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Royal Docks: How DAT Adventures hikes and retreats aim to help participants reach peak performance in their lives

Jenna and Julian Dominique have joined forces to offer physical exercise and coaching in east London, Yorkshire and Vancouver, Canada

Jenna and Julian Dominique run their business from Royal Docks in east London

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There’s an energy about Jenna and Julian Dominique.

Together since their teens, they’ve spent years exploring the globe from their base in east London – often theming trips around physical challenges or experiences – and all while pursuing different career paths.

Jenna, raised in Chingford, is a business, career and pitch coach with a complement of brightly coloured blazers and a speciality in public speaking and hosting events.

Julian, brought up in Leytonstone and Wanstead, is a fitness instructor, personal trainer, tutor and lecturer at the University Of East London, where, more than a decade ago he landed a job at SportsDock just as its extensive facilities were bequeathed to the institution by the American basketball team following the Olympics.

Having settled in Beckton, the couple have brought their talents together to create DAT Adventures

“We first came up with the idea a few years ago and did some research around it,” said Jenna.

“When you’re physically active – thinking about your health and wellbeing – you’re also more productive. 

Participants on an urban hike from Royal Docks to Tower Bridge

“DAT is all about trying to help our clients maximise their potential and improve their performance.”

Starting out with urban hikes from UEL’s Royal Docks campus to Tower Bridge via the Thames Path around the Isle Of Dogs and then venturing to Box Hill in Surrey, the company’s natural evolution is to take its founders’ expertise and combine them on retreats.

“We’ve always travelled – to Egypt, Japan, South America – and we’ve based many of those trips around activities such as climbing or swimming,” said Jenna. 

“Julian has had personal training clients who have said they’d love to do something similar but hadn’t had the opportunity.”

Julian added: “Many are desk-based or working from home, so I’ve been helping them with things like posture – but since Covid there’s also been a lot more on the mental health side.

“We know from our own experience that being outdoors in nature is great for that and from the hikes we’ve done that doing something physical and having tangible goals people can achieve is really good.”

DAT’s urban hikes take in the sights and some local history

This year, DAT plans to host retreats in Yorkshire, with participants tackling the three peaks led by qualified mountain guide Julian in June.

This will be followed by another in Vancouver, Canada, with a range of physical activities on offer.

Both will also include one-on-one coaching sessions with Jenna with a tailored action plan produced to help participants work towards their personal and professional goals – with follow-ups after for guidance and encouragement.

“This is a big year for us, with these two retreats,” said Jenna.

“We’ve spent time in both places testing everything so we know the areas very well and have made friends there. It’s something a bit different, not just Yoga. 

“Our urban hikes have tended to attract city workers – often people with startups or businesses who want to give themselves a bit of a break by getting out of the workspace and exploring.

“With those we’ve offered personal coaching during the hikes and that’s had a really nice impact.

DAT’s next retreat will take place in Yorkshire

“The retreats offer something more structured.”

For Yorkshire, that includes a full three-night itinerary with development sessions woven in around the hiking and the food – all of which is included in the price.

Julian said: “There’s a real focus on nutrition for health and wellbeing – we’re aiming to make the meals quite a big part of the retreat.”

The couple have teamed up with Michaela Hanna, a private chef and MasterChef The Professionals contestant from Yorkshire for their UK retreat.

“People need to consume the calories before they burn them,” said Jenna.

“The goal for us is to make sure we’re doing something really beneficial. What we’ve done already has been really good and the feedback has been great.

“For Yorkshire, guests will stay at the Three Peaks Barn, which offers hot tubs, a sauna, a pool table, beautiful rooms and has amazing views of the Ribblehead Viaduct.”

Julian added: “The challenge is to do the hike in 12 hours – we begin at 5am. I’ll be taking the lead on that.

“We last did it in 10 hours, but that was during the pandemic and the pubs were closed.

