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Canary Wharf: How M restaurant takes dining on the estate to another level

Founder of the steak specialist, Martin Williams, on water bikes, St Tropez and carbon-neutral meat

M founder and CEO Martin Williams
M founder and CEO Martin Williams – image Matt Grayson

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Water bikes, duck eggs from the local waterfowl, hydroponically grown salad ingredients from the Isle Of Dogs – oh, and steak, a great deal of steak.

There’s something happening on the lower floors of Newfoundland tower at the eastern edge of Canary Wharf and it promises a completely different experience to anything the estate has seen before.

Open now for summer previews, with an official launch set for September 5, M restaurant has been long in the making.

For the brand’s CEO and founder Martin Williams, to see the doors open is both a thrill and a challenge.

“We signed the deal for the space when the building was just foundations and it went up pretty spectacularly,” he said. 

“But it’s taken a bit longer than everybody planned, with the pandemics and the war, but it’s great that six years on the dream has become a reality.”

That dream is one that builds on the success of M’s first two sites – in the City’s Threadneedle Street and Victoria. 

Cobia tartare at M restuarant
Cobia tartare at M restuarant

Its latest opening, in Canary Wharf, promises to further the spirit and verve of the brand.

It’s a reflection of the complementary dichotomy Martin’s character hints at – a man who is at once laser-focused on the detail of the businesses he runs, balanced by the kind of sense of fun that has seen his restaurants offer wheel of fortune prizes to Christmas revellers and an hour of free wine and cheese to mark the recent spate of Governmental resignations.

The slick operation of the venues is a given, but it doesn’t take much for him to sail away on the romance of the inspiration behind them.

“While there are small moments of self-congratulation in running a business – when everybody’s gone home and you sit there and feel you’ve achieved something – in your mind you’re always thinking what more you can do, how you can make the place super special,” said Martin.

“When you walk into any restaurant, you’re looking at the micro details – when I dine out with my wife, she makes me sit facing the wall.

“And there’s so much detail in our Canary Wharf restaurant – the inspirations are from the Cote d’Azur, the Riviera and Lake Como.

“We want to stay with the water – we’re surrounded by it with 360º glass – and we wanted to play on that with the colours.

“There are lots of net details, metalwork inspired by yachts, portholes, seagulls – real maritime inspiration and that feels very fitting.

Tuna tataki at M restaurant
Tuna tataki at M

“There’s nothing like this on the Isle Of Dogs or in Canary Wharf – it’s a different level in terms of decor, the level of hospitality and the quality of the products.

“When combined with the wow factor of the views, people who visit will very quickly acknowledge this is somewhere special.”

M is set to launch its St Tropez Beach Brunch on August 27 and 28, slightly ahead of its official opening.

Running from noon-3pm on the Saturday and Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend, £65 buys a two-course meal and 90 minutes of free-flowing Mirabeau wine or  cocktails.

As with other M sites, the venue has a range of facilities that will act as host to a varied programme of events in addition to its core business.

“We’ve tried to create a venue that you can use for a number of different reasons,” said Martin

“On the ground floor we have La Petite M, which is a wine and wagyu bar with wagyu sausage muffins and bacon sandwiches for breakfast – then it goes into wagyu Cuban sandwiches for lunch and, in the evening, charcuterie plates and wine

“The cafe is very much a grab and go concept and with 600 residents above us, we think it will be very popular for breakfast.

“Then, the main venue is our gastro playground, which is reached via a spiral staircase. It’s akin to walking into a hotel lobby, a very sensory environment that we hope will build anticipation.

Martin says M is a gastronomic playground
Martin says M is a gastronomic playground – image Matt Grayson

“Go up and you’ll be confronted with six ageing chambers for our beef – it’s a bit in-your-face.

“Then there’s a cocktail bar, two private dining rooms, a private members’ lounge, a wine tasting area, a terrace and the grill restaurant specialising in Provencal cuisine.

“Throughout, you can enjoy heightened hospitality.

“It’s always our intention to give you an amazing dining experience.

“We’re cooking on wood, coal and smoke and we specialise in beef with the best meat from around the world.

“We have quality wagyu from Japan and cuts of Blackmore wagyu from Australia – exclusive to us, Heston Blumenthal and The Ledbury – so there are some incredible beef offerings

“All of our steaks are carbon neutral – the way we do that is by having partner farms across the globe where we know the farmers very well and we measure their carbon footprint and the methane output of the cattle. 

“Then we measure the transportation impact of bringing all of our foods to the table, and then we mitigate or reduce that at source as much as possible, and we offset it with a charity we have that is concerned with a reforestation programme in the Amazon.

“That means you can dine knowing it’s not having a negative impact on the environment.

“We also offer a lot more besides. About 50% of our diners eat steak and that means half order other dishes – the rest of our menu has been described as Michelin level food with flair. 

Wagyu scotch egg at M

“We’re very casual and accessible, but the quality is up there with the best restaurants in the UK.”

That M’s third site is in Canary Wharf is no coincidence. Martin, left Marske-By-The-Sea near Middlesborough for London aged 18, working in hospitality through his studies before deciding to take restaurants “very seriously” at the age of 24.

His first managerial role was at Gaucho’s Canary Wharf branch, a business he eventually rose to become MD at and that he is once again running alongside M.

“We had a sheltered upbringing with one row of houses between us and the North Sea and a five-minute drive to the North York Moors – Heartbeat country,” he said. 

“When I came to London it was a wonderful shock to the senses, very busy and very diverse.

“You could be anyone you wanted to be. Canary Wharf has changed immeasurably since I first came here – it’s a very different landscape.

“When I launched M in 2014, I was looking at the Wharf and the City, but the Threadneedle Street site had previously been a restaurant so a lot less capital was needed to open.

“This new venue should be the making of M. 

“I love Canary Wharf, the cleanliness and the safety but also the journey it’s been on over the past 15 years to become more than a sterile environment, with real culture and art and the way the waterways are being used in different ways now. 

“We’re hoping to do a competition where businesses and residents can race water bikes along Middle Dock with some great prizes for the winners.

“We want to open with a bang and offer the highly competitive people of Canary Wharf a way to have some fun, get some exercise and enjoy the world’s best beef.”

M’s signature Bakewell Tart

Read more: Go for a dip in the dock in Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Greenwich: How GDIF is set to fill east and south-east London with performances

The 2022 edition of the Greenwich And Docklands International Festival runs from Aug 26-Sept 11

GDIF will feature Charon, a zoetrope-like installation

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“We’re opening this year with a truly amazing event – Spark – the creation of a Dutch artist called Daan Roosegaarde, it’s a complete reimagining of what an environmentally sustainable public celebration might look like,” said Bradley Hemmings, artistic director and founder of the Greenwich And Docklands International Festival (GDIF).

“He’s taken inspiration from fireflies to create this wondrous moment, that audiences will see lying on their backs on the grass in front of the Queen’s House.

“They will be surrounded by myriad moving sparks in the sky – something very beautiful and very much echoing the magic of the natural world.

Sat in Festival.org’s offices at the Old Royal Naval College, Bradley’s obvious enthusiasm for GDIF is undimmed as he looks ahead to overseeing its 27th iteration. 

Taking place across an ever-evolving spread of locations in east and south-east London from August 26 to September 11, 2022, it promises 18 days of free arts performances selected to astonish, amaze, delight, amuse and challenge those attending.

“As always, this year’s GDIF is going to be characterised by a whole range of extraordinary and spectacular events, as well as performances taking place at a more local level,” said Bradley.

“The last two years have been difficult for everyone – certainly in mapping out, understanding and planning how things might transpire.

“We were incredibly fortunate to be able to deliver two festivals with a strong sense of confidence, so we’re incredibly proud of that.

“This year we’re in different territory, with new challenges and new contexts. We’ve always been a free festival and that’s something people can make the most of as we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

“It does put into sharp relief the power of a festival like GDIF – it is there for everyone, accessible, and we try to go the extra mile to make sure we attract people who might otherwise not attend the arts.

“For 2022, we’re going out to new sites, like Rathbone Market in Canning Town, Avery Hill Park in Greenwich as well as Thamesmead near Abbey Wood and Deptford, to bring performances to different areas.

“That’s one of the challenges of going outdoors, because for each site we have to create the theatre as there’s nothing on the ground.

