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Isle Of Dogs: How Canary Garden is bringing some life to land beside South Quay Plaza

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

Canary Garden is located on South Quay overlooking Canary Wharf

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

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

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

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

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

Canary Garden’s Oscar Tang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florafind sells bouquets and offers floristry workshops

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

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

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

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

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

“The idea is not too complicated.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richly flavoured vegetarian noodles from Lu at Canary Garden

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

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

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

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

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

But Oscar’s vision for the site is wider.

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

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

“That might include calligraphy, watercolour painting and aromatherapy.

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

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

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

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

key details

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

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

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

Find out more about Canary Garden here

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Kricket and Soma are set to bring late night Indian flavours to E14

Restaurant and bar in Frobisher Passage will see the Soho success story move east with a 2am licence

Kricket co-founder Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell outside their Soho restaurant

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Kricket is set to try something different in Canary Wharf.

Over recent years, the estate’s restaurant and bar scene has flourished thanks to a torrent of new arrivals.

The likes of Dishoom, Hawksmoor, Mallow and Oysteria have built on the solid foundations laid by Amerigo Vespucci, Roka and Boisdale Of Canary Wharf to transform the estate into a compelling culinary destination.

However, even with a wealth of destinations to choose from, finding food after 10pm can be challenging.

While some venues are open until midnight and a few don’t close until 2am, they are the exception rather than the rule.

But Will Bowlby and Rik Campbell feel this corner of London is now right for a venue that cooks into the small hours.

“We’ve got a late licence on the site so we can open to 2am, which is great for our bar, Soma, but we’re also going to use that for our restaurant, Kricket, and do the full service until late, on the nights that demand it – Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” said Rik, who co-founded the business with university friend Will in Brixton.

“It’s a selling point and I think we can get a following going for it.”

Bhel puri at Kricket

Will, who works as the business’ executive chef, added: “We took a lot of our team over to Mumbai in January this year – many have been with us for five years or more – as we wanted to show them the city we were inspired by.

“There’s a lot of late-night eating there and we thought it would be great to recreate that vibe – Mumbai really is a 24-hour city, even if London isn’t.”

There’s something fitting, perhaps, in the arrival of a cutting-edge brand in Docklands that started life in a shipping container in Brixton.

Those metal oblongs were themselves a transformative force for shipping – their introduction one of the factors that left the docks obsolete, clearing the way for Canary Wharf to emerge.

“We started Kricket in 2015,” said Will, who went straight to work in a London kitchen after university in Newcastle, before moving over to India.

“I cooked the food and Rik served the customers.

“It was like a foray into the darkness – we didn’t really know what we were doing until we opened – then we learnt as we went along.

“From there, we opened in Soho in January 2016.”

A Junoon cocktail at the restaurant

Rik, for his part, had always wanted to work in hospitality but spent time at Deloitte in corporate finance before joining forces with Will.

Their Soho venture was a success and Kricket now operates three sites – a restaurant under railway arches in Brixton and another in White City.

“Having been in India, we wanted to showcase what we’d seen there,” said Will.

“When I was first over there, I was running a European restaurant – but I was always more interested in what I wasn’t cooking.

“In London at the time, there were high-end Indian fine dining establishments and curry houses with very little in between.

“It was about waiting for an opportunity and that was the container.”

Rik added: “We were young – in our mid-20s – and naiveté was bliss.

“We did 50 covers on our first night – mostly friends and family – but we had no kitchen porter and no bar.

“A lot of time we would get out of trouble because Will’s food is so good.

“We had a lot of fun, just focused on the food and service and worked really hard doing 90-100 hour weeks. 

“It was an important part of the journey, but you couldn’t pay me to go back there now.”

Pandhi pork curry

The buzz the duo created won them recognition and a shot at Soho, attracting a line of diners with an open kitchen and counter service.

“Eventually they took on the space next door, opening basement bar Soma at least partly to lucratively lubricate those waiting in the queue.

It’s this combination that will inform their forthcoming Canary Wharf branch – tentatively expected to open in July, 2024, at Frobisher Passage under the DLR.

“The site was in a very unassuming building, quite un-Canary Wharf, but Rik said we must go and see it,” said Will.

“It’s underneath the DLR, quite tucked away, opposite Blacklock

“Neither of us had been to Canary Wharf for about 10 years, and we’d assumed that it wasn’t really where we wanted to be.

“But when we went over there, we were really surprised by how much it had changed.

“It’s a full seven-day operation with an established community – lots of committed residents,  people visiting and staying locally.

“You can get to our Soho branch near Piccadilly Circus via the Elizabeth Line in less than half an hour.”

So what can people expect from the new venue when it opens its doors?

“Kricket is our interpretation of Indian food,” said Rik. “It’s such a varied cuisine – there’s so much to learn and to eat.

“Our menus are constantly changing and we showcase local ingredients in dishes that are designed to be shared, just as they are in India.”

Will added: “We’ve designed the restaurant so people can come on their own, as a couple or with eight or 10 people for a feast.

Mussels Goan chorio and other assorted dishes

“We have dishes from £2-£45 so it’s accessible.

“The most expensive one is really a big showcase of a plate.

“We’ve always had open kitchens, which is unusual for an Indian restaurant and it’s how we like to eat – up at the counter.

“Then there will be Soma, which will have a different feel and its own entrance.

“If Kricket is a bustling market-like place, then Soma is the quiet little sister – a little broody and underground.

“In Canary Wharf it will be India and beyond with a definite Japanese influence and elements from across Asia.

“Our Soho bar was formerly a Japanese gentleman’s club so we’ve taken inspiration from that in the classic style of the drinks. High quality and reasonably priced.”

While the last time Will and Rik ate together at Kricket they had the steak with garlic bread, when asked for guidance, Will was clear.

“Start with the tomato rasam pani puri (£2) and then have the bhel puri (£7.50),” he said.

“The first is an explosion in your mouth and the second has been on the menu since day one.” 

Anyone else salivating?

key details

Kricket and Soma are set to open in Canary Wharf’s Frobisher Passage in July, 2024.

Find more information about Kricket here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Paws On The Wharf highlights and celebrates Guide Dogs’ work

Charity teams up with Citi, Canary Wharf Group, Wild In Art and the Canal And River Trust to create trail

Guide Dogs has placed a trail of 25 sculptures across the Canary Wharf area

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Kudos to Guide Dogs, Wild In Art, Citi, Canary Wharf Group and the Canal And River Trust.

The organisations have come together to create a pop-up trail of 25 sculptures, celebrating and raising awareness of the charity’s work.

Inspired by a London-based guide dog called Theia, each of the canine statues has been decorated by a different artist, forming a route that takes visitors across Canary Wharf as well as to West India Quay and Canary Garden.

“The Paws On The Wharf trail features sculptures scattered all over this area with a total distance of about 5km,” said Guide Dogs CEO, Andrew Lennox, at the launch event. 

“We’ve only just launched and we’re already seeing such great engagement and involvement with the public.

“People who see these sculptures are appreciating the art, but also learning more about the impact Guide Dogs has on people’s lives every single day and the artists behind the creations.

