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West India Quay: How the Museum Of London Docklands is marking its 20th

Institution is planning a The Big Docklands Street Party with late access to its galleries on June 10

Drag queen Vanity Milan will headline The Big Docklands Street Party

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The Museum Of London Docklands is gearing up for a celebration.

On June 10, 2023, the chimes of the bells at St Mary-Le-Bow will ring out to mark 20 years since the late Queen officially opened the West India Quay institution.

Two decades on and it’s drag queen Vanity Milan – known for her appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK in 2021 – who will headline The Big Docklands Street Party in celebration of the milestone.

Running from 7pm-10pm on the Saturday evening, the event will feature Hackney Showroom’s Bobby Dazzler outdoor stage with a line-up of live music acts and performances to entertain revellers. 

Tickets, which should be pre-booked online, cost £20 dropping to £12 for those aged 20.

Other attractions will include a makers market featuring products from Craft Central creatives, street food stalls and pop-up bars as well as an East End-themed pub quiz.

The museum’s galleries will also stay open late to host a range of talks, tours and film screenings including a focus on the origins of street parties in the capital, the history of the Notting Hill Carnival and the other festivities that have brought Londoners together over the years. 

Museum Of London Docklands managing director Douglas Gilmore

The latter is something Museum Of London Docklands managing director Douglas Gilmore is very much hoping the street party will do. 

“There will be film, dance and lots of activities and we’re really excited about it,” he said.

“We want to be diverse and to make sure everyone who might want to come to the museum can and for people who haven’t visited to feel that they can too.

“We’ve done these kinds of events before, so local people are used to them, but we also want people to come from further afield to grow our audience.

“Our research has shown some people think Docklands is hard to get to but we know it isn’t – there are five stations across three different lines within five minutes’ walk of us and most museums can’t say that.”

While the party, like Vanity Milan, is the headline attraction, the museum’s 20th birthday has also become the focus of a sequence of events taking place throughout the year.

The Queen opened the museum on June 10, 2023

“We’ve been open for two decades on this site,” said Douglas.

“We want to use that and incorporate it in our new strategy, which we’ve entitled Moving Centre Stage, because with the Museum Of London temporarily closed for its relocation to Smithfield we are now the centre.

“Our strategy has three main pillars – the first is to grow our audience, both in terms of numbers and diversity, the second is to improve our content, both in what we have and what we show and the third is the efficiency of how we operate.

“Our anniversary will be used to feed all of those. June is really our party month and, in addition to the main celebration there will be activities for both adults and children.

“Then, our next big month will be September when we’ll be organising a mudlarking festival. 

“Ideally we’d like to grow that into an annual event, starting small but talking about it in the same way the Natural History Museum does Wildlife Photographer Of The Year, which has become an international event.

“We plan to run foreshore tours with an expert from the British Museum to assess items found on the banks of the Thames. 

“There’s a lot of interest in mudlarking and part of what we do as a museum is to tell the story of the Thames though the Port Of London Authority’s archive and things found in the river.

“It’s a part of our identity with our Mudlarks Gallery for kids, which is hugely popular.”

The museum is seeking to boost the diversity of its audience

Whatever the museum does, Douglas is focused on making sure that as wide a range of people participate in its activities as possible.

“Museums are famously un-diverse,” he said.

“Ours is actually one of the best with 23% of visitors coming from diverse backgrounds, which is great because most national museums wouldn’t get anywhere near that.

“That’s partly because of where we are – the local boroughs around here are quite diverse – but also because we are one of only three museums in the country that has a permanent display about the slave trade, which is a diverse subject in terms of the audience it affects.

“These are the main reasons we’re doing so well already. However, we want to improve because the Museum Of London has an ambition to represent the city in terms of both our staff and the people who visit us.

“London’s  population is around 40% diverse, so while 23% is good, it is only about half way to where we should be.

“The way we want to do that is partly through what we show here.

“This month we have a new display called Indo + Caribbean, and that’s very relevant for us as we tell the story of migration and Indian indenture.

The street party will feature live music and entertainment

“In October we’ll be opening Fashion City here as part of the 20th anniversary, which is a different thing for us to do and hopefully will bring in a new audience.

“The strap-line is how Jewish Londoners shaped global style, telling the story of how immigrants came to the East End and started making clothes here, with some moving to the West End to start couture houses.

“There will also be Windrush Day, with readings and performances from poets of Caribbean heritage on June 20 as we mark the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks.  

“For everything we do, we need to think about the audience we’re attracting here.

“One thing I definitely want to achieve while I am here is record visitor numbers. 

“We’ll also be producing a masterplan this year to define where we want this building to be in 10 years’ time.

“From this, we’ll work backwards to see how we can achieve it – how the museum will look inside and what that might mean for the way it’s laid out.

“We could definitely use our outside space more to make the quay really come alive.”

The Bobby Dazzler stage will certainly be a vibrant starting point to that process.

Prepare for an evening of celebration and history


Check out these upcoming events at the Museum Of London Docklands – all part of its plans to mark 20 years since opening in 2003:

Dal Puri Diaspora screening + Q&A

May 31, 6.30pm, ages 14+, paid

Follow the journey of dal puri across space and time, from indentured workers from India’s Gangetic Plain in 19th-century British and Dutch Caribbean colonies, to today’s global Indo-Caribbean community.

LGBTQIA+ Life In Limehouse

Jun 17, 2pm, ages 18+, paid

Join The Urban Rambler, Nick Collinson, for an afternoon jaunt through the streets of Limehouse stopping at queer-friendly and owned pubs along the way

Family Knees-Up

May 30, 11am / 2pm, under 5s, free

Listen and sing along to the sounds of the inimitable Tom Carradine as he brings a family friendly version of Carradine’s Cockney Singalong to the Museum. Expect plenty of ivory tinkling and bananas.

Spitalfields Ballad Walk

July 1, 11am, ages 14+, paid

Join folk singer and researcher Vivien Ellis for a musical walking tour focusing on the rich history of street vendors and others who used song to make a living on the streets. Learn about unsung heroes of the East End and discover how music brought communities together.

Nick Collinson, The Urban Rambler

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Canary Wharf: How Randox Health’s 20th clinic brings tests and IV drips to the Wharf

Brands’ roll out brings cost of its flagship Everyman and Everywoman packages down to £295

Randox Health’s new clinic at Cabot Place

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Unprecedented’ was one of the words that got more than its fair share of exercise during the pandemic.

But it is perhaps one of the best terms to describe the levels of information about ourselves that we can measure and record.

Never before have so many people been able to capture such a vast quantity of data about themselves.

What was once mostly the preserve of the healthcare sector, has now become part of daily life for the populace, with easy ways to measure everything from steps and sleep to blood sugar and oxygenation levels.

One of the effects of the pandemic is that most people have become used to the idea of testing themselves regularly – a normalising of such behaviour in a section of the population that might otherwise have not had much contact with the medical world.

It’s against this backdrop that Randox Health is engaged in a roll out of new clinics, including its latest opening in Canary Wharf’s Cabot Place.

