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Canary Wharf: How Sticks’n’Sushi’s sustainable recipe for growth is delivering

Danish-Japanese restaurant company continues to build on its foundation of local branches

The Kimono Room at Sticks’n’Sushi

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Cosette Perez is standing in front of a wall of riotous silk.

We’re talking in Sticks’n’Sushi’s Kimono Room, a semi-private event space decorated with richly embellished examples of the garment hung along its walls from poles.

“It can seat 24 and the tables are completely flexible – we’ve done masterclasses here and tastings,” she said.

“It’s great for drinks gatherings, receptions, family groups getting together and people holding all types of events. 

“It has curtains so it can be separated from the rest of the restaurant, but you’re not locked away in a tiny box.

“The kimonos are genuine – bought in Japan – and came to us via Berlin and Copenhagen in a suitcase. Now they’re hanging here.

“It’s a versatile space and we probably don’t talk about it enough.” 

In a sense, the Kimono Room is an expression of Sticks’n’Sushi’s approach to hospitality.

The calm, Scandinavian minimalism is a well-honed backdrop to the vibrant garments that adorn its walls. 

This is similar to the way the wide, open, stripped-back industrial space of the restaurant proper, filled with square tables and simple leather chairs, acts as a counterpoint to the bright colourful food and flavours it serves. 

A balance is struck. But it’s not just between the dishes, muted colours and bare concrete.

“It’s the whole experience, not just the food but the way our staff greet guests,” said Cosette, who joined the brand as UK senior marketing manager three years ago.

“When you walk through the door, you’ll be welcomed in Japanese by the waiters and the kitchen staff.

Sticks’n’Sushi’s Cosette Perez

“We’re really proud of our service – we hope people will be impressed and amazed and that, by the time they leave, they’ll definitely want to come again. 

“Obviously, we serve excellent food, but then you get a really nice goodbye too – it all helps keep people coming back again and again.”

It’s a recipe that has seen the brand, including its Canary Wharf branch, thrive – despite some significant headwinds.

Firstly, Sticks has done well – it was in the vanguard of venues to arrive on the estate in 2015 when Crossrail Place opened.

Back then, a three-year wait was anticipated before Elizabeth Line trains would start running.

The delay turned out to be seven years, with services only arriving in 2022.

Nevertheless, alongside the likes of Chai Ki, The Breakfast Club and Ippudo, Sticks’ has proved a consistent draw for Wharfers in that time and continues to do a bustling trade now that the commuters are also flowing to the north of the estate. 

“Our growth is exciting – we’ve opened a restaurant each year since 2012 and we’ve launched two for the first time this year in Shoreditch and Kingston in quick succession,” said Cosette.

“There are more branches coming too – we’re planning Richmond in early spring and a couple of others that we’re not revealing yet – there’s a lot coming up.

“The thing that’s driving growth is the fact we’re settled in the locations where we’ve already opened. 

“We know what we can offer and we’re received a really warm welcome in those neighbourhoods.

“We have some really loyal customers and we’re trying to reach out to even more people.”

Specifically, Sticks is very much a product of its background.

Sushi at Sticks’n’Sushi

Founded by two brothers and their brother-in-law in Copenhagen, the brand draws on their half-Danish, half-Japanese heritage, bringing sushi together with yakitori on its menu.

The first restaurant opened in 1994 with the business growing to 12 in Denmark, three in Berlin, one each in Oxford and Cambridge and eight in London. 

“It’s a blend of Scandinavian simplicity and Japanese dishes with a twist,” said Cosette.

“We have highly skilled sushi chefs and we like to break the mould – we play with the menu quite a lot, creating specials that follow the seasons.

“If guests really like them, of course, they might always make it onto the main menu.

“Personally, what I order changes with my mood and the temperature. Cold weather calls for miso soup, a couple of yakitori sticks and rice.

“If it’s really nice and sunny, then definitely sushi and perhaps some cerviche. It’s really delicious, fresh and clean on the palate.”

Speaking of seasonal food, the restaurant is all set for Christmas with its Sticks’n’Santa offering available from Monday, November 27.

Promising a Japanese twist on festive classics it’s come up with three menus for revellers to choose from:

The Holly Menu 

a gastronomic journey, £40pp

This menu promises an array of dishes “that redefine festive indulgence” including Miso Sprouts plus Yellowtail Kingfish and Grilled Pepper Nigiris. There’s also the Chicks‘n’Blankets stick – a whimsical take on a beloved Christmas dinner staple.