“Of course there are venues we work at every year – Greenwich town centre for Greenwich Fair on August 27, for example, but actually discovering new sites and venues, as well as returning to places after a period away, is what keeps GDIF fresh and audiences awake and excited by what we’re doing.

GDIF founder and artistic director Bradley Hemmings

“For example, it’s great to be working with Tower Hamlets again  – we have a wonderful audio piece at Island Gardens called Final Farewell, that takes people on a journey through the streets and parks of the Isle Of Dogs.

“Then we also have a new production from Air Giants called Unfurl over in Bethnal Green Gardens, which features ingenious, soft robotic technology – people will walk in a garden of giant inflatables that come in a whole range of different colours and react to the public passing by.”

The problem when writing a preview piece about GDIF is the sheer depth and number of the performances it offers. 

With limited space, it’s hard to convey the often surprising blend of art, acrobatics, dance, circus, theatre and spectacle the festival offers – soaking the locations it touches in the unexpected to create memories that still echo many years after. 

In previous years I’ve watched an acrobat tussle with a huge robotic arm, seen a whole band swing on a giant chandelier suspended from a crane high above dancers in an imaginary ballroom and been charmed by two performers being silly with a stack of buckets.

Bradley is, understandably, at pains to select highlights given the embarrassment of riches on offer – a reflection perhaps of the fact that all the performances have the potential to be affecting in their different ways.

“We care deeply about all the events, although one of the things we’ve done is continue to work very closely with Flanders House in London and this year we’re focusing on Flemish circus,” he said. 

“There’s an amazing performance as part of GDIF 2022 called Follow Me, by a company called Be Flat, which will take people on a completely wondrous tour of a part of Thamesmead using acrobatics, Parkour and ingenious staging to draw the audience in. 

“They are incredibly skilled performers who will leave amazing images in people’s minds after it’s gone.”

The best thing to do, of course, is just see as many performances as possible and decide for yourself.

DIARY DATES

While there are far too many performances to list over the 18 days GDIF runs in east and south-east London, here are a few highlights that demand a place in the diary

Island Of Foam is set for Greenwich Peninsula
Island Of Foam is set for Greenwich Peninsula

Sept 3-4, 6pm, freeGreenwich Peninsula

Artist Stephanie Lüning will use mountains of rainbow-coloured foam to transform Greenwich Peninsula.

Bradley said: “This is a UK premiere, a very exciting, unpredictable event with a huge outpouring of foam as Stephanie controls the palette and how the colours behave.”

Charon will be at Limmo Peninsula

Sept 1-10, 8pm, freeLimmo Peninsula, Royal Docks

Originally created for the Burning Man festival, Peter Hudson’s kinetic installation is a 32ft-high zoetrope powered by volunteers.

Bradley said: “Audiences arrive at the artwork having gone on an immersive sound journey. This is an extraordinary piece sited right beside the River Lea with the figures appearing to move.”

Peaceophobia will take place in Stratford
Peaceophobia will take place in Stratford

Sept 7-10, times vary, £10 Here East, QEOP Multi-storey car park

This unapologetic response to rising Islamophobia uses verbatim speech from members of modified car clubs.

Bradley said: “This play by Zia Ahmed casts real people using their own words as they tell their stories, all while stripping down a car and putting it back together again.”

Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed will be at the Old Royal Naval College
Discover Ukraine: Bits Destroyed will be at the Old Royal Naval College

Aug 26-29, times vary, freeOld Royal Naval College

This work sees mosaics destroyed in the Russian invasion of Ukraine projected onto the buildings of the Old Royal Naval College.

Bradley said: “This is a project that really speaks to the destruction of the country’s cultural heritage since the February invasion, and shares with us this remarkable tradition of mosaic-making.”

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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 Unifi.id delivers tech that helps firms cut carbon in their buildings

Level39-based company’s real-time occupancy data designed to help reduce energy wastage

Unifi.id CEO and founder Paul Sheedy

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“You cannot manage what you can’t measure,” said Paul Sheedy, the CEO and founder of Unifi.id.

“The one thing we focus on is giving clients the right measurement tools so that they can manage their buildings better.”

In the mouth of a lesser individual, technology designed to track building occupancy in real time and adjust systems such as lighting, heating and air conditioning accordingly might seem a little dry.

But Paul positively vibrates with passion when it comes to his specialist subject.

On the one hand there’s the engaging Irish lilt of a Dubliner and a glint in the eye.

On the other there’s a burning frustration and exasperation that more isn’t being done to tackle climate change and humanity’s continued overuse of resources.

He’s disarming, funny and deadly serious.

“We talk a lot about smart buildings,” he said, waving a hand to indicate the London skyline stretching out to the City and beyond as we gaze out of the 39th floor of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

“But 96% of buildings around the world are not smart.

“What we’re trying to do is deliver the things companies need to actually make them smarter.

“In most buildings, energy wastage is about 30% – just think of that in the wider context of cutting emissions and gas and electricity prices rising so quickly.

“My focus is all about using less energy and so lowering organisations’ carbon footprint very, very rapidly.”

Unifi.id's long range RFID cards are logged by its detectors
Unifi.id’s long range RFID cards are logged by its detectors

Based at Canary Wharf’s tech community Level39, Unifi.id has developed technology embedded in entry and exit swipe cards that allow its detectors to log employees as they pass key points in a building. 

Paul is quick to stress this isn’t about tracking the exact movements of individuals as they go about their day, but rather knowing who is in what general area at any given time and then using that data in a number of different ways.

“The lingering effect of the lockdowns is a good example,” he said. “Almost all buildings are being run as they were pre-Covid.

“Companies have all their cleaning staff, their restaurant staff and security staff in as though the occupancy was the same.

“But some buildings still have only around 2% of staff in on a Friday.

“That those buildings are being run in the same way is ridiculous.

“Before Covid, the way buildings were occupied was consistent, but now there’s not a single one that we run that has any consistency.

“Occupancy is so sporadic and it can be extreme on Mondays and Fridays.

“It’s criminal that all the lights are on, the air conditioning is cooling every floor, with only a fraction of the staff in.

“That’s why our technology can have an impact – the more we monitor, the better our predictive analysis gets. For example, we can see the effect of external factors. 

“We see that about 7%-12% fewer people come to the office on a Thursday if it’s raining.

“In contrast, rain on a Tuesday hardly affects anything and we think there’s a psychological reason for that because if you’ve been working from home on Friday and Monday, by Tuesday you’ll be feeling a need to return to the office despite the weather.

“On a Thursday, you might just think it doesn’t matter so much, especially if you’re working at home or off on the Friday.

“Then you have other factors such as train strikes, which can affect occupancy over an entire week.

“Occupancy detection also allows building owners working with us to tell the buildings in advance so they can adapt – keeping floors closed and turning down the air con, for example. 

“What we’re really trying to say to organisations is that they can adapt to this new way of working, but there will be consequences, so they may need to use hot-desking because certain areas won’t be open.”

The key for Unifi.id is giving organisations this ability to track change so they can adapt what their buildings are doing in real time, rather than simply guessing what’s happening.

Paul says energy is wasted in the vast majority of buildings
Paul says energy is wasted in the vast majority of buildings

“We think there will be a change,” said Paul.

“People working from home, paying for all the lighting and heating, will recognise that it would be cheaper for them to go to work, so it will get busier later in the year.

“In many sectors where there is flexibility, we already know what’s happening.

“Staff are seeing that it’s the right time to go back to work, socialise and interact with other people again.”

Greater numbers back in buildings makes Unifi.id’s technology even more relevant, given its obvious safety benefits.

Should a building catch fire, for example, knowing exactly how many people are in it and where they are is potentially life-saving information for the emergency services.

“This is something I’m particularly passionate about, because back in Dublin when I was a child, we had 48 of our neighbours die in a dance hall fire – they couldn’t get out of the building,” said Paul.

“What we want to do for the London Fire Brigade and for the tenants of buildings is to bring in a new policy where, in real time, if something does go wrong, the emergency services and building managers know the occupancy of the building.

“That means they can monitor the evacuation of the building and could save firefighters’ lives if they then don’t need to go in.

“Also we look at how many people in a building have mobility issues and where they are, so efforts can focus on getting them out safely.

“People don’t always do sensible things when it comes to an evacuation. 