While the brand first emerged in the early 2010s, it has grown from four locations to 20 with many more in the pipeline.

Essentially the consumer-facing arm of Randox proper – a provider of laboratory, health and toxicology services to some 145 countries that was founded in County Antrim more than 40 years ago – Randox Health offers an extensive menu of tests to paying customers.

“The plan was to make our services more accessible to the public,” said Celine Hasson, operations manager at the company who oversees six of its clinics in the capital. 

“We already had locations in west London and then in central London but we weren’t reaching out to east London and we saw a demand for testing, which is why we’ve opened in Canary Wharf.

“It was our busiest opening with 22 appointments on the first day.

“The services we offer range widely over concerns about any aspect of a person’s body.

“We can test for conditions related to the kidneys, thyroid and hormones as well as things like sexually transmitted infections and genetic factors such as lactose intolerance. 

“We like to give people a full-body MOT so they can get a better understanding of their bodies and any lifestyle changes which may be necessary to ensure good health.

“For this we offer a range of packages from smaller ones to the larger ones that incorporate everything.

“Depending on the results, we might suggest a customer seeks further guidance from a GP if there is anything in the results that needs to be flagged up.”

A wide range of tests is available at the clinic

Randox Health’s flagship offerings are its Everyman and Everywoman packages, both costing £295.

These provide up to 150 data points over two rounds of testing and include a personalised health plan.

“We arrange an initial appointment for blood and urine testing,” said Celine.

“Our clients will get their results within two to five working days through our app and also sent out by post.

“These are presented via a traffic light system – green’s fine, amber may be something to look into and red is where further investigation is needed.

“Included is an optional discussion with one of our scientists – although this isn’t a clinical or medical appointment.

“Customers can also talk to a GP for a consultation fee of £70.

“Then people come back six months later for a repeat set of tests – the biomarker tracking – and another consultation.”

The cost, excluding the doctor, works out at less than £25 per month as Randox’s ongoing expansion brings prices down. It previously worked out at more than £40.

“We feel it’s not that much money to spend on your health,” said Celine.

“We are providing preventative healthcare and, in the wake of the pandemic, we’re finding a lot of customers are concerned about their health.

“That’s why we’re opening new clinics. It’s up to the customer how they want to interpret their body – how often they feel they need to be checking in with themselves.

“We have some who come back every year, to ensure they are making any lifestyle changes that are necessary – diet, exercise or taking supplements, for example. 

“Some have their tests and then take that information to their NHS GP to discuss the findings. In general they are very focused on what changes they could make to improve their health.

“We get a very broad range of people who come to us, with people aged 18, right up to those in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

“It’s for anyone who is concerned about their long term health and wants to take measures to improve it.”

Randox Health also offers other packages including its £2,600 Signature option, which provides 350 data points alongside genetic testing and GP advice. There are options aimed at pregnant women and athletes too.

In addition, the firm offers a range of more specific tests covering everything from genetic cancer screening to hormonal health for both sexes, gut health and a £45 test for prostate health.

“Two weeks ago, we had a customer in our Liverpool clinic who had a PSA test as part of their Everyman package,” said Celine.

“The results were elevated and quite concerning and their GP was able to refer them for cancer diagnosis at an early stage.

“The customer was really grateful because that was a potentially lifesaving result and it’s things like that which make it very worthwhile.”

Randox Health operations manager Celine Hasson

While Randox Health stresses that it’s not a clinical or medical company at heart, it has just struck a deal to offer intravenous vitamin infusions in its clinics in partnership with US firm Reviv.

Potentially, it’s a way for customers to top up their vitamin levels and address any imbalances in their bodies revealed by testing.

“This is something new for us, so we thought it would be good to partner with a company that has experience in the field,” said Celine, who splits her time between Northern Ireland and the London clinics she oversees.

“We have qualified nurses who do the canulation and then it’s a 45-minute appointment for the infusion drips.”

A selection of IV drip therapies are available starting at £85 for a Miniboost intended to help recharge energy levels in response to stress or jet lag. It contains a blend of B vitamins, Vitamin C and antioxidants.

The priciest option on the menu is the Heliix, which promises to deliver “a powerhouse of antioxidants, including vitamin C, glutathione and alpha lipoic acid” intended to help detoxify the body and support collagen production, sleep, mood and immunity.

A selection of booster shots is also available.

Bookings can be made at the Canary Wharf clinic via this link.

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Limehouse: How St Anne’s Limehouse plans to open the building to everyone

National Lottery Heritage Grant funding is crucial for plans to put in a lift and covert the crypt

St Anne’s Limehouse is working towards a £7million refurbishment

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St Anne’s Limehouse has a long history of welcoming and protecting the people of east London.

Completed in 1727 to a design by Nicholas Hawksmoor, the towering white structure is home to a diverse congregation under current rector, the Rev Richard Bray. 

But the church also has a long history as a place of refuge for all, with its crypt converted into a bomb shelter for local residents in the 1940s during the Second World War.

Today, that partly refurbished space offers a place for the homeless to sleep in safety.

However, the church and Care For St Anne’s (CfSA) – the charity whose mission is to conserve and celebrate the building’s architectural heritage – have ambitious plans to go much further.

In addition to restoration and refurbishment, they want to open the building up to a wider audience with a scheme that should see its doors flung wide beyond the timings of services and its regular Friday and Saturday opening hours.

To that end, CfSA recently received some £613,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to launch its Hawksmoor 300: A Landmark For Limehouse campaign. 

This is money it will use to move forward with an application for a further £2.9million National Lottery Delivery grant from 2025, as part of a £7million scheme to remodel significant chunks of unused space and improve access to the building by 2030.

The plan is to clear and open up its crypt

“This project will infuse our historic building with fresh life for future generations, establishing it as the East End’s biggest, most accessible and welcoming community space,” said Rev Bray. 

“We look forward to welcoming many of our neighbours into the renewed building before too long.”

There are really three parts to the project, as outlined to me by CfSA chair Philip Reddaway on a recent tour of the building – the steps, the crypt and the garden.

“There are a number of things we intend to do,” said Philip.

“First of all, there’s no step-free access to the church, which really doesn’t work in this day and age.

“Our plan is to install a lift from the crypt level to the nave and up to the gallery, which is a major project in itself. In terms of the building, the other big thing is the crypt.

CfSA chair Philip Reddaway

“Part of it was cleared and refurbished in the 1980s with funding from the London Docklands Development Corporation.

“While that part is being used, it’s mainly for the church itself and we want to create a flexible, multi-use space – rather like Christ Church Spitalfields – that we can open to the wider community.

“That’s one of the things you have to demonstrate to get the Lottery funding – that it’s a project that will benefit and be used by a wide range of local people.

“At present, there are still more than 100 bodies buried in the crypt in walled off family tombs dating from the 18th century.

The crypt was used as a bomb shelter during the Second World War

“You had to be rather grand to be interred here rather than in the churchyard, but as part of this project those spaces will need to be cleared and the remains reburied.

“That’s a complicated process and there are lots of specialists involved to ensure all the correct procedures are followed.”

