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

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

Canary Garden is located on South Quay overlooking Canary Wharf

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

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

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

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

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

Canary Garden’s Oscar Tang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florafind sells bouquets and offers floristry workshops

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

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

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

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

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

“The idea is not too complicated.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richly flavoured vegetarian noodles from Lu at Canary Garden

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

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

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

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

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

But Oscar’s vision for the site is wider.

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

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

“That might include calligraphy, watercolour painting and aromatherapy.

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

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

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

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

key details

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

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

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

Find out more about Canary Garden here

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: How Royal Albert Wharf has unveiled homes in its final phase

Collection of apartments’ release marks last chance to buy at riverside scheme near Gallions Reach

An artist’s impression of the final phase of Royal Albert Wharf

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A decade and a half ago, Royal Albert Wharf looked very different.

Located at the eastern end of Royal Albert Dock, with the curve of the Thames behind it, today the area’s 15-year regeneration project is approaching completion, with the launch of its final phase of properties.

NHG Homes is set to release 58 apartments for sale at the scheme in spring, 2024, arranged around a communal garden square that opens onto the Thames Path riverside walkway.

Lined with trees, this route also leads to a children’s playground overlooking the river.

One, two and three-bedroom properties will be available, all featuring outdoor space in the form of balconies or private terraces. 

Prices start at £375,000 for a one-bed with two and three-beds from £494,995 and £634,995 respectively.

Inside, the apartments feature open-plan design with Bosch appliances integrated into the kitchens, fitted wardrobes, built-in storage and separate washer-dryer cupboards.

The development also features a concierge service, a dedicated workspace and lounge area plus parking included as standard with three-bedroom properties.

The final phase is located right by the Thames Path

All residents get access to cycle storage facilities and the on-site car club, should they need four-wheeled transportation.

In contrast to buying a home off-plan at a scheme where work is just starting or halfway through, the majority of Royal Albert Wharf’s amenities are already in place. 

NHG Homes’ head of marketing and digital, Amie Triphook Cole, said: “Royal Albert Wharf has quickly become the place to be in the Royal Docks.  

“There’s a flourishing community of creators, businesses, young professionals and families who call this neighbourhood home, and with this final phase of homes, now is the last chance to buy a new home at this award winning development. 

“Our residents enjoy the perfect blend of riverside views, plentiful on-site amenities and access to lush green space, all within homes designed with active, convenient and modern living in mind.  

“I encourage buyers to enquire with us today, so that they don’t miss out on this last opportunity to buy in one of east London’s most exciting areas.”

Apartments are arranged around a communal garden square

Royal Albert Wharf already enjoys a wealth of local amenities with food and drink served by the likes of the Well Bean Cafe and Cafe Spice Namaste, owned by celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala and his wife Pervin.

There’s also a monthly market selling fresh produce, street food, arts and crafts and plans for an on-site gym, nursery and a convenience store. 

The development is also home to a number of artists and makers in studio spaces administered by Bow Arts, as well as local creative collective Art In The Docks, which regularly hosts exhibitions and events.

Royal Albert Wharf is located within easy walking distance of Gallion’s Reach DLR station offering direct connections to a host of east London locations.

Royal Albert Wharf has seen extensive regeneration in recent years

It also connects residents to the Elizabeth Line at Custom House and the Jubilee line at Canning Town, both making for easy journeys to Canary Wharf and beyond.

Prospective buyers will also likely be pleased at the prospect of a DLR extension to Thamesmead, an area undergoing three decades of regeneration.

The connectivity already in place means Royal Albert Wharf residents live within easy reach of the cultural and retail attractions of Stratford and Greenwich Peninsula as well as Canary Wharf.

More locally, the University Of East London is within walking distance and Excel and City Hall are a few stops away on the DLR.

The scheme is also close to Beckton Gateway retail park, which hosts big brands such as B&Q, Dunelm and Pets At Home.

key details

There are 58 properties available in the final phase of Royal Albert Wharf.

Prices start at £375,000 for a one-bed and £494,995 for a two-bed.

