Far East Consortium Dragon Boat Race generates charity funds

Docklands Sailing And Watersports contest raises money for the East End Community Foundation

A team competes in the Far East Consortium Dragon Boat Race, flailing paddles at the waters of Millwall Outer Dock
Teams competed on the waters of Millwall Outer Dock on the Isle Of Dogs

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The developer behind Consort Place on the Isle Of Dogs hosted an event this month at the Docklands Sailing And Watersports Centre to raise much-needed funds for local charities. 

Far East Consortium (FEC) – which recently welcomed the first residents to Aspen, the tower at the heart of its scheme – organised a Dragon Boat Festival on the waters of Millwall Outer Dock this month.

Teams from the developer and its partners – including Knight Frank, NHBC, Hawkins Brown, Dorsett Hospitality International, The Media People, Dex Construction, TP Bennett, Kohler, McBains, JRL, HTA and BB7 – did battle on the water with paddles and sweat, for glory, medals and a trophy.

Consultancy firm WSP won the day, with its team – Stroke Of Genius – topping the podium. All proceeds from the event will go to the East End Community Foundation (EECF), which gives grants to charities across the local area.

Two dragon boats race in front of Far East Consortium's Aspen At Consort Place tower in east London
The teams competed in front of FEC’s Aspen At Consort Place Tower (centre)

grants for good causes

“FEC is a patron of our Life Chances Campaign, which means it has committed £60,000 so far and is hopefully going to come on board to support this for the next three years,” said EECF campaign director Sally Bateson.

“It’s all about creating lasting change.

“We’ve been looking to raise more money so we can give bigger grants over longer periods of time to support the grassroots organisations we work with who don’t have the resources or profile to find the funds themselves.”

Image shows a woman with brown hair in a green dress – CEO of the East End Community Foundation, Tracy Walsh
Tracy Walsh, CEO of the East End Community Foundation

where the Far East Consortium money goes

EECF CEO Tracy Walsh added: “We focus on youth unemployment and wellbeing, pension poverty and isolation and digital inequality – we put a lot of money into these areas.

“For example, with unemployment, young people might feel like big organisations aren’t for them but they will go to a less glamorous youth club next door.

“We’re funding a person to tackle the problem in those settings.

“We are also providing money for a lot of holiday programs to aid wellbeing – giving young people food, physical activity and safe places to be.

“With pension poverty, we’ve invested about £80,000 to train front line workers to help older people claim benefits that they are entitled to.

“It’s been nine months and we’ve already seen £400,000 of money go to people who are eligible for it.

“There’s millions of pounds of unclaimed Pension Credits and we thought we should do somthing to help people get it.  

“On digital equality, we’re now working in primary schools to help connect low income families.

“They get 12 months free broadband, a laptop and training on how to stay safe online and help their kids with homework.

“We’ve connected more than 600 so far and we want to boost that figure by 200 by the end of the year.

“In Tower Hamlets we were just shocked by how many homes don’t have any digital connection – it’s around 50,000.

“We’ve got the highest level of child poverty in the UK here and the highest level of pension poverty. If organisations all do their own thing, the impact can be diluted.

“What we’re saying with Life Chances is that if we all work together, it’s easier to make a difference and also easier for the charities, who only have to apply to one funder rather than dealing with lots of different ones.”

Image shows a man in a black baseball cap and T-Shirt with orange Far East Consortium logos – it's Bruno Almeida Santos, FEC's development director
FEC development director Bruno Almeida Santos at the even

Far East Consortium: a question of values

Far East Consortium development director Bruno Almeida Santos said the company’s involvement with the EECF and donating to its Life Chances Campaign was really about the business’ core values.

He said: “We’ve been trying to arrange this event for three years, so we’re very pleased that it’s happened and that we could attract these organisations to see the work of the foundation.

“Hopefully we can make this a tradition, especially as it’s a dragon boat race and we’re a Hong Kong developer.

“It’s very important for us as a company to support the EECF. I think some organisations do things as a tick-box exercise but we want to do way more than that.

“This isn’t about our obligations to an S106 agreement, but actually contributing to the foundation, including the joy of losing to the children who were racing as part of one of the teams.

“You know, when you see the smiles on their faces, that you’re making a difference because it’s a day they will never forget.

“Hosting it at the Docklands Sailing And Watersports Centre was a case of the stars aligning.

Racers relax with barbecue and drinks at Far East Consortium's Dragon Boat Race on the Isle Of Dogs
Teams enjoy a well-earned break at Far East Consortium’s Dragon Boat Race at the Docklands Sailing And Watersports Centre

“It’s one of the best settings to view Aspen – our flagship development in London – from and to bring everyone together here. 

“It’s been under construction for five years and it’s been a challenging scheme with the pandemic, but we’ve managed to crunch the numbers and overcome the issues. 

“I think a lot of that has actually been on the human side, with people working together to resolve the problems.

“It’s been about communication and working together and this is about celebrating that as well as supporting those around us.

“Actually being on the ground with the EECF means you get a completely different experience – you get to see the outcome of that support and we’re really, really happy about that.

“We’ll have to do the race again with even more people.”

In addition to hosting a raffle, all proceeds raised on the day, including ticket sales have gone towards the foundation’s work.

“The day also provided plenty of scope for networking and team building for participants.

“It felt really great,” said Lovisa Claesson, graduate consultant at WSP and a member of winning team “Stroke Of Genius”. 

“To be honest we all worked within different areas of the business, so didn’t really know each other before the contest. But we got the women in the front and the men following.”

10 people pose in celebration of winning the Far East Consortium Dragon Boat Race
Winning team Stroke Of Genius

key details: Far East Consortium’s Aspen At Consort Place

Homes at Aspen At Consort Place by Far East Consortium – just off Marsh Wall – are available now. Prices start at £550,000.

