Riverscape

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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

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

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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

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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

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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 Canary Wharf Group is launching Wharf Connect

Network is aimed at bringing young professionals together for a vibrant programme of events

Wharf Connect is aimed at professionals in the first 10 years of their careers

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“The role of the landlord is evolving all the time – is it enough to simply let a building? Probably not,” said Jane Hollinshead, chief people officer at Canary Wharf Group.

Things have changed in the world of work in the wake of the pandemic and the company that runs the estate is firmly in listening mode – especially when it comes to young people.  

That’s the thinking behind the creation of Wharf Connect – a free membership community aimed at professionals in the first stages of their careers with a packed programmed of events and opportunities planned.

“We’re hearing a lot more from companies about what their employees want,” said Jane.

“Our customers are saying: ‘Bring people back to the office, listen to what the next generation want, which is something more experiential’.

“It’s made us think about what we’ve got at Canary Wharf and how, as a landlord, we’re in a position to curate experiences because we’ve got so many different amenities.

“We also picked up another dynamic through running our own intern programme last year.

“Often, when you’ve got new employees coming in from outside London, moving to a huge metropolis can be quite overwhelming.

“For them, it’s about how quickly they can immerse themselves in a business and the geography around them, as well as feeling like they’ve got a network of friends and colleagues.

“So Wharf Connect is about how we work with our customers.

“The genesis of it is in the idea that people are the greatest asset companies have. 

“They are the fundamental part of what makes a business succeed, so what would something look like that was created to bring young professionals together?”

Wharf Connect’s stated aim is to convene a network in a way that enhances people’s engagement with the office environment, fosters employee retention and plugs workers into the wider world of Canary Wharf.

“What’s interesting from a post-pandemic perspective is that, 10 years ago – if we were talking to different tenants about their graduates or apprentices – firms probably weren’t so open to their people mixing with peers at other organisations,” said Jane.

“It was very much about investment in their own people. 

“But now, a lot of big corporates  are thinking about how to listen to what the next generation wants – whether that’s learning, wellbeing sessions or networking and bringing people together.

“Either organised internally or with other bodies, the idea is that those participating in these networks really benefit. 

“The social aspect of this is also very big.

“We feel, at Canary Wharf Group, that we have a responsibility to do this and it’s very much a reflection of what we’re trying to do in creating a customer-centric approach to how we interact with everyone around the estate.  

“We’re in this incredibly privileged position to be able to do that because of the amenities we have and the scale of this place.”

Wharf Connect’s programme is aimed at bringing people together on the estate

Wharf Connect is open to anyone working on the Canary Wharf estate who has spent 10 years or less in their current sector.

Members will have access to talks from leading experts, networking events and workshops on leadership.

There will also be events held in partnership with local retailers and hospitality businesses, as well as health and wellbeing organisations. 

Members of the community will be made aware of local volunteering opportunities, as well as exclusive offers via the Canary Wharf App.

“One of the big events we’re going to have is with entrepreneur Steven Bartlett on February 8, 2024, following on from his appearance in our Wharf Talks series last year.

“Broadly, Wharf Connect’s events, initiatives and offers will focus on personal development. Some people will be wondering where their career will take them.

“Many events will be held in collaboration with businesses on the Wharf – events at Dishoom or Electric Shuffle, for example. 

“We think exploring what’s on offer on the estate is better in a group.

“As a member, you’ll be getting carefully thought through, curated experiences – we’ll be bringing people into new spaces so they can experience them and benefit from that.” 

Wharf Connect is free to join, with workers on the estate able to apply for membership via the Canary Wharf App. 

At sign-up, users must select “I work here” and fill out their details, including selecting the company they are employed by from the list, or choosing “Company Not Listed” for organisations not mentioned. 

Prospective members should sign up using their work email address so Canary Wharf Group can verify they are based on the estate.

“The relationship between landlords and tenants is becoming a partnership,” said Jane. 

“Not only do you have to create a sustainable collaboration space, you need to be curating an experience.

“It will be really interesting to see how Wharf Connect develops – how many people get involved. 

“Personally, I like the idea that there’s give and take in it – what are people offering to this community? 

“If it results in more people volunteering who wouldn’t otherwise do so, then that’s great. 

“Members may also spread the word of what Canary Wharf really is and that’s positive too. 

“A lot of the benefits are nuanced and intangible – they exist above the hard line data – and you’ll see those trickling through.

Wharf Connect will create allies and advocates for the Wharf and I think that will become exponential in terms of its effects. 