Three-beds start at £634,995, which includes parking as standard.

Find out more about Royal Albert Wharf here

First-time buyers Nate and Bianca in their Royal Albert Wharf home

CASE STUDY

Nate and Bianca moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Royal Albert Wharf in April 2021.

The first-time buyers purchased their home at NHG Homes’ east London scheme for £372,500 with a deposit of £56,000.

“We couldn’t find this quality and this location for the same price anywhere else,” said Nate, who works in cybersecurity in Canary Wharf.

“I started renting in central London, moved north, then east and then, most recently, south of the river – I pretty much experienced it all over six years as a tenant.

“I decided my last rental experience would be the last – I’ve rented in shared flats, and on my own, and it’s never really an easy process.

“Buying an apartment is a big deal, but the NHG Homes sales team made every moment as easy as possible.

“It was probably the best experience of buying a house you could possibly have.”

Bianca, who works in the events sector in Woolwich, added: “We looked at quite a lot of properties but struggled to find a home that ticked all of our boxes. 

“We wanted to find somewhere that gave us access to open space, fresh air and was close to the Thames, as well as giving us shorter journeys to work.

“Royal Albert Wharf was the perfect fit.”

Unusually, three-bedroom apartments come with parking space included

Transport connections certainly helped sway the couple, with Nate especially impressed by his new commute and the development’s connections to airports.

“I used to travel an hour and 15 minutes to Canary Wharf, and now it only takes me 25 minutes door-to-door,” he said.

“I also fly frequently for work – travelling to Heathrow or Gatwick was such a pain and added hours onto each journey – but now London City Airport is very convenient and perfect for business travel.

“Knowing you’re half an hour from your front door when you land makes a big difference.”

For Bianca, the quality of the apartment, its features and facilities played a decisive role in the couple’s decision. 

She said: “The apartment is really spacious, light, and bright – the layout is one of the things that encouraged us to buy here. 

“We’d looked at quite a lot of properties within our budget and this floorplan was by far the best use of space we’d come across.

“It felt so much bigger than homes of a similar size.

“We were adamant about having enough space in the bedroom, which always tends to be the smallest space in a London flat.

“There’s also so much cabinet and wardrobe space.

“When we first came to view the property, we walked in the door and it was by far the best place that we’d seen. 

“I could picture us living here immediately and planned out where everything was going to go – it was such an easy decision to make.”

Find out more about Royal Albert Wharf here

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

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

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

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

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Kricket is set to try something different in Canary Wharf.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bhel puri at Kricket

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

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

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

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

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

“I cooked the food and Rik served the customers.

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

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

A Junoon cocktail at the restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pandhi pork curry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mussels Goan chorio and other assorted dishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyone else salivating?

key details

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

Find more information about Kricket here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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West India Quay: How the Isle Of Man is seeking to boost its foodie exports

Museum Of London Docklands hosts Manx firms as they look to capitalise on UNESCO designation

Outlier’s Hoolie Manx White Rum was part of the showcase

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The docks may have closed 40 years ago but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely defunct as a part of the import and export sector.

The Isle Of Man is currently on a mission to boost its foodie exports, including seafood, alcoholic beverages, salt and cheese, as it attempts to shift the balance of its economy and bring greater prosperity to its inhabitants. 

The world’s only whole-nation UNESCO Biosphere reserve – described as a learning place for sustainable development – had brought producers down to the International Food And Drink Expo at Excel in Royal Docks, opting for a further spin-off showcase at the Museum Of London Docklands on West India Quay.

These included the likes of shellfish from its sustainably managed King Scallop Fishery – available at a selection of top London restaurants, dairy produce from the Isle Of Man Creamery and hand-harvested sea salt from the Isle Of Man Salt Co.

Rick Dacey of Outlier

It’s especially apt that a space in a listed former sugar warehouse on the edge of a dock that was once a major receiver of imports should be used in this way– better still that one of the products on show should be a rum.

Outlier itself is an importer as well as an exporter.

It buys-in cane molasses, but otherwise uses exclusively local ingredients to create its products.

