working with the Jack Petchey Foundation to target young people in London.

“When it went up it got a lot of media traction, which was awesome. I think a lot of people during the pandemic realised exercise in the open air was a pretty good thing, and that wallball is cheap too – in fact, if you have your own ball, it’s free.

“Off the back of that, British Land, which is regenerating the area around Surrey Quays and Canada Water, saw it, thought it was pretty cool and got us down to find out if they could do something for the community here.

“I persuaded them that they should and so we’ve installed the courts.

“We got our artist back – Dan Gurney – to make them look great. I really like his geometric approach. It works really well in an urban space.

“When you do this kind of thing, you want the courts to feel like they belong, so the design is inspired by both the greenery and the docks on the Rotherhithe peninsula.

“We’ll also have posters telling people how to play and how the design of the courts fits into the local area.

“The way we think of it is as an urban amphitheatre – yes, we want it to be used for wallball, but other sports and arts organisations can get in touch with us and use the space as well.

“It’s also that street to elite philosophy – I want a kid who’s played on these courts, hasn’t had to pay for anything apart maybe for a couple of quid for a ball and then for them to go on and play for Team GB. That would be really cool.”

A vending machine will sell balls on site or players can bring their own
A vending machine will sell balls on site or players can bring their own

Dan, who works as a doctor in emergency medicine and medtech, believes wallball could be the next big thing in the UK – something he believes would be beneficial to the health of the nation should urban environments embrace it. 

“Everything we’ve learnt over the last few years suggests it will catch on in the UK,” he said.

“It’s already big in Ireland, Spain and the Basque Country – it’s huge in the USA. In New York there are 2,500 courts. Wallball is taking off here too. 

“We’ve started working with schools over the past couple of years and the kids love it. It’s not just sport either – when we put a court in a school we can give them a blank canvas and they can design it, so there’s a creative element there too.

“Our ethos is that it’s not super-serious. 

“Of course, there are pathways for GB Juniors to go straight to the top, but if you just want to turn up and play, that’s fine too.

“I feel like if the kids are enjoying it, then that’s good for all of us.

“As a doctor I’m interested in prevention. We know that if you’re just active and walking around, then that’s really good for you.

“As you travel you see people from the lowest socio-economic backgrounds have the worst outcomes in terms of health. So, having an urban space that feels safe and fun is much better than the alternative.”

The UK Wallball courts at Surrey Quays are set to launch on May 12, 2022, from 1pm-3pm.

The courts will be in place on an ongoing basis.

Read more: APT in Deptford seeks trustees to sit on its charity board

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Deptford: Why Art In Perpetuity Trust is seeking up to five new trustees

Charity aims to build resilient organisation for the future to operate studios and gallery space

APT in Deptford is looking for new trustees
APT in Deptford is looking for new trustees

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We are practising ‘artist-led’ as a reality, not just terminology – we are living and breathing creative independence and that’s something we strive for in perpetuity, just as our name says.”

In a nutshell, that’s APT, as described by its administrative director, Sarah Walsh.  

The Art In Perpetuity Trust operates from, and indeed owns outright, a former textile warehouse on the banks of Deptford Creek, a complex that houses 42 artists’ studios, a thriving gallery, a performance space and a working sculpture garden off Creekside. 

But it’s much more than just a landlord, it’s a potent, creative community and, following a period of evaluation and reflection during the pandemic, the charity that runs it is reaching out to recruit new trustees to help it continue to deliver its mission, namely to support creative thought and artistic vision both in the studio and the wider world.

APT administrative director Sarah Walsh
APT administrative director Sarah Walsh

“APT was set up 20 years ago by a group of artists who were looking to find new studios after they were forced to move from their previous home,” said Sarah. 

“They made an arrangement with the guy who was selling the building to slowly purchase the freehold over a period of time and then transformed the legal structure of the organisation into a charity.

“It’s not just a studio complex, it’s a space for interaction, for the exchange of ideas – it’s a community and it’s been created that way purposefully to provide support for those who have left education and want a space that isn’t isolated but alongside their peers.”

Now APT is seeking up to five new trustees to bolster the charity’s board who will work alongside the committees of artists resident on-site that drive its activities and direction.

Sarah said: “We are looking for people who can provide a range of skills and experience in five areas to ensure we remain a resilient organisation for the future.

“We’d like an artist or curator with an excellent industry profile, a legal expert with understanding of charity, property and employment law, someone with public sector experience and knowledge of local communities in south London, a trustee with a background in fundraising and income generation and a financial professional with a knowledge of the charitable sector.

APT owns its own building outright in Deptford
APT owns its own building outright in Deptford

“Trustees bring different voices, skillsets and experiences to the table that we can use to help build partnerships, communicate what we’re doing and maintain our resilience as they govern the charity.

“We have a unique structure here – the committees of artists don’t work independently, we all work in unison to run APT together.”

Trustees meet six times a year in addition to attending the charity’s AGM. Attendance at various private views and events will also be expected.

Sarah said: “As an organisation we’re always thinking about diversity, equality and inclusion and that includes the way in which we recruit trustees. 

“It’s important to us to be accessible and transparent and to reach out as widely as possible to attract a range of people who can represent APT successfully. 

“We’re a little nugget in Deptford with the most wonderful community – anyone coming in as a trustee will experience that.”

  • The deadline for applications to become a trustee is May 30, 2022

WHAT THE TRUSTEES SAY

  • “Being a trustee means you can see the direct impact and valuing of your skills and experience to make a positive difference to the lives of others in the local community. It opens up a whole new world of networks and creative possibilities on your doorstep.”

Jenny White, co-chair, APT Trustee

  • “Being a Trustee allows you to contribute your skills and knowledge to the development of an organic and creative organisation. You gain valuable experience being part of the  contemporary art scene and wider Deptford community. Besides, it’s fascinating to be engaging with artists and their diverse practices.”

Ann Gilmore, co-chair, APT Trustee

APT's gallery space on Creekside in Deptford
APT’s gallery space on Creekside in Deptford

Read more: Canada Water Market launches at Deal Porter Square

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canada Water: What Squid Markets’ Canada Water Market offers shoppers

Company behind Wapping Docklands Market expands to Deal Porter Square, south of the Thames

Canada Water Market on its very first day of trading

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Not to be confused with South Korean ultraviolent Netflix phenomenon Squid Game, Squid Markets has reached a milestone.

On the first birthday of its first successful project – Wapping Docklands Market at Brussels Wharf – it unveiled a second, this time south of the Thames. 

Even for its first iteration on Easter Sunday (April 17, 2022), it was clear Canada Water Market is the right thing in the right place. 

Despite hordes of Londoners heading off to see families, the traders, street food vendors and refreshment stalls were doing brisk business at Deal Porter Square – something that will doubtless continue as the market is set to run every Sunday outside the library from 10am until 4pm.