“The question for us is always: ‘What we can do to make our customers’ experience more immersive and accessible?’.”

Wharf Connect is accepting applications for membership now via the Canary Wharf App, which can be downloaded for both Android and iOS devices.

Read more: How the SS Robin has returned home to begin a new life

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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 Third Space Wood Wharf expands the brand’s offering

Club will add Reformer Pilates, hot Yoga and gym capacity for Canary Wharf members to explore

An artist’s impression of the pool at Third Space Wood Wharf

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Third Space Canary Wharf is vast.

Its facilities, spread over three floors above Waitrose in Canada Square, include an expansive Crossfit-themed training area, a combat zone with a full-size boxing ring, a climbing wall, a swimming pool, fitness studios, a dedicated mind and body space and that’s before you even get to the weights and cardio machines. 

Billed as Europe’s largest luxury health club, it boasts an unrivalled selection of classes featuring everything from treadmills and Olympic weightlifting to bodyweight HIIT, kettlebells and callisthenics. 

Pick pretty much any exercise trend and, if it promises serious benefits, the Third Space’s Canary Wharf facility will pretty much have it covered.

Like Barry’s? then Third Space has Sweat X. Prefer spinning? Choose Hardcore Cycle or Just Ride. Enjoy Crossfit? There’s Yard WOD and so on. 

It’s not unusual to have more than 45 classes timetabled on a given weekday for members to choose from – all included in the monthly fee.

Soon, however, that won’t be all they’re getting.

The Wood Wharf branch is set to open later this year

Third Space is set to open a new branch on the estate, with access for Canary Wharf members at no extra cost.

Located at 15 Water Street above Dishoom and Tribe Canary Wharf, Third Space Wood Wharf will be spread over two floors. 

The club is essentially an extension on a second site to the facilities already on offer in Canada Square. It will have its own fully-stocked gym floor and swimming pool, but also a series of new classes..

“We have a great offering already, but the idea is that if a member can think of a type of class they’d like to do, then it should be available across the two sites,” said Gillian Reeves, head of group exercise at Third Space.

“There are a couple of things Canary Wharf doesn’t offer that Wood Wharf will, completing our full suite of facilities.

“We’ll have dedicated studios for hot Yoga and Reformer Pilates. 

“They will be great spaces and we can’t wait to welcome our members into them.” 

The Wood Wharf branch is expected to open in early summer, with preparations well underway. 

The Wood Wharf branch will include a hot Yoga studio

“It’s massive for Canary Wharf,” said Alex Barsby, the new facility’s dedicated general manager.

“With both sites taken into consideration, it’s such a fantastic offering.

“The idea is to deliver extra facilities to what we already have at the existing site without duplicating too much of what’s already there.

“There will be more capacity – there’s a fully equipped gym with Eleiko free weights, a sled track, professional lifting racks, Pulse pin-loading machines with digital screens and cardio machines.

“Upstairs, there will be beautiful changing rooms where members can relax, unwind and get ready before venturing out into the city.

“There’s a 20m pool with a hydro pool and unisex sauna and steam room facilities, which is something new for the club on the estate and will be ideal for couples. 

“There will also be poolside loungers and an experience shower that people can use after coming out of the sauna or steam room.

“Being above ground, there’s lots of natural light with windows all round the club, which is really fantastic and gives it a lovely feel.”

While the extra capacity will be of obvious benefit – especially to Tribe hotel guests, who can use the facilities – the chief attractions are perhaps the two new studios and the possibilities they bring. 

A Reformer Pilates studio will host a range of classes

While Third Space Canary Wharf offers a programme of mat based Pilates classes and Yin, Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga at ambient temperatures, Wood Wharf will expand significantly on these.

“We’ll continue with all those classes,” said Gillian.

“But these new spaces allow us to offer more.

“The hot Yoga studio will be heated to between 32ºC and 35ºC – a really lovely temperature. 

“We know from our other clubs that some people really want to escape to a warm place where they can feel that they’re sweating a bit. 

“It can feel a bit more challenging because you have the heat to contend with and that puts your body under greater stress.

“The fact it’s hot and that you have to move and breathe, means you need to work with your mind – to use all the tools that your practice has taught you to focus on the positions. 

“To keep things straightforward we’ll be programming the same forms as in the ambient studios but there are variations because we don’t dictate to our teachers the approach they should take. 

“Everyone who teaches at Third Space has years of experience and the classes differ based on the way that they have been trained in Yoga.”

