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Isle Of Dogs: How Freeweaver Saori Studio runs mindful and productive classes

Craft Central-based maker will also be participating in workshops for London Craft Week in May

Erna Janine of Freeweaver Saori Studio
Erna Janine of Freeweaver Saori Studio – image James Perrin

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Decompressing after a hard day at work used to be about sweating at the gym or partying in bars.

But, post-pandemic, people have been seeking out gentler ways of relaxing – sitting at a loom, for example.

Freeweaver Saori Studio at Craft Central is fast becoming a haven for those who want to embrace a slower pace of life, even if only for a few hours.

“Half my students are fashion students and the other half come for the mindful aspect of it,” said Erna Janine, owner of the Isle Of Dogs-based business.

“Stressed out businessmen from Canary Wharf want to do something relaxing that’s totally off the grid with no screens.

“It’s rhythmical and a mindful way of gathering your thoughts while doing something with your hands to create a simple piece of cloth.”

Erna will be hosting two workshops during London Craft Week (May 9-15) – one to introduce the technique of Saori weaving and the other showing how to integrate the cloth it produces into  existing items of clothing. 

Erna at her loom in Craft Central
Erna at her loom in Craft Central – image James Perrin

She is also reinventing the pinstripe for the event and the finished result will be on display at Craft Central in Westferry Road.

The 45-year-old, who grew up in Holland, discovered the Japanese technique of Saori seven years ago.

Instead of following a rigid repeating pattern like traditional weaving, the freestyle method encourages weavers to use their creativity to create  totally unique pieces of cloth every time they weave. For Erna, it was a revelation.

“Weaving is in my family, “ she said. “I always felt an affinity with it through my maternal grandmother, who made all her own clothes and wore traditional costume. Weaving was also part of the curriculum at my schools. 

“When I was 18 I got an apprenticeship in Iceland to be part of a weaving workshop in the remote highlands for a few years, then I did a textile degree in Iceland. 

“It has just always been part of my life. But that was very formal with mega big looms that took days to even set up.

“When I found this Japanese way of weaving, I found myself as a contemporary weaver.”

Woven cloth can be used to men clothes
Woven cloth can be used to men clothes – image James Perrin

Erna travelled to Japan to study Saori – invented by Misao Jo 50 years ago as a reaction to the country’s technological boom.

“There was this throwback where people started questioning their relationship with technology,” said Erna.

“She was one of the people who made a stance against it by weaving her own clothes in a way that you could see they were handmade. 

“She was 99 when I met her and died aged 104, as something of a cult figure in Japan.

“She said the human being was full of creativity and playfulness and that should be visible in the things we surround ourselves with. They should be based on the innovation around us, but also the joy of making things. 

“I thought she captured that so well in the design of her equipment, which allows everyone to express themselves uniquely.

“With a traditional weave, you follow instructions, but this is the opposite. It’s about fun, making something new and trying things out. It is a vehicle for creativity. 

“I immediately loved it and found it very liberating because I had spent so many hours at school weaving samples and, if a small mistake showed, the cloth would be cut off and thrown away.” 

Erna said Saori was much more welcoming for beginners and she knew straight away she wanted to teach it.

“I could be a regular weaver in London and make scarves, but you can only make so many,” she said. “It’s so much more interesting to teach people how to make these simple things themselves.”

In 2017, Erna landed at Craft Central, a charity set up 50 years ago to support makers, after getting permission to teach Saori in London.

“I liked the area and its proximity to Canary Wharf and Greenwich and the maritime history,” she said. “It’s enveloped in the history of this area and it’s nice to be by the river. 

“Every time I’m a bit tired I can walk there and have a stretch – there’s so much space and it has so many textures – I always come back inspired.”

Saori is about free expression
Saori is about free expression – image James Perrin

She has about 40 regular students who she has taught to weave who now visit the studio for sessions on a loom.

“They come in by the hour – a bit like a gym – and make what they want to make,” said Erna.

“They just want some time with other people doing something creative in a beautiful setting. 

“It’s not too heavy on the technical and is really more about enjoying the colours and textures and just coming to terms with these simple techniques that surround us from birth. 

“Everything we wear is textiles and most of it is woven, so it’s a good way to connect with our distant ancestors as well, who had to create them by hand.”

Classes are held most weekdays and one weekend a month. She also organises the biannual Japanese Textile And Craft Festival with other makers and the Festival Of Natural Fibres (May 28-29)  in conjunction with the Gandhi Foundation. This year, silk spinners will be over from India to talk about their techniques.

“People are looking at objects and the things around them in a different way,” said Erna. “We see it with food – people being more picky – and I think fashion will be the next thing where people start to choose with more care.

“People should see fast fashion as pollution. I have travelled to India extensively as I work with organic cotton farms and silk spinners.

“It’s horrible to see the river bright pink because it’s in this season. I don’t think severe change is necessary, though – just slow progress because people need employment.”

Erna does her bit by avoiding acrylic yarns and using recycled materials saved from landfill.

She splits her time between Deptford and Stroud, where she has a home studio in an old textile mill.

She also weaves outside and forages in the forest. 

“I created my first clothing collection there in lockdown,” she said.

“People often ask if I go home and weave after teaching a whole day. I answer: ‘Yes of course, it’s so relaxing’.”

Craft Central has a number of workshops taking place for London Craft Week 2022

LONDON CRAFT WEEK WORKSHOPS AT CRAFT CENTRAL IN 2022

  • May 10 – Rework Your Garment Using Creative Sewing And Saori Weaving
  • May 11 – Saori Weaving With Natural Fibres + Bengala Dye 
  • May 11 –  Sewing A Japanese Komebukuro Rice Bag
  • May 13 – Ikebana Japanese Flower Arrangement
  • May 14 – Make Your Own Botanical Illustration Inspired 3D Paper Rose 
  • May 14 – Paint Your Own Ceramic
  • May 14 – Pyrography Fire Drawing Workshop
  • May 14 – Makers Market 10.30am-5.30pm. A wide range of items will be on sale at Craft Central including interior products, jewellery, prints, textiles, fashion, ceramics, and woodwork
  • May 15 – Jesmonite Casting

Find our more about these workshops here

Read more: How one couple are bringing Brazilian street food to Wapping

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Isle Of Dogs: How Velocity’s revolutionary toilet is set to save huge amounts of water

Inventor Garry Moore is set to run trials of his domestic loo at at Alpha Grove Community Centre

Garry Moore has created a domestic version of his air flush toilet

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

He might look like a sombre-suited Clark Kent but Garry Moore is actually a superhero.

He has invented a way of saving something vital to life on this planet. Water.

His superloo uses the power of air to blow away waste – saving countless litres of our most precious resource.

And he has chosen Alpha Grove Community Centre on the Isle Of Dogs as one of the first venues in the world to trial the toilets, produced by his company Velocity.