“In addition to meals at the barn, Michaela will meet the group halfway through the hike and provide lunch from her vehicle.

“After the retreat, I’ll always be on hand for anyone who wants advice on exercise or nutrition – they’ll also become part of my personal training community.”

This will be followed by a trip to Canada later in the year

Vancouver will offer a similar timetable albeit with an extra night and a greater focus on other activities.

These have yet to be confirmed but, alongside hikes, are likely to include climbing and paddle-boarding as well as an opportunity to take in some of the sights.

What is clear is Jenna and Julian’s passion for delivering memorable, productive adventures.

In essence it’s how they live their own lives and their business is an extension of that.

key details

DAT Adventures’ forthcoming retreat in Yorkshire is set to take place from June 5-8.

Places cost £850 per person or £1,530 for couples and include all meals, accommodation, retreat guide services and personal coaching sessions.

The retreat size is capped at 10 people.

The company’s retreat to Vancouver will take place from October 27-30 and costs £1,850 per person or £3,330 for couples and includes two meals a day, all retreat activities, accommodation, personal coaching and retreat guide services.

The retreat size is capped at eight people.

Travel to the retreat locations is not included in the packages.

Find more information about DAT Adventures here

The Vancouver retreat will include a range of outdoor activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The final phase is located right by the Thames Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apartments are arranged around a communal garden square

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

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

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

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

Royal Albert Wharf has seen extensive regeneration in recent years

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

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

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

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

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

key details

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

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

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

Find out more about Royal Albert Wharf here

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

CASE STUDY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Royal Albert Wharf was the perfect fit.”

Unusually, three-bedroom apartments come with parking space included

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about Royal Albert Wharf here

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

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

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

Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability director Robert De Jong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a strong recipe for inspiring others.

The RDCS is based at UEL’s Royal Docks campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We take a holistic view,” said Robert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about the Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability here

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Royal Docks: How Atlantic Pacific International Rescue is training life-savers

Search and rescue charity has set up a base at Royal Albert Dock to deliver its on-water courses

Atlantic Pacific’s London courses are based in the Royal Docks

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Atlantic Pacific International Rescue officially opened its training facility on the edge of Royal Albert Dock near Newham Council’s Building 1000 this month.

But what does the charity do and what will be on offer there?

We sat down with co-founder and chief operating officer Kate Sedwell to find out.

how did it all begin?

“We started in the north-east coast of Japan after the 2011 tsunami.

“My co-founder, Robin Jenkins, and I used to work at the University Of The Arts London.

“I was head of international projects and he was part of the interior and spatial design team, which delivered academic courses.

“We had many Japanese students, so we had really good relations with Japan and used to send a lot of staff and students there, but there was a pause in that while the country recovered from the disaster.

“In 2014 we were asked to start sending students  and academics again to the north-east – where the tsunami had hit – to do an art project.

“We had no idea what was going to happen, but Robin went. He came back and said that they wanted him to build a sculpture in memory of everyone who had died.

“He said it was massively outside his comfort zone and thought it was inappropriate, because he hadn’t suffered any personal loss.”

Atlantic Pacific’s co-founder and chief operating officer, Kate Sedwell

so what was the alternative? 

“Robin said he really wanted to give Japan a lifeboat.

“My response was: ‘What? Where has this come from?’.

“He told me that a lot of people had drowned during the tsunami because there was no service to go and save them.

“People on the beaches could hear screams from the sea but weren’t able to help.

“Robin had volunteered with the RNLI’s Tower Lifeboat and had gone to a college in South Wales, which was famous for inventing that kind of inflatable boat.

“But when he asked people in Japan where their lifeboat service was, they told him the country didn’t have one.

“There is a coastguard, but people there have a different relationship to the sea – there isn’t a big leisure industry associated with it, so those getting into trouble are mostly in the fishing industry and they save one another.”

The charity trains people in the fundamentals of search and rescue

what was the next step?