Available in Harrods or to buy online, it is at present still a small concern.

“Hoolie is our 41% white rum and it’s the first one made in the British Isles to be sold at the department store,” said co-founder Rick Dacey.

“That’s not bad going for a couple of guys working in a shed on a farm.

“We’re called Outlier because we are that, both philosophically and geographically.

“We’re doing our own thing – we’re not interested in producing millions of bottles.

“We want to have fun with it and we’re happy to be quite polarising.

“Some people don’t like our bottles and I’m happy about that because at least they have an opinion. 

All milk produced on the Isle Of Man is processed by a cooperative

“The way we produce it is laborious – two middle-aged men in a Rocky montage chopping wood and throwing it in the still – so it’s a proper craft product.

“We make it from scratch. The Isle Of Man has very clean air and water which is good for the booze and it’s going down well with the rum crowd so why deviate from that? 

“The Isle is a small place, but it has some great producers so it’s great that it’s getting some government support.”

 Another company eager to boost its overseas activity is the Isle Of Man Creamery

“We’re a cooperative of 28 dairy farmers on the island,” said Findlay Macleod, its managing director.

“We bring in all of the milk that’s produced there and process it into cheese.

“On the Isle Of Man, our cows are out eating grass for a minimum of 200 days every year, which means they’re enjoying a natural diet.

“That makes for a healthier milk and provides a better base for our award-winning cheese that regularly wins national and international recognition.

“We export to Canada, the USA, Australia and the UK as well. We’re hopeful to find further distribution in London in independent stores and in top restaurants.

“My favourite is our Vintage Red Leicester – it goes with anything and it’s a beautiful cheese. A really wonderful product.”

Isle Of Man Creamery’s Grass Fed Vintage Red Leicester

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Property: How SO Resi Canning Town offers an escape from soaring rents

Shared ownership properties are close to transport hub providing easy access to multiple attractions

An artist’s impression of SO Resi Canning Town

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With rents in the capital continuing to soar, shared ownership schemes are having a bit of a moment.

Typically purchasing a percentage of a property while paying rent on the remainder, even when a service charge is included, is generally cheaper than renting a comparable property nearby.

The advantages for prospective buyers are many.

Chief among these perhaps are the relative security in comparison to the precarious situation of being a tenant, autonomy over the space and its decoration and crucially the ability to access the sales market with a considerably lower deposit than would be necessary to buy outright.

Canning Town is also having a moment.

The area near the station has been undergoing extensive regeneration for years with plenty of new amenities arriving and much more still to come.

Highly connected, it’s a mere two stops on the Jubilee line from Canary Wharf and enjoys direct connections to London City Airport, Excel, Woolwich, Stratford and the City.

SO Resi is about to bring these two things together.

The shared ownership brand of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing – the fifth largest housing association in the UK – is set to unveil a collection of 37 apartments in May. 

SO Resi Canning Town’s one, two and three-bedroom homes are located at Manor Road Quarter, the latest development by the English Cities Fund – which was also responsible for the scheme at nearby Rathbone Market. 

The immediate area boasts a multitude of attractions, including craft beer at Husk, modern Italian food at Pepenero, a bouldering facility at Rise Climbing and outdoorsy activities at Bow Ecology Park and environmental community project Cody Dock.

Residents will be within walking distance of City Hall at Royal Docks, the home of the English National Ballet at London City Island and the art and heritage of Trinity Buoy Wharf.

It’s a compelling offering, even before you factor in the bustle of Stratford, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Westfield Stratford City, Canary Wharf, The O2 and Greenwich Peninsula – all within two Tube stops or less. 

Canning Town station is also a major bus interchange, meaning residents can easily access areas such as Bethnal Green, Aldgate, Walthamstow and even Romford.

This is all evidence that, with a great deal more development in the pipeline, prices in E16 are likely to rise as demand for well-connected, regenerated parts of the capital increases.

SO Resi sales and marketing director Kevin Sims

SO Resi sales and marketing director, Kevin Sims, said: “It is no secret that London has become a place where a range of buyers are being priced out – especially first-time buyers. 

