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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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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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Royal Docks: The PA Show promises a packed programme as it returns to Excel

Wharf Life readers can get 10% off full conference passes to the 2024 event with code WHARF10

The PA Show is set to return to Excel for its flagship 2024 edition

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The PA Show is set to return to east London with a packed programme aimed at personal, executive and virtual assistants as well as office managers.

The 2024 event, which is sponsored by South Western Railway Business Direct, will take place at Excel in Royal Victoria Dock on February 28 and 29, three minutes from Canary Wharf on the Elizabeth Line.

The flagship event, which has seen significant growth in recent years – with a separate autumn edition now a fixture in the calendar – promises a show designed to boost learning, skills and the personal networks of those attending.

In addition to an extensive range of exhibitors – offering services, products and resources to aid the lives of executive support professionals – the event boasts a packed programme of seminars across its five theatres

“The diversity of our sessions and the calibre of our speakers are truly exciting,” said Lisa Farnfield, sales director at The PA Show.

“We’re also thrilled about the networking opportunities that attendees will have, connecting with peers and industry leaders.

Lisa Farnfield, sales director at The PA Show

“We believe in empowering our attendees with knowledge, skills, and networks that not only enhance their current roles but also pave the way for future opportunities.

“This show is a catalyst for both personal and professional transformation.”

There are three ways for PAs, EAs, VAs and office managers to attend The PA Show 2024. The first is via a free visitor pass, which grants access to all exhibitors and the event’s Keynote Theatre.

This will host sessions throughout the show including Chief Of Staff: Top Five Skills Needed For The Executive Shift, where Sarah Howson and Marianne Whitlock are set to unpack the traits of high-performing executive assistants.

Also on offer will be The Power Of Adaptability, with Claudine Martin offering thoughts on embracing change as a catalyst for growth, and Menopause’s Impact On Financial Health: A Threat To Business, in which Tracey Louise Taylor will explore the issue in depth, finishing with a call to action for 2024 to be the year to confront the various challenges posed.

On the exhibition floor itself, visitors will find the likes of Toca Social, Prestige Hampers, Miss Jones Group, Hyatt Hotels, Flight Club and Electric Shuffle, Eurostar, Center Parcs, Crystal Corporate Travel Management and many more. 

Attendees are once again encouraged to explore via the PA Passport scheme, sponsored by Qatar Airways.

Visitors collect stamps from participating exhibitors, with completed passports entered into a prize draw.

The PA Show features a packed programme across five theatres

Going deeper, full access conference passes offer admission to all five theatres, starting at £149 for one day or £199 for two.

Wharf Life readers can get 10% off by using code WHARF10 when booking.

These include seminars such as The Productivity Triangle at the Key Skills Theatre where Kathleen Drum offers advice on navigating time and energy management alongside strategic planning.

At the Personal Development Theatre, Career Management – Why And How To Be Proactive About Your Career will see Joanna Gaudoin host a session on the significance of proactively shaping a role for long-term fulfilment.

This includes practical steps on developing a career and ways to gain motivation in making it a positive, consistent aspect of visitors’ professional lives.

A highlight at the Tech Theatre will be Fiona Young’s How To Make AI Your Superpower, looking at generative applications and large language models.

The seminar explores how attendees can integrate the likes of ChatGPT, Bard, Bing, and Claude into their workflows. 

The Office Management And VA Conference Theatre will host Maximising Your Potential Through Recognition And Reward, where Hana Gray will chair a panel of award-winning office managers – Caroline Rees Williams, Megan O’Connell, and Sarah James – who will offer insights and strategies for achieving recognition in the sector.

The event offers plenty of opportunity for networking

The theatre will also be the venue for Using Your Existing Network To Get Clients As A VA, a session with Caroline Marshall aimed at helping virtual assistants grow their businesses. 

 “Our aim has always been to mirror the evolving landscape of the PA/EA roles,” said Charlotte Fewlass, event marketing manager and deputy event director of The PA Show. 

“This year, we’re focusing on sustainability, technological adeptness, and career progression, reflecting the current and future challenges faced by our community.

 “Dive in with an open mind and be ready to absorb a wealth of information. 

“Network, engage in sessions, and most importantly, enjoy the experience of being part of this vibrant community.”

Find out more about The PA Show 2024 here

Charlotte Fewlass, event marketing manager and deputy event director at The PA Show

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

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Royal Docks: How Disney100: The Exhibition is packed with cultural touchstones for all to enjoy

Exhibition at Excel showcases stories from a century of output by the world famous entertainment company

Disney100: The Exhibition is currently on show at Excel in Royal Docks

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In a world where people’s experiences and cultural references are increasingly diffuse, Disney100: The Exhibition prompts a conversation pretty much anyone can participate in.

The question: “What’s your favourite Disney movie?” is one that, perhaps, unites more people globally under the umbrella of a single producer than any other.  

Its answers are frequently generational, surprising and in some cases contested – can Marvel and Star Wars really be counted when so much of the original development of those brands happened before they were brought into the fold?

But almost invariably, it’s a question that’s met with fondness and warmth – often a connection to a childhood remembered or time spent with one’s own children.

That, of course, is before we even consider the TV output, the theme parks and the theatre shows. 

With such resonance in the public mind, curating an exhibition that celebrates the output of The Walt Disney Company to mark its centenary, is a mammoth undertaking. 

Little wonder, perhaps, that this creative titan has risen to that challenge with characteristic zeal resulting in Disney100: The Exhibition running at Excel in Royal Docks until January 21. 

“Selecting the exhibits was probably the biggest challenge we had because Disney has an embarrassment of riches in terms of the assets we can show,” said Matthew Adams, manager, exhibitions for the Walt Disney Archives.