“Robin came back to the UK and said that he would return to his old college and ask them if they would build us a boat.

UWC Atlantic came up with a very small RIB and UAL students designed our lifeboat in a box. 

“We used a 40-foot shipping container and they designed a crew changing room, a workshop and a boat to go in the end – it’s a one-stop shop for a lifeboat station.

“We sent the lifeboat to Kamaishi – a place that had been very severely damaged by the tsunami, which Robin had visited in 2014 – along with a team to train local people in how to operate it over there.

“This was the seed that started Atlantic Pacific and we still go back every year to deliver courses. It’s the first volunteer-run lifeboat service in Japan.”

what does the charity do today?

“We started working from UWC Atlantic’s base in Wales with students learning how to build boats and skills to tackle humanitarian disasters.

“What we realised while creating the lifeboat in a box is that there was nowhere in this country that you could go to train in search and rescue if you weren’t associated with one of the emergency services. 

“In 2017, it was clear the Atlantic Pacific project was becoming too big for us to work at UAL and commit to, so we took a leap of faith and quit our jobs to run the charity full time.

“Robin moved back to Wales to work on search and rescue boat building and we started to develop the London project.”

which is now up and running? 

“That’s right. We have a classroom and a workshop at Royal Albert Dock where we can deliver the courses that we now offer.

“We also have a workshop next door where we can tweak and maintain our fleet, which includes a brig that’s used for all our training – it’s currently moored at Royal Victoria Dock.

“Originally we were in Bermondsey, but we weren’t right by the water, so when we were invited to come and look for a home at Royal Docks, we did. 

“The water is very good for beginners – there are no tides or currents – it’s a safer environment.

“It gives you some stability to practise the slow manoeuvres, which are fundamental for being good at search-and-rescue at sea, before trying them in more challenging waters. 

“It’s a great location – well connected to our neighbour London City Airport, Heathrow and Gatwick, for people coming from Europe. Newham Council and the GLA have been really welcoming.”

Atlantic Pacific’s facility in Royal Docks

what does Atlantic Pacific offer?

“We work with young people in local schools and the reception has been really good.

“The curriculum is missing a trick in that it doesn’t empower young people to try out life-saving skills to see whether they would like a career in that sector. 

“It could be medicine or comms they find interesting, rather than being on the water – but this is a chance for them to discover that.”

“The world is changing and we’re only going to see more disasters – especially flood-related ones – and there aren’t enough people ready and trained to go and help.

“The London Ambulance Service, for example, needs more staff and the search and rescue sector at a global scale is massively under resourced. We need people ready to deploy.”

The charity runs a range of courses including Introduction To Medicine

what publicly accessible courses does Atlantic Pacific run?

“You can find full details of all our courses online, but we run a Casualty Care Course over three days, a Search And Rescue Fundamentals Course over four days and a Royal Yachting Association Powerboat Level 2 Course over two days.

“We also have a five-day Introduction To Medicine Course aimed at ages 16-20, which is designed for young people who are about to embark on medical or emergency response careers. 

“We work with instructors from the likes of the RNLI, IMRF and the Health And Safety executive to give people the best possible experience and grounding.

“We generally spend as little time in the classroom as possible so people get as much practice as they can. 

“This might be rescuing our ‘Dead Fred’ – a 70kg man overboard dummy – to practice pulling casualties into the boat or it might be learning to manoeuvre safely in tight spaces or tow.

“But it’s also important to learn practical theory. In life-saving situations, you want to know the right knots to use.”

Prices for Atlantic Pacific’s courses start at £375 per person.

The charity will aim to assist with costs if they are prohibitive for individuals.