“There is amazing pressure on water sustainability in the UK,” said Garry. “People think it rains a lot here but it’s not enough to be self-sufficient. 

“We need to make sure we are not wasting what is a precious resource. It’s clean drinking water and we flush it down the toilet and turn it into raw sewage. That’s a luxury that can’t continue.”

His toilets are the first domestic designs in the world to use a pressurised air flush. They use 1.4 litres of water to clean the bowl, rather than the nine litres used on average by a traditional toilet, a reduction of 85%.

Garry said it meant his design was eco-friendly and also more pocket friendly, paying for themselves in four years through a 25% average saving on water bills. 

He said the superloo also required no behavioural change from users and would help achieve water neutrality when developments were built – meaning the impact on water availability would be the same or less than previously. 

“I’m a very practical person and have an inquisitive mind,” said Garry. “I’m always questioning how things are built and why they are built that way. 

“So many things we interact with every day have been invented by someone and I like to consider whether they could be designed better.”

The married father-of-two has self-funded and developed the toilet from his home workshop in Westcliff-on-Sea and at the Innovation Centre at the University Of Essex in Colchester, with a team of six experts.

“They include a ceramic sanitaryware specialist, a mechanical engineer and a microbiologist.

An artist’s impression of Velocity’s toilet

Garry and his team are now getting ready to bring the innovation to market within the next year. He said the Isle of Dogs was the perfect place to test the invention.

The area holds great meaning for the 57-year-old. His parents were born and raised in Canning Town, surviving the Blitz and working in the docks before moving to Ilford to raise their family.

It was at the University Of East London campus in Docklands where Garry developed his first air flush toilet with Propelair during the 1990s and 2000s.

It was aimed at commercial use and went on to be installed in the Barclays and Citi buildings in Canary Wharf as well as at branches of McDonald’s and Moto service stations.

He parted ways with the company on bad terms in 2018 and thought his dream of revolutionising the toilet industry was over.

But inspiration hit once again during lockdown.

“I realised working from home was here to stay and, with COP26, people were not saving water using those flushes at the office,” said Garry.

“So I formed a home working group with my original design team and set about designing Velocity for domestic use.”

The original 20-year patents that his Propelair design was based on had expired, so Garry was free to have another shot at his superloo.

“It wasn’t my choice to leave Propelair,” he said. “I spent 16 years building the company up, 10 years unpaid and to just have to walk away was really difficult. 

“I had secured £1million to develop a domestic version, but it just hadn’t happened.

“Then, during lockdown I just realised we had to do it – society needed it, because 75% of the market is domestic. 

“So it has been absolutely fantastic working again on a new project with the team.”

His new toilet is more compact, quieter and has a motion sensor, offering hands-free opening and flushing.

But the main star is the in-built air system, which has shades of Back To The Future inventor Doc Brown.

“I had some big lightbulb moments – the main one being something we call the flush capacitor,” said Garry.

“It came to me while lying in a hammock drinking a beer in the summer of 2020.

“With a conventional toilet, you have a water cistern and, when you flush, water flows from it into the pan and carries the waste out into the sewer. It requires a lot of water. 

“With Velocity, the lid seals onto the pan and when you flush a small amount of water comes in to clean the pan and then air is sent directly in and cannot escape, so it pushes the waste into the drain. 

“With this system, you are not actually relying on water to move the waste, it is only for cleaning.”

Garry will trial the toilet at Alpha Grove Community Centre on the Isle Of Dogs

Southwest Water is testing the design from a regulatory standpoint, while the project at Alpha Grove will check how effective Garry’s design is in a real-life situation.

The toilets are due to be installed at the community centre as part of its redevelopment, which is being overseen by Dennis Sharp Architects. 

Garry’s team is currently capturing six months of data from the site to map out its current water and energy consumption so the company can demonstrate what the savings are with Velocity. 

Garry said installation of 12 toilets was expected to take place in early summer.

“We’re really excited about the first trial at Alpha Grove because it is a residential area,” said Garry. 

“They’re trying to be an exemplar of low water use. It’s going to be a great place for us to do some demonstrations and save them water and carbon.

“We’re also looking at developing additional hygiene benefits, including chemical-free disinfectants. 

“We want to eliminate the use of bleach and develop technology that kills Covid and other viruses.”

The trained engineer said people often laughed when they first heard about his job, but quickly realised the gravity of what he is doing.

“The modern toilet was crucial in preventing cholera,” said Garry.

“I’m pleased to be following in the footsteps of Doctor John Snow, who influenced big changes in public health and the construction of improved sanitation facilities.

“The first flushing toilet was invented hundreds of years ago for Queen Elizabeth I and, since then, the industry hasn’t radically innovated at all.

“As we move into the 21st century, we need to look at a different way of doing it. A royal appointment would be fantastic – you have got to dream big.

“I know the world needs to save water and we are developing a product that’s going to enable it to do that. 

“I would love to see our toilets go into every home in the UK and to know we are really doing some good for the environment.”

Garry’s father, Stan Moore

DOCKLANDS LEGACY – THE MAN BEHIND THE MAN

When Garry’s father, Stan Moore, lived in Docklands, everything was different.

The 95-year-old grew up in Canning Town during the Second World War, when the Alpha Grove was a Methodist Church and the family’s toilet was an outhouse.

“It was my job to tear up the News Of The World, to use in it,” he said. 

Aged 14 he started working for the civil defence association, delivering messages and putting out fires around the Docks.

“It was terrible – the Blitz,” he said. “One day you would walk down a road in Canning Town and the next it was all gone. 

“As a young kid I took it all in my stride. My poor mum was a widow and had to bring up five kids with no pension.

We lost our house and got evacuated. Our family was really lucky to come out of it in one piece.”

In the 1960s his father-in-law helped get him work at Millwall and Royal Docks, but Stan said he was “very suspicious” about risking his house by giving up his £17-a-week job at William Warne rubber factory in Barking.

“There were thousands of dockers waiting to pick up work,” he said of his first day. “I was told by an elderly docker ‘no matter what, you don’t go on the ships.”

By hometime he had earned £17 loading flour and said: “I couldn’t get on my motorbike quick enough to tell my missus.”

The places he  knew have all been flattened but Stan said he loves having the chance to go back and visit with Garry and to see where his son is working.

“He’s a wonderful bloke,” said Stan, “Good looking and everything he does is good.

Read more: How Canada Water Dockside is set to transform Rotherhithe

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Isle Of Dogs: How The Sushi Co has ambitions to spread throughout the UK

Brand intends to open 13 takeaway restaurants in 2022 serving sushi made to order without the chill

Sushi from The Sushi Co on the Isle Of Dogs
Sushi from The Sushi Co on the Isle Of Dogs – image Matt Grayson

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When branches of The Sushi Co have swept the nation, with outposts in every major city and restaurants every couple of miles in London, remember that it all started on the Isle Of Dogs.

