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Royal Docks: Momtaz Begum-Hossain offers tips on bringing colour into your life

Docklands-based author’s latest book Hello Rainbow: Finding Happiness In Colour released

Author Momtaz Begum-Hossain – image Alexandre Pichon

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BY MOMTAZ BEGUM-HOSSAIN

Short days, grey skies, and cold weather can make the winter months feel overwhelmingly bleak. But you don’t have to wallow in the winter blues.

I wrote my latest book, Hello Rainbow: Finding Happiness In Colour, because I believe it’s important to immerse yourself in the joy of colour. That’s true during winter, more than any other season. 

Colour is an instant mood-booster. It can lift our spirits, guide decision-making, communicate with our emotions and inspire our creativity, but it doesn’t always get used to its full potential. 

By welcoming colour into different aspects of your life, you’ll experience its full sensory benefits.

We don’t just see colour, we feel it too. Here are my seven suggestions for bringing more vibrancy into your life: 

Dress in a variety of shades and hues

wear it

Whether your job requires a uniform, or you work from home, wearing a pop of colour will have a mood-boosting effect on you. 

An accessory is an easy element to start with. Reach for colourful gloves when you’re outside and cosy, patterned slipper socks indoors. 

Your choice of scarf and even your face covering all involve making decisions about colour, so use them as an opportunity to experience new shades.

Go for vibrant food and drink

consume it

Though we’re in the season of craving warming, comforting soups, stews, and hotpots which typically fall into an autumnal colour palette of oranges and browns, aim to add unexpected shades to your meals. 

Visually enticing food tastes better, so engage all your senses by adding colourful touches. Salad ingredients that are normally associated with summer are ideal. 

Swap green garnish for chopped up beetroot, sliced tomatoes or spinach leaves. These go with all dishes and will complement the flavours and excite your mind. 

Experiment with different lights in your home

light up

Mood lighting and coloured lighting create atmosphere. Hang up fairy lights or, switch to smart bulbs so you can change the colour of a room instantly. 

Notice how you feel under different lights – red, blue, green, purple or white, and experiment with switching between them. 

If you experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a condition where people feel depressed during the dark days of winter – invest in a SAD lamp.

These simulate natural daylight, boosting serotonin levels making you feel naturally happier, although it’s advisable to check with a doctor before you start using one. 

Fill your workplace with bright colours

bring it to work

As a child having a pencil case filled with novelty erasers, highlighter pens and multi-coloured biros was a high point of going to school but somewhere along the line, this natural instinctive pleasure for getting excited about colour can get lost. 

Get that joy back by swapping out ordinary desk stationery for fun items – opt for a colourful re-usable drinks holder and make sure your notebooks come in a variety of hues.

Find those shades on a walk

 go on a rainbow hunt

Put aside an hour and dedicate it to seeking out and appreciating colour.

Keep an eye out for new colours you’ve not seen before, shades that make your heart sing and tones you’d like to incorporate into your life.

Do this when you’re out and about at lunchtime. 

Time spent appreciating colour by slowing down in a mindful way, is good for your overall wellbeing.

Consider focusing on on a single hue

try a colour meditation

Deep breathing helps the body calm down, relax and think more clearly. 

Meditating on colours will help you harness the energy of particular hues to help you with situations you’re dealing with and is a common practice in colour therapy treatments. 

For example, green is a naturally balancing colour so if you’re looking to become more balanced in your life you could meditate on the colour green by breathing in green light and sending it around your body. 

Blue, on the other hand, is the colour of communication so if you’re preparing for a job interview or giving a talk, meditating on blue light will help open up your communication channels ensuring you give your best performance.

Look around you for colours – image Nick Shasha

embrace nature

In winter it’s hugely beneficial for your mental and emotional health to witness as much natural daylight as you can. 

One way you can channel light energy is by watching sunrises and sunsets as often as you can. If you struggle to find the time, think of it like taking a coffee or screen break – make it part of your routine. 

Winter walks are satisfying for the soul.

Take a weekend trip to the sea to observe grey skies blending into grey seas – it’s just  as beautiful as when the water glistens under summer sunlight. 

After rainfall, look for dewdrops on blades of grass and observe how evergreens command attention when you’re in your local park. 

Whether you have five minutes or a whole day, there is joy to be found in nature by slowing down, observing changes, and taking a moment to absorb its colour-fuelled energy. 

Hello Rainbow: Finding Happiness In Colour by Momtaz Begum-Hossain is out now, published by Leaping Hare Press, priced £14.32.

Read more: Why The Sporting Club is a coaching gym

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Royal Docks: Why Lesley Green is set to walk to the North Pole to sample snow

Founder of Love To Swim will join Ann Daniels in collaboration with the European Space Agency

An image of Lesley Green who is set to go on an Arctic expedition
Lesley Green is set to depart for the Arctic in April – image Matt Grayson

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Follow this link to support Lesley on her expedition

What connects Royal Docks, Mount Everest, Bethnal Green, Kilimanjaro, the European Space Agency, east London swimming lessons and Arctic sea ice? The answer is Lesley Green. 

“I’m an East End girl, born and bred with family in the area going back generations,” said Lesley. “My dad’s side of the family all lived around Wapping and, during the Second World War, my nan refused to have any of them evacuated.

“The kids used to play on the bomb sites. While my granddad was away fighting the war, my Uncle Harry taught my dad how to swim in the Thames.

“It was him that taught me to swim, not in the river, but at St George’s Baths in the Highway.”

Talent spotted when she started school lessons at Poplar Baths, Lesley went on to join Tower Hamlets Swimming Club, eventually competing in national competitions and even overseas.

From there she progressed into coaching, taking redundancy in 2009 to set up her own school – Love To Swim. 

Her business has flourished – it’s currently running sessions at Crowne Plaza London Docklands, the Aloft Hotel in Royal Docks as well as other east London locations and for residents at a selection of Ballymore developments.

Oh, and in April, she’s going to the North Pole as part of an expedition that’s set to collect data on snow depth on the sea ice in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Lesley will be joining a team led by veteran explorer Ann Daniels, who has reached both poles during her career, spending more than 400 days hauling sledges over 3,000 miles of ice.

Image shows Arctic ice and snow
The expedition will measure the depth of snow on Arctic ice

“I’ve got a good friend – Debbie Dorans – who lives in Newcastle and is a small business owner like myself,” said Lesley. “We often go to networking events together and through those we’ve taken part in events to raise money for charity.