The sculptures can be found at West India Quay as well as in Canary Wharf and Canary Garden on South Quay

“We had Theia at the launch, who is a dog sponsored by one of our amazing partners Citi, which is also supporting the trail.”

Jackson Mendosa, chief of staff to Citi’s UK CEO, added: “Two things that make this trail stand out are accessibility and inclusivity, which are also concepts we believe we embrace as a firm through our staff and our business. 

“Guide Dogs was our charity partner between 2020 and 2022, with Theia the result of that relationship – but it was also the start of this initiative.

Paws On The Wharf’s first sculpture is just outside Citi’s offices and I’d like to thank everyone involved in the trail – it’s really something phenomenal.”

Key among those involved are, of course, the artists.

Sian Healey and Uri

Sian Healey created Guide Dog Adventures for the trail, which can be found near the eastern exit from Canary Wharf’s Crossrail Station.

She said: “I’m from Cardiff and I’ve been visually impaired since I was a child, due to a form of albinism that affects my eyes, hair and skin.

“I lose melanin slowly over time.

“I’ve always needed extra support and help throughout my life, whether that was with education or mobility and, eventually I applied for a guide dog, which now gives me independence.

“I had my first guide dog 15 years ago when my children were young and that opened up my world considerably.

“I had been pretty independent before when I was on my own – using my cane and hiding my disability as much as possible.

“But with young children you can no longer do that because you could be putting them in danger.

Sian’s postcard of London

“Once I had children, I had to accept how poor my vision was – how potentially dangerous simple tasks like walking across a road could be – and I had to reach out and accept help, because it was affecting my mental health too.”

Having donated artwork to Guide Dogs as a way of giving something back to the charity, Sian was invited to contribute a piece to the trail.

She said: “I submitted a few ideas which were developed and eventually accepted.

“Then, one day, Wild In Art delivered a big statue of a guide dog to my home and I was left with the paints.

“Uri – my current guide dog – didn’t like him at all.

“We had to cover the sculpture with a duvet most of the time. Uri wouldn’t go near him, even while I was working.

“I wanted my piece to be about being a guide dog owner and, of the 25, mine is probably the most realistic-looking.

“He’s in a traditional harness and has a nose that’s the same colour as Uri’s.

“Then I thought about what these dogs do for us and how I could depict that.

Sian’s postcard from Northern Ireland

“The main thing is to do with travel – getting out and about and doing things.

“So I thought of postcards of different places people had been with their guide dogs.

“The organisers wanted it to reflect all parts of the UK, so I have views from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.

“I also wanted it to reflect the diversity of what the charity offers, so there are different dogs on there – labradors, retrievers and a shepherd – with a variety of owners.

“I’ve always painted and drawn, although I did stop for a while.

“It started picking up again when I had my first guide dog, who helped me to get to art classes and build my confidence up.

“It’s something I’ve always loved doing, and my artwork is different from other people’s because of the way I see – it’s very blurry and abstract at times, because that’s the way my world is.

“I have no depth vision, so that’s why my paintings are a bit flat but very bright.

“I have to wear dark glasses and hats all the time because the light burns my eyes and I have no colouring in the back of them.

Sian’s postcard from Wales

“In certain lights I can’t see anything at all, but in other lights I can see quite well up to my nose.

“My sight is constantly changing and it’s not something I can depend on. 

“It’s quite a buzz to have a piece included in the trail.

“I hope Paws On The Wharf helps people understand that visual impairment is a spectrum, not just one thing and that this trail helps raise awareness.” 

Following the trail, the sculptures are set to be auctioned off to raise money for Guide Dogs.

This will take place at the Saatchi Gallery on June 5, 2024, with a limited number of tickets, costing £20, available on an application basis.

Prices will start at £2,000. Those interested in attending should in the first instance email pawsonthewharf@guidedogs.org.uk for more information.   

Guide Dog Adventures by Sian Healey can be found outside the east exit of the Elizabeth Line station at Canary Wharf

key details

The Paws On The Wharf trail starts in Jubilee Park and is available to follow from now until May 17, 2024.

Visitors can tour the sculptures at their leisure using either a digital or printed map.

A limited number of free, bookable, 90-minute multi-sensory tours – with priority spaces for people with sight loss and the option to request a sighted guide – will also be held on various dates during the trail’s run.

These will include both items to smell and touch. 

Find our more about Paws On The Wharf here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Jon Hala London delivers technical cuts for short styles

Senior art director Ellie Reilly talks trends and quality as men opt for longer hair and women experiment with shorter locks for 2024

Jon Hala London’s senior art director Ellie Reilly

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Ellie Reilly knows hair.

Trained at Vidal Sassoon, she comes from a family of hairdressers and has spent more than a decade honing her skills.

When Jon Hala opened his salon in Canary Wharf’s Jubilee Place, she was a natural choice for his team and currently works for the business as a senior art director.   

“Initially I fell into the industry,” she said.

“I originally thought I didn’t want to follow everyone else in my family into it, but as soon as I tried it, that was me done. 

“I’m a hairdresser and I absolutely love it.

“My nan had a salon in east London and I’ve got aunts and uncles who all followed in the family tradition.”

Ellie specialises in cutting hair, which makes her the ideal person to talk about shorter styles, which are becoming increasingly popular among her female clients, just as men experiment with slightly longer locks. 

“To do my job, you need good fundamental training, lots of practice and to have a passion for it,” said Ellie.

“It’s as much about dealing with people as it is their hair, having that confidence to know what will suit the shape of someone’s face.

“Men, especially, look for guidance – they like someone to tell them what complements their face shape, the texture of their hair and their lifestyle.

“At Jon Hala London I cut a lot of men’s hair and I’m happy to be direct if that’s what the client wants – I can tell them what is going to work and why.

“It’s why I’ve built up a lot of loyal clients who come back again and again.

“One thing is you don’t necessarily want to follow the trends – do a short back and sides or get the clippers out and shave everything off.

Jon Hala London is located in Canary Wharf’s Jubilee Place

“Men often want something that’s easy to care for and style, that suits them and doesn’t need a lot doing to it. 

“At the salon, customers will find great people who have been in the industry for a long time, so they know how to cut hair to suit an individual.

“We go deeper than simply looking at clients, we explore their lifestyle, job and how that relates to their hair.

“It’s tailored haircuts for individuals.

“Everyone is different and everyone has different hair. Our training actually starts with bone structure so you can understand why a person’s hair does what it does.”

Ellie said the effect of the various lockdowns had left men open to experimenting with different styles, having (in some cases) seen their hair grow out for the first time in years.

“Some of them discovered they had looks they’d never really seen before, like amazing curls,” she said. 

“Many more of my clients are trying longer hair or mid-length styles rather than opting for that close-clipped look. 

“Lockdown did good things for male hair, it allowed people to see what they had naturally.

“Some might be a bit daunted to walk into somewhere like Jon Hala, but I’d encourage them to just come and have a chat. 

“If you don’t know what you want or you’re looking for a change, book a consultation and we can give you that advice.”

The technical expertise that Ellie has accrued over the years is equally applicable to women’s hair, an area that post-pandemic has seen an almost reciprocal effect.

With many having gone long over the previous couple of years, a fashion for shorter styles is emerging.