Find out more about Atlantic Pacific here

Trainees work to rescue a ‘Dead Fred’ from the water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Farnfield, sales director at The PA Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The PA Show features a packed programme across five theatres

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The event offers plenty of opportunity for networking

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about The PA Show 2024 here

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

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Royal Docks: How NASSA’s match with the Met is more than just a game of basketball

Newham All Star Sports Academy contest with police marks 15 years of CABNAB partnership

Anthony Okereafor founded Carry A Basketball Not A Blade

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At 5.30pm a game of basketball will begin at UEL Sports Dock on January 25, 2024.

But the players will be doing more than making passes, shooting hoops and competing.

It’s not the first time that a team from Newham All Start Sports Academy (NASSA) has taken on a squad of serving Met Police officers. 

But this year is the latest in a series of events marking the 15 years of partnership between the two organisations.

Son of NASSA founder Natasha Hart – Anthony Okereafor – founded Carry A Basketball Not A Blade (CABNAB) in 2008 following the fatal stabbing of two of his friends within weeks of each other. 

Its programme reaches thousands of young people each year, alerting them to the dangers of knife crime and carrying knives through basketball coaching and question and answer sessions.

The annual game is held to show the strength of organisations working together in the community, but also to remember those who have died as a result of knife crime locally during the year – with a hoop shot for every life lost.

“We come together to play a game of basketball, but the most important part of it is remembering those lives,” said Anthony.

“The event allows people in the community to see Met officers as human beings.

“It helps to break down the barriers for young people – to show them police officers enjoy sport just as they do.

“Trying to build a safer community isn’t just about removing the knives.

“It’s about making sure the right relationships and structures are in place to try to reduce the number of people who fall through the gaps.

“The game is common ground, it changes the dynamic.

“One of the things NASSA and CABNAB participants say is that when they meet officers in these settings they talk and have conversations and that’s something to build on.”

NASSA engages with young people through sport to help tackle knife crime – image Ilyas Ayub

That’s also something the Met is looking forward to with Chief Superintendent, Simon Crick, set to take part in his first game against NASSA since taking over as borough commander for Newham and Waltham Forest.

“It’s the engagement with young people and the diversion away from anti-social behaviour that’s so important,” said Simon, who began his career as a police constable in Newham.

“This part of London has seen more than its fair share of homicides and violent incidents over recent years and I’m really supportive of what NASSA and CABNAB are trying to do.

“Having been down to Sports Dock and seen all of the things the charity has achieved, it’s really good for us to be a part of it and to try and do something positive with young people. It’s really empowering. 

“As for the game itself, we’ll get annihilated, without a doubt – I’m sure.

“I’m really looking forward to the game – anything that we can do to show a willingness to engage with young people, work with them and have a bit of fun, is really positive.

“Building relationships is what it’s all about – there’s too much animosity, so we need to do more of that. 

“Alongside me, some of my senior leadership team will be playing and they understand the need to engage with young people.

“There will also be some neighbourhood officers in there, whose purpose and role in life is to do that – to support young people and divert them away from crime and anti-social behaviour.

“I think it will be really empowering for our officers – it always helps build that trust, whenever something is fun for those taking part, and it will help make their jobs easier.

“The uniform can be seen as a barrier sometimes and, if people can see you’re human through playing sport, that’s really important.”

The charity plays its games at UEL’s Sports Dock – image Ilyas Ayub

For NASSA and the young people that participate in its programmes, the game is a chance to explore those relationships and find some parallels.

Anthony said: “When people put on a uniform, there’s a certain reputation they have to uphold.

“When we play basketball, we put on a uniform and we preach that to our young people – it’s the same with school uniforms.

“When wearing them, you have to represent certain things, to look at the bigger picture of what that means, how you carry yourself and the importance of that.

“There is a natural tension with the Met, but police officers are also the first responders – they are the people you call when you’re in trouble and they also go through traumas related to the work they do.

vWhen the officers are playing, you don’t see that tension with the young people and that’s a seed that can be planted to grow into something better.

“Who knows, one of our young people might end up saying they want to join the police themselves.

“I’ve never worked for the police, but I can imagine officers are always on high alert for themselves and those around them as they work to keep people safe.