The unconverted space is also littered with decades of detritus – the dumped ephemera of operation, placed out of sight and out of mind.

A further challenge for the renovators is the extensive network of blast walls and facilities left over from its time as a wartime bomb shelter. 

These include ancient toilet cubicles and a pair of sick bays for Londoners to use while the explosives rained down outside.

“When we carried out our consultation, we found some people thought the church had been deconsecrated because the doors were often shut when no services were taking place,” said Philip.

“We now have a team of volunteers opening up on Fridays and Saturdays to help change that.

“But it’s not just being physically open, it’s about building on the things we already do – creating all sorts of partnerships with local organisations.

There are even 1940s toilets still in place left over from the war

“We’re working with Queen Mary University, the Museum Of London Docklands, Whitechapel Gallery and the Building Crafts College in Stratford.

“Queen Mary’s history department, for example, spent time finding out more about the lives of the people buried in the crypt and gave a presentation about some of them.

“Sadly, but inevitably, this was one of the great shipbuilding areas of London, and several buried here were involved in the slave trade and we have at least one major slave trader buried here. 

“We don’t walk away from that and I would like to see a permanent exhibition putting it in context.

“Another interesting finding was two brothers – John and Samuel Seaward – who lived near my home on Newell Street.

“They were maritime engineers who were involved in pioneering the first transatlantic steam ships – big cheeses in their field at the time.

“Queen Mary’s engineering department used their story as inspiration for a project with Cyril Jackson Primary School in Limehouse that saw 10-to-11-year-olds build boats in the spirit of the brothers, to help them learn basic engineering principles, with a view to building a working boat that can sail on one of the local canals.”

The church wants to make the space available for flexible use

In addition to opening a cafe in the crypt, another of the ambitions for the Hawksmoor 300 project will be to update the church’s grounds.

“We want to create something called the Remembrance Garden to commemorate the waves of migrants who have come through Limehouse over the years,” said Philip.

“From the Huguenots, the Jews, the Chinese, all the way through to the Bangladeshi community, we want to have different parts of the churchyard planted to reflect the people who have settled here so there’s something that’s relevant to all of them.

“We’re working with a great charity called Groundwork, who are specialists in this kind of thing, as well as with pupils at Cyril Jackson to create this.

“The churchyard is lovely – dog-walkers love it – and it’s one of the biggest green spaces in the area, but it is under-utilised and we want people to come here and enjoy it.”

CfSA is now embarking on a fundraising campaign to raise a further £3.5million in addition to the £3.5million anticipated from the Lottery. 

This latest drive comes off the back of another successful project, that will see the church’s massive stained glass window removed, restored and put back in place.

Detail of St Anne’s’ east window, which is set to be restored

During the 12 months or so that it’s absent from the massive arch in the church’s east wall, a replacement window by artist Brian Clarke will occupy the space before it finds a new home, hopefully in the East End.

Then, following more than £100,000 worth of work, the original window will return to pride of place, its panels cleaned and the extensive buckling of the metal frames rectified.

“Inside, the church requires quite a lot of cosmetic attention, which has to happen to tackle the legacy of water getting in and things like that,” said Philip. 

“But when the window returns, it will be another wonderful asset to the building opposite the fully restored organ that plays beautifully.”

Anyone interested in getting involved with the project in a fundraising or volunteering capacity can find out more online via the charity’s website here.

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Stratford: How the Prost8 Challenge helps fight the UK’s third most lethal cancer

Lee Valley VeloPark event targets growth organisers aim to emulate Race For Life’s success

Malcolm Grieve created the Prost8 Challenge following a cancer scare

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Over the course of the next 45 minutes, a man will die from prostate cancer in the UK.

Affecting only men, it is the third most lethal form of cancer, having overtaken breast cancer in 2019.

Around 475,000 men are currently living with and after prostate cancer, with around one in eight being diagnosed with the condition.

That statistic rises to one in four for black men.

“A lot of really great work has been done on breast cancer, which has led to a reduction in deaths,” said Malcolm Grieve, managing director of Eighth Floor Events.

“At the moment, to get tested for prostate cancer, a man has to identify that he may have a problem himself and seek medical advice – there is no screening programme. 

“A few years ago I had some symptoms myself – I thought something was wrong and I knew it was a urology-type issue, but I certainly didn’t think it could have been cancer.

“I was in my early 40s and I didn’t really think it could be anything like that. But the PSA test I took indicated it might be.

“When the word ‘cancer’ was mentioned, I was glad I was sitting down. You try to come to terms pretty quickly with what that means.

“I’ve got three kids and while they’re all grown up, the prospect that the disease could accelerate – that they could lose me and I could lose them – was a pretty horrible thought.”

Former Olympic athlete Dwain Chambers will start the 2023 Prost8 Challenge

The more reliable physical examination – literally a finger up the bottom – resulted in Malcolm getting the all clear, PSA tests being notorious for false positives.

But the experience got him thinking.

“When you go through something like that, there is a realisation that there are other people out there who experience very different outcomes,” he said.

“Broadly, you see that there is a lack of funding and messaging to help people get diagnosed early and I wondered what I could do to help.

“I didn’t want to set up a charity in competition with any others – instead I wanted to create something and then partner with a charity to raise money and help drive the message that way.

“My background is in project and programme management and I saw this as an issue that was becoming dear to my heart because of the experience and thought’s I’d had during my own cancer scare – something I could do to help others.”

The result is the Prost8 Challenge, an 8km run or walk, scheduled to return to the road circuit Lee Valley VeloPark for its second iteration on July 9, 2023.

Participants run or walk five laps of the one-mile track to travel a total of 8k – a distance selected in honour of beneficiary, the Essex-based charity Prost8 UK.

The organisation campaigns to widen the availability of new prostate cancer screening methods, to fund focal therapy equipment to help treat men suffering early stage cancer in NHS hospitals with fewer damaging side effects and to raise awareness of all the treatment options available for the disease.

The challenge costs £15 to enter (finishers get a sustainable goody bag and medal), with participants encouraged to raise sponsorship and donations for Prost8. 

This year’s race will be started by former Olympic athlete and multiple European record-holder, the sprinter Dwain Chambers.

“Dwain heard the statistic that 25% of black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and that’s why he wanted to get involved  this year,” said Malcolm.

“He was very surprised by that figure and will be our celebrity ambassador this year through our partner, sports nutrition company Bio Synergy.

“He’s said he’ll run at least the first 100m.”

Malcolm is a man who likes to take action.

Having joined the Royal Navy straight from school, he spent 13 years serving on submarines before injury set him on a course for the banking industry. 

Having worked for Lloyds and then HSBC in Canary Wharf, he’s now set his sights on building the Prost8 Challenge into a multi-location event inspired by the success of the likes of Race For Life, which has raised nearly £550million over the last two decades to help fight breast cancer.

“We’re starting small, but thinking big – I don’t think there are any limits to what this could become,” said Malcolm.

“We’d love to emulate the success of Race For Life and the levels of funding that achieves.

“Ultimately I would like it to be one day a year when many people across the country take the Prost8 Challenge and to do that we intend to grow the number of locations that host it so we can raise as much as possible. 