“We have mechanisms in place where, if we can see people heading the wrong way, a completely automated communication is sent to their mobile to tell them where to go and what to do to get to the ground floor, even if that’s to avoid a certain evacuation route.”

Paul created Unifi.id following the success of Symphony Retail AI, a company he co-founded that analyses loyalty card transaction data to better understand the behaviour of shoppers.

Originally conceived to create beacon technology – the idea of sending messages from companies to people’s phones based on their location and profile – his firm switched its focus to property when it eventually became clear in the advertising world that this was a non-starter.

“I hate to admit failure, but I will,” said Paul, who has been based at Level39 since it launched as a tech accelerator hub in 2013.

“The world was convinced that beacon technology was going to be the next big thing in advertising, but it never happened.

“No retailer anywhere in the world ever made it work to detect the right customer at the right time to send them the right offer.

“In reality it didn’t work because it didn’t think about the individual and what they would have to do. 

“So now we focus on making technology that isn’t dependent on people doing certain things to make it work – the more you do that, the better your product is going to be.

“It’s more difficult for the company, but hey, I wouldn’t get out of bed if I didn’t know it was going to be a challenging day ahead of me.

“I enjoy squeezing the grey matter and the brains of brilliant people I work with to find what piece of physics we can break, bend or enhance.

“So we transformed into a proptech company, delivering simple essential data to those managing buildings so they can make them more efficient and better for the environment.

“Over the past two years, it’s not been a great time to be working in occupancy technology, so a lot of what we did in 2020 was to go back to our clients and say: ‘This will end, tell us what we could do to be even better after Covid’. 

“With their responses, my tech team sat down and we just worked relentlessly on building new solutions, working out what the next steps would be.

“We saw that the market was moving from card-based access control to apps.

“But we know this doesn’t make sense because people don’t tap in and out so much using an app, whereas the RFID technology in our cards  means we automatically detect people walking into or out of a building or past our detection points.

“We realised that the way to get around this was to develop a facial recognition system. 

“We only hold the vectors of a face in the camera, and only when an employee of the company walks in or out of the building – this would be detected and put in the database of who is in the building.

“Then we’d mesh that with 3D counting cameras – with these, we don’t know who you are, but we do know how many people pass them, so in reality we have absolute accuracy on the usage of each floor of a building.

“This means that if we do have an evacuation, for example, we know the numbers of people on each floor and we can detect them as they enter each stairway, so we can see the flow and quickly identify where there might be blockages or problems and allow the fire brigade to get to them.

“We really believe that this will become a global system, which will go into major cities around the world, like Dubai and New York.

Paul is clear that Unifi.id’s technology cannot be used to monitor the exact position of employees – this isn’t about tracking who’s at which desk and how many trips they take to the toilet in a day.

He said this would not only be an invasion of privacy on an ethical level, but also that such data would not be very useful.

“We have been careful with every client that we will never be a Big Brother solution – we’re only detecting people as employees or visitors who are allowed access to a particular floor of a building,” he said.

“Secondly, we will never put our technology into places like toilets or cigarette-smoking areas. If an employer wants to do that, they will be doing it without our technology. That’s not what this is about.

“One of my key points is that it should be actionable data, which would deliver the best solution, not just collecting data for the sake of it.

“The world isn’t taking climate change seriously enough.

“We’re failing on every single metric and we have to realise this isn’t about governments – its about organisations and individuals making the right choices on every single thing they do. We have to contain energy with every single device we use. 

“What the UK does have is an amazing ecosystem of accelerators for technology companies and a lot of them are now focused on proptech. 

“We’re now working in collaboration with a lot of those companies and, because we’re working with them, this country is now at the forefront of this sector going forward. 

“We work with people on LED lighting and automated building management systems and by using our data, businesses can rapidly cut energy wastage now.”

Read more: How Ultimate Performance helps its clients achieve their goals

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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 Ultimate Performance works to help its clients meet their goals

Wood Wharf-based personal training business offers relentless focus and commitment

Ultimate Performance's Mike Turnbull assists in a lift
Ultimate Performance’s Mike Turnbull assists in a lift – image Matt Grayson

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Ultimate Performance (UP) might look a bit like a traditional gym.

Descend into the brand’s Wood Wharf facility underneath the 10 George Street residential tower and you’ll find ranks of high-end Atlantis fitness machines in serious red, white and black livery, shiny lines of silver dumbbells awaiting the firm grip of sweating clients and a scarlet trackway ready for a pounding from those pushing sleds.  

But this business is a very different animal.

This is “where the excuses stop and the results begin” – according both to the writing on the wall of the facility and more subliminally from the TV screen beside the street-level entrance, which broadcasts an unrelenting carousel of before and after pictures of the bodily changes achieved by its clients.

Founded in 2009 by personal trainer Nick Mitchell, UP has grown from a one-man band in east London, to operating 21 gyms in four continents. 

It only offers in-gym or online personal training, meaning its clients only work out at its facilities on a one-to-one basis for hour-long sessions with their trainer present.

“Our motto is: ‘Producing results not promises’,” said Wood Wharf UP gym manager Mike Turnbull.

“We always aim to give clients a significant return on their investment.

“Nick’s founding idea was to change the personal training industry for the better and to make sure the clients were getting the best out of it.

“People who train with us get serious value for money.

“They sign up for results – whether they want to achieve a certain bodyweight or look – and we’re going to say that with the programmes that we have, designed over more than 10 years, we know we can deliver.”

The internet is awash with surveys suggesting people often fail to achieve the fitness goals they set themselves – one by Bodybuilding.com found only 27% had done so within a year with only 40% getting halfway there when left to their own devices.

UP’s approach is squarely aimed at addressing that challenge, although with a price tag of £5,650 for a 12-week, 36-session package, access requires a significant financial outlay.

The justification for that bill comes in the sheer intensity of approach from UP.

Ultimate Performance's Wood Wharf gym
Ultimate Performance’s Wood Wharf gym – image Matt Grayson

“Our programmes are very much backed up by science, so we know we can deliver,” said Mike.

“First of all at a consultation, we break down the layers to find the true reason a client has come to us.

“That’s different for every person – it might be to get a six-pack, to be able to perform 10 pull-ups or just to feel healthy again. 

“We want to understand their vision so we can project-manage to help them achieve their end goal.

“We’ll take a full set of measurements, photos and conduct an intense assessment on the gym floor so we get a real profile of their starting point.

“Then we’ll know what to do to build their training programme.

“It will also allow us to set nutritional guidelines – how many calories a person is going to need – breaking that down to fats, protein and carbohydrates, so we can find the calorie deficit necessary to help achieve their goal.

“From a scientific point of view, that’s the guarantee – the harder part is coming in with the right mindset and being able to follow the plan. 

“That’s where our trainers come in to try to find the right solutions to any problem, to guide people and help them stay accountable.

“We have a messaging system where clients can contact our trainers at any time as a support network to keep them going.”

This holistic approach offers clients a clear plan to achieve their goals, although UP is clear that the effort has to come from them.

The brand’s regional manager for London and Amsterdam, Matt Milles, said: “We’re serious about what we do to achieve results.

“For us, it’s about going the extra mile with everything we do. 

“That includes how we approach nutrition – we offer packages to help time-poor people – how we train clients in the gym itself, the level of support and service we give outside the gym and the amount of time and money we invest into making sure that every aspect of our operation works, whether that’s the personal training product itself or the technology behind it.

“Even if we’re doing something well, we don’t want to rest on our laurels, but ask ourselves how we could do it better.

“However that doesn’t mean our clients have to be athletes – we train clients from every single background you can imagine.

“We have complete beginners, people who want to get in shape ahead of a holiday or a wedding, or sports people who want to build muscle.

“People usually come to us because they want to achieve a physical goal, but they find there are also lots of mental health benefits to exercise.

“Our clients talk to us about how much more confident they feel and the benefits to their relationships with their family and work colleagues.

“They’re more energised – they’ve got more energy to spend with their kids and such things are priceless.”

Ultimate Performance's Matt Milles
Ultimate Performance’s Matt Milles – image Matt Grayson

Mike and Matt have been with UP for about seven years, having both worked as personal trainers before joining.

“Working in commercial gyms is tough,” said Mike.

“It’s finding your feet, building a client base – you’re out there on your own, wanting to be the best, but not sure how to get there. 