The Mistletoe Menu 

luxurious festivity, £65pp

For those seeking opulence, this menu promises a symphony of flavours including Wagyu Temaki (a marriage of seared Kyushu Wagyu beef, sushi rice, soy, and crisp nori). There’s also the Aka Ebi yakitori stick – a showcase of Argentinian red shrimp with spicy gochujang and garlic butter.

The Evergreen Menu 

plant-based delights, £40pp

For those who prefer to dine exclusively on plant-based ingredients, Sticks‘n’Sushi has created a special festive menu to ensure all palates are catered for. This option promises a celebration of the best nature has to offer, allowing  the restaurant to demonstrate its commitment to serving everyone’s tastes.  

In addition to these, Sticks will be offering a three wise men-inspired Seasonal Sampler of Wagyu Temaki, Miso Fried Sprouts and Kakiage Tempura with Ikura over the festive season.

Its bar staff have also come up with some special festive cocktails and there’s the further incentive of a free bottle of Telmont Champagne for bookings of six or more on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Festive frippery aside, however, the appeal of Sticks for Cosette is very much in its everyday operation. 

The Canary Wharf restaurant offers a wide selection of dishes

“I’ve been in hospitality for most of my working life,” she said.

“I landed in London from Mexico in 2008. I came for six months and my dad is still asking when I’m coming back. 

“In that time I went from waitress to assistant manager, to manager, and then I got into marketing.

“I came to work at Sticks because I really like the ethos of the company. I’d done a bit of work for the business and read a lot about it.

“I thought: ‘If it walks the walk, as it talks it, then it would be a lovely firm to work for’ – and it is. It’s all about the people and that comes from the CEO.

“All the management is in-house and all the people running the restaurants have been with the company for about five years at least.

“The business has been here for almost 12 years and it still employs the very first person it hired.

“There are head office people who have worked for Sticks for 10 or 11 years.

“The idea is that if you look after the staff, then they look after our guests.

“We also know that it’s harder to recruit someone into a business than it is to promote from within.

“If they carry the company’s DNA and are proud of the work they do, then they’ll always want to do more and give more of themselves – for the business’ part, we always try to pay that back.”

Kids, despite the grown-up design of the restaurants, are also a key part of the strategy. 

“For us they are VIPs – we look after them really well because we know they are the next generation of guests,” said Cosette. 

“We see a lot in our more family-orientated areas like Greenwich and Wimbledon, but also in Canary Wharf on Saturdays and Sundays. 

“There’s a wooden monkey hidden around the restaurant for them to find and they get a chocolate fish if they do.”

Increasingly popular, making reservations is advised whether you’re up for a spot of simian spotting or just going for a selection of seafood delights. 

Find out more about Sticks’n’Sushi here

Sticks serves grilled dishes as well as sushi

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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 Sweat By BXR is offering free introductory classes

Crossrail Place fitness studio’s Wharf Wellness session is booked up, but there’s another way…

Sweat By BXR trainer Gareth Thoo

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The free Sweat By BXR session – set to take place at Crossrail Place Roof Garden as part of Wharf Wellness – is now full.

But don’t let that put you off investigating what the brand has to offer.

The pay-as-you-train studio, located in Crossrail Place itself, is currently offering free sessions to those new to its offering – so anyone who wants to can try one out.

Sweat is a sister business to BXR – a boxing focused gym that takes fighter training as its jumping off point for fitness.

The Canary Wharf facility offers cardio workouts in its VersaClimber studio, strength and conditioning sessions and boxing-inspired exercise as well as Pilates-based classes.

“It’s one of the world’s first elite boxing concept gyms,” said Gareth Thoo, a trainer at both BXR and Sweat By BXR, who regularly runs sessions at the Canary Wharf facility and is set to take charge of the Wharf Wellness workout.

“The great thing about Sweat By BXR is you have three things to really focus on – cardiovascular exercise, skills-based boxing training and strength and conditioning.

“While most of our clients are not looking to become professional fighters, they are being coached by people who have fought in the ring and know what it takes to get there.

“The training techniques are very practical but they’re also accessible to everyone.

“The classes are open to all levels and people with lots of experience, or none, will get something from them.”

Sweat By BXR offers boxing-inspired classes and VersaClimber sessions for cardio

Originally from Australia, Gareth knows his stuff.