“As such, the new SO Resi Canning Town scheme could be the perfect option for 2024. 

“The scheme will allow purchasers to buy a percentage share that they will pay a mortgage on, with the remainder being paid on below-market rent and then service charges too.

“A lot of people are looking to avoid the rental trap who would never be able to afford to buy on the open market – with rents rising the fastest in London. 

The Canning Town apartments will feature open-plan living areas

“One of the biggest benefits of shared ownership at SO Resi Canning Town is that deposits are often considerably lower than buying on the open market. 

“This is because you put a deposit down on the share that you’re buying – 25%, for example –  rather than the value of the whole property.

“As an example, at our recent SO Resi Hendon Waterside development, a 5% deposit on a 25% share of a one-bedroom apartment could be as low as £4,129.

“If London is a place you aim to stay in for the long term too, staircasing is a brilliant way to continue along the journey to full home ownership. 

“It’s possible to buy shares at any time – but we offer the SO Resi Plus scheme, which was pioneered by us, and has now been rolled out nationally. 

The apartments are located close to Canning Town station

“The scheme allows buyers to staircase at a gradual pace by purchasing an additional 1% share each year, which can be done at the touch of a button with no solicitors needed, making the ultimate goal of home ownership that little bit more achievable. 

“Knowing this benefit is available to you throughout your journey should give you peace of mind – a purchase as little as 1% can make a world of difference in the long term.”

Shared ownership buyers purchase between 10% and 75% of a home and pay a capped rent on the remainder.

Typically schemes offer 25% or more, however.

SO Resi Canning Town’s apartments are set to go on sale next month with a show home expected to open in June, 2024.

The apartments are set to go on sale in May, 2024

key details

SO Resi Canning Town is a collection of 37 apartments ranging in size from one-beds to three-beds.

The properties are set to come on the market in May, 2024, with prices yet to be announced.

Find out more about SO Resi Canning Town here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sian Healey and Uri

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

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

“I lose melanin slowly over time.

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

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

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

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

Sian’s postcard of London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sian’s postcard from Northern Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sian’s postcard from Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

key details

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

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

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

These will include both items to smell and touch. 

Find our more about Paws On The Wharf here

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How They’ll Never Close The Docks offers entertainment and an education as it arrives at The Space

Steven Shawcroft’s latest play is set to be performed by SpaceWorks, the venue’s company

Playwright and performer Steven Shawcroft of SpaceWorks

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“The title is a tribute to former SpaceWorks member Albert Lechley – a born and bred East Ender and stand-up performer who is sadly no longer with us,” said Steven Shawcroft.

“One of his things that he believed was that they’d never close the docks – and it was a real shock when it actually happened.

“It was something he wanted to explore in a show, but never got the chance to talk about properly.

“Knowing his style of performance, the SpaceWorks group and its performers’ capabilities, I thought we should try and see what we could come up with.”

SpaceWorks is the in-house participatory theatre company at The Space on the Isle Of Dogs, which offers anyone interested in developing performance skills or gaining backstage experience a safe and supportive environment to try new things, meet new people and get creative.

It runs workshops and regular Monday evening sessions as well as staging a number of productions over the year.

Its latest show, They’ll Never Close The Docks, is set to run for three performances over April 5 and 6, 2024.

Written by Steven, under the pen name George Leyland, it’s directed by The Space’s artistic director Adam Hemming and promises audiences tales drawn from a 200-year period.

“The basic premise of the play is a rough history of the docks, their opening and growth in the 1800s and their eventual closure in the 1980s, with the recurring theme being the locals’ belief that the industry would always be there,” said Steven, a former pupil at George Green’s School on the Island.

“To do that I’ve written a select number of scenes – there’s no way we could squeeze all of that history into an hour, so we’ve been quite specific, making sure they are relevant to the docks.

“I’ve always been fascinated by East End history, having been born and grown up in Poplar and going to school on the Isle Of Dogs.

“I’m just about old enough to remember Canary Wharf going up, but not old enough to remember anything before that.