“We want to support Prost8 in its aim of getting at least eight focal therapy units into NHS hospitals.

“But it’s also about the awareness, because men are often a bit sensitive about what’s going on downstairs. 

“They might feel it’s a threat to their masculinity to admit they may have something wrong with them like that and the difficulty with any cancer is that the longer you leave it before testing and diagnosis, the more dangerous it becomes.

“That’s why screening could potentially be so important in the future.”

Richard Jacobs co-founded Alba Partners, which is supporting the Prost8 Challenge

Malcolm is supported in his endeavour by Alba Partners, a consultancy firm co-founded by Canary Wharf resident Richard Jacobs.

“We met in 2014 working together in financial services in Canary Wharf and we’ve remained friends ever since,” said Richard. 

“About 18 months ago he threw out the idea that he was going to be putting on the Prost8 Challenge and was looking for input and ideas.

“It sounded really exciting, and like a cause I could get behind. We’d had a scare and some history in the family as well.

“Since we originally met, I’d started Alba with my sister and, as a growing business, we wanted to sponsor the event – something we’ll keep doing for the foreseeable future. 

“It meant something to me and it was a cause we were happy to really throw our weight behind.

“The first event last year was great fun.

“There was a real buzz when we arrived with a DJ and a party atmosphere.

“The VeloPark was an Olympic venue, so it felt great to really be at the heart of sport. 

“It’s a serious problem that the challenge is addressing, but events like this also help to lighten things up and we’ve made it one of our annual team event days.”

Registration is now open for the latest Prost8 Challenge, which kicks off at 10am on July 9, 2023.

Eighth Floor Events is also looking for support and sponsorship from local businesses and organisations for this year’s challenge and going forward. Follow this link for contact details.

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Canary Wharf: How Blacklock wants its bills to give diners a positive shock on price

Brand is set to open its fifth restaurant at Frobisher Passage overlooking North Dock on May 15, 2023

Dishes are served communally a Blacklock on mismatched crockery

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“When you go to a great restaurant, it can be very expensive,” said Gordon Ker, founder of Blacklock, a small chain of four chophouses that’s set to open its fifth in Canary Wharf this month.

“But we want to give our guests a positive shock when the bill arrives. We want them to be asking: ‘Is that right? What’s been missed off? When can we do this again?’.”

Check Blacklock’s menu and it’s serving up skinny chops for a fiver each, steaks for £18 or less and a burger for £12 with sides on offer for £4 a go.

That’s in contrast to, say, Manhattan Grill – just over the waters of West India North Dock – where sides are £6, steaks start at £32 and a burger is £17.

It’s not like-for-like, of course. One is a restaurant in a five-star hotel serving American beef, while the other takes its inspiration from the workaday chop houses of old.

I suspect, however, that Gordon would be willing to pit the Cornish, grass-fed meats Blacklock serves against anything imported from across the pond.

It’s also his brand’s approach to the produce that, in part, explains the lower prices.

Blacklock founder Gordon Ker

“We’re certainly not buying cheap meat, it’s expensive stuff that we serve,” he said.

“But we try and be sensible about how we source and utilise the animals. 

“The first thing to say is we buy the whole animal, and we use as much of it as we can.

“That way there’s no waste for the farmer so we get a better price.

“A steakhouse might buy prime cuts, but then the farmer has to shift the rest of the meat. 

“Supply and demand means if everyone wants the same cuts, then the price for those goes up further.

“We get a fixed price for the whole animal, which is cheaper, and then we get inventive with the menu – selling cuts people might not be familiar with. 

“For example, we sell a sixth rib eye, which is a little further down from the prime ribs – but that’s £18 in contrast to a typical rib eye for £30.

“Then we do a starter – Pig’s Head On Toast, where we cook down the whole head and then pull the meat apart, braise it, spice it, and serve it on bread with gravy.

The Canary Wharf branch will feature a brand new bar menu

“Our message on sustainability is also that people should be eating better meat less often.

“Our meat comes from Philip Warren in Cornwall and is regeneratively farmed to help improve the soil.

“The animals live a comparatively long and happy life and the farmers aim to keep out of things as much as possible.

“There are no antibiotics or growth additives or negative things like that.

“Our margin on food is less than what standard restaurant economics tell you to make it.

“But that’s part of our commitment to providing exceptional value for money.”

Gordon is not a man afraid to go his own way.

After studying law at UCL, he embarked on a career as a solicitor and found himself an associate at London-based firm Olswang, dealing with hospitality and leisure firms.

But despite the regular income and reliable prospects, he found the law unfulfilling and started formulating plans to escape it. 

Having got to know Hawksmoor founders, Will Beckett and Huw Gott, as clients, when private equity firm Graphite Capital bought a majority stake in their business, he told them he intended to launch his own restaurant.

Describing it as “a terrible idea” they did their best to discourage him.

Diners are encouraged to share dishes, much like they would do at home

They said I had a stable job, that running restaurants was really hard and wondered why I would want to do it given I knew nothing about it,” said Gordon.

“That made a lot of sense at the time, but I was persistent and I think they took pity on me.”

So, when Gordon quit his job, he went first to work at Hawksmoor for 10 months to learn how a restaurant worked while simultaneously scouring the capital for a suitable space to try out his ideas.

While Will and Huw helped him out with some early investors and remain shareholders in Blacklock today, it took Gordon a while to find a landlord willing to take a punt on a business with no track record. 

Nevertheless, against the odds, Gordon opened his first site in a Soho basement formerly used as a brothel.

He and his team overcame water leaks and a lack of both gas and electricity to launch the first restaurant “as cheaply as possible”.

Having grown from those early days to locations in the City, Shoreditch and Covent Garden, the brand retains a charming bootstrap ethos.

Cutlery, with the exception of the knives, is second hand, as is the crockery.

The aim is to create a familial atmosphere, with food doled out at the table – a haven of comfort, not ceremony.

Blacklock’s Canary Wharf branch is located in Frobisher Passage and is expected to open on May 15, 2023, – although reservations are already being taken.

It’s located in a space under the DLR tracks that once served as the estate’s security and pass issue office.

Inside, it’s a cosy space with frosted windows that seems deliberately conceived as a refuge.

There are glossy dark walls, wry signage and plenty of dark wood furniture. 

The glasses, plates, spoons and forks are all second hand at Blacklock, as is much of the furniture

“It’s important for us to be in buildings that have character,” said Gordon.

“We want to transport people to a place that’s full of heritage but also very relaxed, vintage with a natural feel. 

“Everything’s reclaimed – the tables, the chairs, all the wood, the crockery, the forks, the spoons and the glassware. It all has that special, nostalgic feel.

“With the trains going overhead it has a speakeasy, New York vibe – people can enjoy the gentle, comforting rumble.

“We want it to be the kind of place where you come for lunch which, after a few Old Fashioneds, becomes dinner.”

The Canary Wharf branch will also feature a bar menu.

Blacklocks typically offer cocktails from £7.50 and alcohol-free mixed drinks from £4.