Having trained in mixed martial arts as a youngster, a passion for boxing saw him compete as an amateur and a pro for six years. 

But, following a number of injuries, he decided to use the knowledge he’d already gained to become a personal trainer and combines that with working for BXR and Sweat.

After four years working in the fitness industry in Manchester, he’s now brought his skills and expertise to London.

“There are many benefits to the training on offer here – building strength and making changes to your body composition, for example.

“Then there’s cardiovascular and the boost to your mental health too.

“For people who have desk jobs and spend a lot of time sitting down, the workouts can help counteract the effects of a long day in the office.

“Then with the skills sessions, it’s also nice to be learning something while you’re training.

“These will always start with basic footwork – how to stand and how to move around, which are such important parts of boxing.

“Then they cover techniques like basic punches – straight punches, hooks and how to implement those in combinations, while working the bag effectively, as a boxer would strike it, hard, fast and very precise.

“People might feel, especially if it’s their first time boxing, that a boxing gym could be an intimidating environment.

“But it’s our job as coaches to make sure everyone feels really welcome.

“Clients might not know initially what their goals are so we structure the classes in a way where we teach the basics very often as everyone needs to know them.

“Whether you’ve been coming for two months or two years, we’ll be drilling those in, but there will also always be new things to learn.”

In addition to boxing skills, Sweat is known for its VersaClimber sessions – a machine that mimics the motion of rock climbing and can be used in time to music.

“Those are tough classes,” said Gareth.

“Two minutes into my first one and my legs were burning, but it’s a really great session, a trademark. Climb To The Beat is fantastic.”

Music is something Gareth also relishes bringing into his sessions, putting together bespoke playlists for his workouts.

“It’s about creating a high-energy vibe when I’m picking the tracks,” he said.

“Music is such a massive part of my classes.

The VersaClimber is a piece of equipment that mimics the action of climbing

“For me there will always be a bit of hip-hop and some bassy house. In any of my classes, you can pretty much guarantee there will be something from the Notorious BIG and Kendrick Lamar.

“Another favourite is an Australian DJ and music producer called Fisher, who people may have heard of.”

In addition to the obvious attraction of the soundtrack, Gareth said the key reason to train at Sweat was the breadth of the offering.

“This isn’t just running on a treadmill and punching a bag – there are so many class concepts and you can do something different every day of the week,” he said.

“There’s a real option to mix it up, with a cardiovascular workout one day, a boxing session the next and then maybe a strength class.

“Then, on top of that, you can incorporate sessions where you learn some serious skills and that’s really what makes it a great place to train.”

Wharfers interested in having a go can download the BXR app and book a free class using the discount code CLASSONUS – terms and conditions apply.

Introductory VersaClimber classes and SweatBox sessions cost £30 for three and £40 for four respectively.

Sweat is located on Level -2 at Crossrail Place in Canary Wharf.

Find out more about Sweat By BXR here

Wharf Wellness is set to take place across the Canary Wharf estate

FIND AN OFFER

While many classes for Wharf Wellness are now booked up, the festival is also a celebration of stores and retailers on the Canary Wharf estate with the a number of businesses running offers across the four-day event from Sept 27-30, 2023. Here’s our pick…

>>Randox Health

Get 15% off all health checks at the Cabot Place clinic booked during the duration of the festival with code WHARFWELLNESS.

>> Stretch Inc

Enjoy 20% off any assisted stretch at the Canada Place facility over the four days. Just mention WHARFWELLNESS when making an appointment.

>> Pure

Recently reopened at Cabot Place, the restaurant will be offering 50% off its new Nourish Bowl range. Those with a reusable cup can also get £1 off barista-made drinks.

>> Kiehl’s

The Jubilee Place store will be offering 20% off all products as well as 25% off a £100+ spend. Offer runs Sept 22-Oct 1.

>> Farmer J

The lunchtime favourite will be offering 20% off click and collect orders on the Wharf with code FJAUTUMN20.

>> Urban Greens

Have promo code WW20 ready at the till when you visit the Bank Street store and you’ll get 20% off salads.

>> Le Chalet Cryo

The Canada Place facility will be offering more than 40% off its Cryo and Hyperbaric Therapy starter packs with code WHARFWELLNESS.