“At UP, you have a mentor and a team and there’s a lot of support.

“You’ll be looking after your clients, but we’re always working to understand how we can improve our programmes – you have to be a certain level of trainer before you walk through the door.

“Then you get to concentrate on that job because you don’t have to do the marketing or the sales – you just focus on the training and helping your clients get the most out of it.

“That’s the best bit of the job – seeing the person in front of you changing and working towards their goals is super-rewarding.

“As a manager, my role is to look after and train the trainers and to oversee the programmes.

“We have multiple team meetings every week to discuss where we can improve.

“That’s all to make sure we’re delivering a very high quality of service to everyone.”

Having recently opened, UP’s Wood Wharf gym is currently seeing about 100 clients per week, but has capacity for at least 400 as it looks to grow its customer base locally.

“As a trainer myself, joining UP was like going from playing Sunday football to the Premier League,” said Matt. 

“It was a massive difference in terms of the results we achieve but also the amount of effort we put in.

“Our clients are generally very successful at what they do, but that can mean their health and fitness has taken a back seat. 

“That might be because they have a career and a family and that’s understandable. 

“We’re here for when they realise they need to make a change and, instead of going into a commercial gym and spinning their wheels with no progress, this is a place they can come where they know they will get results.

“As long as they are prepared to do what they need to do, they can be confident we’ll cross all the Ts and dot all the Is to make that happen.

“You might see your trainer for three hours a week, but we’re in touch with our clients every day outside those sessions – that really makes the difference. 

“I really think that’s the big secret and the reason we achieve the results that we do – because we go the extra mile. That comes from experience.”

Ultimate Performance is open daily with early morning and evening sessions available most days.

Trainers work one-to-one at Ultimate Performance
Trainers work one-to-one at Ultimate Performance – image Matt Grayson

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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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Leamouth: Nashville Meets London returns with fresh acts and a new East End venue

Two-day festival of emerging USA and UK country talent arrives at Trinity Buoy Wharf, partly by boat

Shy Carter will headline the first day of Nashville Meets London

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Nashville Meets London (NML) is back in the East End with a fresh line-up of country talent from the UK and the USA in a new location.

Taking place at Trinity Buoy Wharf on August 24 and 25, 2022 (plus a river cruise on August 19), the festival promises cutting-edge sounds and a good ol’ country welcome.     

“One of the key things we’ve proved is that NML seems to be a taste-maker for identifying artists, particularly from the US, who are about to break in the UK, Europe and beyond,” said Peter Conway who co-founded the festival.

“Russell Dickerson, for example, has gone on to become a major artist and Laura Elena is now massive in America and her profile is very wide in Europe too.

“For this year, we’ve got headliners in Shy Carter and the young Priscilla Block, both of whom have a huge fan base already. 

“We always want to break a new artist too and we have Manny Blu playing exclusively for us both at the opening night party and in a major slot on the Wednesday.

“He’s really starting to make waves in America and all his socials are growing exponentially. 

“On the UK side, we’re delighted to be offering The Wandering Hearts who are based in Hackney and are one of the top three country bands over here. They’re a stunning act and we are predicting great things for them.”

Shy – the main act on the first night of the festival on August 24 – is full of excitement when we connect on zoom between London and Tennessee.

He’s primarily worked as a songwriter, having been discovered by Nelly and his manager Courtney Benson, before going on to create a string of hits with other artists. 

Now the 37-year-old is making a name in his own right on the country scene and can’t wait to take the stage in London.

He said: “I put so much time into being in studios, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to get in front of an audience and see all these different people who come out and really appreciate the music.

“I really engage with the people when I do my shows – I walk into the crowd, get a handshake and make up a song with that person’s name.

“I do a lot of freestyle, it’s real free and a lot of fun, and anything can happen. I sing some hits, some new songs, and it’s really heartfelt.

“Something about being on stage just makes me feel good – if there are people out there, it makes me feel even better. 

“If they’re moving to something you’ve created, it’s one of the greatest experiences and one of the best feelings I’ve had in this life. It’s party time and it also helps me as a songwriter.”

Shy has worked with a plethora of artists, including co-writing Someday, a No. 1 hit for Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, and songs for the likes of Keith Urban, Jamie Fox, Jason Derulo, Billy Currington and Charlie Puth.

Born and raised in Tennessee he was “always around music” at home and in church, learning his first chords as a child and developing a love for r’n’b before recording his first song aged 16 at a home set-up in a friend’s apartment. 

He said: “I was addicted to the process – hearing my voice on a CD. From then on I continued making music all the time and tried to find a way to make music my career.

“Now it’s a real blessing to put my own soul and my own flavours into the music. It’s good to write for others, but this lets me be a little bit more myself.

“I don’t think it really matters, but I’d say my music is country because the songs are no different to the ones I’ve written for artists in that genre.

“As a person of colour, my songs might sound a little blacker – but that’s what I’m trying to do, to bring country music to people who don’t normally listen to it. At its heart, it’s storytelling.

“Being on stage makes me a better writer because it helps me to see what songs people connect with most.”

Day tickets for Nashville Meets London cost £34 and can be booked here.

  • A selection of VIP packages are also available for Nashville Meets London. The Festival VIP Ticket costs £150 and includes entry for the festival on both days at Trinity Buoy Wharf, access to the VIP backstage area and the VIP bar from 2pm and access to the meet and greet area.

The Premium Nash Pass costs £200 and includes all of the above, plus a ticket on the NML River Cruise and entry to the invitation-only Opening Night Party at Pizza Express Holborn on August 22, which will feature performances by Juna N Joey, Kaitlyn Baker, Robbie Cavanagh and special guests.

  • Ticket holders for Nashville Meets London can travel directly to the festival via Uber Boat By Thames Clippers as a special request stop at Trinity Buoy Wharf has been arranged. Journeys on the river bus service must be booked in advance to take advantage of this offer. 

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Nashville Meest London's DJ Hish
Nashville Meets London’s DJ Hish

THE LINE-UP – NASHVILLE MEETS LONDON

Aug 19, doors 6.45pm, £45-£560

Billed as a “voyage down England’s longest river” this trip along the Thames sets off from Bankside Pier for an evening of music hosted by Absolute Radio Country presenter Matt Spracklen. Expect performances by Kyle Daniel, Vicki Manser and a set by DJ Hish (pictured).

Manny Blu is set to perform on Day One
Manny Blu is set to perform on Day One

Aug 24, doors 4pm, from £34

The first day of the festival at Trinity Buoy Wharf will see performances from Sarah Darling, Manny Blu (pictured), Ruthie Collins, Arbor North and Matt Hodges. Shy Carter will headline the first night, with music selected by DJ Hish between sets. 

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Priscilla Block is set to headline Day Two

Aug 25, doors 4pm, from £34

The second day of the festival, now enjoying a renaissance following a two-year break, will be headlined by Priscilla Block (pictured) with artists Kyle Daniel, Candi Carpenter, The Wandering Hearts, Tebey and Essex County also taking to the stage in east London.

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Peter Conway co-founded Nashville Meets London

REFRESHING THE FESTIVAL

Cut a slice through Docklands culture over the last 40-plus years and you’ll find Peter Conway woven through the rings of the tree.

His CV includes stints at the Half Moon Theatre, a decade as principal arts officer at Tower Hamlets Council before going on to arrange music events at Cabot Hall – a former venue in Canary Wharf in a space now occupied by Boisdale.

After that was closed for redevelopment, he went on to run Blackheath Halls on the other side of the Thames, before returning to Canary Wharf in 2000 to programme outdoor music events on the estate, creating the Canary Wharf Jazz Festival and more recently Nashville Meets London in 2016 – relocated to Trinity Buoy Wharf for 2022.

“It was a moment of serendipity in Nashville in 2015,” said Peter.

“I bumped into Jeff Walker of AristoMedia and from that meeting came the idea for the festival – an event to promote the best of emerging country music talent in both Nashville and the UK.”

Sadly, Jeff died suddenly later that year, but his daughter Christy Walker Watkins and son-in-law Matt Watkins, who worked with him, joined forces with Peter to make their vision for the festival a reality.

After four years in Canary Wharf’s Canada Square and a two year break due to Covid, NML is back at a new venue in east London.