“In 2018 we climbed Kilimanjaro in the worst weather they’d had for 30 years – I was snowblind and Debbie got sunburnt lips – but once you’ve done something like that you’re blown away by it and our group raised more than £30,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation.

“The following year we did another charity trek with another friend of ours up to Mount Everest  Base Camp.

“It was on that climb that Debbie, who is friends with Ann, turned round and asked whether we wanted to do the North Pole next year.

“At that point, exhausted and halfway up a mountain, trudging along, let’s just say it was a no. But just before we went into the pandemic, we had another discussion about it and said: ‘OK, let’s go’.

“Ann said she was happy to take us and so we set a date of April 2022.”

An image of a polar bear – one of the hazards Lesley could encounter
Polar bears are among the potential hazards Lesley could encounter

Dovetailing with the ESA’s satellite surveillance of the Arctic ice, European Polar Expedition 22’s findings will help scientists better track the effects of climate change. 

Departing from Lonyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway, the all female team will spend around 10 days trekking over constantly moving ice from 89 degrees latitude to 90 – the North Pole.

“Everyone is waking up to what’s happening to our planet,” said Lesley. “We’ve always done things for charity and this is us wanting to make a difference to the environment – it’s about doing our bit.

“I’ve taught in schools for a number of years in Tower Hamlets and Newham and I want to be able to go into assemblies, show videos and talk through our expedition, why it’s important and how people can make a really big impact.

“We’re all older women over 40 and I also think it really matters that younger girls see what we can achieve.

“This is not just a bunch of people on a jolly to the North Pole, though. We’ll be participating in some serious scientific work to understand how fast the ice is melting. 

“In future some predictions suggest there won’t be any ice in the Arctic – you’ll be able to sail a boat there. It’s really important we raise awareness about these issues.”

Lesley is currently crowdfunding to contribute to the cost of her place on the expedition. Having teamed up with the likes of Genesis Cinema, The Florist Arms and Crowne Plaza London Docklands, those pledging money can choose from a selection of rewards including massages, pizza and pint deals and film tickets.

Those donating can also get various blocks of swimming lessons from Love To Swim. Corporate sponsorship opportunities are also available for the whole expedition.

“I’m looking to raise about £5,000, which is a small amount of money in comparison to what we need per person so it would be amazing if I raised even more,” said Lesley.

“Crowdfunding means I’m not asking simply for a donation – you get something in return so while I get the money, you get the reward.

“The money will go towards all the equipment, some of which we’ll buy and some of which we’ll hire because there’s a lot. It could be as cold as -35ºC so you need at least three jackets, all your thermal underwear, your tent and everything in it.”

With harsh conditions and danger everywhere on the ice, Lesley is keeping a cool head in the run up to the expedition, preparing her body and mind for the task ahead.

“I don’t think the challenge has quite hit me yet,” she said. ”I suppose the biggest worry is that I haven’t skied before and you have to trek over the ice on skis. I’m not worried about the training, I’ve always kept fit – I run round Victoria Park and I’ve run the London Marathon twice. I’m also doing personal training sessions with one of my swimming teachers to help build my strength for hauling the sledge.

“I’m not worried about polar bears because we’re in good hands with Ann. She has led so many expeditions to that part of the world and she’s at the top of her game.

“She’s gone through everything with us, every little piece of equipment and why we need it – thats how I know we’re in such safe hands.

“I’m very much thinking of the positives rather than the negatives. I’m sure if something happens I won’t be too impressed at the time, but it’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to support research into climate change. 

“I said I’d never do snow again after Kilimanjaro but when you come down you get that exhilaration.”

Read more: LycaHealth opens breast centre at Canary Wharf

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Royal Docks: How Jake Wigham took the plunge in lockdown and created a brand

Jake’s button-down shirts are made by hand at The Silver Building, inspired by classic American styles

Jake at work at The Silver Building
Jake at work at The Silver Building – image Matt Grayson

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When I knock on the door of Jake Wigham’s workshop at The Silver Building in Royal Docks, I can hear fast-paced music within.

Located at the end of a long white corridor in the Brutalist confines of a former brewery, there’s little to indicate that this is the site of intense industry, creativity and craftsmanship.

Step inside though, and its occupant openly wears and displays the influences that, woven together, help tell the story of his business and the clothes he designs and makes.

Jake’s is a menswear company focusing on the styles of 1950s and 1960s America,” said Jake. “It’s not just about the clothing, but the culture that surrounds it.

“I’ve always had an interest in youth sub-cultures and in music. My dad was a punk in the 1980s and, when I started making my own choices aged around 12 or 13 I got into punk and he said: ‘If you’re going to listen to punk, this is the real stuff’.

“He gave me his records, I’d put those onto tapes and I would have them in my Walkman – not really too great for a teenager, I guess, that angsty, bad attitude thing.  

“At about 15 or 16 I got into vintage black music – soul, reggae and jazz – and that was a turning point.

“My whole personality changed. The music is a lot more joyful and it helped me learn about cultures different from my own.

“That’s been a lifelong passion for the last 20 years – music is what I spend all my time and money on – buying records, going to gigs.

“That’s the good thing about London – all that culture is on your doorstep.”

Growing up in Carlisle, Jake initially left school to become a bricklayer but after a few years “got really sick of it”.

Turning instead to art school, he found inspiration in his tutors who suggested he try a creative craft.

“I liked the sound of tailoring, being able to make my own clothes,” he said.

“I’ve always been into specific cuts of clothing and I’ve always bought vintage items but, because of my height, finding things that fitted was a problem.”

Inspired by the works of Jack Kerouac, John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson, he wrote a  “quite aggressive” application to the London College Of Fashion in the style of a beat poet, setting out his likes and dislikes about the industry and modern culture. 

Life in the capital was something he’d wanted to try, having seen his brother’s experience studying in the city.

So, egged on by his tutors, he sent his piece off and was duly invited for an interview. His interviewers told him on arrival that they’d been waiting to meet the man behind his punchy personal statement and he won a place. 

Jake's shirts are cut in a traditional breezy fit
Jake’s shirts are cut in a traditional breezy fit – image Matt Grayson

“I did the degree, loved it, made a lot of friends, learned a lot about the industry and the craft,” said Jake.

