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Greenwich: How The O2 is fixing its roof having reopened its doors to visitors

Peninsula venue was mostly up and running a week after Storm Eunice, with part of Icon now trading

Storm Eunice ripped off part of The O2's roof
Storm Eunice ripped off part of The O2’s roof – image Matt Grayson

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The holes ripped in the roof of The O2 by viscous winds instantly became the defining image of Storm Eunice as it tore across England on February 18, 2022.

In total eight out of the 72 segments that make up the dome were damaged, leaving a gaping hole in the eighth largest building in the world. 

Thankfully nobody was injured at the venue and while 6,000sq m of roof was missing it took staff a week to reopen the majority of the venue so concerts could resume and the attractions of Entertainment Avenue could start trading again.

A month after the storm, a section of outlet shopping centre Icon At The O2 also reopened, recently welcoming a new store from menswear brand Skopes

While the bulk of the retail destination remains closed as it is located directly under the hole, work to temporarily weatherproof the gap continues apace. 

Full access is expected for shoppers in early May, once the venue is watertight and any damage to the units below has been repaired. 

With trading already strong in the reopened section, that’s something Icon’s managing director Janine Constantin-Russell can’t wait for.

Icon At The O2 managing director Janine Constantin-Russell
Icon At The O2 managing director Janine Constantin-Russell

“I think we felt particularly tested because we’d opened our doors again and we were seeing such strength in our numbers after restrictions eased,” she said.

“To have to stop again felt particularly trying. But there’s definitely been a sense of cameraderie about it.

“Our teams have been fantastic – to open up the entertainment district and the arena a week to the day after the storm happened was an amazing feat – and then to open 22 stores at Icon in March was even more incredible.

“The press that we’ve had from Storm Eunice has been kind and sympathetic and we’ve had such lovely support from our local customers who have come to have a look and have supported us by spending their money here.

“In some ways it’s been an opportunity to open our door a little bit wider, to say: ‘We’re here, we’re made of sturdy stuff but these things happen’. We’ve been able to show the best we can do.”

Icon At The O2 has partially reopened with full access expected in May
Icon At The O2 has partially reopened with full access expected in May – image Matt Grayson

In addition to Skopes, more openings are in the pipeline with brands selling high performance sportswear and homeware expected to launch when the remaining section of the venue is back in business. 

“We would say that mass media attention on The O2 is such that we have never been so busy from a lettings perspective,” said Janine.

“We’ve been showing potential tenants around literally in hard hats as the units we’ve got available are under the part of the Icon affected by the repair work.

“Without exception, all of our businesses have seen improvement since the changes in Covid restrictions.

“On average sales are up 50%-60% on 2019 and we’ve seen those numbers come through straight away.

“But what we’re seeing is not necessarily a pent-up demand, it’s like a return to what people missed out on.

“It was fantastic to have online shopping during the pandemic and everyone’s now found a place for how they manage that – how it makes their life more convenient.

“It also means people have a bit more time to spend picking up luxuries and making decisions in store – so what we’ve ended up with is this really discerning customer who’s enjoying shopping and spending their time and money doing that.

“What we’ve seen is that the brands are curating their stores better to make sure they’re giving those people what they want.”

Activities are also a key draw with the likes of football venue Toca Social, Boom Battle Bar, Oxygen Freejumping soon to be joined by indoor skydiving venue iFly, which recently won planning permission to build a facility to the north of the dome.

“In other locations iFly attracts 150,000 visitors a year, so we’re super happy about that,” said Janine.

“As for the future, we always want to think big. For example, the venue’s roof climbing experience – Up At The O2 – is such an exciting thing, anything we do has to equal or top that.

“It has to have that wow factor and we’re pursuing lots of lines of enquiry to make sure whatever we do will be amazing.

“We quite like the idea of zip lines – we’ve seen some on the inside of venues and that would be super-cool.”

Executive vice president real estate and development at AEG Europe, Alistair Wood
Executive vice president real estate and development at AEG Europe, Alistair Wood

FABRIC FIX – REPAIRING THE ROOF

As executive vice president real estate and development at AEG Europe (the company that owns The O2), Alistair Wood is responsible for overseeing the project to repair the damage wrought by Storm Eunice.

“There was nothing at all we could do on the February 18 so we reconvened the following day and the extent of the damage was quite frightening,” he said.

“It was a disaster rescue situation and we had to respond very quickly, which we did, making some very good, rapid decisions.

“We had to postpone two concerts in the week after the storm but we focused on making sure the UB40 show in the arena took place on February 25 because, having just come out of the pandemic, we couldn’t tolerate any further delays.

“In the end the two postponed concerts by Dave took place a week after they were supposed to happen, so phase one was a great success.

Now we’ve been focusing on getting the venue waterproof and we want to be finished with that by Easter.

“Initially we’ll be installing a temporary roof that will be in place for the next year or two.

That’s because the material – PTFE – is quite specialised and in quite high demand so there’s about a 12-month lead time on orders.

“Generally we’re pleased with how quickly we’ve been able to get going again but we’re not understating how harrowing that Saturday morning was.

“The buildings at Icon aren’t designed to stand outside so our biggest challenge has been water coming into the venue.

“It has rained very heavily for a couple of days and, while we have scaffolding up that supports a canopy across the buildings to achieve a degree of protection, some still gets in.

“We’re now working with all our tenants to identify the damage and refit the units where necessary and then get us fully reopened in early May.

“Fortunately there was no damage to the structure that holds up the dome, so for the canopy it’s just a case of hooking the material to that and welding a waterproof seal over the top.

“In the wider venue, it’s great to be coming out of the pandemic and we should be pumping out a record couple of years in the arena and that will support the hospitality and retail venues.