“This game is an opportunity for them to let their hair down – a bit of a break in a safe place and a chance to communicate with young people.”

With a reduction in youth services locally, that’s a welcome prospect for Simon and his colleagues.

He said: “There’s a lack of youth engagement opportunities following austerity – we saw huge cuts to many of those services locally and what NASSA does is phenomenal – bringing young people together locally.

“It gives them the ability to work as a team, to enjoy themselves, to get fit and have fun.

“It gives them somewhere to go and a sense of purpose.

“Having young kids myself, I know how important sport can be when they’re growing and everything is changing in their lives.

NASSA is set to take on the Met in a symbolic game on January 25, 2024 – image Ilyas Ayub

“That continuous focus around sport can be crucial.

“NASSA also provides a sense of family – speaking to Natasha, you really understand it’s a close knit organisation and people coming into it will really feel that.

“That’s important because I think lots of young people feel very alienated in the modern world. What NASSA does is very powerful.

“Knife crime is an issue that goes far beyond the police.

“We deal with situations where people are on the street carrying knives or when they’ve been the victim of a homicide or serious assault.

“There are things we do – very well planned and coordinated partnership activities – to try and reduce offending.

“But tackling this issue starts a lot earlier than that. It often begins in the home with good parenting and at school with education. 

“There are so many factors that play into it.

“Where we’ve seen success across the country and across the world, has been when a public health approach is taken.

“That’s where numerous partners including charities, police forces and other organisations, come together to look at all the different factors that feed into knife crime, such as deprivation

“This game is a good example of how we’re trying to reach out and encourage young people to be part of that. 

“We’re a long way from solving the problem, but we’ve recognised as a service that only a partnership approach will address it. 

“If you speak to young people and ask them why they carry knives, a lot of them would say they are for self defence or to make sure that they are safe.

“If I had a magic wand it would be used to make people not feel unsafe or at risk so they wouldn’t feel the need to carry a knife.

“That’s the ultimate aim – it’s difficult to achieve that because of all the factors that affect it.

“For a young person to say they need to carry a knife to feel safe speaks volumes and that’s that we need to address first.”

  • While the game on January 25, 2024, is not open to the general public, organisations or individuals who would like to support NASSA can get in touch with the charity and may be able to attend.

Support from businesses, either financial or through volunteering is welcomed so NASSA and CABNAB can continue their vital work.

Find out more about NASSA and CABNAB here

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Royal Docks: How UEL has unveiled the Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability

Mayors of London and Newham attend the launch of the facility aimed at supporting innovation

The Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability

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The University Of East London has officially launched the Royal Docks Centre For Sustainability (RDCS) at its Docklands campus.

The mayors of London and Newham joined UEL’s vice-chancellor to unveil a wooden plaque to mark the December 6, 2024 opening, hailing the move as the “dawn of a new era in innovation and sustainability    

“The opening of this centre is an incredibly special milestone for UEL and for the future of our city,” said Mayor Of London, Sadiq Khan.

“I believe this centre is best seen as symbolising two of the most profound changes happening in London right now – our shift eastwards and our shift to net zero.

“The RDCS embodies London’s direction of travel.

“City Hall moved to this area because I believe great things will be done in the Royal Docks. 

“This centre is now integral to one of the most significant regeneration projects in Britain and will help drive the entire venture forward over the coming decades – delivering good, inclusive growth as well as well-paid, high-skilled, meaningful jobs for east Londoners.

“The work that will be done here presents an opportunity to demonstrate how we can achieve both economic progress and environmental protection.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor Of London

“There’s also the chance to accelerate the sustainability aspects of existing work in the community – the list of possibilities is long, but the time in which we have to act is short.”

The RDCS is billed as a “regional hatchery for innovation, skills and enterprise” offering local people, companies and UEL students access to affordable workspace as well as academic research and expertise.