Matthew Adams of the Walt Disney Archives

“We’ve had 100 years and we have so many different business units now which have all contributed to Disney’s success, so it was really difficult.

“The great thing about Disney is, because it’s been around for so long, I can’t think of another company that has left such an indelible mark on people’s lives.

“There are meaningful moments for baby boomers all the way up to the children of today and everyone in between.

“I think about all the films I watched as a kid including all the movies like Hocus Pocus that came out in the 1990s.

“I was also a big fan of Sword In The Stone – those are two that really resonated with me when I saw props from the movies, so I can imagine how other people will feel.

“I often joke with people that the archives are the keepers of their childhood memories – but I also really mean it.

“Many are unique and we have both a domestic version of the exhibition in the US and an international touring collection, so deciding what would be in each was challenging.”

With the exception of the first gallery – which tells the story of how Walt set up the company and created his first animations including the pioneering Steamboat Willie with its synchronised soundtrack – the exhibition is not arranged chronologically.

The exhibition features a host of exhibits from Disney’s first 100 years

Instead its nine galleries are thematic, each looking at a different aspect of the company’s operations. 

“That really helped us narrow down what we were going to put on show,” said Matthew, who started off his career in theatre before going on to work at 20th Century Fox in themed entertainment and joining Disney when it bought his previous employer.

“Everything after the first gallery is based on the philosophy of Walt Disney – whether that’s storytelling, creating believable characters, adventure and discovery and so on, which helped us decide what to include. 

“Then we were only selecting exhibits that were in service to that story of each gallery.

“For example, everything in the music gallery helps tell the story of how important the music and sound effects are in Disney films.

“One thing that Disney is really well known for and comes into clear view when you’re in the exhibition, is the attention to detail with everything the company does.

“For instance there’s a display about creating the sound effects and you would never think those noises were made in the way they were – the minds that came up with those ideas were pretty astounding.

There’s also an extensive gift shop selling official merchandise

“Another example is when you’re looking at the costumes for The Lion King stage show and the level of detail that goes into them, which audiences would never even see at a distance.

“It’s those things that make the Disney difference.

“In The Illusion Of Life gallery, we talk about all these individual characters and what makes them seem real.

“There are the minute personality details, which may seem obscure and unimportant, but combine to create the effect of a living, breathing character.

“To me, seeing those things is a ‘wow moment’.

“In the exhibition, you really get a sense that everyone, from Walt Disney up to the people who work for the company today, has been really passionate about the work and our history, our legacy, and the stories we continue to tell today.

“These people really believe in it and really love it. 

“They realise what they are doing has made a huge impact on their lives and makes a real impact on other people’s lives – that’s why being part of the exhibition is really something special for me.”

That Disney100: The Exhibition is in the UK is apt.

Walt and the company he built has had a long association with Britain.

Its first live action film, 1950’s Treasure Island, was shot in Cornwall and Buckinghamshire with Robert Newton creating a host of immortal pirate tropes as the wild-eyed, one-legged Long John Silver.

Walt also traced his roots to the village of Norton Disney in Lincolnshire, visiting during filming and cementing the link by placing his family’s coat of arms above the archway to the company’s famous castle.

“This started something that was consistent with many of the company’s most famous stories like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs And Broomsticks, which feature in the exhibition,” said Matthew.

The exhibition features all kinds of exhibits including costumes from live action movies

“There’s a definite affinity with London and the UK. I hope that seeing the exhibition will reignite people’s passion and love for Disney films, parks and everything else we produce.

“There’s so much content out there these days – it’s over-saturated – but it’s really nice spending an hour or two going back and looking at those touchstone moments in our lives, saying: ‘I remember this being really important in my life’ and remembering.

“An exhibition spanning 100 years is a really huge moment that will only come once in our lifetimes, so we want everyone to feel inspired and happy when they leave, and hopeful about the future.”

Spare a thought, then, for the next generation who will likely have more than double the archive to draw on when 200 years have passed. 

“The collection is huge and already spans multiple buildings and locations,” said Matthew.

“We have buildings that are dedicated to our three-dimensional assets, others that are dedicated to our photo collection – it is a pretty enormous operational undertaking.

“We rely on the actual creators and the production teams of those films or park attractions to tell us what’s important to keep.

“Similarly, with park attractions, when they are changed or updated, we ask what the fans’ most popular items are and which are worth keeping.

“We wish we could keep everything, but that’s just not possible when we have a finite amount of space and, with the advent of Disney+, output has increased significantly.” 

Fortunately, thanks to the acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, there is potentially a solution.

That deal means it now owns the warehouse from Indiana Jones flick Raiders Of The Lost Ark – plenty of room for another century of stuff. 

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

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Royal Docks: How Excel’s expansion impacts Newham, London and the UK

With less than a year until opening, CEO Jeremy Rees outlines the benefits for events, local residents and the wider British economy

An artist’s impression of how Excel will look when its latest expansion programme is completed

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Jeremy Rees is excited – and with good reason.

It’s now less than a year until the latest extension to Excel in Royal Docks is due to open its doors for business, and the exhibition and conference centre’s CEO is buzzing with the anticipation of what it means for the UK, London and the local area.

To say live events have bounced back after the pandemic would be an understatement.

Fuelled by a period of almost total shut down, when meetings were deemed illegal, the demand and desire to reconnect is at an all-time high.

“This year will be 10% busier than we’ve ever been in the history of Excel’s business,” said Jeremy.

“There will be more events, more exhibitors and more visitors here than ever before – that’s a really strong catalyst for activities, innovation and ideas.

“It puts Royal Docks right at the heart of our trade agenda in the UK once again.

“Historically, it was an area where innovation was rife, where trade was a huge driver for the capital.

“That tailed off with containerisation.

“But it’s a great example of what London does, it adapts and changes into something else – so the Royal Docks began reinventing itself as a centre of excellence and innovation.