The EECF is also based on the Isle Of Dogs and offers a wide range of ways for companies to get involved with good causes locally – including supporting its Life Chances campaign.

Find out more about the development here

Find our more about the work of EECF here

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Leah Sams shoots and launches fashion collection in Canary Wharf

The artist, illustrator and founder of Power Of Women recently unveiled her clothing designs

Image shows a selection of brightly coloured dresses and shirts on a rail from Leah Sams' Paradise Collection
Leah Sams has launched The Paradise Collection in Canary Wharf

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Leah Sams’ Paradise Collection from Power Of Women perhaps typifies the changing face of Canary Wharf.

It’s tech, it’s fashion, it’s illustration, it’s female-led and it’s been created and launched on the east London estate. 

Having swapped theatrical costume and set design for art and illustration during the pandemic, Leah found success selling digital works as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The move into tech came after her husband Jack also changed career, leaving the performing arts world to fight fires and discovering his colleagues’ passion for crypto assets.

“He showed my artwork to them, which is very female-orientated and empowered, and these burly men were saying they would buy it,” said Leah, who moved to the UK from Malaysia to study theatre arts at university.

“That was the rabbit hole that started my career in the digital art world.

“At the time I started selling NFTs it was a very male space – less than 10% were female collectors or artists.

“I launched a very female-focused collection of works and they sold out within three hours and made more money than I did in a whole year selling on Etsy. 

“At the time a lot of artists saw it as a way to make a living, often for the first time as digital creators.”

Image shows artist, illustrator and Power Of Women founder Leah Sams, a dark haired woman in glasses with gold earrings wearing one of her orange dresses
Artist, illustrator and Power Of Women founder Leah Sams

Leah Sams – the power of tech…

Leah’s success led to an exhibition at Adidas’ flagship London store as well as collaborations with the likes of Manchester City FC.

Much of the hype has gone out of the NFT market.

But Leah is certain the tech that makes it work – an immutable record of the provenance and authenticity of a work stored on a blockchain to identify the owner of a piece – will continue to become an increasingly important part of our digital world.

“A lot of the people who came into NFTs to make a quick buck have all left,” said Leah, who lives on the Isle Of Dogs.

“But what you’re left with is interesting people building interesting things, and that’s great, because it’s now easier to sift through and find amazing pieces.

“The is definitely not perfect, but the people who are working with this technology truly believe that it is going to be part of our everyday lives.

“When we first had the internet, there a lot of sceptics and all sorts of companies building websites, but from that emerged the likes of Google and Facebook and all these goliaths.

“Provenance and authenticity are very important in the traditional art world, so having a public, digital record of works that cannot be changed is going to be really useful.

“The future is that NFTs will be rebranded – the technology will be there but in the background and it’s really important with regard to things like copyright that artists understand where the world is heading. 

“At the moment we’re seeing cryptocurrency, AI, blockchain and NFTs all intermingling.

“It’s a really exciting space to be in because it’s the precursor to things that come next.”

Image shows a picture of a woman in eastern clothing by artist Leah Sams
Leah’s is an artist creating digital work, prints and now clothes

thinking differently

“Right now, just as in the traditional art world, there are a few artists making a mint in the digital space,” said Leah.

“Others are diversifying their income, but NFTs have significantly changed people’s attitude towards digital art – that it should be respected and people should be paid fairly for it.”

The launch of The Paradise Collection and Leah’s move into fashion, however, has more to do with a desire to keep creating than to find fresh markets for the things she makes.

“As we had a bit of money to invest, I thought we could just do the same old thing or we could do something different,” she said.

“This felt like it was a different iteration of what I’ve been working towards.

“All of my artwork has had a concentration on representation, culture and diversity – fashion has also been a huge part of that because of my history in theatre and costume.

“I’ve also always been drawing fashionable women, so this has been a dream since I was a kid, to be doing something with clothes.”

a learning curve

“A friend of mine in the NFT space – Shreya Bhan – who started her career in fashion said that, when I was ready, we could do something together,” added Leah.

“She’s guided me through it and it’s been fascinating to see the correlation and some similarities with the work I was doing in costume with the pattern cutting elements, use of silhouettes and how fabric falls on the body.

“Lots of people have bought my artwork, but there’s something different in buying an wearing a garment to something that lives on a screen or a wall as a print.

“I feel like my customers are wearing my pieces and that’s quite a responsibility to have, which is why it’s been a long process to fine-tune and curate the collection.

“Designing on fabric is very different from working on an iPad – it’s been a huge learning curve.

“I started off with a budget and  had to figure out how to create a diverse line that worked financially but was also an extension of a brand that had only existed as artworks before.

“Now it’s coming into the physical world, how do you represent it and how do I link it back to my art?” 

Image shows a pink shirt with green foliage print, available from Power Of Women for £75
Pink Berry Unisex Shirt, £75 from The Paradise Collection

Leah Sams – The Paradise Collection

Comprising unisex shirts, wrap dresses and tiered dresses, The Paradise Collection features three vibrant prints on cotton as well as colourful designs on a trio of silk scarves.

But, tying in with Leah’s wider brand, there’s more to the pieces than their physical existence.

“Each piece has a chip that I’ve sewn into it, which can be scanned with a phone,” said Leah.

“I hope I will always make sustainable collections and the point of the chips is that people can own the garment on the blockchain, see where it’s come from, what it’s made of and how to care for it.

“But it’s also have a connection to me – the person who’s made it, so that it means more than something you buy from a big brand.

““It’s been a dream since I was a little girl to design my own clothes.

Image shows a phone scanning a chip in one of Leah Sams' garments
Garments all contain chips that owners can scan for more information, including care instructions

“To be able to launch my own collection of garments, 20 years on, is both surreal and empowering. 

“Every aspect of this collection from the colour of each button, to the digital experience that comes with each garment, has been designed with love and care. 