The business opened its first restaurant and takeaway at the eastern tip of Westward Parade opposite Crossharbour DLR in January and already it’s one of three locations in the capital. 

Targeting rapid growth, with plans for at least 13 restaurants this year, its owners believe they’ve spotted a gap in the takeaway market and they’re moving fast to claim it as their territory.

“We already had a background in food, running pizza franchises,” said Sam Reddy, who oversees operations on the ground for The Sushi Co.

“We’d seen the trend for sushi and initially we thought we’d become franchisees but we decided to create our own brand instead. 

“Doing that gives you a lot more freedom – you are able to determine the quality of everything and you can make decisions much more quickly.

“Personally, two years ago, I’d never even tried sushi so we had to do a lot of research. We ate in so many places, we must have tried every brand in London.”

Peng Zheng and Sam Reddy of The Sushi Co
Peng Zheng, left, and Sam Reddy of The Sushi Co – image Matt Grayson

That included eating at the restaurant of Peng Zheng, whose food impressed so much that The Sushi Co approached him to join the project. 

“Peng has designed the whole menu from scratch,” said Sam. “He’s our head chef, so while we’re good at building the sites, finding the best suppliers and investing the money where it needs to be, he can concentrate on creating the right food.

“We told him our idea – to create a UK-wide brand – and he really liked it.”

Part of the reason for that is a shared commitment to the quality of the food. Walk into The Sushi Co’s Isle Of Dogs branch and you’ll see a chiller cabinet with a selection of drinks and a couple of cheery signs explaining that the kitchen hasn’t run out of food, but that all dishes are made to order.

“When we were doing our research, we realised there were lots of brands storing products in the fridge,” said Sam.

“But that’s not sushi. It should never be stored that way and you shouldn’t eat it chilled. It should be eaten warm and freshly made.

“That is what we do. It’s not instant, customers have to wait five or 10 minutes. But because they want to eat good quality sushi, they’re happy to do that.

“Whether a customer has come to the restaurant to collect the food, or it’s being given to a delivery driver, it’s all made and served to order.

“Top sushi restaurants would never put their products in the fridge, so why would we?”

While the first restaurant has some seating for diners to eat in, The Sushi Co has primarily been conceived as a takeaway and is available through Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat. 

Sam said: “Our main target is that customers should receive food from our restaurants in under 25 minutes.

“Our focus now is on scaling up because there’s nobody else in this market in terms of delivering fresh sushi. There are some independent restaurants, but we want to grow quickly.”

The Sushi Co is located on Westward Parade
The Sushi Co is located on Westward Parade – image Matt Grayson

With an eye on maximising accessibility, Peng and the team have developed a menu rich in sushi and sashimi but that also includes a range of poke bowls, gyoza dumplings and hot meals as an alternative to the core dishes.

“Some people think sushi isn’t for them, but it is for everyone,” said Sam.

“To be honest, I had that feeling two years ago, but not anymore and that’s because I experienced it.

“When people see that it’s raw, some wonder if it’s safe to eat, but our brand follows the highest standards of food hygiene.

“We think we’ve developed a really good product, quite different to pre-prepared boxes you might buy at the supermarket and now we just really want people to try it.

“Once people come to us, they will realise how much better sushi that hasn’t been chilled really is. 

“The feedback from customers has been really great – in the end you can’t build a business if the product isn’t right.”

All of the brand's sushi is made fresh, never chilled
All of the brand’s sushi is made fresh, never chilled – image Matt Grayson

As for the future, The Sushi Co plans to roll out branches across London first, with slightly larger outposts in big cities across the country being an ambition for the future.

Food-wise, having found its feet, there are also plans afoot to collaborate with chefs on signature dishes on a regular basis.

The brand serves an extensive range of sushi including nigiri, uramaki, hosomaki and futo maki as well as selection boxes. Hot dishes include the likes of curries, noodle dishes and soups.

“Personally I really like the prawn katsu, which is fried in breadcrumbs,” said Sam. 

“But I also really enjoy the rolls we offer, many of which come with special sauces that we also make in-house.

“I really like to eat sushi, but my wife doesn’t, so having that variety on the menu is very important because it means we offer something for everyone.

“Not every takeaway business does this but we think it’s essential.

“There’s still a lot to learn for us on this brand, of course, but the first two branches have been really, really successful and we’ve just opened the third so we’re very excited about the future.

“I really believe you can’t get the quality of food that we’re serving in any other fast food takeaway.

“Of course you can go to an expensive sushi restaurant, but many of our dishes are only £10-12 and we use top quality ingredients.”

The Sushi Co is trading on the Isle Of Dogs and in Chiswick and Holborn with branches in Woodford and Lewisham set to be open by May 9.

Expect to see quite a few popping up over the coming years.

The restaurant does have space to dine in
The restaurant does have space to dine in – image Matt Grayson

Read more: Market Hall Canary Wharf set to open on April 7, 2022

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Isle Of Dogs: Poplar Harca and FAHHA Landmark Pinnacle homes for less

Housing associations unveil show homes for shared properties in Europe’s tallest residential tower

The show homes have been dressed to show the apartments' potential
The show homes have been dressed to show the apartments’ potential

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The areas surrounding Canary Wharf and the estate itself aren’t exactly short of residential towers, but only one can lay claim to be the tallest in Europe.

Landmark Pinnacle stands at the head of West India South Dock, rising more than 230m into the sky.

While the majority of the properties in the tower are being sold privately, a collection of 70 apartments has been made available on a shared ownership basis.

Housing associations Poplar Harca and Funding Affordable Homes Housing Association (FAHHA) have taken on 35 each, with the former handling sales and marketing duties on behalf of both organisations.

Located in the lower third of the 75-storey building, the properties have been designed to offer views of either the sun rising in the morning in the east or setting in the west. 

Poplar Harca head of sales and marketing Helen Mason
Poplar Harca head of sales and marketing Helen Mason

Poplar Harca head of sales and marketing Helen Mason said: “Working with FAHHA, we have a total of about 40 one and two-bedroom apartments still available at Landmark Pinnacle for shared ownership.

Buyers can generally purchase between 25% and 75% and then pay a reduced rent on the remaining equity.

“The scheme is mainly targeting first-time buyers – single, professional business people or couples in full-time employment with a total household income of less than £90,000.

“You don’t have to be a first-time buyer, but you do have to be free of a mortgage and you can’t be on any other deeds to a property part-owned here or abroad. 

“All applicants are subject to a financial assessment to ensure the scheme is affordable and that their savings don’t push them over the threshold of being considered able to buy on the open market.”

Remaining properties at Landmark Pinnacle start at £135,000 for a 25% of a one-bedroom home with a market valuation of £540,000. Two-beds start at £188,750 for the same share.