It offers visitors a heady blend of live music, cuisines from around the world, German beer, wine, baked goods, fresh produce, crafts and art – a place to shop, but also to meet, eat, drink and be merry as the sun sparkles on the waters of the nearby dock.

Squid Markets founder Will Cutteridge

The divide created by the Thames itself was indirectly the inspiration for Squid’s latest venture – a physical obstacle that Londoners have been working to overcome (somewhat unsuccessfully) for hundreds of years.

While previous generations have tried tunnelling to connect Wapping and Rotherhithe, for Squid founder Will Cutteridge the solution was simpler – take what already works in one location and replicate it in another.

“We know at Wapping Docklands Market that the majority of our customers come from north of the river,” he said.

“So I thought we should have a market south of the Thames but in relatively close proximity to our first operation. 

“That way we’re able to start to grow the brand both in east and south-east London. That’s when I started looking for sites – literally on Google Maps, zooming into open spaces.

“Because London is so densely packed, if there’s a large open space it’s pretty obvious and I began looking in Rotherhithe and Deal Porter Square seemed the obvious place to do it – it was the right sort of area for what we’re offering.”

Art by Ed J Bucknall on sale at the market – more here

With swathes of regeneration already completed – and a great deal more in pipeline – the peninsula has seen a steady increase in population with new businesses and ventures arriving in the area. So what is Squid bringing to that mix?

“Canada Water is, like Wapping, primarily a food market,” said Will.

“We want people to come and do their weekly shop with us, get all their fruit and veg, their bread and all the standard items, while also grabbing a coffee and catching up with their neighbours.

“One of the most exciting things that we’ve seen at Wapping is that it has brought the local community together.

“People who live in the same building, right across the corridor from each other and have never spoken, have met at the market, and I think that’s the joy of something like this.

“That’s exactly what we want to create at Canada Water – something that brings people together in an old-fashioned way. 

“I think that’s important in this day and age, because people don’t talk to each other in London very much and the market provides a friendly environment where they can.

Produce from Chegworth Valley is also available – more here

“You go to the supermarket, pick up a bunch of carrots and put them in your basket, and it’s not very immersive or interactive.

“If you buy a bunch of carrots from our Chegworth Valley stall, the team running it all live and work on the farm – they pick the fruit, plant the seeds, and you’re meeting the people who grow your food – you have a dialogue with them, come back every week and it’s always the same people.

“We also have a small craft section in all our markets, because we tend to find that there’s a lot of local people who have a side gig making things.

“For example, we have a a guy who hand-makes all his terrariums – Plant And Person – which is quite cool.

“Hosting those pitches is a great way to get local businesses to the market, and it provides a bit of variety in addition to the food itself.

“We also have a local artist – Ed Bucknall – who sells his works, and one lady who takes all of our empty bottles from the wine stall at the end of the day and uses them to make candles.

Cheese from The French Comte – more here

“Street food is, of course, a critical part of our operation – visitors to the market can do their shopping and then listen to some live music, have a beer or a glass of wine and then grab a pizza, some curry, steak or a wide variety of Asian food.

“There’s also a guy selling Portuguese sandwiches and vegan Caribbean food from Joy’s Caribbean Fusion, so there’s a lot to choose from.

“Our plan is to have a total of 35 traders here, which is enough to provide a really good mix of food, produce and services – we’re always on the look out for new traders, so anyone interested should get in touch.

“We might have re-branded, but we remain hugely passionate about sustainability – it’s incredibly challenging but it’s something we remain focused on.

“One of the ways in which Squid does this is to find small businesses through its markets and help them build their brands nationally – we’re always seeking really interesting food producers that we can go into partnership with.”

Spinach rolls for £4 from Rodgis – more here

Read more: How Canada Water Dockside will transform Rotherhithe

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Stratford: Discover Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World

New show at Theatre Royal Stratford East hails female role-models and stars Christina Modestou

Christina Modeastou as Jane Austen, right
Christina Modestou as Jane Austen, right

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

The 1990s may be back in style, but thankfully Girl Power never went out of fashion.

It has been given an empowering new spin in musical Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, which is set to run at Theatre Royal Stratford East from June 15-July 17, 2022.

Based on a book by Suffragette descendant Kate Pankhurst, it celebrates often forgotten women from history such as Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen and Pankhurst’s own relative Emmeline, all seen through the eyes of inquisitive schoolgirl Jade.

They are brought to life by an all-female cast and a creative crew who have worked with the likes of Girls Aloud, Kylie Minogue,  Miley Cyrus and Beverley Knight.

We asked part-Welsh, part-Greek star of the show Christina Modestou to tell us about the fantastic women who have inspired her.

the matriarch

My mum Lula is one of the biggest role models in my life. She has always been 100% behind me with anything I wanted to try as a child and critiqued me in a healthy way. 

My mum was a hairdresser and she loved her job – having a parent who loves what they do really rubbed off on me.

I used to go and help on a Saturday and witness it first-hand. Looking back, I see how everyone there encouraged me.

I used to write stories and act things out as customers were waiting for their perms to set. It was one of the customers who said I should go to a drama class as it made me really happy.

the teachers

I started classes with Irene Hopkins when I was five. She was my first singing teacher and had a massive impact on me. 

She had this wonderful knack for bringing out your best qualities and encouraging you to flourish in what you were good at.

I never liked classical music, I always found passion in pop and jazzy sounds. 

Instead of putting me in a box I didn’t want to be in, she stretched me, found my flair and leaned into that. She didn’t try to mould me into anyone else. 

She still comes to see every show I do and will send me a card. There’s still that level of support.

My dance teacher Jackie Bristow was also pivotal. I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for her

Star Christina Modeastou
Star Christina Modestou


the character

My claim to fame is being in the choir scene in Love Actually and the year I graduated I did We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. 

But the pivotal role in my career was playing Nina in In The Heights at Southwark Playhouse.

That was an experience I still hold very dear. She comes from a working-class community and goes away to university but, in trying to work and learn, she has to drop out because her grades are slipping and she has to go home and tell her family she has failed. 

It’s something quite common in our industry. People say you’ve got talent and put you on a bit of a pedestal and the thought that going home is a failure is hard. Exploring that was really exciting.

the fantastic women

This show has a really special place in my heart because I wish I had seen something like this growing up. 

In musicals there are historically four types of women – the unrequited love interest, the princess, the matriarch and the whore. Even in Les Miserables, that’s how women are portrayed. 

In our musical, we get to show who women are without men and be silly and funny, serious, loud, quiet, sensitive and strong – so many different things. I was asked to audition after I played Anne Boleyn in the original cast of Six.