“When I left, I tried to get an apprenticeship in Savile Row – I tried lots of different places, and all of them wanted me to work for free for the first six months at least.

“I’m from a northern working-class town and my parents couldn’t help support me to do that, as much as they wanted to, so I couldn’t stay in London.

“Luckily, in my home town, there are two Savile Row tailors. They are based up there but they travel all over the world.

“I had a relationship with them anyway, because in summers when I’d go back home for a few weeks, I’d go in, show them my work, and we’d chat and maybe I’d spend a few days working with them, learning bits and pieces.

“They always said: ‘When you’re finished, come up and see what you think’. But I didn’t want to move out of London.

“In the end I had to. I went up there and was offered a job – not a lot of money, but it was paid, so that was fine and I could move back in with my parents.

“I specialised in trouser-making, did an apprenticeship for a few years, and then I went freelance.”

Striking out on his own, Jake headed back to London after about six months, working for three tailors and renting the unit at The Silver Building to cope with the workload.

“I was doing really well, not making vast amounts of money, but getting lots of work,” he said.

“Then, when Covid hit, Savile Row was destroyed by it because tailors couldn’t travel and a lot of their business revolves around that.

“I’d always made my own clothes and shirts and so on, and they’ve always been specific cuts, I just decided to give it a go and make it into a business.”

“It was always my dream to have my own brand, but bringing it to fruition is a different thing. Obviously there’s a lot of money and work involved.

“Because of the freelance work I was doing, I’d never had enough time to focus on it, but that changed because of the pandemic.”

After a month of research and painstaking development to get the cut, sizes and fabrication just so, Jake was ready to launch his first shirt.

Some of Jake's equipment at his workshop
Some of Jake’s equipment at his workshop – image Matt Grayson

Promoting his brand through Instagram, on the first day he went live he had orders for 30 shirts.

“That felt fucking great, to be honest man, really incredible,” he said. “For a one-person small business it was a lot and I was really happy.

“Now I get orders worldwide from such a broad demographic of people – I suppose it’s people who appreciate craft. 

“Every piece is made to order – I don’t have any stock so every shirt here is accounted for.

“I’m trying to build a little community of like-minded people who are into the kinds of things I am.

“Jazz and reggae are my two biggest passions and everything feeds back into the company – I want to put my whole personality into it. 

“I spend a lot of time mulling over imagery and watching period films just because that’s what I’m interested in. 

“Whether that comes across when you’re just looking at a shirt on someone, I don’t know, but I try and tell the story.

“The main shirt in the range is like a mid-century cut button down from the 1950s with full sleeves and a full body.

“There’s no lining on the collar or cuffs. It’s a very soft Oxford fabric, which is heavy, durable and will literally last a lifetime.

“I use real mother-of-pearl buttons and try to make my shirts the best possible quality they can be.”

Jake's workshop is filled with vintage paraphernalia
Jake’s workshop is filled with vintage paraphernalia – image Matt Grayson

Shirts are made in a traditional breezy fit and are based on each customer’s measurements with an option for custom sleeve lengths and to have a name sewn into the collar.

“People need to understand it’s a specific cut,” said Jake.

“I get a lot of people asking for a slimmer shirt, but I always say no because you can get them anywhere. That’s not what I’m doing.

“It’s the same when people ask for a lined collar. It’s very much take it or leave it.”

That’s not to say the brand doesn’t offer options, including a shirt inspired by Miles Davies on the cover of his 1958 Milestones album.

Trousers are also soon to be available, manufactured in Yorkshire to Jake’s specifications. 

To cope with demand for his products, he’s already had to take on help.  

“The downside of the way I run the business is that there’s only a certain level I can get to, if it’s me doing it all, so I have to relinquish some of the responsibility,” he said. “I don’t really have ambitions to be Ralph Lauren or someone like that.

“I quite like the idea of it staying niche and relatively small. I’d like to have an atelier, where me and a small team of people produce really top-end products for a small customer base, because then there’s nothing throwaway about it.

“If someone buys a shirt from me, I want it to be that they want to get a lot of use out of the shirt. People are trying to go down more sustainable routes and that’s the future of clothing.”

Jake’s shirts generally cost £145 plus delivery. Orders are despatched within five weeks or sooner.

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Royal Docks: Why the Excel expansion will have an impact way beyond east London

Venue CEO Jeremy Rees explores the plans’ impact locally and across the whole of the capital

Excel CEO Jeremy Rees
Excel CEO Jeremy Rees – image Matt Grayson

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Jeremy Rees is in a buoyant mood. The bustle of the main boulevard is a welcome sight for the CEO of the Excel centre beside Royal Victoria Dock as crowds of delegates attending events arrive and depart. 

But the fact that the venue is set to host 60 exhibitions this autumn – a 50% increase on a typical year – isn’t the reason for his upbeat demeanour. It’s the future. 

Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC), which owns Excel, recently won planning approval from Newham Council for its expansion plan. 

Its proposal will see floorspace at the venue increase by 25% including 25,000sq m of event space, a high end convention space, meeting rooms and catering facilities. 

The plans, which will now be referred to the Mayor Of London for consideration, also include a substantial investment in greenery along the dock edge and a new park to the east of the site.

Jeremy said: “It’s extremely exciting and it’s been a long time in the planning. The idea is to extend Excel to the east, across the car park that’s there at the moment, so there’ll be a continuous, long, straight space.

“It will be double-decked – downstairs will be a flat floor events space and upstairs will be a proper modern convention space.

“The world has moved on in the last five years and customers’ expectations have shifted.

“What they want are extraordinarily good, modern facilities that are intimate, but can open up to really large spaces for 2,000 to 3,000 people for a banquet or a presentation.

“There are a good number of European events that can’t be hosted in the capital at the moment but, if we build it, they will come.

“London is an incredibly strong proposition for events and it always has been.

“As we come out of the pandemic, I think the same sorts of influences we have seen in previous recessions will mean people will focus their spend on top cities and events, where they know they can get a fantastic return on their investment.

“London is super-accessible, it’s worth coming, we’ve got an amazing cultural proposition and we’re trading now.

“European and American tech companies, for example, want to be back and operating but their expectations have shifted a bit.

“At Excel the boulevard is shared space with halls either side.

An artist's impression of how the expansion will look
An artist’s impression of how the expansion will look

“The advantage of the expansion is that exhibitors can own it completely, while everything else continues to operate.