“This is a kind of new beginning for the festival – we’ve got a great person supporting us in terms of Eric Reynolds at Trinity Buoy Wharf,” said Peter.

“We’re using the Chainstore as the main venue and the building it’s attached to as a VIP area and artists’ dressing rooms. 

“Then you have the wonderful terrace outside that looks over the Thames and the Lea where we’ll be having food and bars. 

“Each day there will be shows running from 5pm to 11pm with non-stop music – we want people to come down and experience the joy of country music, get converted and help us on our journey to build and develop this festival into a much bigger event over the coming years.

I’m very keen to foster a sense of country community and to make this a real East End event.” 

Read more: Trinity Buoy Wharf consults on plans to put flats on a bridge

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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 Love Open Water has brought swimming to Middle Dock

Organisation uses NOWCA safety system to ensure bathers can dive into the crystal water confidently

Chess takes a dive into Middle Dock
Chess takes a dive into Middle Dock – image Matt Grayson

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Just as I arrived at Middle Dock in Canary Wharf to interview Chess Roffe Ridgard, she saved a life.

A smallish pigeon had fallen into the water and was having difficulty making it out. In seconds the bird was scooped up by Love Open Water’s head of development, brought to dry land and placed safely in the shade to dry off – the temperature was in the high 20s, after all. 

Later, without so much as a thank you, it flew off to wherever pigeons make their homes in east London.

That little bedraggled animal owes its continued existence to Canary Wharf Group and Love Open Water – a welcome unintended consequence of their project.

The two organisations – working in partnership with the Canal And River Trust, which is responsible for managing the docks – have teamed up to deliver a programme of swimming over the summer.

While these aren’t the first watersports sessions to take place in the dock, this is the first sustained access offered to the general public with a full complement of life guards, a booking system and expert staff on hand to offer tips, advice and point out the best spots to watch fish sunbathing in the depths. 

“I swam competitively as a pool swimmer in the Midlands when I was younger,” said Chess, who is heading up the initiative for Love Open Water.

“I’m a proud Mansfield girl and trained with Becky Adlington who was one of our golden girls in the 2012 Olympics.

“I’ll say it now, she was faster than me, but I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time.

“Then a kidney infection left me unable to train, so I found myself in the music industry.

“I used to work with a lot of famous DJs and bands, and I did that for a long time. Then I found open water swimming about five or six years ago and I’ve never looked back.

“It became so important to me to help other people, and for them to find a mental health boost from this sport.

“Having seen how it really brings joy to people’s lives made me want to become involved, so I quit my job in music and here I am.”

Middle Dock is eight metres deep in places
Middle Dock is eight metres deep in places – image Matt Grayson

With cold, deep water – typically eight metres to the bottom – safety is Chess and her team’s top priority.

Having operated at numerous venues, including east London’s Royal Docks, Love Open Water uses the NOWCA safety system to keep track of exactly who’s in or out and to provide insurance for those swimming.

“Love Open Water was set up to simply create safe spaces for people to swim outdoors,” said Chess.

“The idea is that by using this system we can open more blue spaces to swimmers of all abilities and build community hubs around them so there’s a real social aspect to what we do.

“That’s in contrast to swimming pools, which are very controlled and quite clinical.

“Love Open Water is about getting that community feel, about going out and enjoying the outdoors and the water.

“At Canary Wharf the distances available vary depending on how many safety staff we have working because that’s the key to everything we do.

“We have either a 300m loop, a 500m loop or a 600m loop that goes right to the end of the dock underneath the DLR bridge. 

“Before I came here I’d swum under a few aqueducts before, but never under a railway bridge with trains running on it.

“The staff at Canary Wharf Group have been absolutely phenomenal – they came up with the idea to activate the dock as part of the work they are doing to get more people in and on the water here.

“They were looking for people to help them to do that and, having put forward our ideas and shown them what we’ve been doing at our other sites, we were lucky enough to be chosen to work with them on this project.

Swimmers can opt for loops of 300m, 500m or 600m
Swimmers can opt for loops of 300m, 500m or 600m

“We hope that this is just the start – we have this trial for the first few months but we’d love to make sure it’s a facility that’s accessible to as many people as possible – we have big plans.

“We’d love to operate at this venue all year round – a million percent yes. 

“Cold water swimming is hugely beneficial for mental and physical health.

“We’ve run winter swimming at our London Royal Dock site for about 10 years, and we’ve seen the popularity of that go through the roof.

“During the pandemic we were only able to operate for a month and a half over the winter, but we saw our membership increase by 450% and swim attendance jump by 380%.

“Those are massive numbers and it shows just how important cold water exposure has become to people.

“It’s all been driven by programmes on the BBC – but we’re here to show people the safest ways to get in and out of the water and to help them understand about hypothermia and the risk of cardiac arrest.

“People need to know that jumping in and swimming off fast are two of the most dangerous things you can do regardless of the time of year or the temperature.

“When you’re immersed in cold water quickly everything tightens up and that puts additional pressure on your heart, so if you try and swim off quickly, you’re at a very high risk of cardiac arrest.

“Remember, don’t jump in, don’t swim off quickly and if you get into trouble, float to live, lie on your back, keep your head relaxed, focus on your breathing and call for help.”


Love Open Water's Chess Roffe Ridgard
Love Open Water’s Chess Roffe Ridgard – image Matt Grayson

Sessions at Middle Dock cost £8 (or £7 for a pack of 10) for unlimited time in the water. Participants must also be NOWCA members, which costs £15 a year.

Swimmers must wear brightly coloured caps or use a tow float so lifeguards can easily see them. Westsuits are not compulsory but are advised when water temperatures fall below 15ºC.

“Safety is very important to us, but we also hope swimmers will come away feeling that they’ve learnt something that they can use elsewhere at other venues or when they’re on holiday,” said Chess.

“All of our lifeguards are open water trained – this is beyond the level of those looking after indoor pools.

“We’d actually love pool lifeguards who are interested in working with us to come down and see us, because we provide that extra training for a job that’s in the great outdoors local to where they live.

“We’ll also offer a range of courses including a first-time dippers session in a couple of weeks so whether you’re a head-up breast-stroker or a front crawler used to bashing out lengths in the pool, you can come and swim here. 

“We can teach you all about sighting, turning round the buoys and swimming in a straight line – which seems to be the thing that eludes people most when they first hit open water.

“I’ll also be doing a front crawl masterclass, where I promise participants that I’ll blow their minds at least five times with the things they’re doing wrong in their stroke.”

Access to the water is via Mackenzie Walk in Canary Wharf
Access to the water is via Mackenzie Walk in Canary Wharf – image Matt Grayson

Anyone who lives or works locally will have seen rubbish floating in the docks and knowing that they’re filled from the Thames might make prospective swimmers think twice about taking the plunge.

It’s unrealistic to expect any body of open water to be completely free from floating debris – even outdoor swimming pools have to have filters – but that doesn’t mean the docks aren’t suitable for swimming.

With regular testing in place, the latest results show Middle Dock’s water rates “excellent” under the EU Bathing And Water Regulations 2013.

“The water quality here is absolutely incredible,” said Chess. “We run eight different sites around the UK and assist with 40 others and we have never seen quality this good.

“The Royal Docks are also very clean so we thought it would be good, but you can see down to the bottom and that’s incredibly rare with an industrial open water space like this.

“Rubbish really isn’t a concern in terms of health and I cannot stress that enough. When the tests are done, we look at the general water quality and the two things we’re looking for are e. coli and intestinal enterococci bacteria.

“Under the regulations for e. coli, for example, you can have up to 500 units found in the test water and it’s still considered safe to swim in.

“Here the reading was seven. That’s how exceptionally clean it is.

“That’s why it’s rated at the equivalent of a Blue Flag beach. We even challenge people when they come here. We have three unmarked bottles. 

“One is tap water, one is dock water and one is mineral water. You line them up and you just cannot tell the difference. 

“The clarity is amazing. Middle Dock is between five and eight metres deep and when you look down you can see absolutely everything.

“However clear you think it’s going to be, times that by 100 and you’ll still be surprised.

“When you look down, there’s old dock infrastructure, bits of pillar, green weed – but nothing that touches you – it’s all at the bottom. 

“When you get to the eight-metre bits, all you can see is darkness, like you’re looking into the night sky, with flashes of light reflecting off the bottom – it’s just stunning.