Poplar Harca senior sales executive Ashton Wylie
Poplar Harca senior sales executive Ashton Wylie

Poplar Harca senior sales executive Ashton Wylie said: “When you actually look at the monthly outgoings on these properties it’s very reasonable, which people might not assume.

“It’s well worth looking into because it would cost a buyer between £1,504 and £1,638 per month to live in a one-bed and between £1,971 and £2,232 for a two-bed. That includes the rent and the mortgage on the portion of the property the buyer owns.

“We’ve kept the rents low – to 1.75% in comparison to a typical shared ownership rate of 2.75% to make sure these properties are affordable.”

Landmark Pinnacle is located within easy walking distance of all of Canary Wharf’s amenities and transport links.

“It’s an iconic building and the location is fantastic,” said Helen.

“For anyone working in the area, it has all that on its doorstep and the estate isn’t Monday-to-Friday any more – there’s so much going on at the weekends.

“There are lots of developments in the area, but people who have seen these apartments have been really pleased with the outlook, the specification and what’s on offer. They’ve been received really well.”

Apartments come with open-plan living areas, fully fitted kitchens with integrated appliances, rainfall showers in the bathrooms, climate control systems and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The one-bedroom homes also feature winter gardens that can be used for a variety of functions. 

The service charge covers access to the concierge service and the building’s indoor garden on the 27th floor as standard.

Unusually for shared ownership properties, buyers can also choose to opt to pay more and gain access to all of the building’s facilities, which include a private cinema, private dining rooms, 75th floor roof terraces, a lounge, a library and a residents’ gym.

The apartments feature an open-plan design
The apartments feature an open-plan design

“If you buy here, you’re buying into a lifestyle,” said Ashton. “We’ve had developments before that might have been amazing but didn’t offer shared ownership buyers the option to access the amenities.

“Here that doesn’t happen and because that’s possible it really allows people to live the lifestyle they want to. 

“Many of the people who have moved in have already expressed an interest in opting in when those facilities become available, which is set to be by next April. We expect more or less everyone to end up doing it.

“You can’t opt out again once you’ve opted in, but if someone buys a flat later on, they can always take up the offer then.”

Poplar Harca has show flats dressed and ready to view at the building. Under shared ownership, prospective buyers typically pay a 5% deposit on the share of the property they’re buying.

That means, for the cheapest home available at Landmark Pinnacle, saving up £6,750 to get a foot on the ladder.

Email sales.enquiries@poplarharca.co.uk or call 020 7538 6460 for more information

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Isle Of Dogs: Personal injury lawyer secures £1.25million settlement for client

Kidd Rapinet Solicitors’ Vashti Prescott explains the importance of seeking legal advice after an injury

Vashti Prescott is a personal injury lawyer at Kidd Rapinet
Vashti Prescott is a personal injury lawyer at Kidd Rapinet – image Matt Grayson

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Mohamed Morad didn’t know when he put his helmet on and climbed onto his motorbike on a summer’s day in 2016 that his life would change forever.

Born and bred in Egypt but with an Italian passport through his mother, he’d travelled to the UK in May 2015 in the hope of earning money to support his wife and child and their unborn baby.

With no home of his own he led a life taking odd jobs in bars and restaurants, sleeping on friends’ floors and sofas or paying for nights in budget hotels.

It was while working as a fast food delivery driver on that June day that disaster struck. A taxi pulled over illegally to drop off its fare and the passenger opened the rear door of the vehicle directly into Mohamed’s path.

It was the moment those riding bicycles and motorbikes on London’s streets live in fear of – an unexpected obstacle with no hope of avoiding it. 

Mohamed was knocked off his bike, sustaining very severe injuries that, after extensive surgery, left him permanently in a wheelchair with one leg stretched out in front of him. 

He developed chronic pain syndrome and remains on a cocktail of daily medication. He has suffered bouts of severe depression, often contemplating whether to take his own life.

Medical experts have unanimously agreed that nothing further can be done to ease his physical condition save an above the knee amputation, which for religious reasons Mohamed won’t consent to. His story is a snapshot of a life shattered in an instant by terrible injury.

The fight to get Mohamed compensation has been long and complex but, five years after his accident, Isle Of Dogs-based Kidd Rapinet Solicitors settled his claim for £1.25million this year – an amount that recognises that he will never work again.

Personal injury lawyer Vashti Prescott, who represented him, said: “Since his accident Mohamed has been reliant on other people for all of his basic needs.

“During the height of lockdown he went days alone in his apartment unwashed and dependent on volunteers to bring him food. 

“He lived in squalor and, in addition to the difficulties of his physical condition he has really severe psychological problems. He knows his wife and children are overseas and he hasn’t even seen the younger child other than by talking to them daily on his phone.

“Ahead of the conclusion of the claim and with the help of Kidd Rapinet’s immigration department we managed to bring Mohamed’s family to the UK in March.”

This however was deemed to be a change in circumstances by the Government which stopped his benefits, putting enormous financial pressure on the family.

“Mohamed wanted to settle for £1.25million and while the process has been long and difficult, we hope the outcome will help him and his family,” said Vashti.

“We will assist him in investing the compensation to ensure funds last well into his future.”

The Met Police report allowed the parties involved to be identified
The Met Police report allowed the parties involved to be identified

Kidd Rapinet, which has offices at Harbour Exchange, is sharing Mohamed’s story to raise awareness of the role lawyers can play in similar situations to ensure those who suffer injuries through no fault of their own receive the compensation that they deserve.

“They should immediately seek legal advice,” said Vashti. “If something like this does happen to you, it’s important to document your injuries in as much detail as possible.

“Keep a pain dairy. The way you feel changes overtime. You might have very severe acute pain, which might then become a dull ache. It’s important to be clear how an injury and its symptoms affect you and to record that.

“Compensation is not just based on the nature of an injury – one person might break their leg and make a fairly quick recovery.

“Another might sprain their ankle but then suffer symptoms that affect them on a day-to-day basis for much longer. In this case the second person would get more compensation.

“Also document medication, not just the kind of medicines but the dosages and how they change. People should also keep a record of losses as all this information will be useful to your lawyers later on.”

“A solicitor will look at your claim, make an assessment and decide whether they will take it on a no-win, no-fee basis.

“If they do decide to take on the claim it simply means they will act for you. If successful, they will then take a fee, which is capped by law at 25%, although we only charge 20%.

“That fee is only payable on past losses and pain and suffering. All of a client’s future losses, which in Mohamed’s case, for example, were a large proportion of the £1.25million, are ring-fenced.

“Had we not been successful in his claim, we would not have charged him anything at all.

“In Mohamed’s case we applied for the police report into the accident and we used that information to identify the various parties involved.

“That enabled us to bring a claim against the taxi’s insurance company, having established the vehicle had pulled over where it shouldn’t have done.