“That means that, if you’re very particular about your branding – a big IT company, for instance – you can have a bright, modern space where you can control the entire environment.

“When you look at demand analysis across London and the UK, we don’t have sufficient congress space, and Phase Three will provide that in spades.

“It will bring brand new events, delegates and exhibitors to London and that’s part of a virtuous circle for the city. If you are hosting world class events you will have senior management teams from world class companies coming over for them.

“They will see London is fantastic and start to have conversations with promotional agencies, asking how they can get their roots and foundations into the city.

“So this project isn’t just about events, it’s about their far wider economic impact, about driving London forward and having a fit-for-purpose convention and exhibition centre here.”

An artist's impression of how the expansion will look
An artist’s impression of how the expansion will look

Excel also hopes the expansion, which could be open by 2024 if work is allowed to start next year, will have a similarly positive effect on its immediate surroundings.

“The Royal Docks is an enterprise zone and a big regeneration area and we all feel collectively that, if you can be a good neighbour and you can create value, then everyone wins,” said Jeremy.

“We have been talking with Newham Council and the GLA about how we can invest more in the local infrastructure, what we can do to improve the dock edge and the walkways and to make sure the landscaping is welcoming and engaging.

“In times past I’m not sure Excel has always been that welcoming to the community – it’s just been about exhibitions. There’s a chance for us to build more spaces that are generally increasingly used. 

“We have 700m of south-facing dock edge and one of the commitments I’ve made is to have, over the next couple of years, a series of exciting events and attractions that feed in more strongly to Excel as a destination where you can come as a family, a local resident or a delegate who’s flown in for a pharmacy congress and wants to have a nice evening.

 “We want to be both inward and outward facing and we’ll be announcing some really brilliant developments over the next 12 months.

“With Crossrail services coming, when the Elizabeth line starts running to Custom House, there will be an increasing opportunity for people to pop in.

“It will transform the way people use London and that connectivity means Canary Wharf, for example, will be three minutes away, so companies there will be able to use Excel as their convention centre.

“It goes both ways – the interdependence of the two will be quite powerful. Events that historically required a commitment of time to come here will now need only minutes.

“It will also open up people’s living and working arrangements locally.

“Having the Mayor Of London based at The Crystal in Royal Victoria Dock will also shine a light on the area.

“There’ll be a lot of investment partners, cultural partners and many others who wouldn’t have thought about living here, who will see it, view it, and actually be quite surprised about the opportunities the area presents and how they might fit into it.

“It’s a real vote of confidence in Royal Docks that that’s happening.

“Before 2000 Excel didn’t exist. Since then there have probably been between 45million and 50million people who have visited the place, it was a venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games and more recently served as a Nightingale Hospital and a vaccination centre.

“The events we host have an enormous economic benefit for London and we are increasingly thinking in a developmental way – that we’re more than a venue.

“If we can take that strategic leap we can have an even greater positive impact in the future.” 

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West India Quay: London: Port City exhibition set to tell the story of the docks

The Museum Of London’s multi-sensory display is created using the Port Of London Authority archive

Co-curator Claire Dobbin helped put the exhibition together
Co-curator Claire Dobbin helped put the exhibition together

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Vibrant colour, sounds, sights and smells will fill the major exhibition space at Musuem Of London Docklands when it opens its doors to visitors again on October 22.

Inside, the freshly joined pine of packing crates, resplendent in blues, reds and printed with photos, house the cargo of London: Port City and are set to tease and provoke the eyes of viewers as they explore the displays. 

Held in partnership with the Port Of London Authority (PLA), the exhibition is both a look into the past and a snapshot of the present, as it explores the impact that the arrival and departure of cargo has had on the capital since 1800.

Taking the era when the building that houses the museum itself would first have been used as a warehouse as its starting point, the display draws heavily on the PLA’s vast archive and includes 222 objects that make up an interactive timeline, revealing stories of smuggling and infrastructure. 

“The museum has been managing the archive for quite some time and there are some small aspects of it already on display there, but this is the first time it has been mined to this extent,” said co-curator Claire Dobbin.

“The port and its impact on London is massive – not just historically, but today. 

“Handling over 50million tonnes of cargo a year, from our morning coffee to the clothes we wear and materials for the buildings we live and work in, it plays a vital role in our daily lives and national economy.

“It’s moved down river – and for many of us out of sight – but the port is still very much part of London. Our riverside cityscapes are also peppered with echoes of its history in its architecture and street names.

“Our cultural landscape too has been shaped by centuries of global exchange – by people, products and ideas passing through the port. 

“This influenced and enriched language, diversity and communities that underpin the city we know today.”

A railway carriage leaves for Africa from Royal Albert Dock in 1947 – image PLA Collection/Museum Of London Docklands

Inside the exhibition, visitors will see archive photography and video, hear oral history recordings – first-hand accounts of life on the docks – and even be able to smell the odours of some of the cargoes received by the port.

“We didn’t want it to be a chronological display – that would have been too dry,” said Claire. “Instead we’ve aimed for something more interactive, so that people can connect with things.

“Everybody who comes will connect in some way, because they are here in this building. Many will come who are from the area and know some of the stories very well. We hope everyone will find some relevance in the displays.

“We knew we wanted to focus on the impact of the port on different communities in London and also the lived experience of the people working on the docks.

“For that we’ve drawn a lot on the oral history collections, which are fantastic. There are voices as well – two sections where you hear lived experiences and little anecdotes. The oral histories were done in the 1980s, so some people talk about the beginning of the 20th century, and it’s amazing to hear that first-hand. 

“This exhibition has been a real team effort – staff at the museum have spent huge amounts of time going through the archives both physical and digital to select exhibits.”

The PLA itself was created in 1909 to take over the running of the Port Of London from myriad rival private companies that built enclosed dock systems throughout the 19th century as an alternative to the comparatively poor security of the Pool Of London’s wharves.

“Because we’re covering the period from 1800, the team has been trawling through huge amounts of material such as minute books from the companies that pre-date the PLA,” said Claire.

“The wonderful thing about archives and documentation is that what they captured is what needed to be minuted at the time – what was important to that company in that meeting. It’s a different perspective.

“The real beauty of an archive exhibition is the bringing together of a range of different material.

“For example, we have a diving helmet in the exhibition, which we wanted to show, but equally wanted to bring to life, and we were able to find a film of people using the equipment.