“For a while no-one was really cutting their hair,” said Ellie.

“So now people have become bored with that and have decided to try new things. There are lots of bobs and pixie cuts already this year.

“It’s the same with men and women. The important thing about these styles is they have to suit the individual’s face.

Men are currently experimenting with longer styles

“Men tend to have squarer faces so the hair needs to reflect those shapes.

“Women are often more rounded, so you want a style that’s softer or more feminine. 

“The one thing I would say when it comes to short hair is the better the haircut, the longer it will last. 

“At Jon Hala, we cut the hair so that it will keep its shape as it grows out.

“That means it can last three, four or even five months.

“It’s about knowing the tricks and techniques.

“For example, with male clients I might take a little more off the back and sides because I know they will grow out more quickly than the hair on top. 

“That’s the difference when you come to a salon like this – you’re getting a tailored, high quality, technical cut.”

In addition to the cut, appointments at Jon Hala include advice and tips on caring for and styling a client’s hair. 

“We have a wide variety of products and I’ll always go through what I’m using with a client and why,” said Ellie. 

“We can always suggest what will work well for people and offer advice on what they’re already using.

“Everyone at the salon is trained, so when someone comes here they can tap into all of that expertise. 

Women are exploring shorter, more technical styles

“When a client comes to see me, I want them to feel comfortable, special and like they’re the only person in the salon.

“It’s both that experience and the quality of the haircut that we focus on.

“We want people to leave thinking that they will tell their friends and relatives about their visit so they can come and see us too.

“I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by Canary Wharf.

“From an outsider’s point of view, I think people associate it with business and offices.

“While I grew up in east London as a kid and then moved out, I’d had no experience of working here before Jon, who I’ve known forever, asked me to join his team.

“It’s not what I expected at all. I’ve worked all over London including salons in Mayfair, but this really is people-wise the nicest area I’ve ever experienced.

“I have the loveliest clients, really interesting people, and it’s a very mixed area.

“We have clients of all ages coming to the salon and you end up befriending lots of people.”

need to know

Jon Hala London is located in Canary Wharf’s Jubilee Place. Ladies cut and blow-dry starts at £75, while men’s start at £50.

The salon offers a comprehensive range of hair and beauty treatments and is open for appointments from Monday to Saturday.

Find out more about Jon Hala London here

Read more: Why MadeFor office space in Canary Wharf is a vital part of its offering

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Kiko Milano aims to disrupt the estate’s beauty scene

UK and Ireland managing director Paul Devin talks expansion, growth and opening excitement

Kiko Milano supervisor Rattan Saggu applies blusher at the Canary Wharf store

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“We are seriously under-represented in London,” said Paul Devin, Kiko Milano’s managing director for the UK and Ireland.

“Before we opened in Canary Wharf, we had branches in Regent Street, Covent Garden and in the two Westfield shopping centres.  

“But a brand with our potential customer base should have significantly more sites in the capital and at key locations around the UK and Ireland.

“Canary Wharf is very interesting for us – the demographic of the consumer here is very aligned to Kiko Milano and what’s fascinating is the consumer profile has evolved while the area continues to go through a really exciting evolution.

“It’s not the Wharf of old with Monday-Friday city workers.

“Now it’s a vibrant place seven days a week and we want to be where those customers are.”

The Jubilee Place opening this month was the first in Kiko’s ambitious plan to go from 27 stores in the UK to 100 over the next four years.

It’s also an opportunity for the brand to trial a more compact store with a smaller footprint and see consumers’ reactions to that.

“When visiting our store, people will find quite a disruptive take on the beauty industry,” said Paul.

“If you’re a customer in that market, you’re often sent down one of two paths. 

“The first is a self-select environment where there might be great brands but there’s no service.

“You might take a product to the till and try it on, there might be some testers or there might not.

“Alternatively there’s the prestige environment.

Kiko Milano’s Canary Wharf store is located in Cabot Place mall

“There you have that counter element which, for some consumers, is fantastic, but for others is a little bit formal – it can be a bit of a barrier as it’s not so relaxed.

“What Kiko Milano offers in all of its branches is a bright, relaxed atmosphere with music in the background and beauty advisers who are trained to help customers.

“There are product areas where you can test and play too, so you get the best of both worlds.

“You get prestige quality products at an accessible price point, with unbelievable quality.  

“If you want a five or 10-minute makeover, you can have one free of charge, and we’ll talk about the products used. 

“Then you can choose to buy or come back another time – or not – it makes no difference to the way we treat people. Nobody else is doing beauty in this way. 

“Approximately 98% of our products are made in Italy, which is important because that’s where the best in the world are manufactured. 

“In that region, we have access to the same creative minds and the same factories that are used by prestige quality brands.

“We put our own spin and innovation into the mix and offer our products to consumers at a far more affordable price.

“It’s a sweet spot for us, because we’re both the brand and the retailer so you don’t have that margin on the price – the customer doesn’t have to pay a mark-up and we can offer amazing quality for less.”

Founded in Milan, Kiko has been trading for 26 years with a mission to “surprise and delight consumers” with its stores.

Paul said it had been a pioneer, introducing attractions such as video walls and in-store music as it aimed to bring the feel of clothes shopping to the beauty and skincare market.   

“Today we have 1,100 stores globally in 65 countries, including market-leading positions in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and the Middle East,” he said.

“Then we’ve got opportunities where we are looking to seriously accelerate the brand in the UK and Ireland, Germany, the US and Asia.

“It’s our ambition to reach more than 2,000. The momentum is there.”

The growth in bricks and mortar stores reflects Kiko’s approach to expanding its brand online both for exposure and sales.

“We have a strategy of unified commerce,” said Paul.

“I don’t think there’s a consumer today, whether they’re in the automotive industry, fashion, beauty or footwear, who is not using digital devices for research and to purchase products. 

“But our stores are an integral part of that.

“If someone in Canary Wharf comes into Kiko Milano and has a great experience then I’m delighted. 

“If they go on to purchase a product online, via click-and-collect or from the shop, then that’s great.

“What we’re obsessed with is a customer-centric approach – if we’re able to combine online and offline, then that helps us climb further up the hierarchy. It’s a complementary approach. 

“When customers go into our stores they will meet one of our fantastic beauty advisers, who wear what we call a brush belt ready to demonstrate key products and applications.

“They are all qualified beauticians, are ready to offer makeovers and are equipped with bespoke iPhones that can be used for all transactions or even to order products to stores or to other locations.

“Our heritage is in physical stores and that will always be at the forefront of what we do – we want to invest in that experience, whether it’s in a compact branch like Canary Wharf or our new flagship in Covent Garden.”

The store carries an extensive range of products

With beauty and skincare firmly at the core of Kiko’s offer – best sellers include its Skin Trainer Opitcal Corrector and 3D Hydra Lipgloss – big plans are afoot to extend the brand’s range.

Paul said: “We’re currently working to articulate our new position, which is: ‘Art, beauty, joy’.

“We’ll be doing so many things to get that message out there over the coming months and it’s the first time the UK will have a heavyweight media campaign from us. 

“We’ll open 13 stores in the next eight months and refurbish another three, so that’s key.