“I hope that anyone who wears a Power of Women garment will feel like they are wearing a piece of art.

“I think what’s also important is that I can always update the digital experience any time.

“It feels personal that people can have a connection to me via the Web3 space where The Paradise Collection was born – what I’ve created so far and all the work I’ve done to make that happen.”

Image shows a turquoise dress with a chilli plant print from The Paradise Collection
Turquoise Chilli Tiered Dress, £95 from The Paradise Collection

an east London creation

“I chose to launch the collection at Grind in Canary Wharf’s Market Halls because it’s where I do a lot of my drawing,” said Leah.

“I have a studio at home on the Isle Of Dogs, but this is where I choose to get away from that. 

“Since creating Power Of Women in the Web3 space, I’ve met a few London artists, so we have sketching and coffee gatherings and it felt really right to have our launch party there.

“I also wanted to showcase that there are creators here.

“The Canary Wharf community is enriching and the more we can showcase that, the more we will all benefit from it.

“All of the professional shots for the collection were done at The Vow Studio in Wood Wharf. It was the perfect location to do that and taking everyone for lunch locally after was just lovely.

“There’s something about birthing this collection here because there is an entrepreneurial aspect to doing that – Canary Wharf has a corporate reputation but there’s also a residential side to it that’s more community based.

“Launching here and celebrating all the people who have worked just felt really right.

“I get where the estate’s reputation comes from but I think things have shifted. It’s more of a place to hang around now and it’s very exciting.

“I love the buildings and all of the greenery.

“I have been very unapologetic about my art and I don’t want to be apologetic about my fashion.

“I’ve created pieces that are bold and colourful and I hope people will look at them and thing they’re something a bit different.” 

Image shows a red and green silk scarf with a crab print, part of Leah Sams' Paradise Collection with a price of £25
Crab Silk Scarf, £25, from The Paradise Collection

key details – Leah Sams

The Paradise Collection from Power Of Women by Leah Ibrahim Sams is available to buy online with prices starting at £25.

Leah’s other artworks including NFTs can also be viewed and purchased via this link

Find our more about Leah Sams’ Paradise Collection here

Image shows a woman wearing an orange and blue wrap dress falling to below her knees from Power Of Women
Orange And Blue Jungle Wrap Dress, £105 from The Paradise Collection

Read more: How Third Space has expanded its offering at Canary Wharf

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Isle Of Dogs: How Leslie Nkansah is set to take over food at The Space Bar

The arts centre, restaurant and bar on Westferry Road is getting a new head chef, formerly of Fat Boy’s Diner

The Space Bar’s new head chef, Leslie Nkansah

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Tere’s something brewing at The Space, steeping, infusing, intensifying.

Ingredients are coming together and there’s change in the air.

That’s because The Space Bar – the arts centre’s food, drink and occasional event venue – is all set to welcome a new head chef.

Leslie Nkansah became a cook “by mistake”. Unsure of what to do after leaving school in Shepherd’s Bush at 16, a careers advisor mentioned the idea of an apprenticeship.

“They said I’d get paid while I worked and a qualification as well, so I went along,” said Les.

“That was at Mezzo in Wardour Street, which was owned by Conran.

“It was one of the biggest restaurants in Europe at the time and I spent four years there under head chef John Torode.”

Suffice to say, the Masterchef presenter isn’t the only big name influence on Leslie’s CV.

From Mezzo, he went on to work with Henry Harris of Hush and Racine fame, spent a year in Switzerland and came back to the UK to work with Gordon Ramsay, opening the York And Albany near Regent’s Park – now closed and recently occupied by squatters.

“I fell into doing a few events after that like Royal Ascot and then went back to work for John Torode at Smith’s Of Smithfield, where I was head chef in 2011,” said Leslie.

“I was then asked by them if I’d like to go back to Switzerland as they were opening a restaurant and I spent three years working there mainly in the ski season. 

“That’s when I heard about the super yachts – people would head down from the mountains to Nice and Antibes, so I jumped on that.

“I worked on some amazing vessels – the amount of money and produce just blew me away. You can’t experience how those people live until you’re in that environment. 

“I stayed out there until 2017, when I decided to come back to England – I had some savings and decided to start Black Star Kitchen.

“I got the name from the Ghanaian flag – my dad’s from Ghana and my mum’s half Scottish.” 

Having returned to the UK, Leslie set about cooking anything and everything – including creating pop-up Ten Radius, a fine dining residency in Brighton where 80% of the ingredients were sourced from within 10 miles of the venue.

“Then Covid hit and put a spanner in the works for a lot of things,” he said. “After the pandemic, I found Fat Boy’s Diner at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

“I took that on for just over a year but unfortunately the footfall and the cost of living crisis meant my pockets weren’t deep enough to keep it going. 

“That was a shame because it’s a beautiful establishment and I had a lot of ideas and plans for it.”

Bar board chair at The Space, Andrew Finnegan

a move to the Island

It was also there that Leslie met Andrew Finnegan, bar board chair at The Space, whose interest was piqued by a serving of deep-fried olives.

Discussions that started around Leslie doing a pop-up took a different turn when a vacancy for head chef at the venue came up.

Now he’s set to take over the kitchen full-time from mid May, 2024.

“We relaunched the kitchen approximately 18 months ago and we always knew that food was one of the levers we could pull to increase trade at the venue to support the work The Space does,” said Andrew.

“We’d launched brunch in October and the idea was to have pop-ups and guest chefs.

“Pre-Covid it was a lively spot and now we have a full-time chef again, we want to get back to that. 

“Menu-wise it’s about getting re-established, attracting that footfall and then we can experiment.” 

fresh direction

Leslie added: “I got really excited when I saw the building and the outside space – there’s so much potential.

“I want to create a community hub where people can come to meet up, grab a good snack and mingle. 