“Honestly I could only watch it once as the thought of being under the Thames even with modern gear gives me nightmares.

“Then you have documents – we have one of the ledgers from 100 years ago showing the offloading – exactly what was coming in.

“Samples would be taken to document the quality so we’ve got some sample pots of spices and other commodities. 

“What comes through in the oral histories is that working on the docks was a sensory experience, quite a harsh environment.

“People would say you could tell where you were in Docklands by the smell of the warehouses.

“We wanted to recreate a sense of that as well as what things looked like, so there are various smells people can experience.”

A group of young Asian men on board a ship in 1908 – image PLA Collection/Museum Of London Docklands

The exhibition is also about the titanic enterprise that is the modern operation of the PLA.

“Right from the beginning we wanted to bring the docks to life and that means the current practice of the port, which is very much hidden from central London,” said Claire.

“I didn’t know much about it at all, when we started this project – I probably knew more about the historical docks than I did about the current operation and the impact it has on our lives. So we wanted the exhibition to be three-dimensional, to show the scale and dynamism of the PLA today.

“The design is a big part of the exhibition, with lots of interaction, but we wanted to get lots of hard facts in as well. I hope visitors will be interested to learn more about where they live and work and that they see the area through new eyes on leaving.”

Laid out thematically, highlights include the opportunity to discover the stories behind 80 words, phrases and place names that have their origins in the Port Of London with a focus on the its relationship to the slave and sugar trades, including a document commemorating the unveiling of the statue of slave owner and merchant Robert Milligan, which was removed from outside the museum in 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter protests. 

The exhibition will also feature Trade Winds: London a new work by artist Susan Stockwell using archive material to explore trade, economics, migration and empire.

London: Port City runs until May 8, 2022.

Entry is completely free although tickets should be booked online. Donations to the museum are welcomed.

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Royal Docks: Hyrox debut at Excel will be UK first for the emerging fitness race

Co-created by German Olympian Moritz Fürste, the event will see thousands compete at the venue

Hyrox co-founder Moritz Fürste
Hyrox co-founder Moritz Fürste

It’s fair to say Moritz Fürste has a bit of a soft spot for east London.

The German won the second of his two Olympic Gold medals for hockey at the 2012 Games in Stratford, celebrating victory in Canary Wharf – although he can’t remember exactly where. The party was obviously a good one.  

 But what do you do after you’ve reached the pinnacle of success in your chosen sport? 

In Mo’s case, the answer is to team up with global sports event expert Christian Toetzke and advertising and marketing specialist Michael Trautmann to create something new. Then spread it all over the world.

Hyrox is that thing and it’s set to arrive for the first time in the UK at Excel in Royal Docks on September 25 with sister events in Birmingham on October 30 and in Manchester on January 29 as its fourth season progresses. But what exactly is it?

“Hyrox is a new sport that doesn’t fit into any existing category,” said Mo. “The idea was not just to create an event, it was about founding a complete new sport in the world. We’re pretty convinced that we’ve discovered a field where there is a niche not used before.

“Go back 10 years and people would go to the gym, but they were often basketball players, football players or whatever.

“Nowadays more that 50% of the people that go the gym say that fitness is their sport, so that was the founding idea of our company. We had this thought of a competition, a race for those people.

“People want to show their skills and what they’ve learned. Fitness people are often very competitive, but there’s no obvious way to showcase what you’ve got.

“Of course, there are very cool sports like Crossfit, which is like for the top 0.1% of the fitness world. Then there are obstacle races, which are cool, but they’re not meant to be competitive – they’re more about completion.

“Hyrox is a mass participation event for fitness, just like triathlon is a mass participation event for endurance. Essentially it’s a combination of fitness and running, so that’s why I call it a race.”

Participants complete eight, 1km runs during the race
Participants complete eight, 1km runs during the race

The format is comparatively simple – eight separate exercises separated by eight 1k runs. The aim is to complete the whole course in the fastest time possible.

“The exercises are always the same,” said Mo. “The eight workouts after each run are always in the same order and they are doing 1km on a SkiErg, which is like a vertical rowing machine, then a sled push, where you have to push it over 50 metres of carpet.

Next you have to pull the sled back, then there are some burpee broad jumps for 80 metres in total and 1km on a rowing machine followed by a farmers carry with kettlebells.

“Then there are the sandbag lunges, with the weight on your back for 100 metres. The whole thing finishes with 75 or 100 wall balls.

“It’s always the same workout, because we are convinced that successful sports all over the world don’t change their logic every year. I think that people want to get better at what they do.

“The first question people ask when you finish a Marathon is what time did you finish in? Everybody can compare it, and then the next time you start you can compare it to your own time.”

Burpees are also part of the challenge
Burpees are also part of the challenge

Mo himself completed the course in an hour and 20 minutes – about 15 minutes quicker than the average men’s open race time – and holds the current Hyrox office record. 

With events held across Europe and the USA, the current world record stands at 55 minutes while Mo said the slowest recorded time was “by a really nice guy in Chicago” who did it in three hours and 25 minutes. 

With around 3,000 competitors at each event, a battalion of judges keeps watch over each event to ensure nobody is cheating. Those flouting the rules get a warning, a second warning and are then disqualified. 

The UK represents a significant expansion for Hyrox, which will hold 35 events worldwide this season. Competitors compete for a place at the World Championships, where those with the very best times vie for the title.

“We’re excited to be in the UK, because the UK is a massive fitness market,” said Mo.

“The percentage of people signed up to gyms there is so much higher than the rest of Europe, except for Scandinavia for some reason.

“It’s very interesting to see the amount of money that’s spent in that area. People who do stuff like that buy the best shoes they can possibly get, because even the worst runner doesn’t want their shoes to be any worse than they already are.

“London is the biggest city in Europe, so we’re more than excited to get over to Excel. 

“The biggest difficulty for us, regarding the UK events and introducing Hyrox to a new market is that people think it’s not accessible from a strength and performance perspective – that’s so far from the truth.

“We have a 99% finish rate – 99 out of 100 who start, finish the course. It is tough, really tough, but it is accessible – everybody can do it.

“There’s not a workout where people keep telling me that they couldn’t move the sled – we haven’t seen that, ever. It’s on a carpet, it’s tough, but you will finish it. That’s really important for us to explain from the beginning.