“Transportation links improved and, over the years, pieces were put in place to remove the friction of travel to get here.

“Now, with the Elizabeth Line, we’re a very strong proposition for our customers. Excel is three minutes from Canary Wharf and 15 minutes from the West End. It’s so accessible.”

Read More: How Canary Wharf-based McLaren is building Excel’s extension

Excel CEO Jeremy Rees says the benefits of increased space will bring increased growth and prosperity to Royal Docks, London and the UK as a whole

Riding the wave of that regeneration and infrastructure improvements, Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC), which owns Excel, has invested significant cash in expanding the venue.

When the doors to the extension open in October 2024, Excel will see its available space increase by 25% to some 125,000sq m.

The new facility will connect seamlessly to the existing centre’s eastern end, with landscaping outside, including a public park.

“We’ve designed a £220million building connected to the existing one, which will genuinely delight and surprise everyone with a world-class experience,” said Jeremy.

“The process of regeneration here is far from complete and that’s one of the reasons our expansion programme is so important – because it’s demand-led. 

“Our customers in the corporate, association and exhibition markets – both nationally and internationally – have told us what they want.

“That’s the future of face-to-face events – a building that needs to be not just physically but also technologically fit for purpose and a place that’s sustainable and puts delegate health and wellbeing right at the heart of the proposition.

“The brands that are coming now care deeply about the experience and that’s something we’ve catered for really carefully.

“The expansion is a place where millions of moments will happen, where people will go away saying that their needs were fulfilled when they came to Royal Docks – whether that was for trade, fun or engagement.

The project will see Excel get a second main entrance

“It will be where their preconceptions of the area, of London and of the UK, will have been shifted.

“Our vision for the future is to add significantly to where we are now and this is deeply exciting. 

“From a stakeholder perspective, from ADNEC downwards, I think it shows a belief in London and the Royal Docks.

“They’re investing hundreds of millions of pounds in our buildings and the experience.

“That’s being reinforced by our customer base who are signing contracts now for 2024, 2025 and beyond. We’ve got agreements in place for 2030 already.”

Take a step back and Excel currently generates about £4.5billion in economic impact for the UK, attracting around 4million visitors to the Royal Docks each year by hosting roughly 400 events.

“The expansion is necessary to ensure the virtuous circle of growth continues.

Jeremy said: “What our existing customers are saying is that if we can’t cater for them, they’re going to go somewhere else.

“There is a significant emphasis on investment internationally and cities are competing aggressively with each other.

“The difference with London is that most other cities in the world own their convention centres – here it’s privately owned, so all the investment coming through us is driving a vast ripple effect through the city.

“The economic impact is huge and costs the public purse nothing. In other cities, the events industry is asking for subsidy or support from governments whereas we are a massive contributor to the Treasury and UK PLC as a whole.

“Our investment is driven by the fact we believe there is a commercial need – it’s what our customers want.

“The benefit from this is also for the hotels, bars and restaurants – and so for the Exchequer as well – due to the increase in activity across these sectors.”

At a more immediately local level, the expansion will also benefit those living and working in Royal Docks in a variety of ways.

Put simply, the larger Excel becomes, the more potential there is for success.

The more successful the venue is, the bigger its economic impact will be, with greater and greater audiences coming to the area with needs to satisfy.

“From a successful exhibition perspective, it means that we’re generating more income, and that flows through to Newham, where tourism and hospitality are key pillars that drive job creation,” said Jeremy.

“As a business ourselves, there is no doubt we are already employing more people from the local area than ever before.

“Similarly the businesses we’re supporting and working with are also employing people, so you get this multiplier effect.

“The hotels locally are running at around 85% occupancy, very largely filled by people attending events at Excel.

“We aim to make sure that, we’re working harmoniously with the residents who benefit from hospitality, bars and restaurants. 

“But it’s also the reason why we’re investing in transport links, why there are, for example, 5G networks here, and that infrastructure generally is being improved, because all the activity is here.

“That’s interesting because it changes the dynamics of the ecosystem.

“What used to be the case is that people came in, conducted their business and then  left.

“That’s shifting and I foresee over the next five or 10 years that the dwell time here is going to be significantly greater within the Royal Docks.

“I think that the east of London – Royal Docks, Canary Wharf and all the other areas – have all got very bright futures. There’s absolutely no doubt about it.

“With the Elizabeth Line now in place, Excel is the natural home for events for companies on the Wharf – the journey is only three minutes now.

“It’s incumbent on all of us in this area to set the tone, develop, grow and do it in partnership.

“If we can accelerate this with our investments and support from Abu Dhabi, then we’re going to do that.”

One of the other things the venue is already doing is shifting its programme.

“We’ve been planning all this since 2018 and the final pieces of the puzzle were the arrival of the Elizabeth Line, a commitment from our investors to expand and, lastly, Excel’s complete adoption of immersive events and experiences,” said Jeremy.

“We’ve got truly world-class creators, innovators, production houses and agencies who are exporting immersive experiences to other countries, where they have residencies.

“There hasn’t really been a place where they can host them here, so we’ve observed and responded to the need – and we’ve done it very quickly. 

“We’ve been really keen to work with some of the best brands globally to do this, which is the reason we’ve hosted Jurassic World and Disney100.

“These are world-class experiences and there will be more announced soon. 

“Brands invest tens of millions in some cases and what we want is families and children to come here and be surprised and delighted by what they find so that they return again and again.” 

In some senses, the countdown to the future of Excel has begun. In others, it’s here already.