“My hope is that people enjoy watching the play and that there’s enough of a message in it for people to take away something of what was here before.

“This area is such a melting pot so there will be people with varying degrees of knowledge of it and its history. 

“It’s intended as a reminder for people who have lived through some of it and a bit of an education for others who aren’t so familiar with the area.

“There are some heavier moments, but it’s still quite a light piece.

“We’re trying to get a bit of a sense that things do change.”

Steven has been an on-off member of SpaceWorks for about 14 years, performing in multiple productions as well as writing works for the venue and other theatres.

“The company was in its infancy when I joined in 2010, having been going a couple of years,” he said.

“It was just putting on its first proper production, a play by Shakespeare, which was a big undertaking with a lot of people – but we managed to get through it.

“That’s really the spirit of the group – no matter what we are given, we all come together and push through to the other side.”

This common drive reflects, perhaps, the strength of community captured in Steven’s work, which will be brought to life by a largely local cast and creative team.

Michelle Sansom is set to appear in the production

“Not all of them are originally from east London, but a lot of them work in Canary Wharf, so they’re interested in the history as well, which is good,” said Michelle Sansom, one of the actors who will appear in the production and who has also been with SpaceWorks for more than a decade. 

“One of the things that strikes me about the play, which Steven has been able to capture, is that, although there have been changes, some things are still the same.

“It talks about the dockers going on strike for more pay, but the people in charge failing to understand their demands – that was back in the 1800s, so some things never change.

“The spirit of the people comes through really well in the play, and that’s always been the case for places like the docks, where people work together.

“I’m in the first scene as a docker, playing opposite Emma Fayter.

“My character has earned enough money to not work for a couple of days, which is unusual, but he’s feeling quite agitated.

“It shows general dock life in 1820 – he’s been working on the docks all his life and will never be able to do anything else – but the expectation is he won’t need to.

“The scene portrays the uncertainty of the time – back then, coins were tossed out and, if you got one, you had a job for that day.

“My character likes his mates and he likes his rum.

“Personally, I grew up in Cable Street and I now live in Newham – I’m proud to come from the East End and I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years.

“I find the history fascinating.”

Emma Fayter will also perform in They’ll Never Close The Docks

Emma joined SpaceWorks just before Steven and Michelle, coming along initially to keep a friend company who was connected with the venue.

She said: “I am really grateful that I did because it transformed my life. I hadn’t done any acting before, except for one play in school, and I messed that up. 

“But it’s been brilliant and I’ve stuck with it ever since – I think I’ve missed only a couple of performances over the years.

“I love the sense of community, it’s really inclusive – there’s a great mix of ages and cultures.

“I moved to the Island in the 1980s before Canary Wharf and the DLR were here.

“I didn’t know much about the history of the island when I came here, and it had a quite derelict feel about it.

“We bought our first house on the island – they had a scheme to hold down the prices because we were council tenants in Stepney, so we got a good deal.

“I have a couple of roles in They’ll Never Close The Docks.

“I’m playing opposite Michelle in the first scene and we have a blokey kind of relationship. 

“We do care about each other but there’s a bit of a rift because I haven’t been into work. 

“There are a lot of layers to the play and people can see the unspoken side of their relationship.

“Then I’m in a later scene as a strong woman with an old-school husband who just wants to watch football and not do anything else.

“There’s also a young girl, who she babysits in the scene, and they support each other in standing up to the men.

“It’s at the time of the Brixton Riots and my character is talking about how we ought to do something to support them.”

Steven added: “Going over all the history it was really about picking out moments.

“Certain events do blend into each other – the docks were finally closed just before the riots, for example.

“Then there was the time the Port Of London Authority brought all the docks together, which was happening at the same time as the Suffragette movement, so there are references to that as well. 

“There’s also a post-Blitz scene in an Isle Of Dogs pub with songs to lighten things up.

“I was concerned it might be too corny, but the Queenie Watts documentary confirms this was basically what people were doing.