“You don’t just claim compensation for the injury – you look at loss of earnings, care costs and the hidden costs incurred as a result of it.

“The more serious a claim, generally speaking, the longer it will take. Normally by about three years the doctors know where you stand with a serious injury and whether there’s anything more that they can do for you or might be done to improve your prognosis.”

A solicitor will then fight your corner for the best possible level of compensation on the merits of the individual case. 

Vashti said she felt the law should go further for awards over a certain level, making it a legal requirement for a court-appointed, independent financial advisor to help claimants to ensure they invest the money they get sensibly to ensure it fulfils its purpose.

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Isle Of Dogs: London Horror Festival shows set to appear at The Space for the first time

The former church will host as series of productions as part of the 2021 festival from October 19-31

Birdwatching is set in a bitterly cold forest
Birdwatching is set in a bitterly cold forest
BIRDWATCHING
Miranda Barrett’s new one act play sees three young people engaged in making a horror film in the middle of a bitterly cold forest. Expect creeping dread punctuated by moments of terror as old hates and fears are laid bare as the light starts to die. 
Oct 22-24, times vary, £15
Livestream Oct 24, £10

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For those who enjoy the tingle of fear creeping up their spinal columns, there can be few places better to watch a chiller unfold than in the shadowy confines of a 162-year-old former church. 

So devotees of the sinister, rejoice –  for the first time in its 11-year history, a serious slice of the London Horror Festival, is set to carve up the foul and fetid air at The Space arts centre. Seven shows will grace the stage at the Isle Of Dogs venue from October 19-31, with many also livestreamed on specific dates. 

The Space’s artistic director Adam Hemming said: “This is the first year we’ve been involved and we’re very excited to be hosting these shows.

“We’ve been programming a bit of horror here and there for a while, so the venue is quite well set up for spooky shows.

“It’s a really mixed bag of work – what I really love about the festival is the different ways the artists involved are telling these stories.

“There are some pieces of new writing, there’s an LGBTQIA+ play, there’s a cabaret night and there are some one-person shows and an interactive piece by someone who works in gaming and has created an immersive work and then there’s a musical.

“One of the highlights will be the first show on the bill, One Man Poe is by an actor – Stephen Smith – who did The Black Cat earlier this year when we were still in lockdown and we couldn’t have audiences.

“He performed the play on Zoom, essentially as a one-shot film that followed him round the entire venue. He’s an incredible performer.

“The fact he’s doing four Edgar Allan Poe stories in one evening for this performance is going to be pretty extraordinary. 

“We’ve been livestreaming since the beginning of the year and we’ve seen some of the work produced this way nominated for awards so we’ve got really good at it. If you’re not able to get to The Space, it’s a really great option. It also means we can make the productions available for longer for people to access.”

The festival’s other productions will be performed at The Pleasance theatre in Islington.

Look out for these shows at The Space

Stephen Smith starts in One Man Poe
Stephen Smith starts in One Man Poe
ONE MAN POE 
Stephen Smith faithfully brings four of gothic horror godfather Edgar Allan Poe's tales to life using the original text from the 1840s. An insane asylum inmate describes a murder he has just committed, a prisoner undergoes torture in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, a mad alcoholic shares his story and a man laments the loss of his lover when a raven visits his chamber.
Oct 29-31, times vary, £15
Nightmares is a horror musical to watch online
Nightmares is a horror musical to watch online
NIGHTMARES

This online watch-party allows audience members to gather virtually for a horror musical that tells the story of a man plagued by nightmares and visions who wakes with no memory of who he is or what he’s done. Nothing is what it seems and, naturally, there’s a corpse in the cellar. 
Oct 28, 6pm, £10
Expect magic, drugs and wolves in To Be A Bat
Expect magic, drugs and wolves in To Be A Bat
TO BE A BAT
This new play explores the unreality of magic, corrosive grief and a queer coming of age fractured by loss as Moi seeks to deal with the death of brother Jo through virtual modelling, drugs and consultation with a sometimes-wolf in a cemetery. 
Oct 29-31, times vary, £15
Livestream Oct 31, £10
Can you stop this happening?
Can you stop this happening?
STOP IT
This immersive experience was once a kids’ show that’s lost its nature to the decay of time. Via endless performances to dust and cobwebs the actors have gone mad, their minds tortured by nonsensical cues. Audience members are simply challenged to put a stop to it. 
Oct 29-31, times vary, £15
Glamour and creepy burlesque await
Glamour and creepy burlesque await
TALES OF THE CRYPT CABARET
Glamorous ghouls, creepy burlesque and art performance – what’s not to like? See Marquissa Darq disappear into a melting pot of plastic surgery, Gypsy Viva hiding a dark secret, Foxy Velour who isn’t what she seems and Lady Lazarus. Expect puppetry, nudity, videography and live acts. 
Oct 26-28, 8pm, £15
Livestream Oct 28, £10
James Swanton stars in Irving Undead
James Swanton stars in Irving Undead
IRVING UNDEAD
Join Henry Irving’s restless spirit as he tells the story of how he transformed himself from a stuttering, spindly country boy into the most formidable actor of the 19th century. This resurrection of the greatest horror star of his day comes from actor James Swanton – the story of a man unable to escape his monsters even in death.
Oct 22-24, times vary, £15

Livestream Oct 24, £10

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Isle Of Dogs: University Of Sunderland In London expands beyond Marsh Wall

Lynsey Bendon talks space at Harbour Exchange as growth follows increased student demand

Image shows the University Of Sunderland In London's Lynsey Bendon
The University Of Sunderland In London’s Lynsey Bendon

“We were shown a lot of different places, but this is where we want to be – it’s perfect – it works for us and it works for our students,” said Lynsey Bendon.

There’s excitement in the voice of the assistant director of operations and student experience at the University Of Sunderland In London as she talks about its expansion at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs – a move that will allow it to keep up with demand for places while retaining the links it’s built in the area since its creation in 2012.

“It’s on the opposite side of the DLR tracks to our Marsh Wall site, so it’s very close by,” said Lynsey. “We’ve been able to start with a blank canvas to design what we need as a teaching space.

“It has flexible rooms and it’s a lovely environment in terms of group and study areas. We’ve listened to what our students need and want – everything down to having a kitchen that’s really accessible where they can make their own food but also meet with staff. We’re thrilled.

“It’s also really nice to be able to grow from where we are because the students love our location next to Canary Wharf and our connections to local businesses but also the food, culture and shopping.”

The expansion of the campus, which will see the university taking a whole floor at Harbour Exchange, has been driven by significant demand. 

More than 4,400 students attended courses at its Marsh Wall base over the past year, with 2,794 joining across four intakes since March 2020.

While about 10% are international – reflecting perhaps the university’s outward-looking stance, having opened a Hong Kong campus in 2017 – about 50% are drawn from nearby London boroughs.