Find out more about Excel’s expansion programme here

Excel’s total space is set to increase by 25% when the extension opens in less than a year

FACTS AND FIGURES

Excel’s expansion will see the following benefits created:

  • 25% larger overall with 25,000sq m of additional space that can be completely taken over by a customer
  • A new front door for the venue 
  • Improved landscaping for pedestrians and cyclists including along the dock edge
  • 12,000sq m of new exhibition space
  • A freshly planted pocket park
  • Views across the dock from the venue

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How McLaren is building the Excel centre’s extension in east London

It’s full steam ahead for the main contractor, which recently moved its headquarters to Canary Wharf

McLaren is the lead contractor on the Excel expansion programme

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McLaren is the company responsible for actually building Excel’s extension.

The firm, which has just moved its headquarters to Canary Wharf from the City, has seen significant growth itself in recent years increasing its turnover from around £400million to more than £1billion, thanks to a programme of diversification that’s seen it enter a number of new markets. 

“We’re a roll-your-sleeves-up business where everyone’s really valued,” said Paul Heather, group managing director of construction for the UK.

“We’re strong on our values of being supportive, agile and proud.

“The difference here to other places I’ve worked is that we all come together and feel part of a team, whether we’re out on a project or at head office.

“It’s the team ethos – finding solutions – that gets people out of bed in the morning here and that’s great to see.”

Walk through McLaren’s Churchill Place office and you’ll see exactly that – open-plan spaces and meeting rooms filled with people collaborating.

It’s easy to imagine they’re all striving to solve complex problems at a firm that’s expanded into many different areas of construction.

Clear focus on agility and solutions is probably just as well, because Excel’s extension would be a daunting task for any contractor. 

Not only is the scale of the building vast, but everything has to be built without any disruption to the workings of the existing conference and exhibition centre, not to mention the race track that has to weave through the construction site for Formula E twice over the course of the project.

Sir Robert McAlpine, the firm that built the first two phases of Excel, had been awarded the contract for enabling works, before the venue opted to work with McLaren on the main build.

Read More: What Excel CEO Jeremy Rees has to say about the expansion of the venue

“It was a proud moment for us to become involved in such a prestigious scheme as this,” said Paul, who moved from McAlpine to McLaren himself in March 2022. 

“We engaged with Excel in November 2022 and had our first digger in the ground in mid-January 2023, which is pretty quick. 

“The team worked very hard and operations director, Gareth Peebles, knew the job inside out.

“As a company, McLaren ultimately comes from industrial logistics.

An artist’s impression of how Excel will look when work is complete

“We’d pretty much cornered the market as big industrial shed builders and had made a huge success of it, constructing distribution centres for clients such as Amazon across the country.

“That mentality is at the heart of many people who work for the business and, because an events venue is similar in many respects, we had some ideas for this project that allowed us to be more competitive – to offer the client more certainty on the programme, which is what the team at Excel wanted.”

Sustainability is also at the core of the build, with the new building targeting a BREEAM Excellent rating.

That means both its design and construction aim to minimise their impact on the environment – increasingly a factor for organisers when they’re deciding where to host their events.

Paul said: “Using recycled materials and reducing carbon emissions is very much part of the agenda.

“This will be one of the first major projects to use Cemfree masonary mortar – which has no cement in it – and that will reduce emissions by 11,000kg of CO2.

“Half of the steel used is recycled and it’s been quite a challenge to find that quantity but we’ve managed to do it.

“We’ll also be installing air source heat pumps, which is a sustainable approach to heating, as well as solar panels over 32% of the roof, which should generate 599kw to help power the building.”

With 90 weeks from start to finish allowed, the build is now over halfway completed and construction continues apace.

“We’re coming up to winter, so we’ve got to get the structure up because there’s a lot of work to be done internally,” said Paul.

“We need the roof on, the cladding on and then it will be time to get stuck into the finishes inside.

“With just a year to go, it’s going to be full steam ahead, with no rest, that’s for sure.

“The biggest challenge is the speed we have to work at to hit the all-important end date.

“We’ve learned a lot from the last season Formula E – with the track running through the existing Excel buildings and our site, so we’ll all ready for the next season.

“To have to stop when you want to keep going can be a frustration, so there’s a challenge to keep everyone motivated, but as soon as the racing is over, we’ll be going for it again.

“There have also been challenges to ensure the way we were erecting the steel fitted in with the needs of flights in and out of London City Airport, making certain not to impinge on the air space.

McLaren group managing director of construction for the UK, Paul Heather – image Matt Grayson

“But we resolved that quickly and the steelwork went in over a number of weekends to avoid having an impact on flights.

“The most important thing is that we can’t shut down half of Excel while we build for a year so we have to have a really good relationship with the venue – to know what’s coming in and out, what events are on and how that will impact what we’re doing.

“As a company, we’re very big on relationships and that goes to the highest level of our business. 

“Our chairman, Kevin Taylor, will check in with Excel on a regular basis. We always want our customers to have a great experience and to come away wanting to work with us again.”

While the Excel build is scheduled for less than two years, its been designed to have a much longer-lasting social impact on the area.

As part of the project, the builder has committed to offering 36 apprenticeships through its employment and skills plan and 15% of McLaren direct staff have applied through local council-run body Our Newham Work. 

The business has also run Women In Construction T-Levels workshops with local colleges and is working with UEL to offer students site visits.  

“Construction isn’t just about building,” said Paul.

“We work with a lot of supply chain partners – sub contractors – and their location becomes especially  important if you have a client that says they want local community engagement.

“We will select who we work with based partly on those criteria.

“They have to be competitive, but we will be saying to our customer that we are bringing locally based people in to work on their project. 

“We’ll try and select materials locally where we can and, in terms of the community, if we can entice people into the business as new employees who are based here, then we’ll try for that as well.

“All of our partners understand that for them to be recognised in the right way on a scheme, then they need to be bringing apprentices from the local area. 

“They themselves are proud to say that they are giving people a chance to understand what construction is and what they can do within it.”