“Everyone needs a place where they can come, no matter what their background, have good food and good drinks and enjoy the vibes – that’s my intention.

“Food-wise I’m looking at doing the same sort of thing I was doing at Fat Boy’s.

“There will be burgers and snacks, but I also want to play around with traditional English dishes like scotch eggs.

“I have a vegetarian one with beetroot and another where I use duck to coat the eggs.

“The layout at The Space is quite informal, so it will be grab-and-go – accessible dishes.”

supporting The Space

The plan is very much to make use of Leslie’s talents to build up the venue, with dishes that fit alongside the multitude of shows and events it hosts.

Andrew said: “It will be really nice when we get this going.

“Our brunches have been successful and their growth has been organic – people try it once and then come back.

“The more people who come here for the food and drink means the more money The Space has and the more shows it can put on its stage.”

While the bar has naturally been a stop-off for those coming to the Island for performances, it’s long played a dual role as a meeting point and welcoming haven for local residents.

Initially Leslie’s menus will aim to serve both communities with dishes appealing to wide audiences. 

However, further down the line there will hopefully be scope to experiment – an obvious step with such serious talent in the kitchen.

“I really do like to cook everything,” said Leslie.

“I love good ingredients, I love playing with food and putting ingredients in which wouldn’t normally go together and seeing if they work.

“At the moment, I’m really getting into fermenting things.

“Of course I like cooking traditional dishes – I’ve learnt from every kitchen I’ve been in – and I think my Sunday roast is among the best in the country – although that’s yet to be proven.

“I also love smoking meat, brisket or even cauliflower. I like sweet flavours with spice – lots of chillies but with maple syrup.

“My signature dish was wood pigeon with trompet mushroom puree, caramelised shallot and tapenade.

“If all this works out, I definitely want to discuss the idea of a supper club here.”

We can’t wait… 

key details

The Space is located in Westferry Road on the Isle Of Dogs and is easily reached in less than 10 minutes from Canary Wharf via the D7, 277 or 135 direct buses.

Current opening hours for The Space Bar are noon-11pm Mon-Thurs, noon-midnight on Fridays, 10am-midnight on Saturdays and 10am-10.30pm on Sundays.

Find out more about The Space Bar here

Read more: How YY London is office space fit for 2024 in Canary Wharf

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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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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

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Isle Of Dogs: How The Lord Nelson pub is starting a new chapter with Cara Venn

Bow-born licensee has taken over venue following a £220,000 refurbishment by brewer Heineken

The Lord Nelson on Manchester Road is set for its official reopening on February 24, 2024

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“It will be a very sports-led pub – a community hub – somewhere everyone can enjoy coming,” said Cara Venn.

“That’s what I want to bring to the Isle Of Dogs. We’ll be playing all the sports, with new screens installed showing Sky and TNT.” 

It’s a vision that fits well with The Lord Nelson’s history.

Built in 1855, linked to Bethnal Green’s Charrington Brewery, the pub once served as the headquarters of Millwall Rovers (now Millwall FC) who played their games at the neighbouring Lord Nelson Ground from 1886-1890 and used the boozer to change into their kit.

Fast forward 134 years, and Cara’s tenure is set to mark the latest chapter in the story of the pub that stands on the corner of East Ferry Road and Manchester Road.

Now owned by Star Pubs And Bars – part of Heineken UKThe Lord Nelson has spent the start of 2024 undergoing extensive refurbishment and is set to officially mark its reopening on February 24. 

Born and raised in Bow, Cara has moved in above the pub as its new licensee, building on a career she embarked on as a teenager.

“I’ve always worked in pubs since the age of 16, first as part-time jobs,” she said.

“I’m a bit of a workaholic – I’ve often had three jobs, working in offices and film studios – random stuff. 

“When Covid hit, I lost all my jobs. Then pubs started opening up – it was the only work available, so I thought I’d look at it properly.

Cara Venn, The Lord Nelson’s new licensee

“I had so much experience to build on and I ended up managing The Full Nelson in Deptford – which was a vegan bar serving cocktails and food. 

“That was great, but I left because I decided I wanted to join a chain company.

“You learn so much on the job, but if you join a bigger firm, you get training too and I wanted to understand every aspect of the industry, including back-of-house stuff.

“I wanted to do it properly and to find out about becoming a licensee. 

“Over the past four years I’ve been general manager for a number of pubs in London and now I’ve taken on one of my own.”

Cara’s CV includes time in charge of The Chandos in Brockley and the Three Compasses in Hornsey. She left that venue for Star’s Just Add Talent programme – which matches prospective licensees with pubs – and has presided over The Lord Nelson’s refit.

“The idea is you get your own pub, be your own boss – it’s like being a general manager, but you also get major support from Heineken and it felt like a natural progression for me,” said Cara.

“I’ve always wanted to run my own place and I’m ready to do it.

“I went for it and ended up getting The Lord Nelson. 

“They give you a list of all the pubs they have available in the country and, because east London is my home town, I thought this one would be ideal for me. 

“The pub is wet-led, which I think is a great place to get started and the plan is to take on some more pubs once I’ve progressed with this one. 

“This is going to be my baby. I wanted to go back to east London because it’s home to me and I’m passionate about the community.”

Cara has big plans for the venue and is eager to welcome locals old and new.

She said: “The refurbishment has gone really well – it was a tired looking pub and needed a lot of work.

“With Heineken investing £220,000, I feel like it’s a place people will be proud of and want to come into.

“As well as the sports, we’ll have a programme of continuous entertainment.

“I want to do quizzes, live music, burlesque nights – I feel like there will be an appetite for all of this. 

The Lord Nelson has had an extensive refit inside and out

I also want local people to come in and chat with me so I can listen to what they want.

“I want to do charity events and make it a fun pub that’s a proper boozer.