I have been involved since the original workshops and it’s been amazing to see how it has snowballed. It’s a very physical show and you are representing real women.

Christina as Gertrude Ederle, in red
Christina as Gertrude Ederle, in red


the brawn

I play Gertrude Ederle, who was the first woman to swim the English Channel and broke the world record. I didn’t know her story but she is incredible. She had measles as a child and by her 40s was almost deaf. 

She taught swimming to deaf children and, when she noticed people were drowning, she helped open pools in poor areas so people could learn to swim.

She was as strong as a man, won gold at the Olympics as part of the first female swimming team and invented the two-piece bathing suit.

I admire her strength and resilience and warmth. She was unapologetic about what she could achieve and was always helping others.

the wit

Most people know Jane Austen. I love playing her in this show because she comes back around the age she died, in her early 40s and befriends Frida Kahlo. 

They are chalk and cheese but give each other a wonderful platform. The thing that impresses me most is her wit. She was such an observer and wrote characters and comedy so well.

the intellect

Mary Anning was an English fossil collector and palaeontologist who discovered the ichthyosaur when she was twelve years old and uncovered skeletons of the plesiosaur, pterosaur and lots of other key things. 

I get the impression she lived a very hard life. She got struck by lightning as a baby and everyone else near her died.

She was one of 10 children, but only she and one other made it to maturity. She also lost her work to men, who didn’t give her credit for her discoveries. 

There is a real isolated sadness to her, which I find fascinating.

I think she homed in on the joy in her work. In the musical, we meet her with Mary Seacole and Marie Curie and they become this superhero trio.

So she has learnt how to work as a team in our world, which has a magical vibe as if all these women had come back to life.

Christina as Mary Anning, left
Christina as Mary Anning, left

the co-stars

I have never been in a rehearsal room with so many women. Doing this show has been a real collaboration and we have had some amazing discussions about gender, diversity, and disabilities. 

I’ve never experienced a room as open as this and it has opened my eyes to a lot of bias I didn’t know about. 

It is also about the fact feminism isn’t about women being better than men, it’s about being fair.

We don’t want the young men in the audience to feel they should be controlled by women. We want them to be inspired by these women. Feminism isn’t about vengeance. 

Shows like Emilia, with an all-female cast, have paved the way for this. In that, women play men, which is something we rarely see. It’s bonkers, because men play women all the time – in panto and on stage. 

In Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World, we see these icons through the eyes of a young woman of colour and that is wonderful.

We wanted to make sure there was diversity – as we tour the show we want to make sure as many children are represented as possible.

the body

It’s not just about representing ethnicity, it’s about body shape. The first time I saw a body I recognised as being like mine was in Mad Men. I saw Christina Hendricks and was like: “Oh my god, finally, a curvy woman”.

I have to wear a unitard in this show, which was quite exposing for me, but the power of going out there knowing I can be a size 12 or 14 and be proud of it and hopefully inspire others, is unexplainable.

Often I get told I don’t look Welsh enough. I sit right in the middle of a lot of categories. I’m Welsh but with a Greek Cypriot background.

I’m not young, old, tall, short, thin or fat. I once got told I wouldn’t have a career until I’m older as I didn’t fit a category and I thought: “Screw that”.

the stars

I would love to work with Olivia Colman, Phoebe Waller-Bridge or Emma Thompson. Jenna Russell is amazing and I would work with her again and again. 

We did Urinetown together at The Apollo and then I managed to put on a cabaret at Southwark Playhouse during the pandemic and she did that with me too.

She is a class act. I admire people who put the work first and are selfless enough to tell the story which sometimes means giving up your moment to shine. That’s what inspires me.

herself

Someone asked us in a Q&A who we would be if we could be any women for a day and my colleague, Jade, said: “I would be me”. What a cool thing to feel – that you just want to be you and no-one else.

Read more: Discover the denim-based art of Poplar’s Ian Berry

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- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
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Canary Wharf: How Ian Berry is set to create a new artwork from donated denim

The Poplar-based artist’s piece will be unveiled on the estate for World Environment Day on June 5

Artist Ian Berry, pictured surrounded by jeans in Cabot Square
Artist Ian Berry, pictured surrounded by jeans in Cabot Square

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Artist Ian Berry wants his work to be seen in real life – so apologies to anyone reading the this.

These reproductions might give you an idea of the kind of pieces he creates, but 2D reproductions on paper or digital screens just don’t cut it.

Based in Poplar, but hailing from Huddersfield via High Wycombe, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands, the constant in Ian’s life is also his medium – denim.

Cutting, layering and gluing, he creates images and installations using a palette of jeans, constantly pushing to make the material accurately depict all manner of scenes, lighting effects, substances and surfaces.

The reason you’re looking at one of the pieces from Ian’s Behind Closed Doors series is that he’s just embarked on a project in partnership with Canary Wharf Group.

With used clothes donated at Jubilee Place last week, he’ll be stripping out the denim and using it to create an artwork, which will be unveiled on World Environment Day – June 5.

Detail for one of Ian's pieces for his Behind Closed Doors series
Detail for one of Ian’s pieces for his Behind Closed Doors series

“My work needs to be seen in real life to be understood,” said Ian, who works from a studio overlooking the Limehouse Cut canal.

“I don’t really feel like a real artist to those who haven’t seen my work in that way.

“I’d spent the pandemic having seven different shows in other countries – most of them solo and that was tough with all the quarantines and shipping issues.

“I’d just got back from Chile when I got an email from Canary Wharf asking about this project.

“At first I thought it would be great just because I could walk there rather than having to take pieces on aeroplanes.

“I walk through the estate when I catch the Jubilee line, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my work seen by more people in real life.

“But it also sounded interesting because of the estate’s sustainability credentials – it’s something that’s taken very seriously whereas some other places just use it for marketing. I’ve not spoken much about sustainability in the context of my work.

“Others have – as recycling or upcycling – but when I started 16 years ago it wasn’t the buzzword it is now.

“The project I’m doing with Canary Wharf Group reflects sustainability and the environment – denim’s terrible in its impact at the end of the day – but there are also good things happening in the industry.

“I don’t believe there’s a material that better reflects contemporary times, good or bad.”

Detail from Ian's Secret Garden
Detail from Ian’s Secret Garden

That really is the crux of things for Ian. While we talk it becomes clear there are all sorts of tensions at work between the artist, his medium and the subjects he chooses.

He tells me denim stands for freedom, democracy and the West to the point where it was banned in Russia and Belarus, where it’s still worn symbolically by dissenters.

Then again, it’s also the clothing of capitalism, excess and greed, with designer jeans selling for astronomical sums.

“I’m interested in people and in the denim industry, in workers’ rights,” said Ian. “I know everyone in the sector and there’s a lot of greenwashing going on – a lot of lying and they even tell me what their lies and exaggerations are. It’s frustrating.”