“Also, if they don’t want to do it by themselves then they can do it in the doubles competition, because there’s the mixed option where you share the workload.”

The sled push is followed by the sled pull
The sled push is followed by the sled pull

Prospective individual participants can register for the standard men’s and women’s races or the pro men’s or pro women’s competitions for £74 per person.

Single sex or mixed doubles registration costs £129, with spectator tickets available for £10, including a £5 gift voucher for use at Hyroxworld.

“Training for Hyrox is very tough and you have to run, so endurance is very important but, at the same time, you have to be a complete athlete and training for that is healthy,” said Mo. “It’s not like doing a marathon which is very hard on your feet and calves.

“Not a single muscle gets bigger than it should be – you don’t have to run 42k – it’s eight times one and that’s a big difference.

“Running 8km is one thing, but running eight singles is a completely different ballgame.

“I really think Hyrox has the potential to be an Olympic sport one day. It’s the perfect competition missing from the fitness world.

“Many people have been waiting for this kind of race to show up. Will we be at the Olympics in five years? Probably not. In 10? I don’t know, but I think that’s the path we should aim for.

“If not in the Olympics, at least making it that big and, if that doesn’t work out, we’d like to grow it to something like the Triathlon World Series or the Marathon World Series and have it known as this huge world fitness event or race that people like to attend.

“In Germany we have about 450 gym partnerships – places that pay a small licence fee for a year to use the name and the workouts, which is a very cool offline marketing tool for us and allows people to train.

“I know that we have 18 partnerships in the UK so far and counting. That’s something we’d like to expand as Hyrox continues to grow.”

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Royal Docks: Cyrus Todiwala’s Cafe Spice Namaste set to open at Royal Albert Wharf

Relocation of Prescot Street restaurant after 25 years sees east London welcome chef to quayside

Cyrus and Pervin are set to open Cafe Spice Namaste in August
Cyrus and Pervin are set to open Cafe Spice Namaste in August – image James Perrin

Aldgate’s loss is the Royal Docks’ gain. After more than a quarter of a century operating in Prescot Street, Cafe Spice Namaste – the flagship restaurant in Pervin and Cyrus Todiwala’s family business – has been forced to relocate, after losing its lease to a new landlord with an eye on redeveloping the venerable red brick building it occupied, as offices.

With the pandemic biting and hospitality reeling, the couple initially looked at opening on Commercial Street in nearby Shoreditch before a former employee, living in east London, got in touch.

“She said: ‘Why don’t you come to Royal Albert Wharf? It would be nice for a little cafe’,” said chef patron Cyrus. “So we looked at it and decided in the end to establish a wider business.

“There are lots of plans in my brain, which gradually we will put into action and, fingers crossed, we will succeed.”

At the heart of everything will be a fresh incarnation of Cafe Spice Namaste, set to open in August and located on Lower Dock Walk, less than 10 minutes on foot from Gallions Reach DLR.  

While the setting – overlooking the waters of Royal Albert Dock towards the University Of East London, Excel and London City Airport – provides the backdrop, there’s little doubt that the food will be the most potent draw. 

It would be easy to fill the remaining space on this spread by simply listing Cyrus and Pervin’s many achievements – not least holding a Michelin Bib Gourmand for nearly two decades, which would make the new restaurant the farthest east in the capital (by some distance) to trouble the guide, should it be similarly recognised.

But rather than cover the same ground as a recent episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme – which has already done a great job of distilling and presenting the background to the Todiwalas’ current situation (including their notice to quit their old premises, Cyrus’ successful battle with cancer and the story of Bombay Duck) – we’re going to focus on the future. 

Cyrus intends to start things off with a few informal evenings for those signed up online to his Greedy Pigs Club before opening the venue officially.

He said: “We always had a splash of colour and I think that will come here too. This space is a lot more modern, with big windows, so it will feel different, but we want to bring back as much of the feel of the original Cafe Spice Namaste as we can. The food is a variety of Indian cuisine, not stuck to any one region or area, though we do have an emphasis on my own style of cooking which is Parsee and we do a lot of Goan food because of my background working there for several years. We try to bring in as much of the sub-continent as possible. At the new restaurant, the classics that our regulars will be familiar with will remain – the rest will evolve.

“We will do specials around seasonal British produce and we’re also thinking that, in this area, it may be easier for people to have more shared plates, which will be small plates so we can present a bigger variety and bring more choice to the menu. We’ll also hold supper-club style events once a month that people can register for online.”

Cyrus has many ideas he hopes to develop in Royal Docks
Cyrus has many ideas he hopes to develop in Royal Docks – image James Perrin

Without the goodwill and support of its loyal group of regulars, it’s likely Cafe Spice Namaste wouldn’t be coming to the Royal Docks or anywhere else, for that matter. 

It was hit especially hard by the pandemic because of its location in the City – losing almost all passing trade – and never having focused much on takeaways, so a group of three customers led a funding drive, raising nearly £50,000 to help with the move.

Cyrus said: “That felt really amazing – where else would you have customers willing to put money in and help you relocate and re-establish yourselves? 

“That money gave us a big stepping stone. Hospitality has been decimated and we were certainly not alone in many of the difficulties we faced, but we had other problems and issues as well. We weren’t able to benefit from local sales as the City was deserted.”

His other restaurants, based in Hilton hotels, including Mr Todiwala’s on the Isle Of Dogs and one near Heathrow, remain closed too, victims of business models upset by Covid-19. In the short-term, then, it’s up to Cafe Spice Namaste to be the lead in the charge for recovery. 

During the photoshoot for this piece, a service boat was visiting Royal Docks, loading up on fresh water to supply a recently arrived superyacht in central London. Having not used the craft in a while, its crew were allowing the excess to gush through the system and down into the depths below to Cyrus’ visible discomfort. The spectacle of so much water apparently going to waste was a tough watch for a man from Bombay – a visible sign of one of the key ingredients in his makeup.

Perhaps one of the reasons the Todiwalas were able to find support in the community is that Cyrus has been persistently outward looking, keen to get deeply involved with the creation of the produce he uses and to ensure as light a touch as possible on the planet. 

“I grew up in an area with acute water shortages and no electricity for most of the day,” he said. “I wish I could get more people to see how the culture here is so wasteful – nobody considers what happens to things once they’ve been put in the bin.

“We started recycling bottles in 1992 – nobody had heard of it then and nobody wanted to do it, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of throwing them away.”