>> Atis

Challenging even the might of Farmer J as the Wharf’s most popular lunch, this salad-focused mini-chain is offering a fifth off bowls with code WHARFWELLNESS.

>> Weather And Palette

Head over to the Jubilee Place store for 10% off all skincare products and treatments for the duration of Wharf Wellness.

>> Malmin Dental

The private clinic on South Colonnade will be offering 10% off Invisalign treatments purchased during the festival.

>> Rituals

The Jubilee Place store has 25% off selected products for Wharf Wellness. The offer is valid  on a maximum of three items.

>> Get A Drip

Last but not least, the Cabot Place clinic is offering free Vitamin D testing to visitors.

Download the Canary Wharf app for full listings and updates

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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 Platform offers video games on consoles to delight and entertain

Crossrail Place bar and competitive socialising venue has opened its doors to gamers and firms

Platform co-founder Tomaso Portunato

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“KO your CEO” reads the zesty pink neon on the wall just inside Platform in Canary Wharf.

Recently opened in Crossrail Place between Flying Tiger and Island Poke, at first glance it’s not immediately clear what this new arrival is.

There’s a little box office structure as you go in that has a distinct Wes Anderson vibe – a shelter, perhaps for a concierge.

Then there are the glowing pink and yellow lights on the ceiling and the unmistakable sugary aroma of popcorn being made.

The sensory effect is that of walking into some kind of timeless future cinema that’s scrambled all of the best bits of going out to see a movie and come up with something highly refined, a little like the sweetener on the snacks.

But Platform isn’t a movie theatre or a place to physically beat on senior executives, it’s a place to play video games in comfort with snacks and drinks.

Platform offers semi-private gaming areas to duos or groups

“I place us somewhere between competitive socialising operators, who are doing things like ping pong and darts, and a traditional cinema,” said Tomaso Portunato, co-founder and CEO of Platform.

“When you go and see a movie you’re consuming content with friends – having food and drinks and it’s much the same here.

“We have popcorn, a bar and we serve pizzas.

“I’m originally from Geneva in Switzerland and I came here to study economics and politics about 10 years ago.

“Before starting Platform I was doing event management for game companies and helping student associations out, but I never really had a job after university.

“The idea was to start small and to make something out of it.

“We began as a pop-up – putting on events, selling tickets and generating funding for about a year. 

“We had gaming sponsors from doing that and decided, with my co-founders Lucas Weintraub, Jo Highfield and my brother Nicolo, that if we could afford a commercial property, then we would go for it.

Booths can accommodate up to eight people

“When I was working in Old Street, I used to go to a pizzeria for lunch – count the customers and try to estimate how much they would spend.

“I was trying to build a business model.

“Then the pizzeria went bankrupt and we took it over for the first Platform.

“Shoreditch is now in a really good spot – we have a loyal customer base and we do a lot of gaming events there – but we were also testing the ground. 

“It’s still our baby and it’s doing great, but the Canary Wharf branch is closer to our finished concept.

“Shoreditch was an opportunity to see what we could do with little capital and a vague understanding of what we were doing.

“We tried everything – racing simulators, retro gaming, console gaming and PC gaming.

“We learnt a lot about our operating model and the type of experience we wanted to be focusing on. 

“That’s why Canary Wharf is based on next generation console gaming and how we create a really fun experience around that.

“It’s streamlined and it’s simpler to operate – you don’t have issues like customers changing the language and alphabet on a PC and then not changing it back.

“But most importantly, we also feel that console gaming offers the most social experience of the lot.

The Mario from Platform, complete with Mushroom Kingdom mushrooms

“It caters for the crowd who want to go out and enjoy themselves, to play, have some food and some cocktails.

“Plus operators like Nintendo have made it really fun even if you lose – and that’s important.

“We want to make sure anyone coming to Platform, whether they are an experienced gamer or not, has a really good time.

“That means we’re careful about the games we select and how we present what we’re doing.”

While the pink glow and sweet aromas of the bar are ground level temptations, the business end of Platform is subterranean.

“Customers follow pulsating neon arrows downstairs to a surprisingly spacious bar area beyond which are located a series of semi-private booths of varying sizes. 

These come equipped with Nintendo Switch and Playstation 5 consoles, a handy neon light to attract staff and plentiful sofa space.

Booths at Platform are ideal for date night

“We have about 30 games to choose from including racing, and sports titles, with big names like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Call Of Duty and Fifa.