Headed by director Robert De Jong, it will also run programmes aimed at launching and growing businesses or boosting east Londoners’ skills.

“As a centre we have to be an enabler and bring people in,” said Robert.

“We’re not starting from ground zero.

“We already have some amazing initiatives – the talent is here. RDCS will be a platform for us to connect, collaborate, form new partnerships and also strengthen existing ones.”

The RDCS itself is arranged over three floors of a building at UEL’s Royal Albert Dock campus.

Part-funded by the Royal Docks Team’s Good Growth Fund, it’s intended to be a hub for innovation and creativity, forming part of the university’s plans to become carbon neutral by 2030. 

Alongside other facilities it will house UEL’s Living Lab, a partnership with Siemens that aims to offer students, researchers and local businesses a place to test, research and adapt technology to real-world environments.

“The RDCS is not just a building, it is a vision brought to life,” said Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor at UEL. 

“It is a space where researchers, students, alumni, businesses, and local residents converge to create ideas, goals, and ambitions. 

“It breaks down the barriers that often separate academia from its neighbours, offering a space where fresh perspectives and the cross-pollination of ideas flourish. 

Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor at UEL

“And recognising that the success of any enterprise rests on the calibre of its workforce, the centre is poised to supply the region’s businesses with a skilled, green workforce ready to tackle the challenges of a rapidly evolving world. 

“Aligned with the objectives of London’s only Enterprise Zone and building on UEL’s lead in business incubation and acceleration, this is a ground-breaking investment into our communities’ growth and development within east London and in our gateway to the world.”

Aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, the centre has ambitious goals to contribute to the local economy, address challenges here and across the planet and to help foster a cleaner, safer world.

“The RDSC brings together entrepreneurial ingredients from across Newham to support the development of future skills while driving needed collaboration between industry, academia and our people,” said Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor Of Newham.

Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor Of Newham

“Partnerships and collaboration resulting from the launch of the new centre will help to implement the borough’s Just Transition Plan, upskilling residents and providing opportunities to deliver new solutions that will be essential for adapting to climate change and transitioning towards a green economy.

“This new space allows Newham and broader east London to convene with partners from various sectors to help collectively solve all the interconnected challenges that the climate emergency presents us. 

“While the challenges may be known, the solutions will look different in every sector, in every neighbourhood, so it’s critical to have a centre like this helping solve global challenges in a local way.”

The launch of the centre was also a platform for UEL to launch its Year Of Science, which is set to culminate with hosting the British Science Festival – a gathering of scientists, innovators, inventors, researchers and artists keen to show their work to the public.

Next year will see the 193rd iteration of the festival and mark the first time it has been held in London for more than 20 years.

Find out more about the RDCS here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Adams of the Walt Disney Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s also an extensive gift shop selling official merchandise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Royal Docks: How East River Wharf is offering an alternative for local tenants

Shared ownership properties from Legal And General Affordable Homes present a competitive proposition for residents renting in east London

The show home living space at East River Wharf

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The rental market is on Jen Cobley’s mind.

Right now, for the head of sales at Legal And General Affordable Homes, it’s proving a fertile source of shared ownership buyers.

The company is currently delivering East River Wharf, part of Ballymore’s Riverscape scheme in Royal Docks and is finding its offering is attracting tenants under pressure from rising rents. 

“We launched the development in July and the sales rate has been really good – there’s a fantastic appetite for the scheme,” said Jen.

“The key reason for that is because the area is very popular with renters.

“What we’re seeing is that landlords have pushed prices up and that’s prompted people to look at alternatives.

“At East River Wharf some people will be moving into one-beds, having moved out of rented studios at Royal Wharf, for substantially less of a monthly outlay.

“That also means, of course, that they have got a foot on the ladder.

“It’s been a really positive start in a turbulent market.

“Shared ownership has been less affected by this as higher interest rates don’t have as great an effect because the portion of the property under mortgage is typically much smaller.