Staffing is perhaps the final piece of the jigsaw at Blacklock, with Hawksmoor’s reputation as a great place to work clearly finding resonance in Gordon’s approach to running his own restaurants. 

“The first thing I say to people at their induction is that most restaurants will tell you to put the customers first – to make them happy,” he said.

“Of course they are important, but they are number two in our business because it’s our people who are important. 

“For us, opening new locations is about building careers for people so they can take that next step.

“That creates the opportunity for people to grow within the company and gives people purpose. It’s about culture.

“I passionately think people do great things when they are motivated and invested.

“That’s what we are seeking to create.”

Read more: How WaterAid uses dragon boats to raise money

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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
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Wapping: How the Krafty Braumeister went from Baghdad to Brussels Wharf

Uli Schiefelbein went from homebrew in Iraq to brewing in Suffolk and now sells beer in Wapping

Uli Schiefelbein of the Krafty Braumeister at Wapping Docklands Market

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The tale of the Krafty Braumeister starts not in east London, but some distance away.

In fact the brewery, which sells its beer at Wapping Docklands Market every Saturday from 10am-4pm at Brussels Wharf, has its origins in Iraq and the desire for better refreshment.

“I was working for the European Union over there as a rule of law expert, having worked for the German police,” said Uli Schiefelbein, founder and head brewer at the Krafty Braumeister.

“We were over there training Iraqi police and prison governors in the rule of law – mainly criminal law – and I worked there for seven years.

“Now, I love beer – I can remember my grandfather taking me to a pub for the first time when I was 15.

“But the beer we could get in Baghdad was absolute crap.

“It was often kept out on the runway in containers in 40ºC heat – beer from big lager brands brewing under licence in Turkey, so it was not nice to start with.

“At that time we were living in rented accommodation at the British Embassy, where we also rented offices.

“So, a few of us decided to try brewing our own.

“Everyone was very keen on getting better beer, so soon people flying in were bringing hops and malt in their suitcases. 

“Our first attempt was a total failure. The problem was the fermentation, because the weather was just so hot.

“We had no clue about brewing but we figured a few things out, got the hang of it and everybody liked the beer.

“From that experience, I thought that when I retired I would try to make a business out of it.

“The second thing that happened in Baghdad was I met my wife there and she is British.

“We had to decide whether to live in Germany or the UK, but she said she was tired of learning new languages, so I didn’t have a choice.

“That’s why we live in Suffolk, which I love because it’s a wonderful place – very quiet and rural – and that’s where this little brewery has been going now since April 2018.”

Beers to go: Uli sells both bottled and draught beers at the market

The couple moved to the UK in 2013, with Uli retiring in 2017 and immediately embarking on a series of professional brewing courses to take his hobby to the next level.

“Because I’m German, I thought I needed to do some German-style beers – that was my niche – and that’s what we did,” he said.

“All the beers we brew are natural – we don’t add any sugar or artificial flavours.

“I couldn’t really do American IPAs and the British brewers are much better than me at brewing their ales, so I stuck to what I knew.”

Perhaps appropriately for a former rule of law expert, Uli brews strictly in line with the Reinheitsgebot – a candidate for the oldest, still enforced food regulation in the world.

Also known as the German Purity Law, it was implemented by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria in 1516 and states that only barley, hops and water can be used to produce beer. 

This was subsequently modified to include a fourth ingredient, yeast, after its role in the fermentation process was discovered and has governed brewing in all of Germany since 1906 after it was gradually adopted by other states in the country. 

So while Uli brews his beer in Leiston, close to the east coast, the link to the country of his birth is potent and his home town features in his beers too.

“I had to do a beer from my home town of Köln,” he said.

“Out Rut And Wiess is a Kölsch-style beer that’s like a hybrid between a pale ale and a lager. A lot of people order it from us because they know it from their time in Germany.

“In Köln, it’s drunk in small glasses and the waiters carry trays of beers.

“When yours is empty they replace it with a fresh one and will keep doing so until you put your beer mat on top of the glass.

Wapping Docklands Market is open on Saturdays from 10am-4pm and 5pm for the coronation of King Charles III

“It’s one of the six beers in our core range.

“We do two traditional Bavarian wheat beers, one has banana and clove flavours, which comes from the yeast, a very refreshing summer beer.

“Both are quite fizzy and effervescent.

“The darker version is quite complex and has a lot of flavours. It has won us several awards, including a silver medal from the London Beer Competition.

“Then we do two lagers, one called Munich Helles, which has a sweet maltiness to it, and also a more traditional north German pilsner.

“As well as the Kölsch-style beer, we do a kind of brown ale inspired by beer from the town of Düsseldorf, which has a taste somewhere between a bitter or a porter.”

Examples of these beers and special editions are available at the market in draft and bottled formats, with Uli making the weekly trip down to London.

“For our business model, Wapping is a good way to sell directly to customers,” he said.

“For a small brewery like mine, it’s difficult to do distribution. We have some shops and some pubs where we sell the beer.

“But this puts us right in front of people – they seem to really like it and it works very well for us.

“We’re happy to be here – it’s such a nice atmosphere, with the community and people coming every Saturday, meeting their friends, having a drink and some food – I really enjoy it.

“When this market was first opened by Will Cutteridge, I knew the location and thought I should be here.

“Street food and live music is ideal for us and we’ve now been trading here for nearly two years.

“Running a business like this has been more challenging than I thought. I knew I could brew beer that people like, but all the other things that come with running a company – selling your product, merchandising, taxes – whatever is involved, is all so much more than you think.

“Even though I’m retired, I probably work more now.

“But I enjoy it very much indeed. It’s fantastic when people come back and tell me how much they enjoy what I have made.

“That’s why I like being at this market – we’ve found people in the community really enjoy what we’re doing, so it’s a mutual thing.

“One of the reasons we came to London in the first place was because of the pandemic – all the markets in Suffolk were closed but they were open in the city. 

“So the only way for us to survive was to come to the capital – where we were allowed to sell glasses of beer – and we’re glad we did.

“As for the future, I should like to continue, grow a little bit and increase the profit if I can.

“However, it won’t be to a point where it’s too commercial or industrial and we can’t enjoy it any more. 

“We want to be a nice size and we’re pretty busy, so I’d like to continue doing this for a few more years. If I get to a point where I’m too tired of doing it, then perhaps I’ll sell it then, if I can.”

Beer from the Krafty Braumeister is also available to order online and at Canada Water Market, soon to be on Saturdays and Sundays in Deal Porters Square near the station.

Currywurst from The Austrian House at Wapping Docklands Market


Currywurst And Fries, £9.90 – The Austrian House

Asked for a pairing recommendation for his beer, Uli had no hesitation in picking out regular Wapping trader The Austrian House.

Like the Braumeister, this company makes its products in the UK, with ice-cooled blades to keep the pork in the bratwurst in top condition when it’s being sliced up.