Full steam ahead on all fronts – there’s a deadline to hit.

Find out more about Excel’s expansion here

With less than a year to go, work on-site continues apace

FACTS AND FIGURES

McLaren is building the extension to the Excel centre while the existing building remains in use

  • 1,210 solar panels will be placed on the roof of the new building
  • Each panel is capable of generating 495w, putting out a total of 599kw back into the building 
  • The development site for the project is two hectares, including improvements to public space along the dock edge
  • The project uses 50% recycled steel
  • Other sustainable measures include rainwater harvesting, hybrid ventilation and Cemfree masonry mortar
  • McLaren has grown into a company with a turnover of more than £1billion

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Royal Docks: How Market Express delivers frictionless groceries at the Excel centre

Built By Levy store is the first of its kind at a UK events venue to use Amazon’s Just Walk Out tech

Market Express has opened at Excel in Royal Docks

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Almost imperceptibly things move on and sharpen up.

The Elizabeth Line’s final timetable has arrived, meaning its full service is now available across the city.

Already it’s the busiest railway in the UK, purple arteries pumping people through London.

Areas that were once challenging to get to, have been pulled dramatically closer to others in ways that many in the capital are only just starting to explore.

Take Canary Wharf and Royal Docks, for example.

The journey between them was once an awkward dog-leg. 

A couple of stops on the Jubilee line followed by a couple on the DLR, or a change in trains on the latter, before a graceful meander over the River Lea.

Then, bang. The smoothest, quietest railway in TfL’s network takes that trip and drops it down to three minutes.

All of that bothersome friction has been removed at a stroke. 

The decision to attend a show at Excel via Custom House has been transformed into one purely of desire, not practicality. 

Suddenly, the decision to move City Hall to Royal Victoria Dock looks inspired, with this rapid conduit offering breathtakingly quick access to central London. 

In short, it’s about speed – and that’s something that’s increasingly a focus inside Excel too.

The vast exhibition and conference centre recently saw Market Express open its gates.

Fully kitted out with the system that makes Amazon Fresh work without checkouts, this new convenience store isn’t just a carbon copy of the tech giant’s high street outlets, it’s an evolution. 

Here there’s no faffing with an app to gain access, for example. Only a payment card or digital equivalent is needed. 

Then it’s scan, grab anything you like off the shelves and leave.

Just as the Elizabeth Line eases the journey to Excel, so Market Express makes shopping there more effortless than ever. 

Access to the store is via any payment card

It takes nearly all cards (even American Express was in the works when we visited), offers some 400 different products and is, in all likelihood, the future of shopping.

Created by a division of Levy UK + Ireland – the exhibition centre’s catering partner – it’s especially well placed given the nature of traffic at Excel.

“With about 400 events every year we host about 4million visitors and that’s a lot of mouths to feed,” said Phil Wetz, commercial manager at Excel. 

“Levy is one of the biggest caterers in the sports and entertainment industry and we’ve been working with them for more than 23 years.

“We recently signed another long-term contract with them to ensure they will continue to operate in Excel for many years to come.

“We share a passion for sustainability and also technology, which is why we’re delighted to open Market Express – a frictionless store that is a first for any UK event venue.

“You simply tap a card or payment method, take what you want from the shelves and walk out without any of the hassle of waiting for or using a checkout. 

“We think it’s really important to our customers.

“We get a lot of feedback from our visitors and event organisers and they say they want to have access to really good quality food, but they don’t want to spend a long time queueing.

“The quicker we can make that process by using technology, the better.”

Phil Wetz of Excel

The store will be located more or less in the middle of the venue when its 25,000sq m extension to the east is complete.

On its shelves are cold and hot dishes, an extensive range of snacks, fruits, drinks and other essential groceries. 

In addition, it also sells products such as shower gel, tampons, tissues and deodorants – anything an exhibitor or visitor might need to grab to ensure comfort during their day. 

“The principle remains the same as an Amazon Fresh store – once you go through the gate, a number of cameras are tracking you and creating a virtual basket of the things you pick up,” said Rak Kalidas, managing director of Built By Levy, which installed the store. 

“It adds items and subtracts them if you put them back, no matter where that is in the store. 

“We’ve done weeks of testing to ensure everything works.

“Digital receipts are then available by scanning a QR code on the way out if required.

“It’s the first store of its kind that we’ve opened and it’s really exciting to have done that at Excel in such a pivotal location.

“The stores still need staff to replenish the shelves and ensure customers are taken through the journey and that they are comfortable with the technology, because it’s not widespread in the UK at the moment.”

Rak Kalidas of Built By Levy

Market Express joins other technological innovations such as tablet ordering in restaurants and trials of automatic bars at selected events.

“The important thing is to make sure technology enhances a customer’s experience and doesn’t become a hindrance to service,” said Phil. 

“Through this store we can provide a better, faster experience for visitors, allowing them more time to network, learn and trade at the event they are attending.”

This is, of course, the dream.

That technology will step in and free humans up to engage in the kinds of activities they want to, whether that’s being more efficient in business or having more leisure time.

But as the incremental advances from Amazon Fresh to Market Express show, it’s a path that’s likely to be gradual as systems are tweaked and developed to better serve customers.

Right now, the experience of walking into a store, filling a bag and leaving just got a fraction more frictionless than it was before.

How long before there are no gates on the stores at all?

Market Express stocks some 400 products customers can just take and go

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

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Canary Wharf: How Alchemy Machines provides smart transcription services

AI driven platform is set to launch in November 2022 aimed at businesses in the legal sector

Alchemy Machines platform could make note-taking by hand a thing of the past

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Singer, martial artist, entrepreneur.

These are Dia Thanki’s passions but it’s in the third where our chief interest lies.

So it’s not Motown classics or her practising the graceful forms of Wing Chun Kung Fu that will fill this space, It’s her latest business venture.