Legal And General Affordable Homes head of sales Jen Cobley

“The other thing about shared ownership is that people can think long-term.

“While interest rates may be shocking right now, if you’ve bought a 25% share, you will be in a better position financially than someone with a mortgage on 90% of a property.

“This means when interest rates stabilise, it will then be easier for people to staircase and buy a larger share of the property, right up to 100%.

“It’s also the deposit levels. While buying outright might be on some people’s agendas, when you think about what 5% or 10% of the full value of a property actually looks like, it is out of reach for most people.

“Shared ownership requires a much lower initial outlay. At East River Wharf, you are looking at a deposit of just under £5,000.

“Our one-bedroom homes start at £387,500, meaning a 5% deposit on a 25% share at £96,875 would be £4,843.

“That feels do-able for people. The mortgage market is currently very stable and there are lots of lenders offering 95% mortgages right now.

“On that one-bedroom apartment, you’d be looking at monthly outgoings of just over £1,500.

“I’ve spoken to a considerable number of people renting studio flats in the surrounding area for £1,800-£1,850 per month.”

All properties come with outdoor space

Legal And General has taken on four buildings at Riverscape, with apartments in two of them for sale on a shared ownership basis.

The others will be let to tenants on an affordable rent basis. 

One, two and three-bedroom apartments are available to buy at the scheme, which is essentially an extension of the Royal Wharf development on the Thames between West Silvertown and Pontoon Dock DLR stations.

The neighbourhood has its own pier served by the Uber Boat By Thames Clippers river bus and is within walking distance of the Elizabeth Line.

It will benefit significantly from a planned new bridge across Royal Victoria Dock, part of the ongoing regeneration of Silvertown, which will make this journey even easier, putting it within about 20 minutes of Canary Wharf.

Legal And General is set to host an open day at East River Wharf, from 10am-4pm on December 2, 2023, for anyone interested in buying a shared ownership property or who would like to know more about the scheme.

Jen said: “At our event we have a fantastic sales office and apartment to show people. We’re in the very fortunate position to be taking control of a lot of the units we’re selling quite soon.

“We have one, two and three-bedroom apartments that people can see, unfurnished too and a team of sales consultants who would be delighted to meet with potential purchasers or anyone who just wants to know a little bit more about shared ownership. 

One, two and three-beds are available

“We’ll also have an independent financial advisor on hand, for anyone who would like to discuss accessing a mortgage.

“We really are ambassadors for the tenure rather than just our brand – we’re more than happy to have wider conversations about affordability and ways people can buy properties. 

“Shared ownership is not just for first-time buyers.

“If you have a property that’s sold, subject to contract we can take an application from you. 

“If you’ve previously owned a property and have left the market then we’re also an option for you.

“We see people coming to us in a wide variety of situations, whether they are looking to buy their first home, relocating after a divorce or dealing with a change in circumstances.

“It’s really open to all as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.”

Buyers at East River Wharf will get access to a wide range of facilities with the vast majority already up and running.

“In terms of the apartments at East River themselves, the quality is on a par with Ballymore. That’s a real key selling point for us. 

“Everything has outdoor space – either a balcony or a terrace and they are, of course, in a fantastic location.

“Buyers also get access to all the Royal Wharf facilities.

“There’s a real sense of community with the clubhouse.

“Something I’m really excited about is the Sky Lounge, which will be on the 16th floor of one of Riverscape’s buildings.

“It’s due to open next year and will be a business lounge with far-reaching views across to Greenwich and Canary Wharf – a place to meet neighbours and collaborate with guests.

“There’s also a concierge service that oversees the seamless running of the estate too.”

Find out more about East River Wharf here

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

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

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

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Jeremy Rees is excited – and with good reason.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That tailed off with containerisation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The project will see Excel get a second main entrance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about Excel’s expansion programme here

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

FACTS AND FIGURES

Excel’s expansion will see the following benefits created:

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

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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