“I’ve written the show as a reflection of the area and I hope that comes across in the show itself.” 

diary dates

They’ll Never Close The Docks is at The Space on April 5 and 6, 2024, with shows at 7.30pm on both days and also at 3pm on the Saturday.

Audiences can choose between tickets costing £10, £15 or £20. The play will also be streamed online.

Find out more about They’ll Never Close The Docks here

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

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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 Jon Hala London delivers technical cuts for short styles

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

Jon Hala London’s senior art director Ellie Reilly

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Ellie Reilly knows hair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s tailored haircuts for individuals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men are currently experimenting with longer styles

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s about knowing the tricks and techniques.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women are exploring shorter, more technical styles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

need to know

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

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

Find out more about Jon Hala London here

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

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How UEL’s Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability brings people together

Director Robert De Jong and his team aim to drive the green agenda in east London by convening stakeholders at the new facility

Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability director Robert De Jong

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On a dark day, it might be tempting to look at the state of the planet and be discouraged.

Globally we’ve had the warmest February on record, yet ministers seem content to water down green policies. 

Populist politicians and commentators bewail what they see as the madness of abandoning coal and gas.

Others argue that the UK’s emissions are so small in comparison to other parts of the world that there’s no point in making any changes at the supposed expense to our quality of life. 

Early withdrawal symptoms for a culture hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels?

Perhaps. But nevertheless the voices have become a potent lobby. 

The eastern extension to ULEZ hardly raised a peep when it came to Docklands.

But west London was a different story, with opportunistic politicians hijacking a poorly articulated campaign to target the Mayor Of London and, arguably, scrape a by-election win in Uxbridge.

There’s danger here. People like the status quo and yet, ULEZ has seen some pollutants fall by as much as 46% in its first year in central London.

That’s cleaner, fresher air – with around 290,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions prevented from fouling the atmosphere and contributing to the heating of the planet. 

Will this single measure save us? No. Not on its own.

But it’s a measure taken in a major capital city, that’s delivering myriad benefits.

This is a strong recipe for inspiring others.

The RDCS is based at UEL’s Royal Docks campus

It matters what we do here because the ideas and technology necessary to address the massive problems we face, need both places of generation and implementation.

That’s why projects like the University Of East London’s recently launched Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability (RDCS) are vital for the survival of our species.

Part-funded by the Mayor and Newham Council though their Royal Docks Team initiative, the facility provides space for projects, will be open to the community and will soon boast a “vibrant cafe”.

But beyond the, doubtless, sustainable coffee, it has another role.

Its task is to bring people and organisations together to improve sustainability in an area that’s undergoing billions of pounds of regeneration in a borough fighting deprivation.

“If I could have one wish, it would be that this centre has a driving influence on the Royal Docks, that the innovation created here really plays out and makes sure that this community and London itself become exemplars,” said Robert De Jong, RDCS director and the man whose job it is to steer the facility as it evolves and develops.

“We have a regeneration scheme in the docks that is forecast to grow significantly over the coming years and it should be sustainable.

“The centre’s role is as a convener, both for our schools at UEL, our research centres, the local community and industry. 

“Our aim is to bring them all together through effective programming and setting themes for ourselves. 

“I would like to see ambitious goals set for the Royal Docks such as the establishment of a clean-tech cluster so the businesses that come through here are really innovative and set up for the future.

“Also that the plan for urban design – the way the buildings are made and how transport and urban connectivity flow through the docks – is really low carbon.

“There’s a lot of talk about this but, when it comes down to reality, there can be stark differences in what’s delivered to what was mooted. We have a real opportunity here to unleash these ideas and ask what we can do differently.

“How can we engage with the waterways, the transport system and boost biodiversity as well?”

To address some of these questions, RDCS comes fully equipped with some powerful tools and facilities, namely a Sustainability Research Institute, a Sustainable Enterprise Centre, an Augmented + Virtual Reality Centre, a Renewable Energy Lab and a Maker Space.

The Mayor Of London, Sadiq Khan officially opened the centre earlier this year

Then there’s a Data Centre, a Living Lab, a Living Library, a Careers Office, a Hackathon space, Business + Community Tax And Law Clinics and more besides. 