“Then we’re also working on a lot of product categories and we’ll be launching a haircare range followed by sun care and then fragrances in the fourth quarter.

“With Kiko there’s a new collection every four weeks and we have some great collaborations coming up including one with Bridgerton, which captures the essence of the new series.”

Clearly one to watch…

THREE WHARF LIFE PICKS

Jess Maddison has scoured the store to find a trio of products for shoppers to look out for…

Days In Bloom Perfecting Face Powder, £17.99 

This beautiful compact holds finishing powder to eradicate any shine on the go. Powder in public with pride,” said Jess.

Days In Bloom Flowery Brush Set, £22.99

“One of the prettiest brush sets I’ve seen, I love the fact it is a four-in-one and comes in a little flowery pouch,” said Jess.

Days In Bloom Radiant Universal Oil, £18.99 

“This feels heavenly on the skin. It can be used on the face, body and hair and has a lovely shimmer to it too,” said Jess.

THREE KIKO MILANO BEST SELLERS

Kiko Milano has picked out its most popular products for Wharfers’ beauty radars…

Skin Trainer CC Blur, £19.99 

“Products like this get people into a really good skincare regime and really set them up for great foundation,” said Paul.

3D Hydra Lipgloss Limited Edition, £14.99 

“This is available in 25 different shades and has exploded on the likes of TikTok – it’s amazing,” said Paul.

Maxi Mod Volume And Definition Mascara, £13.99 

“We’re famous for our eye products such as this one which is a best seller all around the world,” said Paul.

Find out more about Kiko Milano here

Read more: Why MadeFor office space in Canary Wharf is a vital part of its offering

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How MadeFor is a vital piece of the estate’s office space offering

Fitted, furnished and managed solution presents firms of all sizes with a hassle-free option

MadeFor office spaces in Canary Wharf come fully furnished and ready to use

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It wasn’t all that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that Canary Wharf was a two-storey warehouse built in the 1930s handling bananas brought to the UK from the Caribbean.

The brick-built structure at what was then West India Docks’ Import Dock, managed to survive the bombing during the Second World War, but not the demise of the docks themselves. 

It was bought for £25million in 1988 by Olympia And York – the company that kicked off the regeneration project that would become the Canary Wharf of today – and was demolished without much ceremony a year later.

I mention this not because of some rose-tinted hankering for nostalgia – although the idea of dockers slipping on endless banana skins carries some slapstick appeal.

Instead it’s a reminder of just how far this part of London has come in 35 years.

There’s been much short-termist nonsense published recently about the idea that this part of the city might be in peril. It’s true – some companies based here have decided to move for various reasons.

But before launching into a cascade of gloomy thoughts about home working’s effect on the economy and the merits of office clusters, consider a different perspective.

Three-and-a-half decades ago, there was nothing much at Canary Wharf but derelict warehouses.

A group of people had to imagine what it might be, who might want to be there and what – if any – companies would come over. In the end, their creativity and bravery yielded success, with the arrival of the Jubilee line extension proving pivotal in that story.

Towers rose and were filled. They largely still are.

MadeFor customers enjoy self-contained spaces with modern facilities

Current media commentary cries out that Canary Wharf will have to reinvent itself if it is to continue to flourish.

But such pieces entirely miss the point. Canary Wharf has done nothing but endlessly reinvent itself since that old warehouse crumbled. 

The idea that a few financial institutions moved over here from the City in pursuit of cheaper rent and larger spaces in the 2000s and that nothing much has changed since, is simply perception lagging reality.

The estate and the surrounding area is on a constant path of change, renewal and development – its priorities shifting to meet and satisfy demand.

That’s the case with its shops, bars, restaurants and open spaces as much as it was in the decision to build housing on Wood Wharf. 

Canary Wharf Group (CWG) has demonstrated an increasingly open and agile approach to the land it manages – whether that’s embracing competitive socialising with Fairgame and Electric Shuffle or deciding to host a vast padel tennis complex – as it works tirelessly to broaden the appeal of the estate. 

But what of the office space itself?

Well there’s been diversification there too amid a long track-record of flexibility to serve the market.

While tech community Level39 provides small startups with a home and space to grow, funkier spaces have been created at Wood Wharf. 

North Quay will see significant lab space created as the estate continues to attract organisations from sectors beyond financial services.

Eggs, baskets and all that.

That hasn’t, of course, stopped the likes of Barclays and Citi recommitting to the area – doubtless convinced by an environment that now draws significant crowds at weekends in virtue of what’s on offer to visitors as well as residents.

Nevertheless, CWG hasn’t stood still on office space either, with MadeFor perhaps the punchiest addition to its offering in recent years.

Canary Wharf Group associate for office leasing Luke Thurlow

“In short, it’s our fully-fitted, furnished and managed workspaces,” said Luke Thurlow, CWG associate for office leasing and one of the team tasked with helping firms land on the Wharf or move into bigger premises.

“Traditionally, a tenant would take an empty shell and build it themselves, creating meeting rooms, break-out spaces and filling it with furniture.

“MadeFor takes away all of that hassle for the end-user, who can pretty much move in immediately if they like.

“Office space has always been a strong part of the business and this is part of diversifying our portfolio.

“It means Canary Wharf offers single desks and co-working at Level39, self-contained units under MadeFor and shell space if a client prefers that.

“MadeFor can cater for businesses with 10 desks in 1,000sq ft of space, right up to our biggest letting where Citi took 10 floors as part of a short-term solution to house staff while its tower is being refurbished.

“The message is that many people think Canary Wharf is only for larger businesses – big multinational companies, which we do have here – but even if you’re a small startup or scaleup, we can accommodate your needs.”

It’s an offer that’s clearly gaining traction, with recent signings, including business power supplier, Pozitive Energy, electric vehicle charging firm, Hypervolt, and Taiwanese energy trader, WelHunt, all opting for MadeFor offices at One Canada Square.

Global trading organisation FIA and manufacturing firm Rittal also recently announced they would be renewing their MadeFor leases in the building.

“These recent deals show that companies continue to see Canary Wharf as an international icon,” said Luke.

“Buildings like One Canada Square are seen as part of a company’s strategy to build its business, find new clients and retain top talent – there’s real appeal there.

“MadeFor appeals to both a variety of sectors and businesses of different sizes. Often, smaller firms don’t want the headache of fitting out a space. 

“These are self-contained workspaces so tenants are not sharing meeting rooms, break out spaces or kitchens with other occupiers. 

“That’s especially important so companies know who is coming in and out of their space – vital if you’re regulated by the FCA, for example.”

Layouts include break-out spaces and open-plan design

Essentially, MadeFor is a crucial piece in the puzzle.

One of the key ideas behind the creation of Level39 more than a decade ago was that it had the potential to bring fast-growing startups onto the estate.

With a vast portfolio, it could then flexibly serve the needs of those businesses as they grew.

MadeFor both provides space for companies that are expanding, but it also allows the estate to pitch more effectively to firms and organisations of varying size that aren’t home grown, but like the idea of a move to east London.

“One example would be challenger bank Revolut, which started at Level39,” said Luke.

“Now it is based in an 80,000sq ft space at the Columbus Building off Westferry Circus.