“It’s looking beautiful and I want it to be really, really busy, for everyone to come together here.

“I also have budgets to spend on hosting our own darts and pool teams – I want to sponsor local sports teams too, so get in touch.

“Living above the pub, it will be 24-7 – but this is my home and I’m really excited.”

While the pub has already opened for a soft launch, Saturday February 24’s opening party marks the start of a new era at the pub. 

“Everyone is welcome to come,” said Cara. It will already be a busy day with the Six Nations games taking place and Arsenal on as well. 

“Then, later on we’ll be having a live band called the Bear Pit – it’s going to be a big palaver.”

After that, the business is set to get into the swing of things with regular drinks offers including buy one, get a half free on Mondays and happy hour offers from Tuesday to Friday.

The venue also has a 24-seat garden, with Cara pushing for an outdoor screen in time for the warmer months.

“I can’t wait to see people sitting out there and having a good time,” said Cara.

“I can’t wait to welcome my new neighbours in.”

Find out more about The Lord Nelson here

The pub boasts a dart board, a pool table and a beer garden

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Isle Of Dogs: How Ballet Nights is set to return for its first east London show in 2024

Gala platform for ballet and contemporary dance is set for February dates at Lanterns Studio Theatre

Yasmine Naghdi and Reece Clarke of The Royal Ballet will perform

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“Our story continues” is the strapline for the latest evening of dance to come to Lanterns Studio Theatre on the Isle Of Dogs.

Building on three editions at the east London venue, which took place between September and November last year, Ballet Nights is set to return for a fourth iteration over two nights on February 23 and 24, 2024.

Having already set a predecent for drawing some of the best dancers in the world to the Island, the latest programme continues in similar vein with performers from the English National Ballet and Studio Wayne McGregor on the bill. 

But perhaps chief among the attractions will be Yasmine Naghdi and Reece Clarke, both pincipal dancers at The Royal Ballet.

The pair will perform twice on each of the gala-style evenings, presenting Spring Waters Pas De Deux to cap off a packed first half and Balcony Pas De Deux from Romeo And Juliet to round off the evening. 

“It’s the format that makes the Ballet Nights concept special,” said Jamiel Devernay-Laurence, the shows’ artistic director and producer.

“For audiences who are unfamiliar with dance, it’s a really good way to get a taste of the very best things that are going on right now.

“For artists like Yasmine and Reece – who both dance together a lot at The Royal Ballet – to be coming to Docklands is a big deal.

“Audiences can expect many virtuosic lifts, throws and catches in their first performance before they take on the memorable and iconic choreography of Sir Kenneth MacMillan in the second.

Jamiel Devernay-Laurence will once again host the evening

“We listen to our audiences and with feedback that they wanted to see more of our headliners, I wanted to experiment with a snappy performance at the end of act one before the big piece at the end the night. 

“There is nothing more meaningful and romantic than the Balcony Pas De Deux – it’s exactly what people are ready for.”

Audiences will see a total of 12 performances, split into two halves over a period of two hours on each of the two forthcoming nights at Lanterns. 

These include two new works performed by resident pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel, who will also join Felicity Chadwick for 324a, set to music by JS Bach. 

“She was a new discovery in our September show,” said Jamiel.

“Here she returns for people to really experience what she can do, dancing the choreography of Joshua Junker from The Royal Ballet.”

The shows at Lanterns differ significantly from most other presentations of ballet.

Audiences sit on a level with the dancers and performances take place right in front of the spectators. 

Ballet Nights’ programmes feature classical styles alongside contemporary pieces offering ticket holders the chance to experience a wide range of movement and music on a single evening.

But the brand goes beyond the physical performances.

“For many startups in dance and other genres of the arts, there’s often a launch, but for things to continue in perpetuity is rarer,” said Jamiel.

“I want audiences to get used to the idea of Ballet Nights both as a series of performances, but also as a platform.

“We have various digital productions so people can see behind-the-scenes and get to know the artists via our podcasts. 

Felicity Chadwick is set to perform with pianist Viktor Erik Emanuel

“Ballet Nights doesn’t go away after the performances have taken place – it continues celebrating the artists.

“That happens before the show and also at our legendary after-party experiences where we meet the dancers and discuss what they do and how they do it.

“We also want to be launching new traditions as the premiere ballet event in this area. 

“One of those, which is on the next programme, will be the mystery act, dancing in a style unlike any of the other performers on the night.

“We are quite a versatile platform in that in a full show audiences will see world class stars, modern masterpieces, legacy classics, new voices and new discoveries.

“To meet the demand for longer versions of pieces from emerging voices, we will be launching our very first Spotlight Shows on April 26 and 27, which will feature duo Pett – Clausen-Knight. 

“They will be performing in the February show too, so that is a chance for audiences to see more of them.”

The fourth edition is also set to have a contemporary offering from choreographer and dancer Jordan James Bridge as well as a debut performance from new duo Cydney Watson and Liam Woodvine, brought together by Jamiel under his creative umbrella.

“That’s a brand new launch, birthed at Lanterns Studio Theatre through one of our professional development programmes,” he said. 

“They were identified individually and we’ve had some fantastic results putting them together, so they will be making their world debut as a duo here.

“Jordan is a real audience favourite, judging by the standing ovations and it’s really fantastic to have him back again.

“He’s so capable and talented and it’s a real honour to have him performing at Ballet Nights.

“Then we have Chloe Keneally, who hasn’t had far to come, from English National Ballet at London City Island.

“She’ll be our tutu ballerina, providing us with two pieces – Etoile Variation from Paquita and Aurora from act three of Sleeping Beauty.

Ballet Nights is starting to become a piece of the fabric of what Canary Wharf has as a dance offer. 

Duo Pett – Clausen-Knight are on the bill and will also feature in a forthcoming Spotlight Show

“With some of the world’s best dancers appearing, loyal audience members are now making the journey for the second or third time.