Alchemy Machines, the company she founded and runs as CEO, is set to launch its first product in November following two years of development.

Based at Level39 – Canary Wharf’s tech community and workspace at One Canada Square – the idea for the business grew from a personal experience.

“I was involved in a car accident quite a few years ago,” said Dia.

“I was coming off the motorway, going downhill and there was a lot of traffic ahead – it was gridlocked.

“I stopped my car but there was a van going at top speed, which crashed into the back of my vehicle – leaving me with whiplash and chronic back pain.

“As a result I was having a lot of meetings with my personal injury lawyer, but the discomfort I was in meant I wasn’t able to focus on what was being said.

“I decided to look for an app that could transcribe voice to text, but the technology was generally very primitive at the time.

“It was then that I thought how wonderful it would be if meetings could be automatically transcribed accurately with who was speaking and when. 

“People could then read or listen back and there would be an audit trail.”

Dia had been exposed to the emerging area of artificial intelligence (AI) as a student, first at Cass Business School (since renamed Bayes Business School) and then later during a masters in management information systems at Cranfield University.

“Back then, no-one really cared about it – it was a research topic, but there were very few real-life implementations,” she said.

“But I was fascinated with its potential and my final year thesis was in the area of multi-agent systems.

“It was all about process modelling using software agents to be able to replicate real-world phenomena to convert them into a virtual world. 

“That’s when I began to think about the endless possibilities of a technology like AI.”

However, life took Dia in a different direction, as after graduating, a career as a singer beckoned and she eventually set up a business as the founder of label Diamanté Records.

After pursuing that course for a little over four years, Dia changed heading, going on to discover a strength in project management.

“That’s really my forte – starting with a concept for a web application or a mobile app and taking it from idea to a tangible product,” she said.

“In the process of doing that, I was working with developers, designers both onshore and offshore, globally for organisations such as BT, BUPA and Apple.

“Just before I set up Alchemy Machines, I was working for Tech Nation which is very well known in the tech ecosystem.

“I was its Future 50 programme manager – curating events for the brand and through that work I became fascinated with the world of startups.

“Then Alchemy Machines got a grant offer and there was a need to focus on the company full time and build a team.”

Alchemy Machines founder and CEO Dia Thanki

With machine learning having taken off in the intervening years, it was time for Dia to explore the creation of something that has been in the back of her mind since she sat in the room with those lawyers.

“I’d reached out to various computer scientists, people who had worked at Google and Amazon and senior researchers – had lots of coffees and built up my knowledge,” she said.

“I did a lot of different courses and then found some money to build a prototype, initially from Innovate UK, which is funded by the Government.

“The reason we chose to focus on the legal sector was that there seemed to be a demand, although the product we have developed could be as relevant in healthcare or financial services.

“Alchemy Machines solves the problem of unlocking workflow productivity for corporate professionals.

“The way we do that is to develop a voice intelligence platform that can transcribe sector-specific speech into text, and then also analyse those conversations and summarise them. It’s a feature-rich voice intelligence platform.

“People confuse us with an AI transcription company, but Alchemy Machines is much more than that.

“Given the high rates at which people leave jobs in the legal sector and everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, now is the time for a technology like this to really come to the fore.

“While there are other areas where this kind of technology has been prevalent for a while, that hasn’t really been the case in the corporate and legal worlds.

“I think that’s because they haven’t embraced innovation as fast, although in recent years they have been forced to do so, partly because of the consolidation that’s happening in the sector.

“Legal firms were some of the last to embrace email, for example, but they are now using cloud technology with many companies migrating – it’s only a matter of time before everyone in the market follows.

“People are very risk-averse in the sector.

“There’s a lack of understanding about AI machine learning and sometimes that triggers fear, although it can also trigger excitement.

“There are many offerings out there and it can be difficult for businesses to differentiate.

“But we have a clear focus, we know that being GDPR compliant, for example, is very important for companies in the sector and we have worked with Legal 500 firms to build feasibility scenarios and really test our platform before launch.

“It works like this – let’s assume there’s a dispute resolution case within intellectual property law.

“A group of lawyers – a senior associate, a trainee and a client – are having a virtual meeting to discuss the case.

“Normally, the trainee lawyer would be typing out or writing notes before producing a final version in consultation with the senior associate before it’s given to the client or stored in-house.

“That’s a huge waste of time – especially for trainee lawyers who want to get their hands on high-value casework and not spend their time on boring admin tasks.

“It might be useful for them for a couple of months as part of their training, but afterwards it becomes tedious admin work.

“With Alchemy Machines, all they would need to do would be to press ‘record’ when the Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting starts.

“The software then sits in the background and, for a one-hour meeting, it would take about 15 or 20 minutes to generate the report in our web application.

“There, the user will find the audio file, the transcription, the analysis and the summaries.

“That will include things like the ratio of who is speaking, the total number of people on the call and a sentiment analysis expressed as a percentage, based on whether mostly positive or negative words were used.

“The platform also tracks the duration of the meeting and the accuracy of the voice recognition itself and these are just the things we can measure now.

“I’m super excited for the launch because this wasn’t a product that was easy to create – it’s very complex because of the machine learning elements, but also the amount of time that’s gone into testing it with real-life users to ensure we’ve built something that’s simple, intuitive and valuable.

“The feedback has been phenomenal.

“I was speaking to a firm we’ve been trialling the platform with and they thought that our product was both more accurate and easier to use than a very well funded American competitor.

“Creating this product and this business has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life because it has demanded such a level of focus and resilience – and I trained as a martial artist for five years.

“There have been two really big challenges.

“The first is the same for any tech company selling solutions to large corporations and that’s establishing credibility.

“The second has been fundraising. There are still very few women seeking investment in businesses in general and especially in the tech and STEM sectors and that makes it tough.