“Because CWG has been running the estate for more than 30 years we are able to take a long-term vision for our customers and as a custodian of this part of London.

“If a business is half way through its lease and bursting at the seams or looking to downsize due to an increase in hybrid working, we can have those conversations. 

“Other landlords use more conventional models where they buy a single building, develop it, lease it and sell it.

“This can make those situations more difficult. What we offer is stability.”

Don’t confuse stability with traditionalism, however.

Luke was keen to stress that MadeFor’s spaces were fitted out to reflect the needs of businesses today.

“Our design philosophy dispenses with reception desks and guest waiting areas,” he said.

“The idea is that visitors come directly into a break-out space where they can get a feel for how the business is working as soon as they arrive.

“We can, of course, design to a customer’s brief and we’re always working based on feedback from previous projects. 

“Perhaps if we’d done this three years ago we’d have had flashy boardrooms off reception areas – people didn’t think you should have staff mingling with visitors.

“But people aren’t working like that any more.

“Visitors want to get a flavour of the company – to be in your world rather than in a holding zone.

“Hybrid working presents great opportunities for businesses – if you look at their spaces and how they’re fitting them out, things are a lot more considered now.

“You’re seeing a lot more meeting rooms, collaboration spaces, fewer conventional rows of desks.

“Suppose you have a project team that’s coming in three days a week – what do they need? 

“Some customers have asked for more break-out space, while others want desks because people are also coming into the office to do more focused work and to make the most of sitting with colleagues to do that.”

CWG will even look after plants in its MadeFor spaces

Beyond the spaces themselves, the estate’s constant evolution is perhaps the most potent weapon in Luke’s arsenal when talking to potential clients.

But then there’s the added value of engaging with a landlord which is completely invested in fostering a thriving, vibrant local economy.

Luke said: “The quality of our office space and workspaces is generally well understood in the market.

“We produce top quality, best-in-class office developments.

“But what we’re also trying to show people who come to Canary Wharf are the lifestyle amenities – the shops, bars and restaurants, the green open spaces and the transport links.

“With the Elizabeth line, you’re 45 minutes from Heathrow. It’s about trying to excite people by getting them to picture themselves and their business here. 

“There are the technical details like the air conditioning and the Wi-fi, but most people who come to look at office space will think more about the coffee downstairs and dinner at Hawksmoor or Dishoom.

“We deliver high quality workspace, but it’s also about our tenant services team and the maintenance operation.

“We’ve also launched an app for the estate so people know what’s here and about all the events that are going on. 

“We’re not just a landlord collecting rent – will it be a Yoga session before work or finding out about Wharf Connect, our network for early career professionals?

“It’s all about what you can do here and, if we’re not doing something already, then talking to us about delivering it.

“It’s a very exciting time and, over the next 10 years people will see so much change here, whether that’s the landscaping of Middle Dock in partnership with the Eden Project or any of the other plans in the pipeline.”

Suffice to say evolution is a certainty at Canary Wharf as it brings life sciences and schools into the mix alongside residential, higher education, governmental bodies and much more.

That, however, will doubtless be easier for Luke and his colleagues to articulate to potential clients than it was for teams 35 years ago, when the whole process of convincing firms to give E14 offices a chance began.

  • key details

MadeFor spaces are available in Canary Wharf at One Canada Square, 40 Bank Street, 20 Water Street and the Columbus Building.

Offices are cleaned and managed including repairs, maintenance, waste management and refreshment options.

Find out more about MadeFor at Canary Wharf

Read more: New events space Broadwick Studio launches on Wood Wharf’s Water Street

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How The Canary Wharf PA Club is set for monthly meet-ups

Relaunched organisation sees founder Alice Scutchey team up with Lucia Sudlow to support assistants on the estate and beyond

The Canary Wharf PA Club founder Alice Scutchey

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Alice Scutchey founded The Canary Wharf PA Club (CWPAC) in 2019 while working as a senior EA to Citi’s UK chief financial officer and things took off.

Tapping into a desire among personal assistants, executive assistants and office managers to meet and network, a packed schedule of events saw the organisation swell to a database of thousands. 

The club ended up becoming like a business with Alice running things alongside her full-time career, offering premium paid memberships to help sustain and monetise its operation.

“I probably could have quit my job and made it into a business, but I didn’t want that,” she said.

“I was increasingly finding it hard to get to know people personally – they knew me but I didn’t know them because I was busy running the events.”

Something of a victim of its own popularity, Alice decided to put the club on pause.

Having worked as an EA at American Express and Quintet Private Bank, she is now director of EMEA business administration at global printing and communications firm Toppan Merrill and has turned her attention back to her creation.

This time, however, she’s got some help.

“It came about because I was chatting with my friend, Lucia Sudlow, about the network,” said Alice.

“It had become unmanageable and I didn’t have time for it.

“Both of us have a background as assistants, so we discussed whether we should give relaunching it a shot together.

“That way we could halve the workload.

“There’s clearly a need for people to meet and – being a PA can be a lonely role. You don’t necessarily have a team or an internal network.

“It’s about bringing people together and helping them in any way we can.”

To that end, Alice and Lucia officially relaunched the club with an event at Doubletree By Hilton London Docklands Riverside, with a plan to commit to a sustainable 12 events per year.

“There are lots of businesses that offer training and courses to help people be better PAs,” said Alice.

“But we want to focus on the person, not on the role.

“The club isn’t about companies selling things to our members either. 

“It’s meeting once a month with no pressure or expectations – just a desire to bring something to the table.

Ask The Imossible’s Lucia Sudlow has joined the operation

“PAs often have something extra going on in their lives – a passion, a hobby or a side business.

“We want our events to be about bringing those things out and showcasing them.

“To anyone new to the club I would say: ‘Bring your whole self to a monthly meet-up and connect with other like-minded people to support each other’.”

That message of connection and friendship rings true for Lucia and Alice too. 

“I originally trained as an architectural technician but I wasn’t very good at it,” said Lucia, who today runs creative and production agency Ask The Impossible, with her husband.

“I was made redundant in 2008, and I went to get a temp job as an assistant admin person. I realised that I was really good at it, enjoyed it and got a lot from it.

“When I first came to London, I was in a role for about 18 months and then I was offered a new job, so I needed to hire someone. Alice came in.

“We only spent two weeks working together and 14 years later, we’re still friends.

“I went on to work for a tech startup and became the head of people and talent after doing pretty much every job there apart from IT development.

“Now I run the operations side of our agency – my husband has the crazy ideas and I make sure they happen.

“As long as whatever a brand wants to do is legal and moral, we’ll do it.

“I’m still very much interested in the PA world and I like to be involved with good people – that’s why I wanted to help with the club.

“We’re going to focus on one good quality event a month – there are lots of clubs that offer paid membership and venue finding services and so on.

“But we just want to support people, not sell them something.

“Things don’t always need to be about growing your skills or your professional career.

“Sometimes you just want to meet people, have a drink, socialise and make connections.”

And that’s really what success looks like for the CWPAC reborn – a vehicle that’s for members to enjoy themselves and benefit from friendships forged.

“It might be that, through the club, someone has found a new job or bought a product from another PA’s side business,” said Alice.

“To me seeing these things is success. It might be that someone gains the confidence to present in front of an audience.