Perhaps the most significant addition to Third Space’s offering, however, is its decision to include a Reformer Pilates studio at Wood Wharf.

Third Space Wood Wharf will be included with membership at Canary Wharf

“This equipment is commonly used in smaller groups or one-on-one, but we’ve found there’s growing demand for bigger classes with lots of Reformers,” said Gillian. 

“The challenge was to keep the authenticity of Pilates when creating these larger classes.

“To do that, we needed an expert and we found that in James Shaw who has been teaching for more than 10 years.

“He has a wealth of knowledge and experience and he’s really passionate about Pilates – he’s devoted his life to it. 

“He’s developed our signature classes and we’ll be running Fundamental Reformer Pilates, Traditional Reformer Pilates and Dynamic Reformer sessions. 

“We’ve dropped the word ‘Pilates’ from the last one, because it’s really movement exercises on the equipment and looks quite different from the traditional system, but members love it.

“We’ll also be offering Tower Pilates classes, where participants will work with the structure at the end of the equipment.

“It’s a really nice addition, as it’s a different way of working with the resistance springs.” 

Alex added: “Third Space is an investment in yourself – the return you get can be life-changing.

“We really pride ourselves on the fact everything we do is member-assessed. 

“We love this feedback and use it to constantly improve what we do and to provide what our members want.” 

Membership at Third Space Canary Wharf, which will include the new Wood Wharf club currently costs £212 per month.   

Find out more about Third Space 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 Creative Virtual is taming large language model AI

Cabot Square-based global leader talks about conversational chatbot technology and ChatGPT

Chris Ezekiel of Canary Wharf-based Creative Virtual – image by Matt Grayson

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Wharf Life newspaper was founded by Archant, a publishing company, to serve the area around Canary Wharf,” states ChatGPT 3.5, confidently, when asked who created this paper.

It sounds plausible, going on to say: “Archant is a well-established media company with a history of creating local newspapers and publications”.  

This demonstrates one of the issues inherent with AI large language models. They are prone to making things up.

Wharf Life was founded by Massey Maddison Ltd in 2019 and has no connection to Archant – a business that used to run the East London And Docklands Advertiser before it collapsed into administration and was subsequently taken over by US-owned media firm Newsquest.

Imagine, for a minute, that my question had been about something much more important than the vanity of asking about this newspaper – that the answer given might have serious consequences for me or the organisation I’m contacting through a chatbot. 

With AI finding its way into all sorts of areas of life – including Newsquest’s reporting, incidentally – trust becomes an issue that should be uppermost in the minds of those interacting with it, either as readers or customers.

It’s a topic that’s been on the mind of Chris Ezekiel and his team at Creative Virtual for some time.

He founded the conversational artificial intelligence company on the Isle Of Dogs 20 years ago, investing its profits to grow it into a global business that won the Queen’s Award For Enterprise in 2017.

Now based in Canary Wharf, the firm is considered a leader in its field, competing with the likes of Microsoft, IBM and Google in a sector that until 12 months ago was largely below the public radar.

That all changed in 2022 with the public release of ChatGPT – an event that sent the world giddy with the prospect of what large language models might be capable of.

“It’s been a seismic shift for our sector,” said Chris, who is based at 25 Cabot Square.

“We’d been looking at these models for about three years but everybody was surprised by the impact that this launch by OpenAI had.

“What’s been amazing has been the proliferation of other big companies coming out with their own competitive versions. 

“One of the things about running an independent company in the way we do is that you have to keep making profit to invest.

“This makes the choices you make as founder and CEO more critical.

Chris’ business is always looking to the future of organisations’ interactions with customers and employees

“There are always ups and downs when running a company – my role is to make sure there are more highs than lows. 

“However, our setup also means that we can take a longer term view when it comes to developing products, alongside the way we work with our customers and the commercial models we adopt.

“One of the things that’s been a massive success for us this year, strategically, is that we immediately offered all our customers completely free proof of concepts related to using this technology to serve their customers and employees – running large language models alongside our chatbot technology.

“It was about asking how they could be used and what the concerns might be.

“At launch, they were much more susceptible to getting stuff wrong and making things up with no way of telling where those errors came from.

“So it was about working with our clients to establish what the challenges were.

“Many had seen the models and thought they could save a fortune – writing stuff for them and answering their customers’ and employees’ questions.

“The business teams were focused on that but then they realised the risks associated with this technology and realised it would need to involve the legal and compliance teams.