“We’re really upbeat about how things are going and our fingers are crossed for a clear run now to allow Icon to get some momentum alongside the rest of the site.

“All the current attractions are bringing their own footfall but also sharing that audience and that has always been the point of The O2.

It operates as a composite destination so you can spend your whole day there.”

Looking ahead, hopefully that’s the last of the holes.

Workers repairing the damage over Icon At The O2
Workers repairing the damage over Icon At The O2 – image Matt Grayson

Read more: How Humble Grape in Canary Wharf is raising its food game

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Greenwich: Flow Farmers Market brings fresh sustainable product to the Peninsula

Developer Knight Dragon teams up with Bompas And Parr and Urban Food Fest for regular event

Sweet treats on offer from Oh My Sugar at the market – image Matt Grayson

A clutch of food traders are plying their wares on the banks of the Thames as Greenwich Peninsula hosts Flow Farmers Market every other Sunday. With the next one set to take place on June 13 – and with dates running throughout the summer until September 19 – we caught up with the organiser and stallholders to discover what residents and visitors can find on the strip of land between the end of The Tide and the river.

“We really wanted to expand the artisan food element that is part of our urban design market Sample to create a regular farmers’ market,”  said Kaia Charles, cultural projects manager for Greenwich Peninsula at property developer Knight Dragon.

“So we worked with creative food firm Bompass And Parr to develop an idea about what that could be for the Peninsula – to bring a range of fresh produce, organic meats and cheeses here. Flow is inspired by the river itself, its location and, as it grows we really want to feature local producers.

“We want it very much to be for the residents here so it’s about what they want and need – that’s what will drive what we have here.

The idea is the selection of traders we have at the moment goes really well together with organic bread, cheeses, olives and meats.

“It’s gone down really well with residents so far and the stalls are also near two of our retail tenants – Choy House and Ardoa – so people can visit them too. We want to enliven the river and celebrate the resilience of our community after the pandemic.”

Flow Farmers Market, programmed by Urban Food Fest, takes place every other Sunday from 10am-3pm. Here we talk to some of the traders taking part:

Oh My Sugar owner Aysar Kalkanel at the market – image Matt Grayson

OH MY SUGAR

cookies – brownies – sweets

Oh My Sugar owner Aysar Kalkanel said: “I started the business in 2020. I’d been travelling and I wanted to come home and open a brunch bar, but I arrived back just as we went into the first lockdown, so I had to think of an alternative. 

“I’d never baked before, but it blew up completely. Originally it was going to be more about sweets, but everyone kept ordering the brownies and cookies.  We started doing just online and then a couple of people suggested markets and it’s been the best thing I’ve done. 

“We mainly sell cookies, brownies and blondies which is a version of a brownie made with white chocolate – they’re very sweet, but people love them. We basically offer a variety of chocolate-smothered goodness.”

Samaneh serves customers at Flow Farmers Market – image Matt Grayson

OLIVETO BAR

olives – garlic – sundried tomatoes

Oliveto’s Samaneh Khazaei said: “The business has been established for almost 12 years now. We marinade everything ourselves and source our olives from Italy, Greece and Spain.

“All of our products are homemade and sold freshly at markets, whether it’s the olives or the hummus. 

“Our flavours include olives flavoured with mixed fresh herbs and chilli. We are also selling Persian garlic and artichokes. We don’t use vinegar or salt in our marinades, just extra virgin olive oil. We also do vegetarian stuffed vine leaves. 

“Personally I love our olives stuffed with almonds and anchovies – they’re really tasty. I also have to mention our hummus, which is delicious.”

Produce from Pick’s Organic Farm on sale – image Matt Grayson

PICK’S ORGANIC FARM

vegetables – meat – bacon rolls

Pick’s Organic Farm’s Hannah Patterson said: “The farm is based near Leicester in Barkby Thorpe and we come down every Saturday and Sunday to trade at farmers’ markets in London.

“We do a range of hot food – cooking sausages and bacon at our stall – as well as selling meat, fresh eggs from our chickens and fruit and vegetables too, although not at every market.

“All the meat we sell is produced from our own animals. We have a variety of sausages including Welsh Dragon, flavoured with chilli, a good selection of beef, lamb and chicken as well as burgers – a bit of everything you could want, really. We sell burgers, hot dogs, bacon rolls and egg rolls or any combination customers want.” 

Cheeses from The Big Wheel at the market – image Matt Grayson

THE BIG WHEEL

cheese – crackers – condiments

The Big Wheel’s Hazel Cross said: “We specialise in artisan British cheeses, which come from up and down the UK. For example we stock Lancashire Bomber, Colston Basset Stilton and Keens and Montgomery’s cheddars plus Lincolnshire Poachers and Cornish Yarg.

“We also have an international classics section because there are certain things that no cheese board should be without. Our customers come and they want a Parmesan or a Langres, which comes from the Champagne region of France and has a lovely orange colour. My personal favourite is the Ribblesdale Goatesan, a hard cheese from Yorkshire.

“The Big Wheel exists only at markets in London and that allows us to keep our prices competitive.”

Kudciea Khan selling Rodgis’ bread at the market – image Matt Grayson

RODGIS

sourdough – sausage rolls – pastries

Rodgis’ Kudciea Khan said: “We offer a range of sourdough bread with loaves for £4 or, if someone wants two, it’s £6.

“There’s rosemary, olive bread, rye and multiseed on offer. The products are all freshly made at a central kitchen and  and we have savoury food and pastries as well, including chocolate cheesecake and pasteis de nata.

“We’ve been really busy at Flow, with people queuing despite the rain and we hope to add even more products to our stall here. 

“Rodgis is a family business which operates at various farmers’ markets around London and via its website.”

The business also produces a range of charcuterie, pastas and olives available to purchase online, shipped from its base near Peckham

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