“But we also have cooperative games like Overcooked and Moving Out, which I think are great.

“If you’re out on date night, you might want to play more cooperatively rather than competitively.

“Our larger booths can accommodate up to eight people but we can easily arrange tournaments for our guests and take corporate bookings for up to 60.

“Most of our customers pre-book online, but people can just walk in too and we’ll do everything we can to accommodate them. 

“Typically people book 90 minutes (£13.50 per person) and can always top that up if they would like to stay longer.

“After that, they are welcome to hang out in the bar, of course.

“We also offer packages such as £28pp for two cocktails and gaming or bottomless brunch for £35pp, which includes a pizza or nachos for each person and bottomless beer, Prosecco or Mimosas for 90 minutes.

“A lot of people want to get together to play games and the traditional way of doing that would be to meet at someone’s house on a Friday.

“Platform allows a larger group to meet with all the latest games in a comfortable environment. 

“For some it will be a pit-stop when they’re out in London.

“But equally it could be a place to go with mates from work or on a date. 

“For businesses it’s a way for colleagues to have fun and we can offer whole-venue booking for corporate customers with drinks, food and unlimited gaming.”

Following the success of the Shoreditch branch, Tomaso and the team were already looking at Canary Wharf as a place to open in 2019.

“I initially thought it was interesting because of the corporate scene,” he said.

“But since then Canary Wharf Group has done an amazing job of developing the area – picking the right operators to attract people.

“The deciding factor for us was the Elizabeth Line and the area is seeing massive footfall during the week and at weekends.”

Gaming at Platform starts at £5 for sessions off peak on Mondays.

A screenshot of the action in a typical Moving Out level

GAME REVIEW

>> Oh God. What’s going on? I just threw a chair through a window, my head is a toaster and it’s just fired two charred pieces of bread into the air.

Now a giant turtle is repeatedly slapping me. Worse still, I can barely move this fridge by myself…

These are just a few of the thoughts likely to run through your head as you and your friends take on Moving Out.

Published by Team17 and developed by some clearly very disturbed Swedes and Australians, this 2020 “cooperative moving simulation game” pits players against that timeless foe – moving day. 

While the real-life process of relocating from one home to another is generally said to be amongst the most stressful things a person can do, playing Moving Out is curiously liberating. 

Despite the oddness – you can play as a humanoid toaster, a unicorn or even a person – the simple act of frantically battling exaggerated physics against the clock to stuff a van with furniture and other ephemera is curiously relaxing. 

True, you can be painstakingly careful (breakages are penalised to some extent) and go for a high score.

But the game doesn’t seem to mind too much if you decide that tossing a sofa through a plate glass window is a better way to expedite its journey to a new home.

There’s a cooperative element too. Heavier items must be carried with a pal and there’s an obvious temptation to invoke the sacred mantra of the Chuckle Brothers.

Failing that, keeping a selection of expletives handy is advised for the inevitable time your colleague is less than useful.

There are plentiful obstacles to contend with – rakes, ghosts, fires, a giant turtle – that serve to make the experience of play richer and more bizarre.

Fans of Overcooked (also on offer at Platform) will doubtless find this a silly, frantic blast with an unhealthy toaster obsession.

Read more: How Kinaara on Greenwich Peninsula offers authentic Indian flavours

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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 firms can compete in The Battle Of The Wharf at Barry’s

Barnd is challenging businesses to a two-week contest in February at its Crossrail Place studio

Barry’s is challenging local businesses in Canary Wharf

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what’s all this?

Barry’s in Crossrail Place is hosting a competition for businesses based in and around Canary Wharf.

tell me more

It’s called The Battle Of The Wharf and takes place over two weeks in February.

how does it work?

Teams of three or more people from a business or organisation take part in as many classes as possible at Barry’s Canary Wharf between February 14-28, 2023.

what’s involved?

For those who don’t know, Barry’s is home to 50 or 60-minute exercise classes billed as “The Best Workout In The World”.

These take place in a crimson-lit studio called The Red Room and are based around high intensity interval training using treadmills, dumbbells and bodyweight.

what will happen?

Participants can expect to burn up to 1,000 calories per session under the guidance of instructors, who curate potent playlists of uplifting beats to spur people on.

is the Battle Of The Wharf for anyone?

First timers or Barry’s regulars are all welcome to sign up for the contest.

Teams of three or more can compete, but the bigger the team, the more chance of winning

who wins?