While Ian’s pieces are necessarily shot through with such issues – how noble attempts to pass on clothing to do good can come unstuck as second-hand garments wind up flooding foreign markets or simply get dumped overseas, for example – the denim he uses is also, importantly, just the stuff he uses to capture the world.

“I use it literally as my paint to represent contemporary life and issues you see every day,” he said.

“I have struggled for 16 years to know what to call them –  they’re not paintings, they’re collages, but using just one medium.

“In some there are 16 layers of denim, so they are very sculptural, 3D pieces, and they can be very effective, with the texture of the denim as well. All that gets lost if people look on their phones or laptops.

“The magic in my work is finding the gradients in the denim, the fades, the cat’s whiskers – where it goes from indigo to lighter shades. You can connect them together and get quite a photo-realistic piece.

“Sometimes I achieve that too well and people don’t realise it’s jeans, but you need that ‘aha’ factor for people to connect.

“It happens in America especially, where people look for a while and then get closer and closer and, at about 50cm away, they say: ‘Oh, my God, it’s blue jeans’. I don’t want it to be seen as a gimmick, though.

“I hope people appreciate the craft, the love and attention to detail and they are amazed that the piece is made out of denim.

“I do set myself technical challenges – how to depict shiny, metallic objects or water using this matt material. But the main thing is the subject.

“With the Behind Closed Doors series I wanted to depict this busy city we’re living in, which can be lonely. 

“That really connected with people – two out of three were saying: ‘Wow, that’s me’ – and it was kind of special.”

Detail from The Game by Ian Berry
Detail from The Game by Ian Berry

Ian, whose granddad was from east London, said he wasn’t sure what kind of piece he would create from the jeans donated in Canary Wharf.

He said: “Hopefully the piece I create will cause discussion and make people think. 

“I can’t give too much away at this stage in case the idea changes but I think it’s going to have an element of my hanging Secret Garden, which turns plants into cotton, into jeans and then back into plants again. 

“There’s a nod to sustainability in that – it’s nice because we can make something permanent out of the jeans. 

“If you wear a pair for 10 years and then throw them away, it might be just about OK, but now we have a world where people buy them, wear them two or three times and throw them out.”

Ian’s piece will be added to the Wharf’s permanent art collection.

Detail from The Roosevelt, LA, by Ian Berry
Detail from The Roosevelt, LA, by Ian Berry

Read more: Find out where to make your own cloth with Freeweaver Saori Studio

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Woolwich: How Woolwich Works is relishing the prospect of an uninterrupted season

Vast multi-arts complex at Royal Arsenal Riverside has venues for performance, rehearsals + recording

The exterior of Woolwich Works main building
The exterior of Woolwich Works main building – image Timothy Soar

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“Activity” is the word buzzing around the lips of James Heaton as we sit in Beanfeast – one of the magnificent exposed brick spaces that form part of the vast Woolwich Works complex.

For the CEO of the Woolwich Creative District Trust – set up to independently operate the site on a not-for-profit basis – it’s a welcome change, given the challenging stop-start conditions of two years of pandemic restrictions. 

Now though, even largely empty on a sunny Wednesday morning in April, there’s a life about the place – the vibration of possibility in its walls. 

That’s something James and his team intend to nurture and feed as the months roll by until its performance spaces, rehearsal studios, recording facilities, cafe, bar and offices are all humming with the industry and pulse of cultural creation. 

what is Woolwich Works?

James confessed at the start of our interview that, despite having been in post for nearly three years, he’s yet to find a rapid way of answering this question – testament, perhaps to the sheer scale of the project he’s steering.

“Woolwich Works is physically five buildings on the Royal Arsenal Riverside development in south-east London,” he said.

“They’re all former military buildings and are Grade II or Grade II* listed. The site overall is about 20 years into its redevelopment by Berkeley Homes.

“With Woolwich Works, Greenwich Council wanted to achieve a number of things.

“Fundamentally the beginning of this project was looking at these historic buildings and their situation and taking the view that it was important to preserve these spaces in public use for the benefit of everyone in the borough and beyond.

“A decision was made to develop the focus of these buildings as being around an arts and culture offer. Ultimately that’s how we’ve got to where we are.

Woolwich Creative District Trust CEO James Heaton
Woolwich Creative District Trust CEO James Heaton – image Jon Massey

“Three of the buildings, all joined together – The Cartridge Factory, The Laboratory and The Carriage Works – are home to phenomenal immersive theatre company Punchdrunk, which has just launched its first show at the site and is also resident at Woolwich Works.

“The spaces have been joined together and audiences walk into a whole world and navigate themselves around it. 

“Then, on the other side of No. 1 Street, there’s our main building, which has four wings around a central courtyard. That houses a number of venues, rehearsal studios, a recording studio and offices. We also have space in The Academy building next door.”

In addition to Punchdrunk, Woolwich Works is also home to the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO), the Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair, Protein Dance and Chineke!, an orchestra of predominantly black and ethnically diverse classical musicians.

Alongside the cafe, performances typically take place in either the 1,504sq m of the Fireworks Factory – a flexible auditorium that can be set up in any number of configurations – or Beanfeast, a smaller, narrower venue on the first floor with views over the Thames.

what’s the intention? 

“Woolwich Works is a multi-arts venue with lots of different spaces so we can present a varied performance programme,” said James.

“We have the resident companies and they will contribute to that as well as running various creative and community initiatives that offer opportunities to people living locally.

“These might be in schools or, for example, in our recording studio which will be the last thing to open here.

“We have world-class facilities and resident companies, but we’re also community focused, so if you’re someone who lives nearby and who wants to dip their toe into music, film or design, then we’ll facilitate that with formal training alongside mentoring, coaching and the chance to work with professionals. 

The Fireworks Factory at Woolwich Works in full swing
The Fireworks Factory at Woolwich Works in full swing – image Chris Morgan

“Underpinning everything we do is that we’re a catalyst for collaboration. The aim is to create an ecosystem and we’re already seeing people working together. Our role at the trust is partly to cultivate that. 

“The aim is that the professional, the community and the emerging all come together – whether through work experience, jobs, volunteering or performance opportunities –  to help build pathways and open up the arts to everybody. We want to bring those opportunities to people who may be under-represented or who think they can’t access them.”

what’s coming?

“The near future is rooted in the fact that we’re looking at a horizon where things are relatively stable,” said James.

“We’ve never had that before and, next month, the building starts to get really busy. Almost everything gets going in May and stays running.

“We have what was our festive cabaret – The Grotteaux – opening as a springtime show instead and that looks bonkers, fantastic and eclectic. 

“Our comedy, music and family programmes will continue throughout, and we’re really looking forward to the whole site being animated at the same time.