“Many PAs who run their own businesses don’t have thid and our events will be a non-judgmental space that will help people do that.

“If someone has something they want to present to the group then we’ll book them in.

“Of course, being a PA is a career in itself, but moving on to another a role is also a natural path for an assistant to take.

“It’s important to us to support that transition, if people want to make it, as it’s something we’ve both done.”

Lucia added: “PA skills are so transferable – you have to be a jack of all trades in the role. That’s so often a phrase people use negatively, but actually it’s not.

“Having a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things is really useful.

“PAs can get typecast in the assistant role, but actually they’re so capable when they get to a certain part of their career because they have gained so much knowledge.

“Both me and Alice are good examples of what people can go on and do – we want to tell people not to be afraid of their ambitions.”

  • need to know

The Canary Wharf PA Club is aiming to meet once a month from now on.

Events will be free unless otherwise stated. Interested parties can register online for further news.

Find out more about CWPAC here

Read more: New events space Broadwick Studio launches on Wood Wharf’s Water Street

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Broadwick Studio delivers total flexibility at Wood Wharf

Company’s street level events venue and meeting suite has launched at east London’s Water Street

Broadwick Studio is located at the junction of Water Street and Charter Street on Wood Wharf

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The ability to see what isn’t yet there, is arguably Broadwick’s talent as a company.

Having built a portfolio of festivals, the business took a change of direction in 2019, opting to focus on physical event spaces.

Its current portfolio boasts a plethora of venues, many of which are spread across Docklands and east London.

These include the purpose-built temporary structure Magazine on Greenwich Peninsula, former warehouse Dock X in Canada Water and The Beams and Silverworks Island at Royal Docks – one a former industrial sugar store and the other a vast outdoor show ground with Millennium Mills as a backdrop.

While all are essentially blank canvas spaces, they also have something else about them. Magazine looks out over the Thames with Canary Wharf in the background, Dock X sits at the heart of a massive regeneration scheme, The Beams is beside one of Tate & Lyle’s sugar factories and Silverworks boasts an astounding view of Docklands structures past and present. 

While clients are free to brand and mould the spaces exactly how they want, the venues are also of and in their surroundings, granting them potent identities all of their own. 

A visitor might watch a drone show outside at Magazine, but they’ll remember the little craft soaring above the Canary Wharf skyline in the shadow of The O2.

The venue has been designed as a blank canvas

Typically, the vibe is modern, minimal and industrial. Nowhere was this more true than at Broadwick’s flagship venue Printworks London – with events taking place in the stripped-back press halls at Canada Water’s Harmsworth Quays.

Here, from 1989, Associated Newspapers’ publications rattled off enormous machines, 24-hours a day.

Originally intended only for temporary events use, it proved so successful as a venue, that developer British Land is currently in the process of making it a permanent part of its regeneration of the area

Which brings us to Broadwick Studio, the company’s latest space.

With Printworks out of action as works are carried out, the company needed a new home and relocated to offices at 30 Water Street on Wood Wharf.

“When development started we began looking for a new space – we already had a great relationship with Canary Wharf as we were operating the East Wintergarden,” said Elisa Chiodi, Broadwick’s managing director for spaces, innovation and growth.

“We thought having our company here would be a great position to be in.

“We are an entertainment, space and culture organisation and it felt like a great addition to the mix of companies which are based here.

“We love it – it’s easy to get here.

“The team enjoys the fact the Wharf is full of restaurants and shops.

Broadwick’s Elisa Chiodi

“It’s also that 30 Water Street is a very beautiful space – it’s very much us as a company.

“We always look for places that are Broadwick – we always try and find spaces we can turn into a good representation of who we are.

“We’re very minimalist and pared-back.

“We believe in energy and agility, so all of our spaces can be turned into almost anything at any moment.

“Being simple and flexible in everything we do is really important.

“We’re very open – nobody at Broadwick has an office, not even our CEO – and that works for us. 

“We’re also very bold – when we make something, people know it’s us.”

Given that ethos, Wharfers won’t be too surprised to discover that the company has decided to launch a ground floor facility below its offices.

Broadwick Studio includes three meeting rooms and a main event space, with full height glass walls, which can more or less be used for anything.

“We want there to be a reason why people come to the places where we are,” said Elisa.

“We thought: ‘What better than a new venue at Wood Wharf?’.

“We’ve also found that Canary Wharf Group0 is really keen to work with us to have some community activities happening here – that new talent can use the space, perhaps artists, designers or musicians.

Broadwick Studio has plug and play facilities including lighting and a full kitchen

“We really have an open view on what will happen at Broadwick Studio.

“It could be a meeting space, host workshops, product launches, parties – anything.

“We want to work with all kinds of companies in all sorts of industries, as well as community groups which might be interested in using the space as well as businesses hosting events or Christmas parties.”

Located on the corner of Water Street and Charter Street opposite Tribe Hotel, Broadwick Studio can accommodate up to 120 people for a standing reception.

It includes a fully-kitted out kitchen, bathroom facilities and two points of access to help manage the flow of guests.

While minimal in design, looks can be deceptive as the venue comes with some lighting, AV equipment and screens.

“The idea is to make it as plug-and-play as possible,” said Tara Quish, sales and events manager at Broadwick, who previously worked in events for restaurant brand D&D.

“We are completely flexible. If someone wants to do something, then we want them to get in touch.

“If it’s something we haven’t done before, we’d love to find a way to make it happen. 

Broadwick Studio’s suite of spaces includes three meeting rooms at ground level

“To make things simple, on-site furniture, event lighting and house production equipment is included with hire.

“That’s why we’ve decided to include a kitchen, to maximise what people can do in the space. 

“You can even paint the walls if you like, so long as you paint them back.”

With an extensive track record of managing events across its portfolio, Broadwick is also well-placed to offer companies assistance in sourcing firms to cater and produce their events in the space if needed.

Vibration Production, for example, can be called on to provide a wide range of technical services.

But Broadwick is also keen to help the space become part of the fabric of its surroundings.

“The buildings at Wood Wharf have a very different feel to other parts of the estate,” said Elisa. 

“It’s much more urban – and that’s one of the reasons we like being here – we are a very industrial kind of brand and this fits perfectly with what we do. 

“We have been here for less than a year but it feels like home to us and that’s why we wanted to do something. 

“One of the things that we want is for people to see what we do.

“We have a lot of clients who already want to use the space for branding opportunities – not just private events and it’s really well positioned for that. 

Broadwick Studio’s event space can be used for parties, presentations, launches, workshops and meetings

“But we also want to talk to people who live locally and to local artists about what we might do when there isn’t an event running – how we might give their work some exposure.

“Is there some way we can use Broadwick Studio to showcase what they do?”

 In addition to Broadwick Studio, the firm is also gearing up to relaunch the East Wintergarden in Bank Street.

Designed by architect Cesar Pelli – who was also responsible for One Canada Square – the building boasts a vaulted glass ceiling and sits overlooking West India South Dock.

Broadwick is set to officially reopen the venue in April as The Pelligon – a flexible space taking up to 1,000 people – this could be used for awards ceremonies, conferences, launches, filming, parties or weddings.