“That’s slowly beginning to change and there are a few different initiatives that are encouraging girls and women to embrace technology and see the potential of it. 

“As a business, we have some key targets to try and attract more women to join the sector and one of our machine learning engineers is a woman, so it’s been a great experience to share this journey with her.

“I hope many more will come to work in tech for Alchemy Machines or others.” 

Dia will be speaking at LegalEx at 2pm on November 23, 2022, at Excel in Royal Docks. Alchemy Machines’ platform is set to officially launch next month.

Read more: How Bureau is offering creative workspace in Greenwich

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Canary Wharf: How The PA Show Canary Wharf aims to bring a community together

Mash Media’s boutique event is set to be held at the East Wintergarden on Wednesday, November 2

The event will be hosted at Canary Wharf’s East Wintergarden

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“Community” is the word on the lips of Lisa Farnfield.

As Mash Media sales director, she’s responsible for organising the first PA Show Canary Wharf, which is set to take place on November 2 at the East Wintergarden in Bank Street – and she’s determined to make it a place of connection as well as business. 

Mash runs The PA Show at Excel – a nationwide gathering of those working as personal, executive and virtual assistants or office managers – which is gearing up for its 12th edition when it returns to Royal Docks in March.

Building on the success of this year’s show, the company decided to try something new in the interim.

“The PA Show Canary Wharf will be an intimate event for those working in the sector in London, that we’re holding due to popular demand,” said Lisa.

“It’s boutique – a way for people to come and meet suppliers, connect with like-minded people and learn from the great content we’ll be putting on.

“The East Wintergarden is a great venue, exactly the right size, and it has great facilities at the heart of Canary Wharf.

“There will be two theatres on the day, one focused on tech and the other on personal development.

“Speakers include Abigail Jones, an EA at Instagram, Lauren Bradley, founder and lead trainer at The Officials, Abigail Barnes founder and CEO at Success By Design Training and Sarah Howson and Marianne Whitlock – co-founders of Strategic PA Recruitment.

“It’s a chance for people to brush up on their skills and to come together – especially as being a PA, EA or VA can be an isolated position.

“The show is just in the run-up to Christmas and it will have a really special feel to it.

“We’ve got corporates and companies coming along – venues, restaurants, bars, hotels – a lovely selection of high quality businesses.

“Our focus will be the PA community and we’ll be running some great activities during the show, such as speed networking and a prize draw. 

“We’ll also be inviting everyone who attends to after-show drinks so that our visitors and exhibitors can wind down together and connect.

“That’s what people want and it’s our job as an organiser to tune into that – to make sure we have the right content and the right suppliers.

“Our experience with this new style of event will also feed into the main flagship show in March – our all-singing, all-dancing gathering of the sector nationally.”

Mash Media’s Lisa Farnfield – image by Matt Grayson

Visitors to the East Wintergarden will get access to The PA Show Passport allowing them to get stamps from exhibitors to qualify for a goody bag and entry into a prize draw. 

Prizes include a £500 gift card from passport sponsor Harrods Corporate Services and Eastbourne Tennis corporate hospitality tickets for four from Keith Prowse.

Exhibitor slots at the show have nearly sold out, with only a couple remaining.

Lisa, who used to live and work in Docklands, said: “I think that’s about location – being in Canary Wharf has drawn people’s attention.

“Live events are back and people want to go to them. It’s not just about putting on a show, it’s about putting on an experience.

“There’s so much change in this area, it’s important for people to know what’s coming up. 

“We want people to say: ‘Wow, that was a great experience’ – that’s our main aim with this more intimate show, a very select group of exhibitors and a layout that allows people to stay connected throughout the event.

“On a personal level, I’m thrilled to be back in Canary Wharf.

“There’s a real community here, not just for those who work here, but among those who live locally.

“It’s really meaningful to come back and deliver something like this here.”

Lisa said planning for this event had also informed how Mash will evolve the main PA Show when it returns to Excel from March 1-2.

“Because it takes place in spring it will have a different feel, but it will be a more intimate experience,” she said.

“We’ll be having five theatres but also more activities to attract a wider, larger audience.

“It’s about what we can do to make sure there’s a real buzz on the show floor. 

“Throughout there will be exhibitors that really pull people in and we’ll have the PA Passport and speed networking – some of the things we’ve developed for this smaller show.

“We’re always striving to ensure the layout and ingredients that go into the show are both as good as they can be so we deliver something that people want to return to again and again.”

  • PAs, EAs, VAs, office managers and those in similar roles can attend The PA Show Canary Wharf – sponsored by South Western Railway – for free.
  • Registration is essential for entry. Theatre sessions cost £42 including VAT. Visitors can get 10% off through Wharf Life with code 1009.

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Royal Docks: How Reset Connect brings people together to fight climate change

Inaugural event at Excel will see sustainability pioneers like Canary Wharf Group inspire others

Reset Connect CEO and co-founder Duncan Reid
Reset Connect CEO and co-founder Duncan Reid

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Duncan Reid has been an events man his whole career.

It started at university in the 1990s, organising parties with DJs at the students’ union.

Then there was a strategic move into the business sector, conveniently leaving Friday and Saturday nights free for attending music events rather than putting them on.

In 2010 he joined Clarion Events – one of the largest companies organising conferences, shows and exhibitions in the world – rising to become MD and executive vice president of its energy division.  

“I was already managing the move away from coal, gas, oil and fossil fuel extraction – there were big things happening with carbon emissions,” he said. “Then the pandemic hit.”

With the events sector among the hardest hit, Covid meant many shows didn’t take place for two years, contractors were left without work and organising companies laid off staff.

For Duncan, it was an opportunity to take a step back and decide on a future direction.