Slathered with sauce and curry powder, its currywurst and skin-on fries are a  rich fruity delight, best enjoyed with a glug or two of chilled beer… 

Read more: How WaterAid uses dragon boats to raise money

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Isle Of Dogs: How The Bakineer is set to serve sweet treats at Mudchute Farm

Hash Mastan will take over converted horse trailer Ruby Red to sell his blondies, brownies and bakes

Friendly neighbourhood baker: Hash Mastan of The Bakineer

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What’s in a name? Well, for Hash Mastan, quite a lot.

He started his business when the pandemic first hit.

With his mechanical engineering masters on hold at Imperial College London and his role at Hummingbird Bakery furloughed, he started baking at his family home near Island Gardens on the Isle Of Dogs. 

Trading under the name of Hash Blondies, he began selling his tray bakes online and building up his business by handing out free samples on South Quay. 

“That was the name for about two years,” said Hash. “I chose that name because it was my name and the product I specialised in but it began to cause some confusion.

“Firstly people assumed I only baked blondies, but I do brownies, cookies, cheesecakes and doughnuts as well.

“But I also began to get serious enquiries from people who wanted me to make hash cakes for them.

“Every second person wanted to know if they contained cannabis.

“While drug-free blondies and brownies remain my signature products, it was always the plan to expand and the range is getting larger and larger.”

So the old name was retired in favour of The Bakineer, a blending of baker and engineer – emblematic of Hash’s approach to his craft.

That it sounds a bit like a superhero moniker, is just a happy coincidence – but apt given his guerilla marketing techniques.

Hash will soon be selling his bakes from Ruby Red at Mudchute Park And Farm

“I always had a knack for technical subjects, maths, problem solving, things like that,” said Hash.

“I got the job at Hummingbird because it was a short walk from the university in South Kensington.

“I had no previous experience of a commerical bakery, but while I was there, I began to apply my problem-solving skills in engineering to baking.

“I began suggesting ways to improve recipes or to change processes – the creativity was building up.”

Following exams for his course and before he returned to Hummingbird, this bubbled up into his own side hustle – baking in his family home and selling online. 

“I did return to Hummingbird and my university studies, but within a couple of weeks it was already getting overwhelming,” said Hash.

 “Word had started to spread and I was finding myself dealing with customer enquiries while I was on shift in the bakery.

“Then Hash Blondies was featured in the media and it didn’t sit right with Hummingbird.

“They classed it as a conflict of interest and asked me to choose between my small business and my job. 

“So I chose my small business because I believed I had a great product I could continue to develop. I went part-time at university and went all out for my bakery.”

Tireless is a good word for Hash. Frequently fuelled by his own bakes, he delivers much of his output on foot even though he’s recently acquired his first car. 

But his time in the kitchen is equally relentless as the engineer meets the baker, constantly creating new recipes and refining old favourites. 

Hash inspects the roof of Ruby Red ahead of opening

“I’ve got more than a hundred flavours now, but I don’t just mish-mash random ingredients together – I think very deeply about what the customer will experience – the sweetness, the saltiness and the contrasting textures,” said Hash.

“I try to introduce a new flavour each week, but I won’t release something until it’s ready. That’s in contrast to other bakeries, which might do once a month.

“That way there’s always something new to try.

“It’s been nearly three years and I’m still excited to get in the kitchen and design the menu for the coming week.”

In addition to the bakes, Hash’s business is also evolving. Having built a local following online and through partnerships with local institutions like The Space arts centre on Westferry Road, The Bakineer is now set to get its first regular physical gig.

Hash, now aided in production by his brother Hasib (himself a Hummingbird and Lola’s Cupcake baker), is set to take over Ruby Red at Mudchute Park And Farm on the Isle Of Dogs. 

The hatch of the converted horse trailer will be open Thursday-Sunday, from 10am-4pm, serving a rotating range of stalwarts and fresh flavours.

“Last year there was a dog show at the farm and I came dressed as Spiderman – something I do to promote my business – bringing my brownies and blondies along to sell,” said Hash.

“It was four hours, but the bakes sold out in two – I completely underestimated the demand. 

“People were very excited that Spirderman was there selling blondies and after that we started thinking about a collaboration with the farm.

“One of the trustees approached me and asked if I’d like to take on Ruby Red and it was perfect. 

“I can’t think of a better organisation to partner with and I really want to find ways for my business to help the farm thrive in the future.

Hash’s Lotus Biscoff Blondie, £3.50

“It’s also great because I have a large local customer base, I live just round the corner, where all the bakes are made and it’s the right colour for my logo and the costume.

“That’s an image that will stay in people’s minds – Spiderman in a red truck.

“Wearing the costume started because I loved the movie Spiderman: No Way Home and I began to see the parallels with what I was doing. In the movie, Spiderman delivers pizzas and I deliver my bakes in pizza boxes. 

“So I bought a costume, went out delivering and it caught on. It is dependent on the weather as it can get quite hot, but people tell me it cheers them up when they see me and that’s an added bonus.

“Some even specifically ask me to deliver to them wearing it.”

As for the future, Hash is focused first on establishing the business at the farm before going on to centralise his production.

Hash’s Red Velvet Kinder Blondie, £3.50

“At the moment, everything is baked using commercial equipment at my family home,” he said. “We’re fully inspected by the council and have a five-star hygiene rating.

“But the dream would be to find somewhere that we can produce the baking and sell the products on a single site. 

“I also have lots of new marketing ideas. One of my heroes is Dwayne Johnson and he’s inspired my next campaign.

“I love his work ethic and, every time I feel like I’m hitting a wall, I look at his Instagram page, his tenacity, and think that I’m nowhere near my limit.”

Single slices from The Bakineer typically cost £3.50 and are available to order online or buy in person.

Read more: How WaterAid uses dragon boats to raise money

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Canary Wharf: How the WaterAid Dragon Boat Race is coming to South Dock

The Canada Square-based charity is inviting teams to raise funds for its cause and paddle for glory

The WaterAid Dragon Boat Race takes place at West India South Dock

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With so much water in this part of London, it’s easy to imagine it as a universally available resource.

Canary Wharf and the Isle Of Dogs are embraced by the lazy meander of the Thames.

Then there are the vast pools of the docks themselves and canals that connect them, which carve up the landscape. 

The stuff is everywhere and – as evidenced by Love Open Water’s project in Middle Dock last year – easily clean enough to swim in, even if glugging down huge quantities is probably unwise.

Everywhere there are shiny new apartments with rainfall showers, designer toilets and taps pumping the stuff up 50 floors so we can live in towers. It’s literally available on tap.

So it’s easy to forget that about one in 10 people globally live without access to clean water close to their homes.

This basic human right is unavailable to some 771million people globally, with the battle simply to slake their thirst and stay alive a terrible brake on almost all aspects of their existence, be it education, work, health – the list is endless.

Teams raise funds, then compete for glory at the event

The mission of WaterAid is simple.

Within a generation, the charity is working tirelessly to make sure everyone in the world has sustainable access to both clean water and decent toilets – the integrity of the former, dependent on the latter. 

Founded in 1981, it has helped more than 28million people get clean water and 29million people get decent toilets, helping lower the percentage of those without access from one in eight, to one in 10. 