“We literally saw companies developing solutions they wanted to deploy for real, while in parallel setting up ethical AI teams, who we were working with to address their concerns.”

Essentially, developing those proofs of concept meant Creative Virtual – which works with the likes of HSBC and Lloyds Banking Group – learnt a great deal about what it would take to make use of the things ChatGPT and other similar models were offering in large organisations.

“Three themes came out of this work – one is trust in the models and the content they create,” said Chris.

“The second is control – to use this technology, organisations need the ability to make sure they can override the models in certain cases.

“For example, if a customer wanted to replace a lost credit card, you need a very structured process that is compliant, trustworthy, accurate, reproducible and consistent – all of the things we’ve always provided as a company.

“There are ways to do this by training AI on the documents, policies, procedures and product information from a particular organisation.

“On top of that you can also create rules to override the model in certain circumstances.   

“The Gluon release of our V-Person technology offers a blended approach – AI created content from large language models and human-curated content, which is perfect for organisations which are trying to create accurate, trustworthy interactions.

“The third theme that came up was experience. As a 20-year-old company, we know what it takes to act as AI consultants.

“We’ve had to change our company to be aware of all the different models that are out there.

“Some of these large language models are good at some things, but not so good at others so it’s our experience that allows us to help these large organisations, who want to understand how they can be used and the benefits.

“We’re focused on delivering the control and trust they need through our products and the expertise of our people, to take full advantage of this technology.”

The emergence of large language models has also broadened Creative Virtual’s approach as it explores different sectors and applications for its products.

“It’s changed the company a lot,” said Chris.

“We worked with an accounting company in Australia – MYOB – to use generative AI to create content with a human in control to sign it off.

“They’ve just won a major customer experience award having followed through on a proof of concept with us to create a project.

“That’s the joy we get from this kind of innovation – working very closely with customers who realise the benefits of what this tech can offer.

“This type of AI can provide lots of solutions for sectors such as healthcare and government too – any organisation that has lots of documents.

“Historically we’ve mostly been focused on customer services and resources for employees but we’re now starting to deploy solutions in sales.

“A classic case is what we’re doing on the travel side.

“Currently, if you walk into a travel agent, the person there helping to advise on a trip might sometimes refer to their own or a colleague’s experience.

“There’s no reason a chatbot couldn’t be used to do something similar – using content to show what other customers’ experiences of a destination have been like – an advocate that’s scaleable.”  

Chris says companies are developing architecture to make interacting with multiple devices and services through AI possible – image by Matt Grayson

As for the future, Chris is excited by the prospect of further leaps forward too.

“I think the physical form of AI is going to be an interesting one, like having your own robot butler which interacts with the devices in your home, such as your fridge, to keep an eye on supplies, or your smart watch to monitor vitamin intake,” said Chris.

“I think that the future is joining up the AI to connected devices.

“People use the term hyper-personalisation, where organisations know lots of things about you.

“Even with issues of privacy, people often don’t mind revealing personal details if it improves their experience.

“In the future, you won’t even have to think about how you interact with the AI.

“People are already using their voices more to control devices. 

“Organisations will know the context of the conversation you’re having and will switch to different channels, so you can start off on the phone, then move to the web, with everything seamlessly connected together.

“We’re starting to develop architecture that will make this really easy to do.

“The big companies we work with talk about the composable enterprise, where we can slot all these different systems together.

“Organisations then don’t have to worry what’s coming from this company or that firm – they can select the technology that’s best of breed, and platforms which create an overall digital customer experience.”  

Find out more about Creative Virtual and its products and services here

Read more: How Level39-based WyzePay offers discounts at MMy Wood 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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Canary Wharf: How Marcus Lyall is set to illuminate a Wood Wharf tower block for 2024’s Winter Lights festival

Festival is set to return to the estate from January 17-27 with 12 temporary installations for all to see

Marcus Lyall’s Idle Time is set to be shown at Wood Wharf’s Union Square in January 2024

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I first met Marcus Lyall beneath a flyover in Royal Docks.

It was December 2020, the wind was biting and various restrictions were in place thanks to the pandemic’s Christmas-cancelling second wave.

As a result, his epic installation Presence was attracting the attention of only a few, shifty passers-by. 

Nevertheless, the piece remained the most impactful work of that year’s Join The Docks festival – with viewers performing short messages into a microphone then seeing them echo between the concrete pillars of the roadway, with visualisation courtesy of an urgent laser and plenty of smoke machines.