He’s also run farms producing pigs and poultry as well as agricultural plantations of pineapples, coconuts, cashews and mangos. More recently, he was the first chef ambassador for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, presenting Mudchute Park And Farm on the Isle Of Dogs with its approved status in 2017 and in June took over from the late Albert Roux as group chef ambassador with The Clink Charity, which delivers training to inmates in British prisons. He’s also in talks with a farm project in Greenwich to supply Cafe Spice Namaste with seasonal vegetables to minimise food miles.

As part of his latest venture he is also hoping to establish an academy to train young people at Royal Albert Wharf.

“We will start with one-off classes for four hours and it will grow slowly,” said Cyrus. “But some people will want to do a week and, if there’s interest and demand then we’ll build that in.

“As the restaurant opens it will be a stressful time – it’s always difficult to find your feet, but we’ve been at this for many, many years and so we’re prepared, compared to the newer operators.

“I want this to be a place that the community accepts, that draws people to us, supplying their needs at different levels. 

“One gentleman living across the water has already asked us to supply a week’s menu to him every seven days, so we’re doing that, and other people may want the same. If people sign up to our newsletter then they’ll get all the information about what we’re doing, what we’re developing. There are loads of ideas that are brewing and, when we are established, we can start to implement them.

“I’ve had a great life and a good career so far. It’s been hard, but that’s because I take on extra things, thinking about how I can help the community and what I can do for young people. But if I’d done it differently I probably wouldn’t have learned as much as I have.”

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Royal Docks: How Expressway offers industrial and office space to business

Royal Victoria Dock-based facility provides studio and growth space for small, expanding companies

An image of Expressway principal Jacob Sandelson
Expressway principal Jacob Sandelson – image Matt Grayson

For drivers cruising down into the southern slice of Royal Docks via the long, graceful curve of the Silvertown Way flyover it would be entirely possible to miss something extraordinary taking place beneath the smooth asphalt caressed by the rubber of their tyres.

But, turn right at the bottom onto the switchback of North Woolwich Road, and the hive of activity beneath the arc of the carriageways becomes increasingly apparent, a crescendo as the height of the units rises, culminating in a main entrance.

This is Expressway, a comprehensive revitalisation of the old Waterfront Studios Business Centre. General Projects, the company that bought the space in 2018, hasn’t so much updated the existing real estate as reinvented it, punching a fresh entrance through the wall to Royal Victoria Dock and installing a coffee shop serving Perky Blenders’ products to open it up to the public and fuel occupants of its studios and industrial units.

Outside, dark grey paint has refreshed the structure, while indoors, whites, greens and stencilled lettering alongside a profusion of plywood and real plants lend its communal spaces and corridors a light, airy feel. There’s no plastic foliage nonsense here, just a friendly welcoming atmosphere replete with community notice board and plenty of puns around the word ‘way’.

It’s a visual expression of the light-touch authenticity that’s at the core of General Projects’ scheme.

Studio space at Expressway in Royal Docks – image Matt Grayson

Expressway principal Jacob Sandelson said: “When the company was founded, the serviced office market was popping up all over central London, but what became apparent to us was that when you got further out, to areas such as Acton in the west, Croydon in the south, Haringey in the north and Royal Docks in the east, there wasn’t that same provision of space. 

“There were lots of blue carpet, white light offices but not much in the way of amenities or service for what we call steady growth innovators – hard working small businesses such as craft brewers, accountants, recruitment consultants and fashion designers.

“These aren’t the kinds of companies that are looking to raise £50million from venture capitalists. They’re looking to hire a couple of people who they trust, who will feel ownership of that business and will like going to work. Hyper-talented one-man-bands growing to five person firms.

“So when we were looking for locations as a company, we were hunting an incumbent sense of community.

“I’m not the figurehead of Expressway – it’s made up of the people who have worked here the longest. As a company, we’re just here to provide nice space for people and exactly the things that they want and not more than that because we know value is the most important part of our product.”

In addition to private office studios, typically 350sq ft, the facility boasts communal showers, cycle spaces, meeting rooms and a co-working space as well as industrial units of between 1,000sq ft and 7,000sq ft.

“We think this is London’s first truly serviced industrial space,” said Jacob. “We can provide spaces fully furnished or fitted at a basic level with services connected and wireless and wired internet connections included. It’s really up to the business. It’s also about supporting local people – around 50% of the people who work here live within 15 minutes’ walk.”

Key to Expressway’s offer is the importance it places on developing its community of businesses, whether that’s assisting firms in navigating through the choppy economic waters of Covid-19 or helping support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“I’m incredibly proud of how we acted through the pandemic,” said Jacob. “It was a time when there was fear in every email. 

“As soon as it was clear Covid-19 was becoming a problem we set up the Expressway Genius Bar for our tenants, staffed full-time by a colleague of mine.

“His job was to understand and be the guy to go to on everything from VAT deferment to furlough, the Coronavirus Interruption Business Loan Scheme, grant funding and the bounce back loans.

“The aim was to communicate with all of our tenants and stand between them and the complexity of accessing assistance and money.

“We helped more than 60 businesses get more than £600,000 of grant funding and that really helped. We’re currently at 92% occupancy and I hope people here would talk about us favourably as an owner-operator.” 

Expressway’s industrial units – image Matt Grayson

General Projects is also working to create a circular model where Expressway, in partnership with the council-run Newham Workplace and the Royal Docks Team, hosts the Youth Incubator programme.

“Fostering small and local businesses is at the core of everything we do,” said Jacob. “We have a number of initiatives but this programme in particular offers 17 people aged 18-30 free membership of Expressway. Newham has very high levels of youth unemployment but, when you have that, you can also have very high levels of entrepreneurship.

“Our incubees get skills seminars, development support, social media marketing advice, guidance on accounting for small businesses and on how to raise funds. 

“They also get free, relevant mentoring – we’re not experts in any of those areas but we have an on-site network of 162 small and medium-size businesses that have all been down those roads, have trodden those paths and completely understand and empathise with the challenges. 

“Expressway acts as a social brokerage to match businesses with young people on the programme and we welcomed our second cohort at the end of March.

“What I would really like to see is someone go round the full circle, coming to the incubator, growing from a single person business and taking space from us and then in turn becoming a mentor. 