“Our students are what we call in the industry ‘non-traditional’,” said Lynsey. ”The average age is 36 and we have 60-40 female to male split. 

“Our motto is that we’re a life-changing university and we like to think that our people don’t necessarily come to us straight from school, but with a measured decision that they want their lives to change, which we hope to facilitate.

“We quickly realised there was a demand here in London and we tailor our courses to our students – we don’t expect them to be 18, straight out of school.

“We expect them to have experience that they can talk about and build on. When we started, some of the courses were targeted that way, but we’ve rewritten them and developed them through talking to our students to meet their needs.

“Ultimately we want them to progress, we want them to do the best they can for themselves and to fulfil their potential.

“You can’t just teach something – you have to build it around them. Our students are very vocal, which is extremely helpful when you work in the role I do, because you need ongoing conversations. We want to be there, supporting them, to help them succeed.”

Lynsey, who joined the University Of Sunderland In London in January 2020, is well placed to have those conversations, having left school after her A-Levels.

She said: “I was then unemployed for a short time before going into the workforce. I worked in banking in London in the 1990s, which was a very interesting time. When I came to have my children, I realised that it wasn’t a career I could stay in, so I left the workforce for a bit.

“Then I went back as a part-time member of staff on the help desk at the University Of East London. After a few years I specialised as an international student adviser before joining London Metropolitan University as compliance and immigration manager in 2014.

“That was challenging and taught me a lot – but I realised that I wasn’t going to progress further in my career without higher qualifications and at that point I was very lucky to be able to participate in a postgraduate certificate through my employer at that time, with the University Of Nottingham.

“So I was there, at 39, looking at a blank sheet of paper, never having done a first degree, absolutely out of my depth, and I can completely relate to our students, when they get to that point.

“But it gave me so much, some fantastic experiences and it taught me so much academically – both how to write reports and also all those things you don’t necessarily associate with academic learning. It also gave me so much confidence that I could do these things.

“I always say the tears were worth it, but I had such a good time, it outweighed any difficulties and it enabled me to go into management.

“So, after becoming the international immigration manager at London Met, I became head of student services and, in January, came here. Then lockdown happened in March, so it’s been quite a year. I had to learn quickly because I’m also the Covid lead for the London campus.

“Fortunately, it’s a really vibrant place, and a really great community, so people were very forgiving when I asked the same question for the sixth or seventh time, because I didn’t quite understand what went where.

“Our student growth over the years has been pretty consistent so I don’t think our current figures are down to people looking for a new direction just as a result of Covid.

“In our admissions process, we speak to each student individually and help them to make sure they are taking the right decision for them.

“The pandemic has shown us aspects of strength in our teaching and other areas where we’ve been forced to introduce things that we’re going to keep. We’re lucky that we get lots of people coming to us through word-of-mouth – Mr X may come to sign up with us in September and then Mrs X will follow in April – and you only really get that if you’re giving people what they want and the best tools for success.”

The University Of Sunderland in London offers courses across four main areas – business and finance; tourism, hospitality and events; nursing and health and engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The campus also offers Master Of Business Administration degrees – MBAs.

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Isle Of Dogs: How east London author’s work introduces banking to children

Nithya Sridharan – writing as PecuniArt – has published her first book, titled The Magic Box

Isle Of Dogs author Nithya Sridharan – image Matt Grayson

“My grandparents were exceptionally good storytellers,” said Nithya Sridharan. “I grew up in a joint house in Bangalore, where they lived with me and my parents. Every night me and my sister would be packed off to them for a while and they would tell us stories.

“My grandmother was a mathematician and they would weave complex topics such as algebra and geometry into the stories, which were often about the village where they grew up. As city-bred girls, me and my sister were completely enchanted by them.”

The Isle Of Dogs-based writer recently published her first book – The Magic Box – a story that similarly seeks to educate as well as entertain, although drawing on Nithya’s wealth of experience working in the financial services industry in Canary Wharf, rather than maths.

“The story, which is aimed at children aged seven to 11, came from starting to think about how I could weave some key financial concepts into a fun, magical tale, which is also south Asian, because I wanted to bring that flavour into books,” she said.

“A lot of it comes from living and learning in that part of the world. The story is set in a tropical town called Lokpuram and it follows three children who are trying to solve a problem that involves money. There’s a magical character in the mix as well.

“Within the story there are a lot of concepts that are blended together, which makes it easier for kids intuitively to understand key financial ideas, such as how a bank works, what one is and how it has money.

“There’s one part of the book which I personally enjoyed writing, that is about central reserve banking. I don’t use the words, but the concept is there and it’s woven into the story.

“We start with the idea of a bank and how borrowers and lenders can come to such an institution – a place that connects them – and shows how the basic business of banking works.

“I also talk about interest rates as a fee, which you pay on top of what you borrow. If you think about the origins of banking, the idea has been around a long time, but not in the forms we see today.

“The word ‘bank’ comes from the word ‘panca’ in Italian, which means ‘bench’. It started with people sitting down and trying to put borrowers and lenders together.

“They used to have IOU notes, which later evolved into the money and currency that we know today.

“So these concepts have been around a long time and people intuitively understand them, even if they haven’t heard of the terms before.”

Writing under the name PecuniArt – a portmanteau of the Latin word for money and art – Nithya was driven to write her book to help boost people’s knowledge of the financial world. 

“I wrote the book because financial literacy is key to the world we live in – everybody uses money,” she said. “Recently there was a study which was done by the Pensions Institute, where they found that, if you look at the population of young adults, one third of them did not understand concepts like interest rates and inflation.

“I suspect lots of adults don’t understand either, even though these terms are constantly in the news.

“Research has shown children and young adults who are basically financially literate have an easier time in their lives – they’re better able to access low-cost loans, have better credit scores and less debt delinquency.

“I feel that with the world that we live in, if you know how to interact with money, what these concepts mean and what the economy is, then you’ll engage with it better, not just in terms of borrowing and lending, but also in terms of your own personal wealth and wellbeing. You’ll know what to do and what it means when the interest rates go down – you won’t get caught out by high interest payday lenders.

“The book is meant to be read as an introductory view of what a bank is, rather than as a detailed analysis of what the world is today.

“There is a section in the book – titled the concept check – where I talk about whether what happens in the story is real. I didn’t want to go into greater detail in terms of what you get from banks, or the stock market today, because I think that’s more advanced. 

“The whole point of the book is to introduce these concepts and, obviously, it’s a magical story, so it’s not intended to be taken literally.”

Nithya, who has lived on the Island for six years, said she hoped to foster a sense of inquisitiveness about the financial system in the minds of her young readers.

“I want them to understand the concepts, but also for them to be something kids are curious about,” she said.