The main venue can be used in multiple ways
The main venue can be used in multiple ways – image Timothy Soar

“Then, in July, we’re launching what I’m hoping will become an annual festival here called Woolwich Words And Sounds.

“For that we’ll be programming the whole building with all sorts of different live music, comedy, literature and spoken word performances.

“We’ll have singer Alice Russell and also an amazing jazz saxophonist called Bob Mintzer who’ll be playing some of his big band repertoire with NYJO covering the last 40 years.

“Part of the thing that’s exciting about Woolwich Works is that its layout really lends itself to a festival model – there’s a big area of outdoor space and we want to have some food, drink, deckchairs and free music out there for people to listen to.”

open for business?

“The trust is a true not-for-profit, which means it has to sustain itself and look after the buildings through earned income,” said James.

“That means we do commercial hire for events – dinners, conferences, private celebrations and meetings – all the things you’d expect a big venue to cater for. 

“We’ve had a few weddings and, of course, we’d like a few more. But we’re also here for the creative community with lots of rehearsal space available.

“The sector as a whole needs these spaces and the aim is to be available to artistic companies that aren’t based here.

“The idea is that doing this will also contribute to the ecosystem because when we have companies in residence for four or five weeks, inevitably they will meet other, like-minded people in the cafe or around the building. 

“Creative people become more creative when they’re in touch with other artists.

“In the end, our success will be seen in the people who have progressed through Woolwich Works and who have gone on to do great things.

“It will be the stories of those people who found their opportunities here and were supported to find their life within the arts.”

Punchdrunk's The Burnt City is playing at Woolwich Works now
Punchdrunk’s The Burnt City is playing at Woolwich Works now

SHOW TIME

The Burnt City, Punchdrunk at Woolwich Works

Immersive theatre company Punchdrunk has opened its show at Woolwich Works, with tickets now booking into December.

The Burnt City transports audiences to the Trojan War with two distinct, detailed worlds to explore packed with mysterious characters to meet.

Troy is reimagined as a dense sci-fi city with an aesthetic inspired by Fritz Lang’s Mertropolis, while Greece is a wasteland filled with jaded soldiers and eerie memories of ancient gods.

Presented as a promenade performance, ticketholders are free to wander these environments at will, interacting with the characters over 100,000sq ft of space

The production is the company’s first show in London since 2014 and its most ambitious to date, reuniting the team behind Sleep No More including original cast members from that show.

Performances last up to three hours, with six arrival times at 10-minute intervals. 

Shows on Tuesdays-Fridays start at 6.30pm, Saturdays 1.30pm and 6.30pm and Sundays 4.30pm.

Tickets typically cost £66 with limited “rush tickets” available for £25 for every performance through Time Out.

Read more: Discover Saori weaving at London Craft Week on the Isle Of Dogs

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Isle Of Dogs: How Freeweaver Saori Studio runs mindful and productive classes

Craft Central-based maker will also be participating in workshops for London Craft Week in May

Erna Janine of Freeweaver Saori Studio
Erna Janine of Freeweaver Saori Studio – image James Perrin

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Decompressing after a hard day at work used to be about sweating at the gym or partying in bars.

But, post-pandemic, people have been seeking out gentler ways of relaxing – sitting at a loom, for example.

Freeweaver Saori Studio at Craft Central is fast becoming a haven for those who want to embrace a slower pace of life, even if only for a few hours.

“Half my students are fashion students and the other half come for the mindful aspect of it,” said Erna Janine, owner of the Isle Of Dogs-based business.

“Stressed out businessmen from Canary Wharf want to do something relaxing that’s totally off the grid with no screens.

“It’s rhythmical and a mindful way of gathering your thoughts while doing something with your hands to create a simple piece of cloth.”

Erna will be hosting two workshops during London Craft Week (May 9-15) – one to introduce the technique of Saori weaving and the other showing how to integrate the cloth it produces into  existing items of clothing. 

Erna at her loom in Craft Central
Erna at her loom in Craft Central – image James Perrin

She is also reinventing the pinstripe for the event and the finished result will be on display at Craft Central in Westferry Road.

The 45-year-old, who grew up in Holland, discovered the Japanese technique of Saori seven years ago.

Instead of following a rigid repeating pattern like traditional weaving, the freestyle method encourages weavers to use their creativity to create  totally unique pieces of cloth every time they weave. For Erna, it was a revelation.

“Weaving is in my family, “ she said. “I always felt an affinity with it through my maternal grandmother, who made all her own clothes and wore traditional costume. Weaving was also part of the curriculum at my schools. 

“When I was 18 I got an apprenticeship in Iceland to be part of a weaving workshop in the remote highlands for a few years, then I did a textile degree in Iceland. 

“It has just always been part of my life. But that was very formal with mega big looms that took days to even set up.

“When I found this Japanese way of weaving, I found myself as a contemporary weaver.”

Woven cloth can be used to men clothes
Woven cloth can be used to men clothes – image James Perrin

Erna travelled to Japan to study Saori – invented by Misao Jo 50 years ago as a reaction to the country’s technological boom.

“There was this throwback where people started questioning their relationship with technology,” said Erna.

“She was one of the people who made a stance against it by weaving her own clothes in a way that you could see they were handmade. 

“She was 99 when I met her and died aged 104, as something of a cult figure in Japan.

“She said the human being was full of creativity and playfulness and that should be visible in the things we surround ourselves with. They should be based on the innovation around us, but also the joy of making things. 

“I thought she captured that so well in the design of her equipment, which allows everyone to express themselves uniquely.

“With a traditional weave, you follow instructions, but this is the opposite. It’s about fun, making something new and trying things out. It is a vehicle for creativity. 

“I immediately loved it and found it very liberating because I had spent so many hours at school weaving samples and, if a small mistake showed, the cloth would be cut off and thrown away.” 

Erna said Saori was much more welcoming for beginners and she knew straight away she wanted to teach it.

“I could be a regular weaver in London and make scarves, but you can only make so many,” she said. “It’s so much more interesting to teach people how to make these simple things themselves.”

In 2017, Erna landed at Craft Central, a charity set up 50 years ago to support makers, after getting permission to teach Saori in London.

“I liked the area and its proximity to Canary Wharf and Greenwich and the maritime history,” she said. “It’s enveloped in the history of this area and it’s nice to be by the river. 

“Every time I’m a bit tired I can walk there and have a stretch – there’s so much space and it has so many textures – I always come back inspired.”

Saori is about free expression
Saori is about free expression – image James Perrin

She has about 40 regular students who she has taught to weave who now visit the studio for sessions on a loom.

“They come in by the hour – a bit like a gym – and make what they want to make,” said Erna.

“They just want some time with other people doing something creative in a beautiful setting. 