“But what I’m most keen on is that residents nearby come and give the show a go. 

“This is a one-of-a-kind format that doesn’t yet exist anywhere else in the world and it’s right here on the Island.”

  • Doors open for Ballet Nights at 6.15pm, with performances running from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Tickets start at £60.

Find out more about Ballet Nights 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
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Isle Of Dogs: How Theatreship and Artship are set to carry cultural cargo

Vessels in the Canal And River Trust’s arts and heritage berth will bring new life to the water

Inigo Lapwood, project director of Theatreship and Artship – image Matt Grayson

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Boats are Inigo Lapwood’s thing.

He’s been living on them and repairing them since moving onto a sinking barge in Oxford when in need of a place to live.

That’s fortunate because, as project director of Theatreship, moored in the Millwall Cutting between West India South Dock and Millwall Inner Dock, there’s plenty to do.    

“I’ve drifted further and further down the Thames and as the river has got bigger, so have the boats, said Inigo.

 “Generally, my living space in them has got smaller, but the idea has very much remained the same. 

“I first came to Canary Wharf about five years ago. That was for a boat that had sunk – a steam tug named Addie in Blackwall Basin.

“By the time I got there, the Fire Brigade had done the hard work of raising her. 

“So I took that on as a repair project and found this part of London really fascinating. It seemed like a real opportunity. 

Theatreship is moored in the Millwall Cutting

“You have these huge bodies of water that are deeply connected to east London and the communities that lived and live in the area.

“There’s the white working class community, of course, but also the British merchant navy was about 25% Bengali, and that’s reflected in Tower Hamlets today.

“I really believe in what the waterways do.

“They are one of the few truly democratic spaces left – you get all kinds of people living on the water on all kinds of boats. 

“There are people who are one step up from homelessness and others on super yachts. But everyone is connected to the water – the river is the reason London exits.”

Inigo is at the heart of a team of volunteer creatives that is hoping to establish a new arts centre based on two historic craft in the dock. 

Theatreship is already in place and set to host its first events from January 24 to February 2, 2024.

The former bulk dry cargo carrier is set to be joined by Artship – a diesel coaster currently in north Germany. 

“We’ve been working very closely with the Canal And River Trust trying to increase the utilisation of the water here and to do so in a way that’s connected to the history of the place,” said Inigo. 

“Theatreship and Artship occupy the arts and heritage berth – the idea is really to reopen the dock as a public space.

“Theatreship is now in place – it’s exactly the kind of boat that used to be here when the docks were working.

“She was a bulk dry cargo ship transporting things like grain and coal.

“We sailed her across from the Netherlands and in the harbour she feels like a very big vessel. 

The boat will host performances on board

“As soon as you’re out onto the North Sea, she feels like a very small boat. We were really surprised how much she moved – how rocky she was on that crossing. 

“When loaded there would have been 300 tonnes of cargo in here and, without that, she bobbed around all over the place.”

Fully converted, Theatreship boasts a 110-seat auditorium suitable for theatre performances or film screenings and a cafe-bar area, all housed amid the steel fins of her cargo hold.

“This is where we will host our more conventional performances – stuff that works with rows of people on seats,” said Inigo. 

“When it comes to programming, our plan is to really heavily lean into being a mixed arts space.

“For example, our forthcoming film screenings are all combined with live performances.

“We want to avoid silos – especially because different artforms are richly in dialogue with each other – cinema and ballet, for instance. 

“We’re screening The Red Shoes, which features one of the most extended and virtuosic ballet scenes on film, with live dance as a response to the film from West End performer Pàje Campbell.

“For us, its an opportunity to introduce audiences to one or the other through our events.”

The venue’s first series – Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger – features six screenings of movies made by the filmmakers.

She has a 110-seat auditorium that can be used for theatre or film screenings

Hosted with the support of the BFI as part of a national celebration of the duo’s works, Theatreship’s events include the likes of opera, dance and music presented alongside the screenings. 

“At present we’re focusing on these screenings,” said Inigo.

“And we will be hosting many events in the future. We’re really lucky. 

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the support that people have shown for this project.

“We’ve been met with generosity at every level. 

“That’s everything from people coming along and grabbing a paintbrush to the support of organisations like the Canal And River Trust and BFI.

“All the projection equipment we’re using, for example, has been lent to us by one of the world’s top projectionists.

“While Theatreship is run by a volunteer team, it’s still very much a professional organisation.

“Our head of film programming, for instance, is Natalie Hill who has 25 years experience as a TV executive, has won multiple BAFTAs and has produced The Apprentice, 24Hrs in A&E and Stacey Dooley Investigates.

“Our head of music programming is Karl Lutchmayer – a multi-award winning Steinway artist and former professor at Trinity Laban in Greenwich.

“He will be performing as part of our first season at our screening of Black Narcissus on January 26, 2024.

“One of the most amazing things about the project is how supportive people have been with their professional time.”

As for the heritage aspect of the project, when in place, Theatreship and Artship will be a visual and functional link to the history of the docks’ former life as part of what was once the busiest port in the world. 

“Theatreship is from 1913 and Artship is from 1938,” said Inigo, who works as a data scientist and AI developer when he’s not crawling around on boats.

Theatreship boasts a bar space below decks, that will also be used as a cafe

“Artship is currently in north Germany, about an hour and half outside Hamburg. 

“We’re basically just waiting for the weather. I spent most of last year rebuilding her engine.

“It’s largely in its original condition and you are not only unable to buy parts for it, you can’t buy the tools to take it apart to know what you need to get.

“So we had to make the tools to disassemble it, then make the parts necessary to get it working.

“But she’s now ready to come over.  

“There’s a lot about sustainability in what we’re doing – it’s one of the cores that runs through the whole project. 