The team with the most classes taken wins both glory and two weeks of complimentary walk-in classes. That means the bigger your team, the more chance of winning. 

are there terms and conditions?

Participants must be signed up for classes to count. All classes must be taken at Barry’s Canary Wharf in Crossrail Place, using the registered email address for the contest.

Businesses can sign up for The Battle Of The Wharf here

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

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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: Exhibition at Crossrail Place celebrates Black Culture in Britian

Association Of Photographers and Canary Wharf Group display winning images in the Roof Garden

Kanika Carr from John Ferguson’s Black Suffolk series

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Nestled in the foliage of Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Wharfers can find a selection of images displayed to mark Black History Month.

The month-long exhibition is the result of an open contest by Canary Wharf Arts And Events and the Association Of Photographers for snappers to submit pictures that display the creativity, beauty and strength of the black community in Britain.

The best images have been selected and form the Black Culture In Britain photography exhibition now in place at Canary Wharf.

AOP communications coordinator Suzanne McDougall said: “When you have an amazing topic like this you have myriad possibilities – when you look at the work that’s been submitted you have so many experiences, so many voices coming together to tell very different stories that form part of a whole.

“The space is great for really looking at the boards displaying the work – seeing images at that scale is always very impactful.

“When you start to learn a little more about the person who has been photographed it’s very rewarding and I think revealing of how photography offers so many different routes to come at a particular topic.

“The images are beautifully positioned so you can take some time, walk through the roof garden, appreciate the work and be struck by the talent and diversity on display.

“It’s important to show photographs in spaces like this because people should have access to images. 

“It’s a reminder that the cities we live in are made up of people of lots of different cultures and backgrounds – having that exposure to different voices is always a really good thing. It stops people.”

Black Culture In Britain will be on display in Canary Wharf until October 31.

WINNER’S WORDS

Leroy Logan by Mark Harrison

Run as a competition, Black Culture In Britain comprises the gold and silver winners, selected from more than 200 entries by AOP For All, a group that strives to increase awareness of photographers of colour by making both them and their work more visible within the industry. It also includes work by six runners up.

Taking the top prize was Mark Harrison’s image of former Met Police officer and author Leroy Logan – recently the subject of one of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe films for the BBC.

Mark said: “I’ve been a photographer my whole life – shooting professionally for 32 years. I started working on the premise that I wanted to avoid a job that involved the same commute every day and that I probably couldn’t do anything else.

“In that time it’s gone from film to digital – from transparency, which was very difficult to use, to negative, which was easier and now digital, which is even easier – the biggest change has been in the element of professionalism. 

“That was because most people wouldn’t have had a clue how to shoot slide film whereas now everybody can shoot digitally because it does a lot of it for you.

“We can all produce good results, a few can produce brilliant results, but in the olden days nobody could produce anything unless they were a professional. The whole game has changed massively.”

Detail from Latoya Okuneye’s silver winning image

If you do something well you get asked to do more of it and I’ve always taken pictures of authors,” said Mark, who is based in Tunbridge Wells and has a varied career working for print publications as well as capturing images for TV shows and corporate clients. 

“The shot of Leroy I submitted was taken at the same shoot I did for his book cover.

“What happened was, I completed what they asked me to do and he had this incredible suit on, and I just wanted to do something separately for me.

“He had such an amazing presence – my assistant, who didn’t really know who he was, said: ‘My God that man has something’. 

“I asked him to stay an extra half hour, changed the lighting and tried to capture that intensity.

“He really liked it – I sent it to him afterwards, but it never got used and I kept it as my memento from that shoot. Everybody in the room talked about him for ages afterwards.

“He had extraordinary stories and the Small Axe film had just come out so his whole life had just been put on screen.

“We’ve stayed in touch ever since and I just think he’s quite something. He represents a lot about London, about changing times and how race has changed in my lifetime. To me he’s a symbol of lots of things. 

“In my game, anything to do with the AOP is hugely important – their contests are the gold standard of achievement. I submitted this image because this topic came up and I thought: ‘This is perfect’. I was absolutely staggered to have my image named the gold winner.

“I’m personally really thrilled – I’ve never won anything with the AOP before.

“One of the reasons I thought Leroy to be interesting as a submission was because I guessed most people would represent younger black culture. He’s had an incredible life, experienced terrible racism and he’s done so much.