“I got involved with the charity because my family is from Bangladesh and I’ve seen first-hand what a lack of hygiene and clean water can do,” said Aminur Rahman, supporter care advisor at WaterAid. 

“In Bangladesh it’s very common for under fives to die from lack of clean water.

“Children tend to go to local ponds with dirty water to drink. I’ve had personal experience of that with a relative.

“I’ve been to Bangladesh a few times, so for me this cause is something personal that’s close to my heart.”

“You can’t really argue with what we’re trying to do,” added Fiona Lavery, the charity’s change and employee experience director. 

“We work in 27 different countries around the world, predominantly in Africa and south-east Asia, including Mali, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Colombia.

“Each one is different, which makes the challenge a complex one.

“It can be about a lack of infrastructure in rural or urban areas – or it might be that there are marginalised people who can’t get at it because of the situation they’re living in.

“It can be about taps and toilets, but water is also a political issue and a cultural one. As an organisation, we only employ local people to deliver our projects and that’s the right approach because it is community led.

“We empower people to have access to solutions, rather than flying in, giving them something and then going away again.

“That would not be sustainable.”

Various prizes are up for grabs, including best dressed team


In order to do this work, WaterAid needs a constant flow of funds and recently announced the return of its Canary Wharf Dragon Boat Race.

Teams of between 11 and 17 will do battle on the waters of West India South Dock on July 6, 2023, from 11.30am to 6.30pm.

In addition to an entry fee of £350, teams are set a fundraising target of £1,500 and challenged to exceed it. 

On the day, each team will race at least three times in a series of heats, with the fastest three teams taking part in a grand final. 

Prizes will be handed out for the three fastest boats, best-dressed team and, of course, most successful fundraisers. 

The event also includes lunch and a post-race reception with a welcome drink.

“The events fundraising team at WaterAid wanted to create a water-themed event in Canary Wharf since we moved to the area in 2020,” said Corinne Stone, the charity’s senior community and events officer who is organising the race. 

“As dragon boat racing is becoming one of the most popular corporate sports in the UK today, we thought it would be a brilliant opportunity to use the water on the docks and engage with our corporate neighbours in Canary Wharf whilst raising vital funds for our cause. 

“Last year was a huge success and I’m so excited to welcome even more teams for 2023 for what is a fun, competitive and great team building experience.”

Sponsored by Canary Wharf Group, the event raised £26,000 for WaterAid last year with 15 teams competing and aims to exceed that in 2023.

“It’s the perfect setting for the community to get involved,” said Aminur.

“It’s a competitive challenge but it’s also fun and we’re raising awareness at the same time.

“It’s not just about financial support either because just having that visibility can lead to people doing things like petitioning their MP or local authority to highlight this issue.”

Teams of between 11 and 17 are given a funding target of £1,500

“We took part last year and it was brilliant,” added Fiona.

“It was harder than I expected and got highly competitive, but I would say that, for any organisation that wants a proper team-building day, this is perfect.

“You have everyone in the boat and you have to learn to think together. 

“We had people from across the organisation in the boat – some I’d never met in 11 years of working at WaterAid – it’s fantastic for people who want to do more than sit in an office.

“What people expect from an employer has changed – they want companies and other organisations to care about the world we all live in. 

“Events like this offer them a way to demonstrate that they do and for their employees to get out and do something beyond the day-job.

“There are so many challenges that remain worldwide and we need this help to work to mitigate things like climate change.”

Registration for the event is now open, with teams encouraged to try to raise more than 50% of their target by June 8, 2023.

Canary Wharf Group event manager Camilla McGregor said: “We are delighted to welcome back WaterAid’s Dragon Boat Race to Canary Wharf. 

“Following a successful partnership last year, we are overjoyed to see the event increase in popularity with many teams already signed up for this year’s event, helping to raise much needed funds for this fantastic charity.”

Follow this link to find out more about the event or register.

Aminur Rahman and Fiona Lavery of WaterAid

Read more: See the moment One Canada Square was topped out

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Canary Wharf: How Skillwork provides software services to companies of all sizes

Jan Gasiewski and Ali Youssef created the Level39-based firm after meeting at UCL on the estate

Skillwork founders Jan Gasiewski and Ali Youssef

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Business is all about relationships and it’s pretty clear there’s real strength at the heart of Level39-based Skillwork.

It’s also emblematic of how London provides the crucible that allows individuals to come together, fused and more powerful as a consequence.

In a nutshell, Skillwork provides software development services to startups, small firms and corporates looking to run innovative breakaway projects that fall outside their main areas of operation.

But at its heart lies much more than technical prowess. It’s the enthusiasm, energy and passion of two men – co-founders Jan Gasiewski and Ali Youssef.

From Poland and Bulgaria respectively, the pair met and founded the business in 2020 while both studying for their masters degrees in entrepreneurship at University College London’s School Of Management in Canary Wharf’s One Canada Square.

Both had previously studied in the UK – at Lancaster (Jan, business administration) and Northampton (Ali, computer software engineering) – before heading to the capital with perhaps a sense of something unfinished.

“Lancaster is a great university,” said Jan.

“But what you need if you want to go into business is exposure and the nearest city is Manchester. Even that is just far away enough that nobody goes.

“I’d applied for placements at Microsoft and HP. At the assessment centre for the former I didn’t know how to approach it – everyone just said: ‘Be yourself’.

“But the feedback was that all the product work was done in the States and that I didn’t show much human emotion, so I got into HP instead. 

“It remains my only ‘real’ job, but there wasn’t much work to do so I wound up mostly reading books rather than getting experience.”

Ali said: “I’d gone back to Bulgaria, thinking I was going to be a software engineer and I got a job.

“But on the day I was supposed to start, I called the guy and said that I didn’t want to do it. 

“Then I told my dad that I wanted to study entrepreneurship instead and his response was that  business courses were for people who didn’t know what they wanted to do in life.

“But I applied to UCL, got in and that was my first experience of London – coming to Canary Wharf I was so shocked because I had never seen a place like it in my life. 

“It was a place you could talk to anybody – I was having a coffee with a guy and he turned out to be a fund manager in control of millions of dollars. 

“When he asked me what I did, I had to say I was a student.

“In Bulgaria I thought people like these were superheroes that I would never meet in real life.

“But London showed me you could talk to people who were very successful. It changed everything.”

Jan, in a “rare display of extroversion” messaged his course mates at UCL to see if any of them would be up for meeting over a drink.

Ali was the only respondent, and they bonded over food at Honest Burgers swapping tales of their fathers. 

Skillwork’s London base is at Level39 in One Canada Square

“Both our dads had businesses,” said Jan.

“We both grew up looking up to them and both were screwed over quite badly by their business partners.”

Their friendship flourished and they decided to go into business together, with Skillwork founded in 2020 while they were still studying at UCL.

Now based at Canary Wharf’s tech community, Level39 at One Canada Square, it employs some 17 people in London and Bulgaria.

“We always say our partnership is the cornerstone of the business,” said Jan. 

“Because of our fathers’ experiences, we created a set of rules when we started to ensure that nothing like that could happen to us.