“It’s not too heavy on the technical and is really more about enjoying the colours and textures and just coming to terms with these simple techniques that surround us from birth. 

“Everything we wear is textiles and most of it is woven, so it’s a good way to connect with our distant ancestors as well, who had to create them by hand.”

Classes are held most weekdays and one weekend a month. She also organises the biannual Japanese Textile And Craft Festival with other makers and the Festival Of Natural Fibres (May 28-29)  in conjunction with the Gandhi Foundation. This year, silk spinners will be over from India to talk about their techniques.

“People are looking at objects and the things around them in a different way,” said Erna. “We see it with food – people being more picky – and I think fashion will be the next thing where people start to choose with more care.

“People should see fast fashion as pollution. I have travelled to India extensively as I work with organic cotton farms and silk spinners.

“It’s horrible to see the river bright pink because it’s in this season. I don’t think severe change is necessary, though – just slow progress because people need employment.”

Erna does her bit by avoiding acrylic yarns and using recycled materials saved from landfill.

She splits her time between Deptford and Stroud, where she has a home studio in an old textile mill.

She also weaves outside and forages in the forest. 

“I created my first clothing collection there in lockdown,” she said.

“People often ask if I go home and weave after teaching a whole day. I answer: ‘Yes of course, it’s so relaxing’.”

Craft Central has a number of workshops taking place for London Craft Week 2022

LONDON CRAFT WEEK WORKSHOPS AT CRAFT CENTRAL IN 2022

  • May 10 – Rework Your Garment Using Creative Sewing And Saori Weaving
  • May 11 – Saori Weaving With Natural Fibres + Bengala Dye 
  • May 11 –  Sewing A Japanese Komebukuro Rice Bag
  • May 13 – Ikebana Japanese Flower Arrangement
  • May 14 – Make Your Own Botanical Illustration Inspired 3D Paper Rose 
  • May 14 – Paint Your Own Ceramic
  • May 14 – Pyrography Fire Drawing Workshop
  • May 14 – Makers Market 10.30am-5.30pm. A wide range of items will be on sale at Craft Central including interior products, jewellery, prints, textiles, fashion, ceramics, and woodwork
  • May 15 – Jesmonite Casting

Find our more about these workshops here

Read more: How one couple are bringing Brazilian street food to Wapping

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Property: How Canary Wharf-based Impact Capital Group is set to transform Romford

Developer’s eco-friendly plans win approval for former ice rink site next to Queen’s Hospital

Rom Valley Gardens is set to be built next to Queen's Hospital
Rom Valley Gardens is set to be built next to Queen’s Hospital

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“Mega, mega, mega going back to Romford” sang Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde on 1996 hit single Born Slippy, made famous by its inclusion on the soundtrack of Danny Boyle’s film adaptation of Trainspotting.

Its lyrics paint an abstract picture of the travails of journeying home to the Havering town from the point of view of an overly-inebriated narrator who’s just rolled out of a pub somewhere near Tottenham Court Road.

Fast forward 26 years, though, and not only is travelling from Soho and other parts of London to Romford set to get much quicker, it’s an area that’s experiencing a degree of mega change.

The opening of Crossrail’s central and eastern section – rumoured to be happening in May – will not only mean direct connections to Tottenham Court Road but also radically shortened journey times to whole swathes of the capital including Canary Wharf.

That’s something, presumably, the founder and CEO of One Canada Square-based Impact Capital Group, Robert Whitton, is looking forward to.

In addition to being born and raised in Romford, he’s created a company that is part of that change.

Impact Capital recently won planning permission from Havering Council to build the best part of 1,000 homes on the site of a former ice rink within walking distance of the town’s Crossrail station.

“I used to go skating there and I remember watching the Romford Raiders ice hockey team play,” said Robert. “I also used to take my children there to use the facilities.”

Artificial slippiness at the site – a piece of land encircled by Rom Valley Way adjacent to Queen’s Hospital – came to an end around a decade ago when the rink was demolished and another opened elsewhere in the town.

For the past nine years, various plans have been tabled for the area’s regeneration, culminating in Impact’s successful application.

While approval from the Greater London Authority and a Section 106 agreement remain outstanding, the hope is to break ground on what will become Rom Valley Gardens by the end of the year.

Impact Capital Group founder and CEO Robert Whitton
Impact Capital Group founder and CEO Robert Whitton

“The proposed scheme will see 972 homes built as well as 223 care units for later living or residential care, a medical centre, retail and cafe spaces, gym facilities and other amenities.

Impact’s intention is to use its modular construction factory to deliver much of the development, which will have a strong focus on sustainability.

“It feels good to have reached this point – there’s a lot of support for it,” said Robert.

“When it does come forward people will be very pleasantly surprised, because we are trying to do something that’s very different.

“It’s not going to be an ordinary development – we are looking for this to be a zero-carbon development, pushing the boundaries and looking for new concepts like inter-generational living and creating a real sense of place and community.

“That’s why we’ve included a lot of additional provision for these things within the plans, which we didn’t have to do, but wanted to.

“There will be facilities, both for residents and other community groups – an indoor gym and an outdoor gym and a big public square, where we hope to hold big outdoor events.

“There are residents’ lounges and a mixture of public and private open spaces to create a real neighbourhood – in many ways an urban village.

“We’ve put in there what is now termed ‘independent living’ with extra care provisioning, which is a great concept – it’s the idea of integrating that within a larger development, which will have elements that will also attract younger people, such as the private rental homes, and larger units for families. We want that whole mix of generations.

“I don’t live very far from it now, and have lots of friends and family who live in the area, so it’s very much my home town. It’s a great honour and privilege to be able to bring forward such a transformational project as this.”

An artist's impression of how Rom Valley Gardens will look when work is completed
An artist’s impression of how Rom Valley Gardens will look when work is completed

Robert said Impact, which will manage the development in perpetuity once it is built, would use its factory in Peterborough to ensure a high level of quality control in the building process, helping it deliver on its eco-friendly ambitions for the project.

“Construction and the built environment are the biggest polluters in the world, so we want to have a neutral footprint in delivering this neighbourhood,” he said.

“That way everyone living there will know this new neighbourhood doesn’t have a negative effect on the environment at large.

“They will also notice their energy bills are very, very low – the buildings will be firmly thermal-efficient with double or triple glazing and we’ll be making use of renewable energy.

“Because they’re built in a controlled factory environment, we can get the air-tightness of those units much better than traditional construction methods, and speed up the time it takes to get the project built.”

The development’s proximity to Queen’s Hospital – something that will be particularly beneficial to its older residents – is also an important element in its delivery.

“Included in the plans is a 3,000sq m diagnostic centre for the hospital,” said Robert.

“Timing for that is dependent on agreement with them, but that’s great for local residents.