“It’s going to be something very different to how it’s been in the past,” said Elisa.

For now, it’s a case of watch this space, but Broadwick Studio is very much up and running already.

Those interested in booking an event at the space or collaborating with Broadwick should contact the firm for more details by calling 020 3725 6061.

Find out more about Broadwick here

The space can be curtained off from the street for more private gatherings

Read more: How Canary Wharf Group has launched Wharf Connect, a network for early career professionals

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Pitchflix is connecting startups with investors from Level39

One Canada Square-based firm livestreams demo days and hosts in-person events for founders

Pitchflix CEO Shane Smith

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Pitchflix is a two-way street.

Put simply, the startup, based at Canary Wharf’s Level39 in One Canada Square, connects entrepreneurs with investors and investors with entrepreneurs – digitally and in person.

“It’s an attempt to oil the wheels and reduce friction,” said Shane Smith, the company’s CEO.

“When founders are trying to raise venture capital, we aim to connect them with an investor network to help them do that.

“If you’re trying to raise money for the first time as a business, that’s the toughest time for you, because you’re not on anybody’s radar.

“It’s also the toughest time for investors, because, on the basis that you’re new, there’s no history, no track record – no-one’s done any research on you.

“At that stage, both sides have a pretty tough time finding the right match.

“Given that lack of information, the most valuable thing investors have to go on is the founders themselves.

“The way to understand founders is, ideally, to sit down across the table and have a good conversation about what they’re doing.

“The problem with that, is the economics don’t stack up for the investors to arrange those conversations and physically sit in locations all over the world to have them.”

Shane founded Pitchflix to address the issue, building on a career that’s long focused on providing information to people and companies that need it.

“My background has been between technology, financial markets and research,” he said.

“I started as one of the founding team in London for what was, at the time, a small startup in the US called Bloomberg.

“I was hired to the London office originally, and I moved on from there to set up my own research business, initially in Paris, then brought it back to London.

“We ran that until 2009 when it got beaten up by the credit crunch.

“Then I switched focus to investor communications rather than research, gradually moving from large listed companies, primarily in Asia, down the scale to smaller businesses.

“Pitchflix is an exercise to connect those smaller companies with investors.

Pitchfix aims to increase the reach of demo days beyond a physical audience

“This is the most interesting part of the market, because startups are generally doing more interesting, innovative things – there’s quite a buzz at the smaller end because tomorrow’s mega corporations are being created today.”

The next best thing to sitting in a room with investors is video – how can we get a short piece from founders, even a couple of minutes, in front of them?” said Shane.

“Startups which have been through an accelerator programme will typically do a demo day at the end, where investors come to listen to founders present.

“Our approach is to help accelerators livestream their demo days so international investors can view them from wherever they are, overcoming the geographical obstacles. 

“There are firms who try to bridge that gap, but they typically operate in the corporate finance space where they are trying to broker those deals – we take a very different approach.

“We’re a media business – we help founders advertise themselves to an audience – we don’t get involved in the deals themselves.

“Pitchflix is a conduit that tries to remove friction in the connection and communication between the two parties.

“Investors might be conventional venture capital, corporate venture capital or companies looking to put money into early stage businesses.

“They might also be angel investors or angel syndicates.

“They all face similar problems and we’re trying to solve them.

“For example, if an investor decides to attend a demo day, they might only be interested in a specific sector, but this might involve sitting through pitches from 20 businesses in other fields just to see the one relevant one.

“That’s not a good use of their time.”

Founders’ pitches are hosted in video form on Pitchflix’s site

After livestreaming, Pitchflix hosts founders’ videos on its site, so investors can review them at their leisure.

“The next stage of the business was to turn that model on its head and have investors pitching to founders,” said Shane. 

“We wanted to do that because we’d observed that, while there are lots of demo day and pitch competition events all over London and the rest of the country, nobody was systematically hosting investors who could pitch to an audience of founders to tell them what they were looking for.

“We call them ‘Rev’ for reverse pitch series. We needed to find a bigger space to host them and we discovered Level39. 

“That’s where we put them on, every six weeks or so, and we have a lot of community members coming to them.

“We’re also based there. We started the business in 2019 and, as Covid restrictions, melted away, it was really hard to build a cohesive team and culture while working from home in spare bedrooms or at kitchen tables.

“We hired one person who did a fantastic job of getting up to speed from home, but we felt we needed more than that for the next people coming on board – our recent hires since we’ve been together in one place have been very quick getting into the business and are really productive.”

IN-PERSON

Pitchflix’s next Rev event is set to take place on February 27, 2024 at Level39 with further events in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York in the pipeline for March, April and later in 2024, respectively.

“Rev events are a very concise, efficient use of a founder’s time,” said Shane.

“For two hours attendees will sit and listen to up to 15 investors giving lightning, five-minute showcases of what they like to invest in and why.

“They’ll tell you how much they typically invest, whether they like to collaborate with others, whether they like to lead or follow, a lot of reference data about them, and you’ll get out of it and a sense of the personality and chemistry you might have with them.

“Is this an investor you think you can have a really productive five or 10 year relationship with?

“Are they someone you’d like to have a beer with?

“These are the kind of insights you’re not going to get unless you’re in a room with that person.

“After the presentations, there are audience questions and then there’s networking with some drinks.

“The idea for founders is it’s an opportunity to make themselves memorable, so that when they email the next day with their pitch, they’ll be on investors’ radars.”

Founders tickers for Rev events in London cost a nominal £20, aimed at ensuring those who have booked a place turn up.

At present, Pitchflix’s platform is free for both businesses and investors to use with the eventual aim of charging startups an affordable fee once the marketplace is consistently matching entrepreneurs with capital.

“This is very different from the brokering model, where those firms charge a retainer,” said Shane.

“We also don’t get involved with the production of the demo days themselves because there are tons of them happening.

“We’re just trying to make the process more efficient and extend their reach.

“Bloomberg started life as a business solving one problem – Mike didn’t have a crystal ball for the next 40 years, they were just trying to build a better mousetrap.

“There’s a sort of trend now that investors want to see how things will develop in the next five or 10 years, but you don’t need to.

“You just start with something that’s profitable, and then you explore, listen to your clients, be agile, nimble and develop.

“In our own investor presentations, we describe what we’re building and why it’s great for the market ecosystem. Have we got the full picture – no – but we’re listening.

“Very often you get the first signals about new and emerging stuff from entrepreneurs and what they’re talking about.

vWe’re recording that and analysing it will give you a pretty good indication of what’s coming down the road at 100mph, six months later.

“We have many ideas about how to develop Pitchflix and that’s something we’ll be looking at over the next few years.”

Find out more about Pitchflix here

Read more: How Canary Wharf Group has launched Wharf Connect, a network for early career professionals

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Lyll aims to reinvigorate news brands as channel for SME adverts

Norwegian startup comes to Level39 as it looks to grow investors alongside the publishers it works with

Lyll CEO Camilla Frydenbø

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The idea that the way things are at the moment is how they shall continue to be.

But the world rarely stands still, especially in the world of tech.

There’s a danger in this – in getting too comfortable with the prevailing winds, lest they all too rapidly change when one isn’t paying attention.