“I want as large a number as possible of our existing tenants to remain with us and for Expressway to be a place that feels lived in as well as worked in, for it to continue to be a space where genuine experiences happen.” 

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Royal Docks: Why Silverspace Studios’ founders created an all-inclusive business

Image shows Michael Stuart-Daley and Calvin Mlilo of Silverspace

How Calvin Mlilo and Michael Stuart-Daley created a space for photographers, by photographers

Image shows Calvin and Michael in their studio
Michael Stuart-Daley, left, and Calvin Mlilo created Silverspace Studios in Royal Docks – image Matt Grayson

Both Calvin Mlilo and Michael Stuart-Daley want me to see Studio A. Our interview has come to an end just as their clients vacate the space. So the two photographers who founded Silverspace Studios together at The Silver Building in Royal Docks in 2018, can finally take me into the 400sq ft room where it all began.

Knowing that their studio hire business has since swelled to include a second nearly 700sq ft facility and office space just across the corridor, as well as an 800sq ft space in Elephant And Castle, I ask them how walking into the smallest room in their portfolio feels. A pause, then a quiet discussion about how to put their answer into words.

“I feel proud,” said Calvin. “It was a challenge when we first came in. You’d look at it and ask: ‘What the hell have we got ourselves into? Can we do this?’. Now, when you look at it, how this very room has trickled over into Studio B, Studio C and the office – it’s growth and growth. It’s our favourite room.”

“This is the baby,” added Michael. “You’d wake up with a smile on your face knowing you were going into work for yourself, for your business. “It was just us – we had to put our all into it and we have done that. Now this is us – full time.

“Pride is the key word. I remember the day we got the keys. It feels like it was yesterday. It’s been a lovely journey so far.”

“I love it when people book this space,” said Calvin. “For us it’s the beginning of everything.

“I love the potential of it. Your brain starts to work as soon as you step through the door.”

This spare white box with natural light flooding through windows along one side – framed by the bare brutalist concrete of the building – is a physical embodiment of Silverspace’s roots – the foundation of a project that has been 12 years in the making.

Both Calvin and Michael grew up in Newham, meeting while studying photography at the University Of East London. 

“At that time, we had the university studio and we could use that quite frequently,” said Calvin. “But after finishing university, you had to finance yourself.

“You’d get that bang in the face of needing £100 to book a studio – then there might be another £50 for equipment on top. It’s silly – being charged for using clips, clamps or a stand. It doesn’t help young creatives believe in the journey that they’re going through. It’s discouraging – spending £30-£40 on little things that you need for the shoot.”

“How many times have we been to a studio and it’s another £10 just to use a polyboard to bounce some light off?” said Michael. “You’d feel like you’re being fleeced.”

The solution was Silverspace – a place both photographers could use for their own projects, but also that others would be able to hire at an all-inclusive price with equipment and facilities folded into the basic price.

“That frustration, that hardship is where the business came from,” said Calvin. “We wanted to make a space for us to create in and then realised that there were a lot of people going through the same hardships we were – young people trying to get into the creative industries. We started small – turning an office space into Studio A.

“It had high ceilings – which work for photography – big windows, natural light, which you can work with, as well as using lighting. We turned it into a space so people could create portraits or shoot fashion.

“Then, when we outgrew that, it was about asking: ‘Can we go bigger?’. That’s how we’ve expanded – organically.”

Image shows Calvin Mlilo
Calvin says he and Michael feel pride when the look at what they’ve created – image Matt Grayson

Michael and Calvin were among the first tenants to take up residence at The Silver Building – a former building transformed for temporary commercial use by Projekt.

For the pair, who both still live in Newham, their business is also a way of encouraging the next generation.

“Providing affordable space that doesn’t break the bank, where you can come in and get things done, is essentially giving back for us,” said Michael.

“Through our years of studying at UEL, going through the stages of our careers, there have been a lot of opportunities where we’ve been given chances.

“Silverspace was, predominantly a space in the beginning for us to create. Once we realised other people needed it, we opened it up.

“Demand has gone through the roof. Getting the keys, on April Fool’s Day 2018 was the beginning of the journey. Over that three years it’s been an amazing experience – seeing the business grow, seeing how we’ve grown.

“Being a freelance photographer is completely different from running a business.

“We’d had experience as studio managers elsewhere, so we knew how to do one or two things, but now we deal with every aspect of the business. 

“If I could go back, I’d tell myself to ‘just keep doing what you’re doing’. That’s what has got us here. As photographers we were fortunate to be able to invest in ourselves – to buy equipment and get the things we needed to apply ourselves properly in the trade.

“For example, the Profoto lights we have now are the same ones we had when we started.”

Calvin added: “It’s important not to doubt yourself too much, to run your own race. On a personal level I was guilty of that – looking at people who’d been running studios for a long time and trying to put myself on that level.

“You just have to put the work in, apply yourself, do the hours and you’ll get the results. It’s also important not to over-think things. If you worry things are expensive you’ll never buy them – you just have to do it and trust that business investments will recoup the outlay.

“Working as photographers was our market research for the studios – asking ourselves: ‘What would we want?’. 

“So we created a space for us, by us and, at the same time realised a lot of other young people could benefit from that.    

“People are often surprised when everything’s included.  That’s the reaction we get quite a lot – it’s a specific service we provide and people come back for that. 

“We help out as well and I don’t know another studio that does that. Why not? We’re in the office anyway.”

Image show Michael Stuart-Daley
Michael says Silverspace is always happy to help clients with set-up and lighting – image Matt Grayson

Michael said: “If a group of us are in and someone needs advice, they’re tapping into a good 35 years of collective photographic experience. If someone shows us a reference picture, we can set the light up for them. People come back for that service.”

Calvin added: “If you have someone who’s starting out, that makes such a difference.”

Completely committed to their craft, the pair admit to spending 70-80% of the time they should have been studying in class at UEL, experimenting in its studio, and are keen that more people should get behind the lens and do the same. 

Michael, who has also tutored students at the university, said: “We were taught there were no mistakes in photography – if you made a mistake, then own it.

“So, if there are newbies coming into the studio, we’re there to give them a hand, to help calm their nerves so they can get the results they want whether that’s as a hobbyist or as someone embarking on a creative career.

“It is expensive equipment that we supply, but it’s there to do a job and, so long as it’s set up properly and safely, you don’t have to worry about it.”

See more of Calvin’s work here and Michael’s work here

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