“The hospital has also told us it has big issues with recruitment and retention, so having housing and facilities close to it will be good to help address that.

“Havering Council will work with the NHS so key workers can get prioritisation within the social housing element.”

For Wharfers interested in spotting trains – estimates vary, but Elizabeth line services could cut the commute from Romford to Canary Wharf by about 16 minutes per journey – more than half an hour a day, or two and a half hours per week.

Oh, and incidentally, Born Slippy was named after a racing Greyhound that members of Underworld once watched run in Romford – mega.

Read more: How Velocity is set to trial its revolutionary toilet on the Isle Of Dogs

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Isle Of Dogs: How Velocity’s revolutionary toilet is set to save huge amounts of water

Inventor Garry Moore is set to run trials of his domestic loo at at Alpha Grove Community Centre

Garry Moore has created a domestic version of his air flush toilet

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

He might look like a sombre-suited Clark Kent but Garry Moore is actually a superhero.

He has invented a way of saving something vital to life on this planet. Water.

His superloo uses the power of air to blow away waste – saving countless litres of our most precious resource.

And he has chosen Alpha Grove Community Centre on the Isle Of Dogs as one of the first venues in the world to trial the toilets, produced by his company Velocity.

“There is amazing pressure on water sustainability in the UK,” said Garry. “People think it rains a lot here but it’s not enough to be self-sufficient. 

“We need to make sure we are not wasting what is a precious resource. It’s clean drinking water and we flush it down the toilet and turn it into raw sewage. That’s a luxury that can’t continue.”

His toilets are the first domestic designs in the world to use a pressurised air flush. They use 1.4 litres of water to clean the bowl, rather than the nine litres used on average by a traditional toilet, a reduction of 85%.

Garry said it meant his design was eco-friendly and also more pocket friendly, paying for themselves in four years through a 25% average saving on water bills. 

He said the superloo also required no behavioural change from users and would help achieve water neutrality when developments were built – meaning the impact on water availability would be the same or less than previously. 

“I’m a very practical person and have an inquisitive mind,” said Garry. “I’m always questioning how things are built and why they are built that way. 

“So many things we interact with every day have been invented by someone and I like to consider whether they could be designed better.”

The married father-of-two has self-funded and developed the toilet from his home workshop in Westcliff-on-Sea and at the Innovation Centre at the University Of Essex in Colchester, with a team of six experts.

“They include a ceramic sanitaryware specialist, a mechanical engineer and a microbiologist.

An artist’s impression of Velocity’s toilet

Garry and his team are now getting ready to bring the innovation to market within the next year. He said the Isle of Dogs was the perfect place to test the invention.

The area holds great meaning for the 57-year-old. His parents were born and raised in Canning Town, surviving the Blitz and working in the docks before moving to Ilford to raise their family.

It was at the University Of East London campus in Docklands where Garry developed his first air flush toilet with Propelair during the 1990s and 2000s.

It was aimed at commercial use and went on to be installed in the Barclays and Citi buildings in Canary Wharf as well as at branches of McDonald’s and Moto service stations.

He parted ways with the company on bad terms in 2018 and thought his dream of revolutionising the toilet industry was over.

But inspiration hit once again during lockdown.

“I realised working from home was here to stay and, with COP26, people were not saving water using those flushes at the office,” said Garry.

“So I formed a home working group with my original design team and set about designing Velocity for domestic use.”

The original 20-year patents that his Propelair design was based on had expired, so Garry was free to have another shot at his superloo.

“It wasn’t my choice to leave Propelair,” he said. “I spent 16 years building the company up, 10 years unpaid and to just have to walk away was really difficult. 

“I had secured £1million to develop a domestic version, but it just hadn’t happened.

“Then, during lockdown I just realised we had to do it – society needed it, because 75% of the market is domestic. 

“So it has been absolutely fantastic working again on a new project with the team.”

His new toilet is more compact, quieter and has a motion sensor, offering hands-free opening and flushing.

But the main star is the in-built air system, which has shades of Back To The Future inventor Doc Brown.

“I had some big lightbulb moments – the main one being something we call the flush capacitor,” said Garry.

“It came to me while lying in a hammock drinking a beer in the summer of 2020.

“With a conventional toilet, you have a water cistern and, when you flush, water flows from it into the pan and carries the waste out into the sewer. It requires a lot of water. 

“With Velocity, the lid seals onto the pan and when you flush a small amount of water comes in to clean the pan and then air is sent directly in and cannot escape, so it pushes the waste into the drain. 

“With this system, you are not actually relying on water to move the waste, it is only for cleaning.”

Garry will trial the toilet at Alpha Grove Community Centre on the Isle Of Dogs

Southwest Water is testing the design from a regulatory standpoint, while the project at Alpha Grove will check how effective Garry’s design is in a real-life situation.

The toilets are due to be installed at the community centre as part of its redevelopment, which is being overseen by Dennis Sharp Architects. 

Garry’s team is currently capturing six months of data from the site to map out its current water and energy consumption so the company can demonstrate what the savings are with Velocity. 

Garry said installation of 12 toilets was expected to take place in early summer.

“We’re really excited about the first trial at Alpha Grove because it is a residential area,” said Garry. 

“They’re trying to be an exemplar of low water use. It’s going to be a great place for us to do some demonstrations and save them water and carbon.

“We’re also looking at developing additional hygiene benefits, including chemical-free disinfectants. 

“We want to eliminate the use of bleach and develop technology that kills Covid and other viruses.”

The trained engineer said people often laughed when they first heard about his job, but quickly realised the gravity of what he is doing.

“The modern toilet was crucial in preventing cholera,” said Garry.

“I’m pleased to be following in the footsteps of Doctor John Snow, who influenced big changes in public health and the construction of improved sanitation facilities.

“The first flushing toilet was invented hundreds of years ago for Queen Elizabeth I and, since then, the industry hasn’t radically innovated at all.

“As we move into the 21st century, we need to look at a different way of doing it. A royal appointment would be fantastic – you have got to dream big.

“I know the world needs to save water and we are developing a product that’s going to enable it to do that. 

“I would love to see our toilets go into every home in the UK and to know we are really doing some good for the environment.”

Garry’s father, Stan Moore

DOCKLANDS LEGACY – THE MAN BEHIND THE MAN

When Garry’s father, Stan Moore, lived in Docklands, everything was different.

The 95-year-old grew up in Canning Town during the Second World War, when the Alpha Grove was a Methodist Church and the family’s toilet was an outhouse.

“It was my job to tear up the News Of The World, to use in it,” he said. 

Aged 14 he started working for the civil defence association, delivering messages and putting out fires around the Docks.

“It was terrible – the Blitz,” he said. “One day you would walk down a road in Canning Town and the next it was all gone. 