“I’ve had some feedback from children who have read the book, and it’s interesting that some hadn’t thought about these ideas previously – they asked a lot of questions about how it all works.

“I also hope the story gives them enough information on what these concepts are, so that they can ask and engage with adults on all those questions, and find out more about them – that it makes them curious. The feedback I’ve had has been that the kids are very engaged with the magical aspects of The Magic Box.

“The very young ones are disappointed that this part isn’t real. What was very encouraging though, was that even young readers were interested in the subject after they had read the book. You might think that banking, economics and finance sound very technical and not easily accessible, but I’m pleasantly surprised people actually find them interesting – I was hoping for that outcome.

“This is definitely an area schools should be focusing more on. An element of financial literacy should be open to all.

“There are a lot of resources out there already – the Bank Of England, for example, has a financial education portal. While some schools are doing good work, I certainly believe there should be greater involvement from them in providing financial education.

“A study by the Organisation For Economic Co-operation And Development looked at financial literacy for kids across the globe in 22 countries and found that, in certain states, policy intervention was needed to increase those levels.”

While The Magic Box – available in paperback via Amazon priced at £9.99 and at selected bookshops in London – is PecuniArt’s first title, Nithya is already thinking about another book.

“For the next one I will think about how to break down a very complex concept, like the economy,” she said.

In the meantime Nithya will continue sharing posts about money and art for both adults and kids via her Instagram account – @pecuniart.

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Blackwall: Why Sweet Nothing Bakehouse at Republic offers more than just cake

Founder Beth Cardy has opened her brand’s first bricks and mortar premises in east London

Sweet Nothing Bakehouse founder Beth Cardy
Sweet Nothing Bakehouse founder Beth Cardy – image Matt Grayson

Readers in thrall to the tyranny of the sweet tooth take note, there’s a new player in town. Baker and entrepreneur Beth Cardy recently opened the doors to her first bricks and mortar premises at Republic.

Located just over the Aspen Way foorbridge from East India DLR station, Sweet Nothing Bakehouse serves up coffee from all-female Deptford-based roastery Lomond alongside an extensive array of cakes, tarts and pastries, plus milkshakes and soft-serve ice cream from Brick Lane’s own Dappa.

Decked out in pale pinks, subtle greens and blonde wood, pepped up with pot plants and dark metalwork it’s a light, inviting interior connected to a foliage-framed outdoor space via full-height plate glass windows. It all serves as a backdrop to the punchy aesthetic of Beth’s cakes which luxuriate under curls of buttercream icing, slices of dried fruit and the glamour of glitter-spritzed cherries. 

Little surprise perhaps, that she began her career in the world of fashion before making her way into the kitchen.

“Sweet Nothing started in Hackney, in my flat with my flatmates doing bespoke cakes,” said Beth, who runs the company as managing director.

“After school I went to Sheffield Hallam University and did a fashion degree. I wanted to do design – that was my dream. I moved to London to get into the industry, and realised that it wasn’t what I wanted at all.

“At university, you’re wrapped in cotton wool, you never have the real experience, so I moved into the  production side of the industry and started baking on the side.

“My mum’s actually a baker, working in the catering industry and, even when we were kids, she would just bake with us for fun.

“I found that I really enjoyed it, and I really liked cake as well, so that helped. So, I did a bit of research and enrolled on a one-day a week patisserie course.”

A selection of cakes on offer at the bakehouse
A selection of cakes on offer at the bakehouse – image Matt Grayson

Beth continued working in fashion while she trained, eventually leaving the industry to join Euphorium Bakery in Islington, which enabled her to gain the experience necessary to become qualified as a baker.

She said: “That was really hard work, getting up at half-three in the morning for a 5am start. I did that for three months – you don’t see anyone, you get up in the dark and it was not very sociable.

“I couldn’t go out at the weekends or see friends but it didn’t really put me off, I just wanted to work for myself and set my own hours. So that’s when I started Sweet Nothing in 2015, baking bespoke cakes from home.”

Working other jobs while she nurtured her brand, she made the move into events, buying and kitting out a former horse-box trailer to make the business mobile in 2016, going on to serve her products at corporate gigs for the likes of Microsoft, Paco Rabanne and Warner Brothers Studios.

“In 2017 I started looking for premises, because that’s where I always knew I wanted to go,” she said. “I didn’t always want to be in this trailer working at events, I wanted a bakery.

“It’s taken three years from finding something to actually opening because you need the right location and the right branding.

“A few places fell through, and then finally we decided to come to Republic. The unit we have is close to the DLR and gets the foot traffic in and out of the development. 

“We finally got it in March 2020 and opened on April 1 – that took 12 months because of the pandemic, which interrupted a lot of our plans, but we are here now and we want people to know we are open.”

The bakehouse serves Lomond coffee
The bakehouse serves Lomond coffee – image Matt Grayson

Sweet Nothing is constantly evolving and, as the business establishes itself, Beth is already looking to the future, near and far.

“We are a bakery and we have a bespoke cake service, which is a big part of the company – something we’ll probably end up expanding to be our main source of income,” she said. “As a female-led business we want to promote other small firms and our ethos is very much working with independent suppliers such as Dappa and Lomond.

“We don’t use any plastic and all of our cups are biodegradable. Or cutlery is disposable or wooden.

“Any plastic we do have is made from plants, so it doesn’t take 300 years to decompose, but 30 days instead.

“That was a big thing, because opening a bakery, we might have been adding to landfill – all those cups, those lids. Even before Covid a lot of people were getting into sustainability. Think how many restaurants and cafes and take-aways there are in the world and it’s unbelievable how much rubbish they generate.

“We have a food waste bin, so anything in the kitchen which is scrap goes in the bin and is then disposed of properly. 

“We’re also working with a company called Too Good To Go, which is basically an app, that offers magic bags – we fill them up with any pastries we can’t sell at the end of the day and they go out to customers. They don’t get to choose what’s in the bag, but it means we make our costs back on the pastries and we’re not generating wasted food.

“At Republic we have plans to start a brunch service, although we’re still finalising the menu.

“It’s likely to include pancakes, avocado on toast, poached eggs, waffles and the Croissant Benny, which is Eggs Benedict in a croissant.

“It will be very Australian-inspired and we’re hoping that will come together before the end of June.

“Eventually, I want to expand to other sites then maybe to start a  franchise eventually, but that’s a few years away.”

Outdoor space at Sweet Nothing Bakehouse
Outdoor space at Sweet Nothing Bakehouse – image Matt Grayson

For now, there are plenty of attractions for customers already in place, not least a range of newly launched loaf cakes.

“They have a filling inside, which is a bit of a surprise with lots of nice textures,” said Beth. 

“Overall, Sweet Nothing is very pink, Instagrammable but still classic – over the top but not too much – our products just look mouthwatering.

“My favourite thing to do is actually the bespoke cakes, which start at £36 for a five-inch one. 