Innovation Norway has been running its Tech Executive Accelerator (TEA) programme at Canary Wharf’s Level39, more or less since the community launched in 2013.     

Back then, people talked of Big Data, with a few early adopters whispering about the blockchain.

Challenger banks emerged, crypto wallets proliferated and there was much talk of machine learning. Now it’s generative AI.

During this period, small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have seen social media become the dominant marketing channel for their products and services. 

But nothing in the digital sphere is guaranteed forever – the lustre of Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok and even LinkedIn, has started to tarnish, with the inevitable consequences of light regulation and a limited appetite or capacity for in-house moderation. 

So what of the future? Part of the answer may come from Norwegian startup Lyll – currently in Canary Wharf as part of the TEA’s latest cohort. 

Launched in June, 2023, the company aims to offer SMEs a simple, self-service approach to advertising on digital news sites and is spending six months here as it targets growth. 

While the column inches on these sites are often filled with discussions on the impact of and posts on social media, it’s perhaps easy to forget that much of the most well researched, potent and popular digital content is created by the news brands themselves, with millions of readers turning to them as trusted sources.  

“I’ve been working in marketing for 25 years and online newspapers are my favourite marketing channel,” said Camilla Frydenbø, CEO of Lyll.

“I have a lot of love for them and they are important for brand building, which companies need if they are going to grow. 

“But it hasn’t been very easy for SMEs to use this channel, because they typically have to talk to a salesperson.

“Most media businesses do not have self-service solutions, so many firms turn to social media because those platforms have made it easy to advertise and firms are welcome with any budget.

“Companies often perceive online news brands as expensive, so they don’t contact the salesperson as they feel like they need a big budget. 

“What we’ve done is create a platform that makes it even easier to advertise on these sites than it is to use social media.

“We think businesses will use these channels if they know they can place adverts on these sites with a minimum budget of £50, which most companies can afford.

“The price of an ad view is similar to what they pay on social media – that makes it competitive.”

Lyll currently has more than 5,000 news sites on its platform, spread across nine European countries – a demonstration, perhaps of the publishers’ desire to uncover new streams of revenue in a tough climate.

“Our slogan is: ‘For your growth and a free press’, because we also think in this world where everyone is talking about sustainability, if we don’t have the fourth estate we will all have a problem,” said Camilla.

“We see in countries where there are fewer journalists and news sites being read, you don’t get a high level of debate or a nuanced picture of what’s going on.

“We hope that it will be part of a business’ sustainability plan – how they choose to spend their marketing budget and what they are funding with it.

“We have more than 200 companies in Norway which have signed up to Lyll with an account, although not all are active yet.

“We see it takes a while between when people create an account and when they start advertising, but the interest is definitely there.

“Companies know they need to reach a wider, mass market and when they don’t get the effect they used to from Facebook, it’s a perfect storm because they are willing to listen now.

“If they want to be on TikTok, for example, they have to make videos three times a week, at least, and small firms may not have the resources to produce the coolest thing on the platform.

Lyll is spending time at Level39 in One Canada Square as part of Innovation Norway’s TEA Programme

“When it comes to LinkedIn, if you’re selling to consumers, then it’s not the right channel.

“Then you have women, primarily, using Facebook, and men on YouTube. That’s how the social media market is dividing right now.

“Going beyond this, bringing news sites into the marketing mix, will see firms continue their growth.”

That’s partly because the two streams serve different purposes.

Camilla said she would never encourage a company to abandon social, but spread marketing onto more than one channel.

She said: “It is important for businesses to always be better at brand building – creating something sustainable which gives them growth over time and makes them more profitable.

“A presence on national, regional or local news sites is how you do this.

“Firms need to be more patient with news sites.

“With social media, everything is so fast.

“Companies are always having to come up with new photos, videos, text – which is a little bit tiring. 

“If you are always chasing sales, doing special offers or discounts, then you will never succeed.

“Businesses that put most of their marketing budget into brand building are the ones that win the market, but you don’t do that in three months or six months.

“You need a plan which goes over several years. 

“We don’t say companies shouldn’t use social media, because we think they should. The best effect is when you use three to four channels with a single campaign.

“In Bergen, for example, we have a concert series. Until recently they were selling their tickets through Facebook. 

“But since that was declining, they wanted to try Lyll.

“They took their small budget and divided it between the two newspapers in the city.

“They told us they had never sold out faster than when they divided the budget. 

“Lyll can support what a company is doing on social media – their platforms are often more geared towards making ticket sales, but people also have to know there’s a concert on in the first place.”

Lyll’s idea will likely be welcomed by digital publishers, many of who have spent the years since the arrival of the internet attempting to thrash out viable business models.

Reach PLC, which has kept its sites such as mirror.co.uk and express.co.uk free to access, recently reported a 16% decline in digital revenues – albeit a collapse  largely blamed on Facebook’s decision to send less traffic to news brands.

Camilla said engagement with companies like Lyll could help.

“It’s been very valuable to be in London at Level39 on the TEA programme,” she said. 

“We said we were looking for investors and partnerships and we’ve had meetings with investors and big media companies.

Lyll has built a self-service portal for advertisers to access digital news sites

“The latter see that they have a need for a self-service solution but they have one concern, whether it will have an impact on jobs.

“Sales people are definitely still needed to serve large advertisers – Lyll is not built for their needs – but we think they can activate sleeping customers.

“These companies have huge customer bases that we can appeal to.

“In the end, if they don’t do anything about this problem, they can’t complain about advertising going to social media because, if it’s difficult for companies to buy space on these platforms, they won’t do it. 

“We make money by taking a small cut of the advertising spend – it’s programmatic advertising made easy.

“Another benefit is that while Google’s display network allows placement of ads on these sites, customers can’t choose where their ad appears. 

“They might be placed on strange websites or bad websites, even. These things happen and brand safety is very important.

“If you want your advert to appear on the Financial Times’ site, for example, and you think you’ll get that from Google, you’ll probably find as little as 3% of your budget will place it there and the rest could see it placed somewhere else.

“With Lyll, you get to be in front of the audience you want – you decide where your money is spent.”

As for the future, Lyll is very much eyeing expansion to London following its spell in Canary Wharf.

“The networking with the TEA programme has been fantastic,” said Camilla. “I live in Bergen, which is the second largest city in Norway but is still very small. 

“The investor pool is limited there in marketing tech.

“That’s why we wanted to come to London – here you have the best marketing people in Europe and the things we’ve been able to do, the little network we’ve been able to build – we’d have never been able to do this from Bergen. 

“I think expanding to London would be a natural step for us.

“When we get more funding, the next thing is to hire a salesperson and they would have to be an English-speaking person who can talk to media companies around the globe and try and get them into collaboration with us.”

While the future of media online remains uncertain, the plummeting revenues at X following Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform and its descent into a frequently toxic space which companies are keen to avoid, could well be a cautionary tale.

With brands eager for a safe place to reach people, perhaps Lyll will help reignite a channel that’s been looking for a fresh approach for some time.

Follow this link to find out more about Lyll

You can find out more about Level39 here or Innovation Norway here

Read more: How Canary Wharf Group has launched Wharf Connect, a network for early career professionals

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

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