“One of my favourite spots is a place I like to think fish go to sunbathe and meet their future partners.”

Read more: Why Genomics England is moving to Canary Wharf

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How David Grindley is set to star in his own play at The Space

The Island resident and original SpaceWorks member will stage a show from July 26-31, 2022

David Grindley is set to star in David's Play at The Space
David Grindley is set to star in David’s Play at The Space – image James Perrin

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Adam Hemming joined The Space in 2004, subsequently stepping up to the role of artistic director a couple of years later.

Not that it’s a competition, but David Grindley has been involved with the Westferry Road venue for longer than that – about 19 years, in fact. 

“I get a lot out of it,” said David, whose speech and movement is affected by cerebral palsy.

“It saved my life. When I was in a home, I was shut away a lot, but when I came here, I could do drama.”

Now the Isle Of Dogs resident has decided, as an original member of in-house company SpaceWorks, that he’s going to star in a production and that there’s really nothing Adam or anyone else can do about it – even if they wanted to. Actually, they’re complicit.

“This is the second play that we’ve done with David,” said Adam.

“The first was 2015’s The Man Who Found His Freedom, which was about a period in his life when he was in a care home and how he escaped to live a more independent life in east London. It was quite a hard-hitting drama.”

Whatever David’s Play turns out to be after the machinations of writing, rehearsal and devising, it won’t be that. Audiences are in for laughs.

“With this show we wanted to have a bit more fun,” said Adam.

“It’s a backstage comedy based on the last 10 years of David’s life – his time at The Space and the adventures he’s got up to since he’s been here.”

 Adam and David discuss the production
Adam and David discuss the production – image James Perrin

David’s disability hasn’t deterred him from consistently pursuing starring roles, something that’s key to the forthcoming show.

“The main thread of the story is that David is a part of our company SpaceWorks, where local people take part in creating theatre,” said Adam.

“At the end of each production we would talk about what we were going to do next, and David’s suggestion was always My Left Foot – I’d always shut him up.

“There are complications around staging My Left Foot, which was a book originally, then a film with Daniel Day-Lewis, but David was always suggesting it so that he could be the star of the show.

“In the end we decided that, rather than doing that production, we should create a play for David, which he could then star in, so that’s how it all began.”

David’s Play will be directed by Adam, David and deputy artistic director at The Space, Matthew Jameson, who all appear on stage as versions of themselves. 

“Nothing can go wrong,” said David. “I think we’ll feel better with the first night done, but I’m sure it will be alright – I hope people like it.”

Adam added: “It’s quite a rare thing to see someone like David on stage, but we’ve laughed a lot in creating the show and doing the read-through, so we’re hopeful people will find it funny.

“David keeps telling me off because I keep trying to do serious acting.”

The Space has raised cash to help put the show on – partly through a crowdfunding campaign – with David suggesting on the accompanying video that, should sufficient money become available, it would allow him to hire a better director than Adam.

The Space is still accepting donations for the show, although it’s unclear if this could affect Adam’s position.

In some ways, the fundraising efforts feel apt, given David’s own commitment to generating money for the charity that runs the theatre.

“I’ve worked on the box office, been on various committees and done a lot of fundraising,” he said.

“I recently did my annual sponsored walk across the Isle Of Dogs, which I’ve been doing for 10 years.”

David's Play is set to play at The Space from July 26-31
David’s Play is set to play at The Space from July 26-31 – image James Perrin

“David takes his fundraising very seriously and he’s very good at it,” said Adam.

“David has 24-hour care and this is one place where he can come without his carer and get involved in what’s going on.

“He’s seen more shows here than I have, but he’s also organised lunchtime music recitals as well as creating work like this – it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

“David’s participation with SpaceWorks has helped to raise understanding about what someone with cerebral palsy is capable of.

“As a condition, it’s not that well-known, but he’s built up quite a good network of friends.

“He had a group of people go with him on his sponsored walk and then we had a barbecue fundraiser here before some other friends took him on to a pub quiz at The Ship – it was a pretty full-on day.

“The number of people supporting him during the day is a pretty good indication of how well-liked he is.

“One of the stories that we’ve used in David’s Play is about the year we decided to do a sponsored walk in Greenwich.

“I wasn’t with him that year and it turns out there are strict rules there about what you’re allowed to shake a bucket for.

“You have to have advance permission – it’s a bit different to the Isle Of Dogs.

“Anyway, some people asked David to stop and he didn’t take too kindly to that and in the end some mounted police became involved.

“Another story that’s featured is that there was an unfortunate incident where David fell down some stairs coming out of a pub so an ambulance had to be called and, on the way home, he asked the ambulance to stop outside The Space so he could get a drink before last orders.

“About 10 years ago David decided to stop drinking and hasn’t had a drop of wine since.”

David said: “My life has improved a lot since then. I don’t think I’d be here now if I’d carried on drinking.”

Created by David, The Space’s literary manager Mike Carter and the company, David’s Play is set to be performed at The Space from July 26-31, 2022, with shows at 7.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and 2.30pm on Sunday. 

Tickets for the shows cost £15 with 20% off for bookings made by July 12 (so get in quick).

Anyone who would like to donate to support the production or The Space can find more information here.

Read more: Discover Drag Syndrome’s Liberty Festival performance

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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: Why Genomics England is relocating to One Canada Square

Headquarters of government-owned genome sequencing business set to arrive in Canary Wharf in the autumn

Genomics England CEO Chris Wigley
Genomics England CEO Chris Wigley – image James Perrin

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Right, so this headline is a bit disingenuous. Genomics England doesn’t, in the course of its operations, alter anyone’s DNA.

In fact, it captures whole human genomes, sequences them and uses the data for both personal NHS diagnoses and wider research.

However, its arrival in Canary Wharf is part of a bigger picture as the estate continues to grow and diversify.

Tropes about steel towers full of bankers are outdated, lazy stereotypes that nevertheless persist.

But perception often lags reality, which in turn can lag big announcements.

Earlier this year, Canary Wharf Group unveiled a project with Kadans Science Partner to create a 750,000sq ft, 22-storey, wet lab-enabled building in the first phase of its development of the North Quay site next to West India Quay DLR.

The scheme is at the forefront of the estate’s emerging vision to bring more health and life sciences businesses and organisations to the area – creating a cluster to rival those in Oxford and Cambridge. 

However, the building is not set to be delivered until 2026 – these things take time.

Much quicker in the timeline, will be the arrival of Genomics England.

Announced last month, the government-owned business is expected to take up residence on the 21st floor of One Canada Square in the autumn. 

The Wharf is already home to Barts Health NHS Trust, the Medicines And Heathcare Products Regulatory Authority, Medical Defence Union, General Pharmaceutical Council, NHS Transformation Unit and NHS Digital’s London office.

The addition of Genomics England adds further weight to that group, making east London an increasingly attractive destination for those operating in the sector.

“If you look around us, we’ve got an incredibly rich health and life sciences community in Canary Wharf,” said Chris Wigley, CEO of Genomics England.

“When we were thinking about where we wanted to be, somewhere with those kinds of organisation, that vision, where we can bring people together easily was really exciting.

“It’s also very close to Whitechapel, where the Royal London Hospital is, and to many universities.

 “We have all the ingredients here to do something special.

“What we saw during the pandemic was that, when our whole system pulls together, we can really lead the world in pathogen sequencing, genome sequencing and clinical trials, and we want to keep that sense of collaboration.

“Of course, very pragmatically, as a government-owned company, value for money is something we have to be pretty serious about too.”

Genomics England was originally set up to sequence 100,000 human genomes

Genomics England was originally set up by the Department Of Health And Social Care to run the 100,000 Genomes Project, following an announcement by then prime minister David Cameron at the 2012 Olympics.

“That was only about a decade after the first whole human genome had been sequenced, which took millions of dollars and thousands of scientists,” said Chris.

“You used to have to sequence DNA base pair by base pair, and there are something like 3.2trillion of them so it took a very long time.

“With the various changes that have collectively been made around next-generation sequencing, you can now do the sequencing in under an hour – although for a clinical case where we have an actual patient, we’d do that 30 times because even if the process is 99.999% accurate, when there are 3.2trillion results you need to be able to spot those errors.

“With DNA the numbers are huge, but if we do it 30 times we can be confident we’ve picked up any inconsistencies.”