“I’ve photographed many people of significance and I’ve never forgotten him – he’s very cool.”

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Canary Wharf: Fitness brand Sweat By BXR offers free classes at Crossrail Place studio

Boxing, Versaclimbing and Strength And Conditioning sessions all available at its facility

Working the Versaclimber at Sweat By BXR
Working the Versaclimber at Sweat By BXR

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Everywhere, normal life is reasserting itself. Inboxes are buzzing, people are getting back in touch and returning to the office – Canary Wharf hasn’t been this busy since the first three months of 2020.

It’s time to get out and meet again, to shrug off the PJs, shift those extra pandemic pounds and get in shape.

The solution? It’s not home workouts. Contorting yourself to see a tiny figure on your phone flexing something is so first lockdown.

What’s needed is consistent, energising, professional help and boutique, pay-to-train fitness studio, Sweat By BXR in Canary Wharf has an offer that’s hard to resist.

It’s currently offering anyone who signs up for its weekly newsletter a complimentary class. Free, no strings.

“We want to encourage people out of their offices and homes,” said managing director Alex Nicholl. “We want people to come and enjoy the experience, to get back in the studio.

“Once people have done that, we then have two introductory offers that work out at £10 per class for a number of sessions.

“With the complimentary class, we just want people to come in, meet us and try out a workout. It’s that simple.   

“People just need to scan the QR code on the following page, enter their details and we’ll send them a voucher code that can be used for any of our classes.

“That’s a really good, free and then cost-effective way to get into our studios and experience what we have to offer.”

Sweat By BXR’s Alex Nicholl – image by Ilyas Ayub

Specifically the brand’s Crossrail Place branch has two workout spaces that are currently home to three classes – Sweatbox, Strenghtbox and Climb To The Beat.

“We have two concept studios,” said Alex. “One is focused on boxing and the other on Versaclimbing. On the boxing side we have two classes – one designed around boxing and bodyweight exercises that we call Sweatbox.

“The other is designed around boxing plus resistance and weight training – that’s Strengthbox. They both have music and lighting as part of the concept and a really fun atmosphere.

“The studio can hold up to 30 people – 15 can be working out on the heavy bags, while the other 15 are working out on the floor using equipment or their own bodyweight.

“One of the big differences in our product and those offered elsewhere is that our boxing classes come from our heritage with BXR – our concept boxing gym in Marylebone.

“All of our instructors are either current fighters, former fighters or have worked at a high level in boxing so you get a really great workout.

“All the equipment is available at the studio – gloves and wraps, everything is here. We also do pre and post-workout shakes.

“Our workouts are usually 45 minutes, with at least 41 minutes of exercise and a three or four-minute stretch towards the end.”

Sweat By BXR offers boxing-inspired workouts at its studio

Inspired by the regimes of top boxers, who need explosive cardio workouts to compete at the highest levels, Sweat By BXR also has something pretty special.

“At BXR, we opened the first Versaclimber studio in Europe when we launched our Marylebone site in 2017,” said Alex. “It’s a machine at a 75-degree angle that has handholds and pedals to mimic climbing. 

“As a machine it’s unique in the fitness world – it’s completely non-impact and burns more calories per minute than any other. It’s a total body workout. You can do an intense interval workout on it – lots of boxers use it before a fight.

“But the first time I tried one, I was on it for an hour and absolutely loved it. There’s a rhythm there, a catharsis in the movement of it. So I sat with some specialists and we were able to conceptualise and create a class for it.

“We launched that in April 2017 and Climb To The Beat became our biggest selling product. The energy, the highs, the pumping music and its crescendos all play into it. I have a background in nightlife so I’m very keen on working with DJs and light technicians to create an atmosphere. 

“The energy is unlike anything I’ve seen in a studio before – it’s a particular feeling. The fact your heart rate goes up so high but that you can recover quickly just by bringing your hands down and then go again, makes it a product for everyone. 

“Coming out of the pandemic is so much about getting yourself back into a regime – there’s a mental health element to that too. 

“Boxing is entrenched in that and the highs from Climb To The Beat also make people feel really good – they walk out of a class with smiles on their faces. We really want people to come and experience that.

“Our pay-ast-you-train model offers our clients a lot of flexibility and that’s key, particularly at the moment.

“We’ve extended all of our expiry dates so people get greater flexibility and can buy a pack of classes, keep them and use them when they need to train.”