“A customer will come to us and say they want pastels or stencilling and that’s the best thing, when you get to be creative and they are happy with the result.

“Running your own business is almost more stressful than working for other people, but in a good way.

“Eventually I want to step away from the everyday responsibilities of the business and start to expand it. I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to have something like the bakery I’ve opened at Republic, to be honest.

“When I go home and have some time to myself, I think: ‘I did all that,’ and I’m so proud. Obviously it doesn’t happen overnight, but it is incredible. 

“I maybe thought I’d have a little place in a village, so to have this as my first premises is amazing and we can’t wait for more businesses to open here, which is good for all of us.” 

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Property: Why Alex Neil believes estate agency must be international and local

Matteo Congedo, regional manager for Canary Wharf and Docklands, talks service, sales and lets

Alex Neil regional manager Matteo Congedo
Alex Neil regional manager Matteo Congedo – image Matt Grayson

First established in 1984, when much of Docklands was still a derelict industrial wasteland, estate agency Alex Neil has stood the test of time, embracing the challenges of regeneration while growing and nimbly evolving to serve its ever-changing market.

Walk through the doors of its Canary Wharf and Docklands branch on Westferry Road and beneath the grey and copper of its branding you’ll find a business marketing properties in 65 different countries via 94 online portals – the kind of reach that would have been impossible 37 years ago.

“When we represent a vendor or a landlord, we do the very best we can to make sure they get maximum visibility in terms of marketing,” said regional manager Matteo Congedo.

“Because of Brexit and the fluctuations in the value of the pound, people overseas have seen that as an opportunity to invest in London and Canary Wharf is seen as one of the best places to be, so we’ve invested heavily in marketing all the properties we have internationally. That’s not something many agents can offer in London.

“But we also like to have a local presence – for example, we send out 300,000 printed supplements in the areas we cover as well and that reaches a different audience.

“We’re a modern agency, but that means using a range of different methods to make sure we cover as wide a demographic as possible. 

“One of the mistakes agencies make in terms of marketing is that they think one thing is going to work and they invest all their time and effort in that – social media, for instance. But what about people who don’t look at those platforms?

“What we’ve seen with video tours of properties during the pandemic, for example, is that because people are potentially committing themselves to a home for 30 years, they’re not going to do that if they only see it on a screen.

“It’s not like buying something on Amazon where if you don’t like it you can send it back. So during the pandemic we made sure we could continue physical viewings, equipping our staff with PPE, minimising time wasted.”

Operating from three locations in addition to Canary Wharf – Chiselhurst And Bromley, Bow And Bethnal Green and Rotherhithe And Bermondsey – the company covers Docklands, Kent, Essex and east and south-east London, marketing properties both to buy and rent.

Matteo said: “The sales market is very interesting at the moment because the only two things people were thinking about a couple of months ago were buying a place and working from home.

“At that time, because of the restrictions, buyers didn’t really have much opportunity to do anything else. With the easing, we’ve seen a bit of a drop in terms of viewings but a rise in terms of the quality of applicants – more serious buyers.

“Before we had people who were just looking around because there wasn’t much else to do.

“Now, as society opens up to other things – you can see family or friends you haven’t seen in a long time – those people who weren’t seriously committed to buying are doing those activities instead, rather than  searching for a property.

“That’s good for owners, because the time between putting a property on the market and getting an offer has fallen as a result.

“The way I see it, the average age of Canary Wharf residents is likely to drop. 

“Over the past year, families have started to be more open to other areas.  This area is great to live in but potentially doesn’t offer as much in terms of schools as some others. That’s what’s driven a lot of families to move to the outskirts of London.

“But, if you want to live in a cool place, walking distance to the office and the amenities of Canary Wharf and you want to be able to do lots of activities then it’s the place to be.

“I’m a true believer that Canary Wharf won’t struggle. Yes, over the past 15 months we’ve been through a lot and we’ll need a bit of time to adjust, but what Docklands offers is unparalleled compared to any other place in London. 

“People don’t want a long commute, especially if they’re working in financial services or for a big company where they’re doing very long hours in the office.

“The last thing you want to do after that is to go on a depressing journey on the Tube. It’s dark and dingy, especially in winter – an increasing number of people want to live close to work. 

“Also, what the buildings here offer in terms of facilities is very attractive – you have cinema rooms, swimming pools, concierge services and business hubs. The lifestyle here is completely different to how it was 20 years ago. 

“In terms of what’s popular, the older developments are really holding their ground because they offer a very large floorplan and that’s what people want. Then there are a lot of youngsters attracted by the new developments.”

Matteo says the rental market will book in September – image Matt Grayson

Matteo said the rental market locally had been through a rollercoaster of a year with the pandemic initially seeing tenants leaving the area but predicted a recovery would follow widespread return to offices.

He said: “We’ve seen Canary Wharf Group move into the build-to-rent market – a prime example being the Newfoundland building, which is just across the road from our office – that’s evidence of the demand for package deals where those renting pay a fixed price with bills included.

“We’re dealing with the Circus Apartments at Canary Riverside, which is another build-to-rent scheme  of 46 apartments, all offering luxury living because that fits with the calibre of people the area is attracing at the moment. 

“When people were not allowed in the offices, we did see a migration away but things are picking up and I think we’re going to have a boom around September when a large proportion of Canary Wharf workers are expected back in the office.

“That’s what we’re preparing our team for. It’s reassuring because there’s a huge buy-to-let market locally with many investors putting money in from abroad.”

Matteo was also keen to stress that, while Alex Neil is very much a company that looks outward, its heart is firmly in the communities it operates in, donating a percentage of its fees to a chosen charity each year and welcoming collaboration with local organisations.

He said: “Estate agency is a people business. The agent should be someone embedded in the community – it’s very important that every viewing we do, every person we speak to, we give the best possible level of customer service because you never know who you’re dealing with.

“The tenant of today could be the buyer or the landlord of tomorrow. Because we’ve been here such a long time, we have people who perhaps began renting through us but are now looking to buy and are looking only through us because they have an expectation – they know we’re going to do the best we can.

“In the industry, you see a lot of pop-up shops, businesses that start up and then close down after a couple of years because they don’t really offer a service. We’ve been established since 1984 and that says a lot.

“This year both me and the firm’s director David Hatch will be running the London Marathon to raise money for Guy’s And St Thomas’ Kidney Patients Association. We’d love to raise as much money as possible. As a company we try to do as much for charity as we can.

“An estate agency should be part of its community –  a point of contact if you need anything. 

“For example, we just bought a greenhouse for a girls school in Chiselhurst so they can grow plants. It’s about giving something back to people locally.”

Call 020 7537 9859 or go to alexneil.com for more information about properties in the area or to pledge your support for Matteo and David’s efforts in the forthcoming London Marathon

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