Having sequenced 100,000 genomes by 2018, Genomics England is now engaged in two main areas of operation.

Chris said: “The first big thing we do is that we partner with the NHS to use whole genome sequencing to diagnose and make good decisions about patient treatment.

“This is the first health service on the planet to offer this, so that’s a genuine world first for Britain, which is great.

“Those insights are most relevant if you’ve got cancer or rare diseases, because those are things that we know are principally driven by changes in your genome.

“If you’re looking at the DNA, you can spot all of these areas where each of us is individually different from each other.

“So we’ve now got a catalogue where you can look up those changes, so we can see that if you’ve got them in your DNA, you may have a rare disease or a particular aspect of a cancer, for example, which we can then do something about.

“The second big thing is that we can anonymise all the data, put it in a separate environment and make it available to researchers from academia, from pharmaceutical companies and from biotech firms.

“It is still very sensitive data, though, so we have this model where the researcher has to come into our environment to look at it.

“We sometimes talk about being  an aquarium, not a fish shop, where people can come in, study what we have, admire the fish and go away again.

“Crucially, they can’t take the fish with them – that’s how we protect the data.”

Chris says there are a number of reasons for Genomics England’s move -image James Perrin

Chris knows all about protecting data. With a background as a business analyst and diplomat, his CV includes the role of chief operating officer at tech startup Quantum Black – a machine learning and AI company.

“I often use the word career as a verb rather than a noun,” he said. “I’ve done a number of things.

“I had a small scale startup in web design mostly putting tartan on Scottish companies’ sites.

“I spent time at the BBC doing analog to digital transitions and setting up their radio player and iPlayer.

“Quantum Black was originally building applications to solve complex problems for a range of clients including in Formula 1 to help the cars win more races and then taking that approach to aerospace, offshore wind and other advanced engineering firms.

“Then we realised that the same techniques could be applied to banking or to life sciences. So we ended up with a third of our work for pharmaceutical companies, on drug discovery and clinical trials.

“It was lots of big data sets and complex models and then taking the outputs from them and explaining them in a way that humans could do something with.”

Having accepted the job at Genomics England just under three years ago, he’s now presiding over a period of growth and change.

“Throughout the pandemic we did a huge amount of research on Covid, working with the NHS, Health Education England and others, on how understanding our DNA might help us to understand Covid better,” said Chris.

“We’ve kicked off a bunch of other new programmes as well, so we’ve grown a lot in terms of numbers – we’re now about 500, and we have a space in the Sanger Centre in Hinxton – we’ve just opened another office in Leeds as well.

“We may also open a fourth location, but broadly we’re now thinking of ourselves as a national network of people across the whole of England.

“The base here in Canary Wharf will be the nerve centre.

“The way we’ve thought about the space here is less about banks of desks and terminals and more about collaborative space, community space, social space, and also library space for people coming in to do deep work.

“For a lot of our people it’s a new part of town with new things to explore.

“I think a lot of people have a vision of Canary Wharf from the early 2000s – but as we’ve brought more people over here, they can see it’s really changed.”

The move is also preparation for the increasingly central role that our understanding of DNA will play in our healthcare as time moves on.

“We’re gradually learning more and more about how our DNA affects our health,” said Chris.

“The first wave of discoveries was in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, – rare diseases caused by a single change in your DNA such as sickle cell anaemia, for example.

“We now understand that cancer is really a disease of the genome, where unregulated growth of DNA causes cell growth that we we call tumours. That helps us to treat it.

“Then, as new techniques have come in, like machine learning, we can start to understand more complex relationships between what’s happening in our bodies and what’s happening in our DNA.

“For example, a combination of 75 changes, when combined with external stimulus such as smoking or not smoking could explain why a certain disease occurs.

“We’re getting more and more into areas like infectious diseases and understanding how DNA, makes RNA, which makes proteins that do everything in our bodies, and how that causal chain has certain outcomes that we can understand.

“Then, hopefully, we can intervene when necessary.

“We’re just in the process of launching a programme at the moment that we’ve been working on for a number of years, where we’ll be offering to sequence the whole genome of new-born babies to look for about 250 different things.

“That’s in addition to the current heel prick test that looks for about nine. If there is something that is early onset and treatable then the NHS can immediately address that so the patient will get the best outcome.

“Of course, we think a lot about the ethics of what we do.

“Our fundamental belief is that we shouldn’t be making decisions about people’s care – the people whose data it is and whose lives it is should be doing that.

“Our job is to be completely transparent, to help people understand what we’re doing so they can make the right choices for them.”

Read more: Discover Liberty Festival in Deptford

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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 Festival14’s packed programme is a whole new approach

Event running July 21-24 promises more than 50 performances to help people discover the Wharf


Festival14 will run from July 21-24, 2022 across Canary Wharf
Festival14 will run from July 21-24, 2022 across Canary Wharf

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Grandmaster Flash. Live, in Canada Square Park. For free.

Those words alone are testament to the fact that Festival14 is something new for Canary Wharf.

The DJ and hip hop pioneer –responsible for the first expression of scratching ever released on a record – is set to mix among the towers as the headline act on the main stage on July 21, 2022. And that’s just the first night.

Running Thursday-Sunday, Festival14 is set to fill the estate with more than 50 performances encompassing comedy, theatre, dance, family activities and, of course, music.

our MUSIC picks for FESTIVAL14
- July 21 - Grandmaster Flash
8.15pm, free, Canada Square Park
- July 22 - House Gospel Choir
8.30pm, free, Canada Square Park
- July 23 - Ronnie Scotts Jazz Orchestra
time TBC, free, Canada Square Park
- July 24 - Sona
time TBC, free, Canada Square Park

The mostly free events will run daily between noon and 10pm at a diverse selection of venues designed specifically to encourage visitors to explore Canary Wharf.

“We’d seen the success of events like our Winter Lights festival, which takes place across lots of different parts of the estate and the amazing buzz people feel when they arrive for that,” said senior arts and events manager at Canary Wharf Group, Pippa Dale.

“So we wanted to create a similar feeling for Festival14 so that it’s very obvious when people get here that there’s something really exciting and new happening.

“People in Canary Wharf are often quite set on the places they know – the places they go to lunch, for example – so we’re hoping this will help them explore and discover different areas.”

Most of the performances at Festival14 will be free
Most of the performances at Festival14 will be free

In addition to the dozens of performances and activities, there will also be a street food market every day in Montgomery Square and special offers from some bars, restaurants and cafes for the duration.

Canary Wharf Group director of arts and events Lucie Moore said: “Moving forward, we’re looking at putting on larger scale events over shorter periods of time to bring as many people as possible to the estate but also to change perceptions about the area.

“Events and cultural activities have always been really important to Canary Wharf in terms of placemaking and, since Covid, they’re something people are looking at and talking about even more.

our COMEDY picks for FESTIVAL14
- July 21 - Milton Jones, Jessica Fostekew
7.15pm, £11, Westferry Circus Roundabout
- July 22 - Reginald D Hunter, Jo Caulfield
6pm, £11, Westferry Circus Roundabout
-l July 23 - Paul Sinha, Felicity Ward
6pm, £11, Westferry Circus Roundabout
Follow this link for bookings

“These events are a real team effort and we couldn’t be able to do them without the work of so many people across Canary Wharf Group’s teams. 

“The estate is now busy and buzzy and with the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, there’s the potential for even more people to visit.

“That’s an opportunity for us, in terms of events, because there are people who will come in from other areas who may not have done in the past.

“For Festival14 it will be really interesting to see what numbers we get in comparison to things like Winter Lights in past years.”

Events will take place from noon over the four days
Events will take place from noon over the four days

The full programme for Festival14 – a name inspired by Canary Wharf’s postcode, E14 – is still being finalised, with all updates expected online by July.  

Pippa said: “In contrast to previous years with our Tuesday night music concerts, we’ve booked some bigger acts.

“It’s a packed programme and, especially at the weekends, people will be able to listen from noon right through until 9pm or 10pm at night.