“As a young kid I took it all in my stride. My poor mum was a widow and had to bring up five kids with no pension.

We lost our house and got evacuated. Our family was really lucky to come out of it in one piece.”

In the 1960s his father-in-law helped get him work at Millwall and Royal Docks, but Stan said he was “very suspicious” about risking his house by giving up his £17-a-week job at William Warne rubber factory in Barking.

“There were thousands of dockers waiting to pick up work,” he said of his first day. “I was told by an elderly docker ‘no matter what, you don’t go on the ships.”

By hometime he had earned £17 loading flour and said: “I couldn’t get on my motorbike quick enough to tell my missus.”

The places he  knew have all been flattened but Stan said he loves having the chance to go back and visit with Garry and to see where his son is working.

“He’s a wonderful bloke,” said Stan, “Good looking and everything he does is good.

Read more: How Canada Water Dockside is set to transform Rotherhithe

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Canada Water: How Canada Water Dockside fits into regeneration plans

Art-Invest’s scheme to build offices on the edge of the water will see work at town centre’s heart

An artist's impression of how the office development might look
An artist’s impression of how the office development might look

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Art-Invest is doing something a bit unusual – at least in the context of the ongoing regeneration of Docklands, east and south-east London. 

The German developer recently received outline planning permission from Southwark Council for a scheme covering the former Decathlon store (now temporary events venue Dock X) on the edge of Canada Water.

But while rolling cranes onto such sites isn’t exactly out of the ordinary, the fact that it intends to build offices, is.

Art-Invest’s plans for Canada Water Dockside cover a chunk of land either side of Surrey Quays Road, including the now defunct Hawker House, adjacent to the 53 acres that developer British Land is currently engaged in regenerating. 

It’s a missing piece in the redevelopment of the area – a site originally earmarked for housing – that enjoys a lengthy stretch of dock edge and connects the British Land project with buildings already completed beside the Tube station.

Art-Invest’s plans are for a series of three buildings housing about 1.5million sq ft of space alongside community facilities and places to eat and drink at ground floor level. The scheme also promises to bring up to 10,000 jobs to the area.

“Back in 2019, there was an opportunity to get involved in this particular site, and we were very aware of what was happening in the area with British Land,” said Luka Vukotic, development director at Art-Invest.

“Given that the whole area was going to change from a residential district to a proper town centre, we thought it would be quite remarkable to help with that wider vision.

“What really attracted us to it was that it was already established, with existing communities all around it.

“As we were starting to consult with people, we realised how strong they were and how much local identity there already was. In addition, we were really attracted by the green and blue spaces of this place – its parks and its docks. 

“With British Land coming forward with a town centre, our scheme needed to be more than just a residential building with a boring ground floor.

“We wanted to create office space with lower levels that everyone could use – both occupiers and local communities.”

Art-Invest development director Luka Vukotic
Art-Invest development director Luka Vukotic

While many had questioned whether people would return to workplaces following the pandemic, Art-Invest remains confident that its plans have a place in the evolving way businesses and organisations operate.

“A lot of existing offices will become less attractive in the coming years for a number of reasons, some technical and some social,” said Luka. 

“We’re convinced we’ve got a really special location, so it’s now about how we make something really remarkable out of this opportunity.

“We want to help build this new town centre and to create the offices of the future. 

“What’s really helped us in this process was talking to the local community – I personally had more than 150 meetings with community stakeholders, local businesses, local residents and local groups. 

“We realised that people really like the idea of a town centre as a place to socialise – to have a drink and some food and to enjoy it.

“So then we asked people what they wanted to see and they said they would like so many things – a food hall, restaurants, local shops, a community centre, a health hub, a bike repair shop. They told us what they thought was missing.

“That allowed us to think about our buildings in a different way – instead of having a large reception area for the offices on the ground floor, we thought it would be amazing to make that space vibrant, to create streets and squares there, before looking at what’s above.”

The next round of consultations focused on what the office buildings themselves might be like.

“That’s when we started thinking about the urban green factor, with external space and terraces, and how we make this a car-free place, a zero-fossil fuel development,” said Luka.

“It’s how we’ve begun to develop the vision of what the office of the future will be. 

“That’s very different from the old thinking, where developers created these super buildings where you can spend the entire day without leaving.

“We thought it would be much nicer to deconstruct the building and ask what’s needed that’s not already there – then you can create a relatively simple development that plugs into the existing grid of facilities and amenities.

“We ended up with a planning application that has been really well received by the local community.

“That wasn’t surprising to us because of all the work we’d done.

“Now we’ve got the go-ahead, the next five to seven years are going to be really exciting, where we can actually put a lot more thought into what this development is going to be like – to bring more colour to what we have already shown.”

An artist's impression of how the ground floor of Canada Water Dockside might look
An artist’s impression of how the ground floor of Canada Water Dockside might look

Art-Invest is working with BIG Architects on the scheme, which will have an eye firmly on sustainability, aiming to create a net-zero development entirely powered by electricity.

“The office of the future is not the building itself, it’s the environment you’re creating,” said Luka. 

“Workplaces will be spaces where you come maybe three or four times a week, but not somewhere you’d come to sit at a desk for the whole day.

“When it comes to the buildings, we think that the look and feel of office blocks needs to change – they should be more welcoming. 

“Our intention is also to have lots of terraces. A lot of people complain about the weather in the UK, but I think for most of the year you can actually work outside, depending how cold it is

“We use the terrace quite extensively at our office for about eight or nine months of the year.

“Fresh air is very important to us – Canada Water has some of the cleanest air in London and we want to create buildings with opening windows, not sealed boxes that don’t feel very human.

“In the future, offices will also be places where you might come to meet other people and to do other things in addition to work that you wouldn’t necessarily do at home.

“That’s why we think Canada Water has a lot to offer – you can do all sorts of activities within a 500m radius. 

“For example, Decathlon are our next-door neighbours and with everything the area has to offer there’s an opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyles.

“When we engaged with Decathlon, we realised its vision aligns with what we’re trying to achieve in terms of healthy living, active transport, and so on.

“That’s why we have a partnership with them and have set aside a £200,000 fund to encourage health and wellbeing in Canada Water over the next five years.

“This is a grass-roots project, supporting what’s already here. 

“We are strong believers that we don’t need to create a place here – there’s already a place here – we just need to see if there’s something missing or if we can help with something that’s already in existence.

“I’d really like to thank everyone who’s been involved in the processes over the last couple of years – all those who have worked with our teams, but also all the stakeholders, the community and Southwark Council who will be engaging with us to make this a success.

“We feel that Canada Water is going to be the start of an amazing journey in the years to come.”

Art-Invest hopes to start construction in 2023 with its buildings coming in phases. Residents can expect some spaces to open by 2025 or 2026.

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