“We’re reclaiming and reusing these ships rather than seeing them go to scrap, which is what’s happened to many of their colleagues. 

“There were literally thousands of ships like Artship and they would have filled these docks. Now she’s one of the last ones left. 

“It’s really nice to bring these boats back into use and to make them relevant to the docks today rather than building something new, with the associated environmental cost of that.

“When they are both here, it will be a collection of historic ships on the dock. We’ll have theatre and cinema on this one, installations and exhibitions on the other one but they will also both be pieces of living history.

“They will be used to present things that are contemporary and current in the arts.

“Our plan is to open through the day as a cafe and bar for as many hours as possible.

“We really want to be the nucleus around which other things can be built and we’ve seen this happen already with the covered market that’s arrived nearby on South Quay.

“Ultimately, we’d like it to be the best place to be in London, maybe even the UK.

“We genuinely believe in this project and are really excited about developing an arts programme to give opportunities to young artists here. 

“Very much the long term goal is to make it something that is financially self sustaining. We’d love to become one of the Arts Council’s national portfolio organisations. 

“We’d also like to develop a long term sustainable structure so that we can have paid staff members who can commit to being here all the time.

“Our strategy has been to demonstrate that we’re able to deliver the project. 

“We’ve been lucky with the funding we’ve had already, especially in the current climate, and I think that’s a reflection of how exciting this project is.”

  • Wharf Life readers can get tickets to any of the forthcoming screenings for £9 plus a booking fee with code WHARFLIFE9 (normally £15).

Find more information about Theatreship and Artship via these links

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Isle Of Dogs: How the Elizabeth School Of London is growing to serve more students

The institution offers a wide range of courses and has taken space at Harbour Exchange to host them

Professor Ian Luke of the Elizabeth School Of London

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The Elizabeth School Of London (ESL) is enjoying something of a boom.

A higher education provider, which delivers a range of courses on behalf of various institutions, it’s expanded to seven sites across the country supporting some 9,500 students.

Its operation includes campuses in Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester and Northampton as well as two in London.

Alongside its Holborn site, ESL recently moved into Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs with a second floor of the building already in the pipeline.

For the institution’s provost, Professor Ian Luke, himself a recent arrival, it’s a time of great opportunity for the organisation.

“The exciting part of ESL is that it’s in its infancy, so what I would like to see is it pushing the boundaries of teaching and giving students authentic experiences so they can immediately use what they’ve learnt in their careers or even during their time with us,” he said.

“Canary Wharf is an inspiring place, especially if you’re working in the sectors covered by our courses.

“The fact that students are working around multi-million pound companies, and we are creating links with those firms, is very special.”

ESL has a growing campus at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs

ESL provides teaching and facilities on behalf of a number of organisations that act as awarding bodies on its courses.

These include Bath Spa University, St Mary’s University in Twickenham, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University Of Bolton and Newcastle College Group

It offers courses in the areas of business and management; finance and accounting; health and social care; construction and computing, attracting many students seeking a change of direction.

“We currently have about 9,500 students,” said Ian.

“Many are mature students who are looking to make a career change or who higher education may have passed by.

“For ESL, it’s all about providing access to opportunity.

“The joy of our system is that we haven’t got the infrastructural arrangements of a university.

“Most universities engage in research. But generally they will only receive at best 75% funding for those activities.

“We’re not a research institution, although we’re very much about scholarly research-informed teaching.

“That means all our resources can be focused on the students themselves rather than anything else – hence the investment in campuses such as Harbour Exchange.

The campus is arranged over one floor, with a second in the pipeline

“While many universities have fixed locations, ESL has the flexibility to go where its services are needed.

“The benefit to the student experience is incredibly positive and, for the partners we work with, it means they don’t have to invest in a new campus themselves in these locations.”

Part of Planet Education Networks, a collection of institutions based at Marsh Wall, ESL’s expansion has seen a whole floor of Harbour Exchange’s main building fully refurbished.

“There are IT suites, media rooms, lecture rooms, a canteen, break-out areas and even a Dragons’ Den-style pitching area,” said Ian.

“The whole place has been designed for the students to have fluidity in physical and digital resources. 

“Because we’re not trapped in campus buildings, we’ve been able to design this new facility for the way we want to teach students.

“One of the key things for us is that we’ve designed the actual timetable to support people.

“We understand that there’s a cost of living crisis and that many students have to work while they’re studying – we understand that they’re got care responsibilities.

“That’s why we operate over six days.

“Students get very focused work so they can manage their parental and other commitments.

“We also deliver evening and weekend sessions, so we try to make the timetable as bespoke for them as possible.

“What we’re delivering in terms of pedagogy is different to a university, in that we’re trying to tailor everything to an understanding of students’ lives, and more importantly, to their careers and employability afterwards.

“We know our students very, very well – who they are – and when that’s the case, you can cater for their needs.

“ESL is really about people who want to change their lives, and we’ve got the flexibility to help them do that.

“It’s crucial for us to be able to move with our students so we can offer something bespoke.”

This is all very much in Ian’s wheelhouse.

“With an academic and professional background in education, it’s no surprise he’s decided to join an institution where the importance of teaching is stated as a core value.

“I was deputy vice-chancellor at Plymouth Marjon University, a very small organisation down in the south-west, and I looked after everything there, apart from research – the academic schools, the quality of the teaching and the digital development,” he said. 

“London is a complete shift for me, but I was a teacher and my PhD and professorial were in learning and teaching so I’m hoping to bring that to ESL.

“I have an understanding of quality systems and how they work, and how to make them more robust.

“There’s something incredible happening here with ESL – there’s a very big demand for what it’s doing – and it’s very successful.

ESL boasts extensive facilities close to Canary Wharf

“The focus is heavily on the students – they want to come – so it’s up to us to manage that growth well for them.