“Grandmaster Flash is our opening headliner and we think he will appeal to the audience that’s already here – a bit of nostalgia after a day in the office and a bit of a party.

our THEATRE picks for FESTIVAL14
- July 21 - 440 Theatre, Hamlet
1pm, free, Westferry Circus Roundabout
-l July 22 - The Canary Cabaret

7.30pm, free (ticketed), Crossrail Place Roof Garden
- July 23 - Mischief And Mayhem

5pm, free (ticketed), Crossrail Place Roof Garden
- July 24 - The Handlebards Romeo & Juliet
1pm, free, Westferry Circus Roundabout
Follow this link for bookings

“I’m really excited about having House Gospel Choir – they’re a group I’ve admired for a long time and we’ve been waiting for the right event to book them.

“They’re pretty local too, as is Hackney Colliery Band. We’re also really pleased to be able to host Sona on the Sunday, during her UK tour.

“The outdoor comedy at Westferry Circus also features some big names, so that’s ticketed because we have limited space and we’re expecting it to be very popular.

“We’ll be having open air theatre at that venue too with the return of The Handlebards who are fantastic and 440 Theatre who do Shakespeare plays in 40 minutes.”

The Handlebards are set to return to Westferry Circus
The Handlebards are set to return to Westferry Circus

There will also be a series of theatre performances at Crossrail Place Roof Garden – ticketed but free due to the capacity of the venue.

“Whenever we do anything we try to include the local community and local businesses and organisations around the estate,” said Lucie.

“We’re very fortunate to work where we are but we’re aware there are areas around us that need supporting.

“The Space has been operating up in the Roof Garden for years now and they were an obvious choice for us as a partner for part of Festival14 because they know that venue, we know what they do and they’ve put together a whole programme for us there.”

A range of kids activities will take place on the Saturday and Sunday, including dance music party Big Fish Little Fish Family Rave at Westferry Circus and puppetry in the form of Bus King Theatre: Marvelo’s Circus at Montgomery Square.  

“We’re really hoping, especially for families, that they will come and spend the whole day with us – do a workshop, have lunch and listen to some music,” said Lucie.

“We’ve really tried to cover a lot of areas and there will be one or two unexpected events too, such as a van that serves up takeaway poetry. We’re not finished yet.”

Here’s a little Grandmaster Flash to get you in the mood…

Read more: The O2 celebrates 15 years of gigs, events and performances

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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 Cryptoslate helps readers make sense of cryptocurrency

Co-founder and CEO Nate Whitehill talks WordPress, websites, coins and Canary Wharf

Nate Whitehill is co-founder and CEO of Cryptoslate
Nate Whitehill is co-founder and CEO of Cryptoslate

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How does one become a cryptocurrency millionaire?

Since Bitcoin emerged in 2009 and investment became possible, it’s a question that’s been either idly or actively present in an increasing number of minds. 

With a blizzard of coins now traded it’s a world of complexity where invention and innovation are pushing at the edge of what’s possible in terms of digital finance. Prices rise, crash and rise again.

Stablecoins lose their stability and you can be certain the next idea or gimmick is just around the corner.

For Nate Whitehill, this ever-changing story and the global thirst for information about it, has made him a millionaire in a different sense. 

An entrepreneur for the last 18 years, the 38-year-old grew up just outside Seattle. 

Encouraged by his grandfather and father to take business seriously, by 18 he was coding on the internet and starting ventures with his friends.

A WordPress user since 2006, by 2008 he was building blogs for corporations and discovered the joy of being able to work from anywhere remotely as well as blogging about his own endeavours. 

He then went on to create Highlighter.com – a platform for students and professors to annotate individual passages of text so they could have online discussions around particular words or phrases.

“We raised about $750,000 and ran that company until 2013,” said Nate.

“By 2015 I had really discovered Bitcoin in a serious way.

“My friend in Seattle told me to download Coinbase, and the price was about $270 for a Bitcoin.

“So very early on I fell down the rabbit hole – it’s more of a black hole in the sense that people who fall into the crypto space never escape – I was on it for life.

“As I got into crypto, I started spending a tremendous amount of time on websites like Coindesk, which are like data analysis sites.

“At the time I realised I could build a version of this, combining qualitative and quantitative elements, and have everything interlinked together in WordPress.

“So I stopped the consulting I was doing at the time and started building the site – this was in 2017 and we launched in December.”

Still in Seattle at the time, Nate as co-founder and CEO of Cryptoslate rode the bull market of 2017 as prices for cryptocurrency soared and an increasing demand for information saw his site grow to about 150,000 monthly visitors.

“At this time I was also taking a really strong interest in the global implications of this technology and where previous digital innovations had happened,” said Nate. 

“I could see it happening around the world, especially in places like the UK. 

“So I started researching international conferences which would be interesting to attend, but then I realised there was so much happening in London and Gibraltar.

“So, in February 2018 I flew over to London and then down to Gibraltar for a fintech conference.”

With so many coins in the market, Cryptoslate aims to provide greater depth for its readers
With so many coins in the market, Cryptoslate aims to provide greater depth for its readers

Having presented at the conference, Nate found the international blockchain scene to his liking and decided to relocate to London, moving to Canary Wharf and creating a UK entity to work alongside Cryptoslate’s US business.

He said: “I came here on the endorsement of Level39’s startup visa to join Canary Wharf’s tech community.

“My view was that it contained the best of what was happening in London in an area that’s quite unlike the rest of the city.

“I fell in love with Canary Wharf, with London and with Level39 specifically, when I saw this vision of what life could be like and the opportunities that would present themselves here.

“Since I have been here, all my hopes and dreams have been exceeded in terms of the network of people I have met, so in hindsight, it’s been the best decision I have ever made.

“Having been here a year and a half, I remain passionate about London in general and Canary Wharf as a place to live – I plan on being here a long time.”

In that time Cryptoslate has grown to attract more than a million monthly readers, with Nate aiming to raise $4million to expand its operation.

“We think of the site as a crypto-discoverability engine – we have a combination of news, data and a directory,” said Nate.

“Each day we cover anything from 10 to 15 stories, created by a team of writers mostly in the western European region, but also around the world. We cover issues our audience finds compelling.

“A lot of the time it will be stories about all of the bad events happening, like the hacks and the scams, because we really want to paint an accurate picture of what’s happening with cryptocurrency.

“We don’t think of ourselves as trying to sell ‘hopium’ – the idea people will feed nonsense to each other with the hope of making short-term gains through investment.

“Something that makes us unique compared with other coin sites is that we combine the qualitative and the quantitative to give readers a more accurate picture.

“When you go to a Cryptoslate article about Bitcoin, for example, you’ll not only see the content of the article, you’ll also see a press chart about what Bitcoin actually is, with the opportunity to click through and learn more about it from a qualitative perspective.

“We also do that with our directory of people, products, companies, places and events.

“We also have a strict conflict-of-interest policy, so any time a writer holds an asset they are writing about, they have to check a box and there’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the article. The goal is always to be as transparent and honest as possible.

“I am not editorially involved, personally – I’m a step away – but we don’t discourage our writers from investing in crypto.

“In fact, we think that, if people are using the products, they have a better understanding of how to accurately depict them.”

Whether it's a bull or bear market, Cryptoslate is there to track it
Whether it’s a bull or bear market, Cryptoslate is there to track it

Cryptoslate is actively looking both for strategic investors and to hire writers in London as it grows. It gets about 90% of its revenue from advertising, while 10% comes from its subscription service.

Cryptoslate Edge offers greater analysis, longer stories and is designed to give global investors a better understanding of the market.

“We always try to discourage trying to tell anyone what they should buy, what is a good or bad investment decision, trying to be as objective as possible, but doing it in a more comprehensive way through CryptoSlate Edge,” said Nate.

“The idea behind cryptocurrency is to create an alternative financial system for the world, and that’s absolutely coming true.

“Increasingly the traditional financial system is figuring out ways that it can participate in the crypto economy.

“Just the other day Fidelity announced that it would be offering Bitcoin in pensions, for example.

“Increasingly the crypto industry is going to become part of our daily lives over the next decade.

“People will be using different decentralised protocols and crypto currencies without even realising.

“In the same way that someone may not understand how the internet works, but will use Facebook and Instagram, so it will be the same with crypto technologies over the next decade.

“In five years you could pay by scanning a QR code which connects to your Bitcoin wallet and that’s how you pay for something. These are just some of the things that will be huge for society.”

And Cryptoslate will be there to help its readers and subscribers navigate that future.

Read more: Cody Dock tests its rolling bridge

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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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