“I started looking around for what I wanted to do,” he said. “Then I realised sustainability should be my focus and that it was important that we fast-tracked as much of this sector as possible.

“The two big challenges before the pandemic were that the pace of adoption was not fast enough and – the really big one – was that, even if a company wanted to roll out sustainability, whatever they wanted to do, there was a big funding gap.

“For example, if you were a company that made ready meals and you wanted to move to using electric vehicles with refrigeration to transport them, then that would be quite a hassle for a small business.

“Big corporates can have a sustainability strategy and can appoint someone to oversee it, but for small businesses it’s quite a challenge.

“Then if you’re a startup, it’s hard enough to get your idea off the ground let alone managing your impact on the environment at the same time.”

That led Duncan to the idea for Reset Connect – a new conference and exhibition that is set to get its first outing over two days at Excel in Royal Docks.

Taking place on June 28 and 29, 2022 – during London Climate Action Week – the event will see more than 100 exhibitors and sustainability partners showcase their services and more than 150 speakers discussing a very wide range of topics.

Canary Wharf Group – long a pioneer in environmentally friendly development and stewardship – will be represented by head of sustainability Sophie Goddard at a panel discussion, starting at 11.15pm on the event’s second day.

She, together with representatives of Sintali, Savills Investment Management, Hark Systems and Mitie, will seek to illuminate processes and technology that can be implemented now to fight climate change.

That’s just one session in a packed programme and the two-day event will also see opening keynote speeches from Doughnut Economics Action Lab co-founder Kate Raworth on the first day and World Wildlife Fund chief executive Tanya Steele on the second.

Reset Connect aims to help businesses become more sustainable
Reset Connect aims to help businesses become more sustainable

With the Elizabeth Line’s arrival shrinking the gap between Canary Wharf and Custom House (the station adjacent to the venue) to three minutes, Reset Connect is also easily accessible. 

“The idea is really to pool the learnings that the corporate sector has and to share them among peers to help everyone benefit,” said Duncan.

“It’s analogous to what’s happened in finance with technology.

People would queue up in branches of banks to withdraw money and then go to another bank to pay that money into someone else’s account 15 years ago.

Now there’s an app on your phone, you’re sending money to someone else and you don’t even think about it.

“This is where we’re at with sustainability – this is where we move away from carbon quite massively.

“It’s really easy for us to keep using oil but then we certainly won’t be here in 100 years.

“So we need to try to work out how we can reduce carbon emissions on a scale similar to the fintech revolution. 

“That is quite daunting, because a lot of the technology is in the early stages of development, but we need to do something major, quickly because the dial isn’t moving fast enough.”

That’s exactly the issue that Reset Connect will be addressing – how to rapidly shift away from a system that destroys the planet to one that allows humanity to go on and thrive. It’s no small ambition.

“The point of the event is to get people who are already doing things well to talk about what they do, how to speed up adoption, what funding they use and whether they borrow money or use assets to do it so others can learn,” said Duncan.

“Obviously it’s a work in progress and it’s a really complex area. One of the reasons it’s called ‘Reset’ is because part of the issue is about how you measure success. 

“In the past that has always been linked to a profit measure but over the next 10 years it will increasingly become about impact. It’s about asking how we measure it, what we put our money into and what we really value.

“People are already talking about this in the corporate world, as are shareholders and the startup community.

“People also want to know how they can invest their pensions and savings in these areas.

“Some businesses may say that because they’re not listed it won’t affect them, but it will affect everyone. At some point you’ll be part of someone’s supply chain and that means you need to be thinking about it.

“Then there are the big fossil fuel companies – there are lots of pension funds invested in them so it’s really complex.

“Do you take the money out or do you find a way to work with them to be better, because the danger is that they will carry on being bad if you don’t?”

The show will take place at Excel in the Royal Docks
The show will take place at Excel in the Royal Docks

Duncan said there was a real appetite not only to tackle these topics, but also to do so in person with Reset Connect bringing together businesses, activists and politicians.

“I think the thing we really missed during the pandemic was people coming together, face-to-face,” he said. 

“The analogy I use about events is that they are like a football match.

“You can watch it on TV but it is so much better if you go to a game with five of your mates – it’s a completely different experience. That’s why we try and make as much of our content free as possible.

“While Covid fast-tracked the adoption of video call technology, things are so much more productive when you can shake someone’s hand and see and feel the products they are selling first-hand.

“I think that, if we’re going to tackle some of the climate challenges we’ve got, then we’ll achieve more if we’re able to get round a table, meet at a stand or talk about it over a beer with someone you’ve unexpectedly met but share a common purpose with.

“A lot of it is about serendipity and also discovering the things you didn’t know, but really needed to. 

“Of course you can sit at home and google ‘cities’ or ‘city infrastructure’ and that will give you a load of information, some of which may well be very interesting.

“But it won’t be the same as having Sophie Goddard from Canary Wharf Group tell you about its partnership with the Eden Project and what their vision is for that.

“You might stumble across some details on page 25 of your search – but that’s not the same as having a leading developer telling you how it builds cities for the future, what that looks like and what the partnership between business and finance needs to look like to make it happen.

“At Reset Connect, you’ll hear from experts like the Mayor Of Copenhagen, for example, telling you what that city has done to become a world leader in sustainability.

“And all of this is just one stop away from Canary Wharf on the Elizabeth Line.”

  • Reset Connect’s exhibition is free for visitors to attend with registration. Access to the conference is via delegate pass. 

For startups, scaleups, not-for-profits, academic institutions and public sector organisations these start at £295 per person. Advance delegate passes cost £600.

Readers can get 25% off their booking at Reset Connect by using code WL25.

Duncan said in-person events were great for sharing ideas
Duncan said in-person events were great for sharing ideas

Read more: Why the Elizabeth Line is a game changer for events at Excel

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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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