Had the times been normal, it would have been a blockbuster – recalling the success the artist had at Canary Wharf’s Winter Lights festival in 2017.

Then, On Your Wavelength – a series of 32 square LED-lit portals drew visitors in droves to Crossrail Place’s once empty shopping level.  

This year, the Homerton resident is set to return to the estate for Winter Lights 2024 – with something much bigger than either of these creations.

Idle Time will be projected onto a 50sq m canvas formed by white-wrapped scaffolding behind Wood Wharf’s Union Square. 

“The idea for it came from our lives today and how we’re encouraged very much to think about optimisation and efficiency – what we can fit into a day,” said Marcus, who works from studios at Fish Island near Hackney Wick.

“There have been various anthropological studies of pre-industrial societies and one of the things the scientists noticed when they went to hunter-gatherer cultures was the amount of time that people spent not doing anything.

“It feels right now, when everything is being optimised, that there is very little time for not doing anything, despite the fact that everything has apparently been made more efficient so we all have more leisure time.

Marcus Lyall’s On Your Wavelength from Winter Lights 2017

“To me, it doesn’t feel like that.

“The question now is: ‘Are you spending your free time productively?’.

“With Idle Time, there are three elements connected to efficiency and productivity.

“Firstly there’s the backdrop – Canary Wharf – a global centre of hyper-capitalism, where companies dedicate every moment to trying to extract capital from labour. 

“Secondly I’m using lasers, which are a hyper-efficient light source.

“You can use them in lots of ways, but here I’m using them like a big pen to draw and animate an image.

“With lasers you have the beam and a couple of mirrors that move at something like 30,000 times a second.

“Projecting 50 or 60 drawings per second lets the eye perceive the image as though it’s moving. 

Artist Marcus Lyall – image by Matt Grayson

“Thirdly, I’m also working with motion capture technology where we have people act out various movements and use the data captured to drive the image.

“Normally this is done with dancers, acrobats, stunt people or physical theatre performers – subjects that are incredibly good at moving, so the data can be used to create animation sequences.

“It tends to be about capturing stuff that’s exceptional – actors performing the most amazing moves they can.

“What I’m doing with Idle Time is deliberately using people who aren’t terribly good at movement as my subjects – they’re mostly artists from the building I share in east London and they are doing things that are not terribly productive.

“One of the real pleasures of being an artist is that it’s not all about the effort you put in.

“A lot of it is about talking and thinking – stuff that’s difficult to quantify or capture.

“What I’m trying to do is celebrate the more mundane bits of life, the fact that most of our experience comes through incredibly subtle movement.

“Our experience of other people isn’t necessarily about them doing cartwheels.

“What’s interesting is that, when we’ve done tests on this work, people find these characters we’ve captured quite intriguing.

“Viewers immediately try to work out what they’re doing and then project characters onto them. It’s leaving a bit of a gap for the audience.”

Idle Time is one of 12 temporary installations that will pop up across the estate for Winter Lights 2024. The festival is set to run daily from 5pm-10pm and is free to visit.

Having seen around 1million visitors come to the estate for 2023, new one-way systems have been implemented to help manage numbers, with larger, more crowd-friendly pieces commissioned.

Alongside the visiting works, six permanent artworks will be illuminated for the show, including an LED twist on Shine Your Colours at Canary Riverside.

Marcus said: “It’s great that Canary Wharf Group is commissioning work and nice that they’re valuing art – it makes a difference.

Idle Time is a bit more of a slow burn rather than a five-minute spectacular.

“Part of it is getting people to look at how they spend their time, getting people to question whether this constant drive for productivity is the best way to live their lives.

“I’m also hoping they feel some sort of empathy with the people they’re seeing, that there’s a connection with them, that they put themselves in those characters’ places.

“It’s very much about reflection and contemplation.

“There’s something nice about the fact that it’s projected onto a building that’s not in use yet – something that’s still going up.

Marcus Lyall’s Presence in Royal Docks

“It also feels a little bit subversive to be doing a bit of graffiti with lasers in a part of the estate where people actually live.

“Sometimes this kind of work can be more for show, but this has been designed as something people can live with for a while.

“It’s ironic – I’m creating something in a hyper-efficient location with hyper-efficient projection technology and hyper-efficient motion capture, where my subjects are actually doing very little.”

The perfect antidote, perhaps, to the hustle and bustle of the Wharf – especially during the festival.

You can find out more about Winter Lights 2024 here

Read more: How Level39-based WyzePay offers discounts at MMy Wood Wharf

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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