“We are very transparent with each other and love working together.”

“We really wanted to be very entrepreneurial from the start,” said Ali. “We were surrounded by people in that environment both at UCL and at home.

“It’s also about an acceptance of potential failure and an appetite for risk.

“To start with, we had no experience, so we decided to plug ourselves into the world of startups and build up knowledge as we went, using that as a catalyst to create something.

“Today we work with small businesses and corporate innovation labs and the core of what we do is software development for those clients.

“We like to mix pragmatism with technology.

“You get people who come to us all guns blazing saying that they’re going to build an AI model to do something incredible but they haven’t yet got any traction.

“So we might apply the brakes there and persuade them to go one step at a time. On the corporate side, we are leaning towards what’s called venture building, where a big company decides it needs, for example, a digital presence, and brings in help from outside to help it develop one.

“So we sit down and discuss with them problems which they are interested in solving, and then we help them to see what ideas might be a potential business plan.

“Then we help them build that product up, and then they take it over and run it.

“We’ve been around now for a little over three years and in that time we’ve been able to work with the likes of pharmaceutical giant GSK and fusion power company Helion.

“We’ve also managed to build all this without any investment. We now have employees who rely on us and fortunately we have a good, strong network of mentors.

“Generally speaking what’s happened is that our success comes from our clients’ success.

“We’ve worked with the majority of our clients since day one and many have seen a huge degree of success.

“They’re all big-name people, so it’s all going very well as far as our reputation is concerned.

“We’re now in a much healthier position, with strong cash-flow and a sound profit margin. We’re now looking outwards to expand.”

While Skillwork’s technical operations take place in Bulgaria, London remains key to the business’ plans for growth.

Having studied at UCL on the 38th and 50th floors of One Canada Square remaining in the tower was a natural step. 

“It was quite prestigious for us to come to Level39 – it was a marketing thing as well, because meeting clients here makes a good impression,” said Jan. 

“I also think it’s one of the best spaces in London. If your working environment is good, then your work will be good and we’re very fortunate that we can afford to be here. We have some clients in Dubai and that might be a place we expand into. 

“Our strength lies in the fact that we have contacts in so many countries and the ability to access them.

“One thing to remember is the UK is and always will be a global power.”

Ali added: “That was the key benefit for us of coming to the UK – when we came here, we were exposed to all these different cultures.

“London isn’t going to go under anytime soon. The reason we’re looking outwards is that we’re a bootstrap business, with not too much cash in the bank, so we have to keep expanding.

“There are only two choices – you go up or you go down. Out next step is to become innovation leaders in the Middle East for anything digital – that’s our ambition.”

Who would bet against them?

Read more: See the moment One Canada Square was topped out

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Royal Docks: How The Greenhouse Theatre is set for a run at Thames Barrier Park

Zero waste venue will be a creative hub to house three of the four artistic commissions for Sea Change

The Greenhouse Theatre is set to come to Royal Docks

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There’s about to be a lot going on to the east of Canary Wharf.

The Royal Docks Team (RDT) has officially unveiled its At The Docks programme – an umbrella for numerous events and attractions set to come to fruition in E16 between May and September.

These include the likes of the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, the London E-Prix, the Dockyards Summer Series and Newham Heritage Month.

It also includes Sea Change – an RDT collaboration with University College London (UCL) that has seen four new artworks commissioned.

These have been curated by Invisible Dust, which has brought together a quartet of artists with scientists at UCL to respond to the climate crisis.

Finally, after what feels like a blizzard of stakeholders and acronyms, that leads us to May 11-June 4, 2023, when these installations will be available to view for free.

The Greenhouse’s co-founder and artistic director, Oli Savage

Rather than a gallery, however, three of the works will be on show at The Greenhouse Theatre – a zero-waste travelling venue that, even as you read this, is being built at Thames Barrier Park.

Having spent time in Canary Wharf in 2021, it’s a structure typically used as a space for live performances, which has meant a few changes for its latest incarnation.

“We’ll be this really exciting creative hub for those weeks down in Thames Barrier Park – a space where people can engage with the amazing artworks that Invisible Dust has programmed,” said Oli Savage, co-founder and artistic director of The Greenhouse Theatre.

“Physically, this is the same venue – built from recycled materials – but there will also be some new spaces for 2023.

“One of the pieces – Flotilla by Melanie Manchot – will be shown in our new screening space, a very lovely repurposed shed.

“We’re also introducing our first zero waste bar on site where people can come and hang out and stay sustainable while they’re having a drink.

“Our message is that the site is open – we’re encouraging people to come down and enjoy all the things that are on offer.

“We want to make it a space that people really want to come and spend time in.”

Biotopes by Simon Faithful

The core of Sea Change will be four artworks, with three housed at The Greenhouse. 

Biotopes by Simon Faithfull explores habitats with the artist using 3D printed sculptures of his body adapted for other species to reside in.

Power In by Dana Olărescu promises an exploration of energy equity with input from local people. 

Manchot’s Flotilla comprises a film of local women afloat on boats on the night time waters of the Royal Docks, inspired by the history of protests for equality in the area.

The fourth artwork – The Waves Are Rising by Raqs Media Collective – will be viewable at Royal Victoria Dock and sees an augmented reality wave superimposed over live video footage of the still waters in front of City Hall. All are free to access. 

Sea Change will also include Forecast 2023 on May 19, 2023 – a symposium during which writers, artists, scientists and cultural commentators can explore the nature of stories and how they might shape the planet’s future.

Flotilla by Melanie Manchot

A full schedule of events is set to be announced soon. As part of the overall programme, The Greenhouse will be hosting a free youth festival on May 14, 2023, aimed at people aged 14-30.

“This will be a full day with workshops, events and refreshments available,” said Oli.

“There will be live music too and this is very much by and for people aged 14-30 – we’d love a great crowd of young people along to come and hang out with us. 

“In fact we want as many people to come down and see us as possible throughout our time here. It is a lovely, lovely park on the river and right beside the Thames Barrier itself – an iconic piece of architecture, so we’re really lucky to be there.

“There’s also a fantastic community locally, which we’re really excited to engage with and serve.”

The Greenhouse Theatre is also expecting to return to Canary Wharf in June before heading to Battersea in August.

“We’re expecting the Wharf run to go ahead, which will be a return to theatrical programming with a festival feel,” said Oli.

Power in by Dana Olărescu

“We’ll have two or three shows each day – a range of different fringe artists – alongside headline show To The Ocean, which will be on at 7pm.

“It’s a modern retelling of the Selkie myth – a musical about how we connect with each other, with family and with the natural world. 

“It will feature original music and it’s all about a young girl’s journey to find herself who on her 16th birthday discovers her dad hasn’t been entirely truthful about where she’s from.

“She sets out on a mythical, magical journey to the ocean to meet her mother and discover her roots. 

“One of the really exciting things is we’ll be holding open rehearsals people can come to for free while we’re in Royal Docks as well as preview performances at a reduced rate from June 2-4, 2023.”

The Waves Are Rising by Raqs Media Collective

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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
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