It stands as both a physical connection to UEL’s schools as well as a conceptual one, aimed at spotlighting the work the university does and mixing it with ideas and influences from other organisations and groups.

“We take a holistic view,” said Robert.

“Sustainability means that we’re governing with an ethical outcome for society and the environment, that we’re thinking outside of our own jurisdictions and that we’re also really understanding the stewardship of products and striving to improve how we use resources.

“We can’t just keep creating pollution and heating the globe.

“We need to think about how to manage the whole balance of our ecology. 

“At the moment we’re at a certain rate of growth, so we need to ask if that is sustainable.

“The centre is based on a number of things – firstly collaboration and creation in the holistic sense of sustainability, driving it across east London, around Newham and in Royal Docks in particular.

“In a couple of years’ time, I would like to see this centre established at the forefront of pushing the sustainability agenda – that we’re able to make a measurable impact in terms of social outcomes.

“At UEL we already have great diversity in the student body, among staff and in our policies, but how far can we go?

“That’s not just looking at employment, it’s in the supply chain and it’s driving that wider agenda and our goal of a healthier planet.

“I’d like to see this centre become a catalyst for enabling these things and also to act as a demonstrator.”

Part of the three-storey centre’s mission then, will be to constantly shine spotlights on the work being done in UEL’s schools, while simultaneously supporting and showcasing the work of businesses.

“There is sustainability in each of our schools but it’s hidden away and we’re not always good at shouting about it,” said Robert.

“For example, the Sustainability Research Institute is doing amazing work on bio-based building materials such as Sugarcrete, made from waste products when sugar cane is refined.

“But equally there are fantastic projects in engineering and fashion too.

“Then there’s the wider ethos around our campuses themselves, with a opportunity to embed sustainability in the governance of UEL itself and to ask how we involve every member of staff in that process.

Visitors examine blocks of Sugarcrete, a new material made with waste products from the sugar refining industry

“We’re also about to launch an accelerator programme, starting with a small number of organisations with combined interests.

“We have a focus on fintech and how to develop financial technology and also on entrepreneurship with a faculty looking at how we organise training around creating a business and skills development.

“We can all come up with business ideas but in reality growing a company and overcoming the hurdles of finance and development can take many years.

“However, with the right support and education, firms can really grow successfully.

“We want to create cohorts through these programmes, but we also want to talk with external partners to run some of them, so it’s not just UEL.

“Key to the whole project is that the centre is a place where we can bring in local stakeholders such as Excel, London City Airport and Siemens, which is leading on UEL’s work to achieve net zero.

“Before, we were promoting the story of how exciting the centre will be, but since it’s opened, the dialogue has changed.

“People understand its principles and how we’re really striving for local impact, employment and engagement as well as picking up new ideas.

“Those from the community, wider industry and UEL itself who have seen the centre, seem really pleased with the space and understand how it is relevant.

“There will be entrepreneurs and scaleups based here, but people can also come for advice with clinics that can be used free of charge by locals from the community.

“We also want to bring in more international organisations – we need the whole mix to be right – to ensure that what we’re creating here is a framework of approach so people will feel this centre is a new space of inspiration.”

There you have it, a beacon of innovation in the Royal Docks, that people across the world can look to.  

Find out more about the Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability here

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

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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 Kiko Milano aims to disrupt the estate’s beauty scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Alternatively there’s the prestige environment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But our stores are an integral part of that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The store carries an extensive range of products

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly one to watch…

THREE WHARF LIFE PICKS

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

Days In Bloom Perfecting Face Powder, £17.99 

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

Days In Bloom Flowery Brush Set, £22.99

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

Days In Bloom Radiant Universal Oil, £18.99 

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

THREE KIKO MILANO BEST SELLERS

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

Skin Trainer CC Blur, £19.99 

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

3D Hydra Lipgloss Limited Edition, £14.99 

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

Maxi Mod Volume And Definition Mascara, £13.99 

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

Find out more about Kiko Milano here

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

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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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