A full class timetable is available here.

Sweat By BXR’s Versaclimber studio space
VERSACLIMBER
Climb To The Beat is Sweat By BXR’s most popular class with participants following the beat of the music on their machines, increasing and decreasing intensity as the sounds ebb and flow.

Beloved of osteopaths and physios, the machines are non-impact meaning the risk of injury is reduced. 

Sweat is currently developing a new class, Performance, that will use heart rate monitors to gauge intensity. It’s expected on the Wharf in 2022. 
Sweat By BXR’s boxing studio space
BOXING
With capacity for 30 people, Sweat By BXR’s boxing studio draws on boxing concept gym BXR in Marylebone.

The workouts offered within – Strengthbox and Sweatbox – include full body exercises, punching skills and instructors who are either fighters or involved in the sport at a high level.

Participants alternate between floor-based workouts and using the plentiful heavy bags to the rear of the studio space.

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Canary Wharf: Pergola On The Wharf opens its doors at Crossrail Place Roof Garden

New venue by Incipio Group will reflect its lush surroundings with plenty of greenery all around

Incipio Group’s Rory Graham at Crossrail Place Roof Garden – image Matt Grayson

“Unfortunately it’s a building site at the moment, so we can’t go inside yet,” said Incipio Group’s head of creative development, Rory Graham. It was less than two weeks before Pergola On The Wharf opened and we’d met to chat about the venue that will see the vast unit at the eastern edge of Crossrail Place Roof Garden transformed following the demise of the company that ran Giant Robot.

Rory’s calm exterior hid what must have been a feverish level of activity in the run-up to its launch on Friday, May 28.

“The best way to describe this venue is what we leant on for its design – the roof garden it sits beside,” said Rory. “It’s an incredible pocket of calm in the middle of the metropolis that is Canary Wharf and we wanted to continue that look and feel throughout Pergola. 

“We’ve created a 12ft by 8ft flower wall planted entrance, a whole foliage ceiling and made a bar out of trees. It all plays into our airy, green, crisp style.

“The venue’s 10,000sq ft with two bars, one big open theatre kitchen and private dining space. Then we’ve got a 200-capacity wrap-around terrace looking over the Wharf – we’re incredibly lucky to get this location. In total we have capacity for 700 people.”

An artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

Pergola started life under railway arches in Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush, gaining its name from the popularity of bookings to sit under the tiny outdoor structure its founders had built.

“We launched in White City in 2016, and on the back of that we opened Pergola Paddington and then we had Pergola On The Roof, which was the original concept – this is the fourth venue within that brand,” said Rory.

“It’s informal, good fun, accessible and there for everyone, whether a large group or a couple coming for dinner and drinks. It might be the after-work crowd, which we’re obviously keen to engage with in Canary Wharf.

Another artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

“People can expect relaxed DJs, good music and good food. In terms of the food, our executive chef Nick Wyborn, who trained at the Langham Hotel, and recently came over from Mac And Wild, has used land, sea and earth as the narrative for the menu.

“All the dishes relate to that, as does our drinks menu, which has fresh beers, cocktails and coffees during the day and there’s a low and no alcohol section as well.

“On weekdays we’re open from noon-11pm and earlier for brunch at the weekends as well as later into the night.

“We’ll be serving everything from really good burgers to brilliant sharers, small plates and dishes that are great for quick lunches.” 

And a final artist’s impression of Pergola’s interior

Opening in Canary Wharf was an easy decision for Incipio, with a healthy local market and the prospect of Crossrail trains starting to arrive into the building in the not too distant future.

Rory said: “First and foremost, you only have to look at the other operators here to realise how serious an area this is now.

“You’ve got The Alchemist, The Ivy In The Park, an Everyman Cinema and Darwin And Wallace’s No 35 Mackenzie Walk, so it was a very attractive place to come to.

“Not only that, but it’s starting to see a lot of weekend traffic as well, which we’re keen to tap into. Alongside that, the venue and the location are incredible.

“If you marry all that up together, it really was an opportunity we couldn’t turn down. We’re very fortunate to get this unit and very excited to be here.

“As restrictions have eased, the response from the public has been incredible across the group. In our first four weeks we’ve had more than half a million bookings for the summer at our venues, which is really exciting.

“We’ve had great success in west London and we know a lot of our customers live in east London so this is us bringing one of our sites to them.”

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