“The joy of multiple institution awarding is that you get the best practice from everyone, and you can make sure that we represent the programmes.

“In doing so, we try to serve the community, individuals and their careers.

“We get a whole range of people coming to study with us – they are multicultural, often older and may be returning to higher education.

“ESL is rigorous in terms of the students it accepts to ensure we are recruiting people we think we can support appropriately. 

“Because the students are more mature, there is an engagement level here that not all universities experience. 

“The staff are very passionate and the students really want to make the most of these opportunities.

“It’s very inspiring for me in my role to see how they are working to grasp those at ESL.”

Typical yearly fees at ESL are £9,250.

Find more information about the Elizabeth School Of London here

Read more: How Disney 100: The Exhibition celebrates a century of history in Royal Docks

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via
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Canary Wharf: How Canary Wash aims to improve dry cleaning and laundry locally

Ali Khalil spotted a problem while working on the estate and has created a business to address it

Head of business development at Canary Wash, Ali Khalil

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Ali Khalil works in Canary Wharf.

Around five years ago, his family relocated from Jordan to the UK with the aim of establishing a global business – building on the work of its Middle Eastern company, International Technical Sources For Industrial Equipment. 

Thus United Medical Hospital Systems was born, moving to Canary Wharf after a brief period in Swiss Cottage.

Based first at One Canada Square and now in 25 Cabot Square, the company offers a range of services including hospital design, planning and the supply of equipment, especially related to medical gas systems. 

“After more than 20 years in Jordan, working in the Middle East, we had the know-how, as my father likes to say,” said Ali, who heads business development for the company.

“So we thought about coming to the UK to create a worldwide operation and we’ve more or less been based on the Wharf the whole time.

“We’ve mostly been working in exports around the world.

“We wanted a base that was close to where we were living on the Isle Of Dogs.

“As a family, you need somewhere that’s quieter where there’s not always something going on 24 hours a day and we found this place near the Wharf.

“You have the water, the sky at night and you can get everything here with lots of facilities for the same price as a place in Swiss Cottage that has fewer amenities.”

However, this isn’t an article about the family’s medical business. It’s about a problem Ali identified while working on the Wharf.

“To be honest, I think we’re struggling here with dry cleaning,” he said.

“It’s a very big business area, there are lots of people in the towers and every time you want to do dry cleaning, you wind up queueing for a long time just to drop off your clothes.

“That’s a waste of your lunch hour that day. It’s your break, you deserve it.

“So we thought: ‘why not create and offer a service to all the people working and living locally?’.”

Canary Wash is a dry cleaning and laundry business for Canary Wharf and the Isle Of Dogs

The solution he came up with was to start a business.

Canary Wash is an app-based laundry and dry cleaning firm that collects dirty clothes and delivers them back to customers on the Wharf or the Isle Of Dogs.

“The app we’ve created is live and we’re competitively priced,” said Ali.

“We’ll collect your dry cleaning and laundry, do it for you and then bring it back for the same price as you would pay if you went into a shop, queued there, dropped off your clothes and then went back another day to pick them up via the same process.

“We picked the name Canary Wash, because this is where we are operating, with a logo that features the towers.

“We started two months ago with Canary Wharf and then added the Isle Of Dogs.

“We’re expecting it mostly to serve businesses and residential addresses in the area.

“We offer dry cleaning, washing, ironing – and washing and ironing together.

“For example, customers can send pieces just for ironing or bulky items just for washing, such as duvets or blankets.

“Of course, we deal with all kinds of delicate clothes that can’t be washed at home.

“People always need dry cleaning – with delicates you just can’t risk it.

“I lost one shirt that way myself. I put it in the washing machine at home and it shrunk.

“When I put it on it was really tight – I’d been exercising in the gym, but not enough to get quite so big.”

The process has been designed to be simple.

The app deals with washing, ironing and dry cleaning for ally types of garments

Customers download the Canary Wash app, itemise which pieces of clothing they are sending and which service they require.

Then they pick a two-hour time slot for collection.

A driver arrives to collect the laundry, the order is checked, cleaned and then returned 48 hours later.

“When you make an order via the app, you will select which services you want and then we’ll know what to expect when we get the order,” said Ali, who coaches kids’ football in his spare time.

“Before we wash, we confirm the order against what has been supplied and that we know exactly what we’re doing with each item of clothing.

“If we get a piece we’re not expecting or that doesn’t fit with the order, then we contact the customer via the app to tell them that their order needs to be adjusted.

“We send all the relevant details.

“For example, if an order is for two pieces and there’s a third included, then we’ll ask whether it’s for dry cleaning, ironing or washing and, once confirmed, then we can proceed.

“For me, this business is a new challenge. There have been a lot of things to learn.

“Obviously, when you’re getting into something new you want to do as much research as possible, so we’ve been doing that. 

“We’ve visited lots of businesses and seen how it could be done before designing our service where we’ve tried to merge everything we learnt.

“Our aim is to deliver the best possible quality for the customer.

“People in this area mostly care about the quality of the service and the time more than anything else – so those are the two things we’ve focused on.

“We’ve been live for two months now and it’s been going well, but we’re looking to reach more and more people to take this as big as we can.

“We have the capacity and we’re excited for that to happen and then to expand further. 

“Our plan is to roll this out to other business areas such as Liverpool Street, where people need their time to be saved through our collection and delivery service.

“We aim to collect, clean and deliver a customer’s order back to them within 48 hours.

“That includes extra time built-in, so we can easily achieve that goal and not disappoint anybody.”

To give readers an idea of pricing, Canary Wash offers suits and dresses dry cleaned for £16.50 and £12.99 respectively.

Comparative prices from retail dry cleaners on the Wharf are from £21 and £15 for the same pieces.

Canary Wash’s app offers free pick-up and delivery on orders over £5.

Find our more about Canary Wash here

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
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