SeoulBird

Leamouth: How the SS Robin has returned to within 150m of her London birthplace

Historic ship’s move is the start of the latest chapter as Trinity Buoy Wharf prepares her for opening

The SS Robin, moored at her new home at Trinity Buoy Wharf – image Harry Dwyer

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

So there she sits, resplendent in her red and black livery, atop a specially constructed pontoon and ready for the next chapter of her life.

The SS Robin has, after some 133 years, returned to within 150m of the shipyard where the iron plates of her hull were first riveted together. 

She might be smaller in size than the Cutty Sark and HMS Belfast – but make no mistake – as historic ships in London go, she’s deserving of attention.

And following her most recent relocation from Royal Victoria Dock to Trinity Buoy Wharf, the story of the only surviving Victorian steam ship in existence is a big step closer to getting appropriate prominence.

It’s a move that’s been a long time coming.

Having spent a chunk of her retirement (1991-2008) at West India Quay opposite Canary Wharf, the Crossrail project saw her moved to Suffolk, with funding secured for restoration.

That saw her lifted from the water and mounted on a pontoon in 2010, with the intention of returning her to Docklands for public exhibition. 

But plans to open her as a museum ship in Royal Victoria Dock faltered so, while she has been moored near Millennium Mills since 2011, she’s remained mostly closed to the public and inaccessible. 

Nearly there – passing the cable car over the Thames – image Simon Richards

Schemes were mooted, plans made and locations suggested, but in more than a decade, Robin failed to find a permanent home.

A site was not forthcoming in either the Royals or West India Docks, amid the ironically choppy administrative waters of the bodies managing these vast human-made lakes. 

Eric Reynolds is founding director of Urban Space Management, which runs Trinity Buoy Wharf.

He is a man who makes things happen. London is strewn with projects he’s had a hand in – Camden Lock Market, Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank, Greenwich Market and Merton Abbey Mills, to name a few.

After becoming involved with the SS Robin and growing frustration at the failure to open her to the public as promised, he’s now overseen the relocation of the vessel to the mouth of the River Lea, where she will have a permanent home among the growing historic fleet at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

“The original intention was to keep going with the project and leave Robin where she was in Royal Docks,” said Eric.

“But eventually I gave up – I just couldn’t get any of the organisations to get off the fence.

“So instead we turned to the Port Of London Authority to get a licence to drive two piles into the riverbed at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Heading through the Thames Barrier on her way to Trinity Buoy Wharf – image Simon Richards

“The ship and her pontoon probably have a combined weight of about 600tonnes, which is not something I’d want to moor directly against the listed river wall as it would pose some risk.

“So, instead, it’s held between two giant ‘knitting needles’, which weigh 17 tonnes each. There’s a seven-metre rise and fall of the tide, so Robin will demonstrate that every day.”

That change in level also presents the last significant stumbling block to opening the vessel to the public.

A 40m gangway is set to be installed over the next couple of months that will go up and down with the level of the water, providing access at a suitable gradient.

Then, members of the public will be able to tour the vessel and view a wealth of information about her past and why she’s been preserved in this way.

“The driving idea is to make that information and Robin herself available to people who live here and know the area, as well as newcomers to it,” said Eric.

“There’s a population the size of Swindon scheduled to move in – a whole new town is being created.

“Shipping is still the major way by which the world trades with itself and London is here because it was driven by this tidal river and the trade that took place on it.

“Robin is the very last complete trading vessel of the period in the world with its original method of propulsion still in place.

“She was sold reasonably early in her life to the Spanish who operated her on a bit of a shoestring, so they didn’t do what nearly everyone else did, which was to take out the steam engine and put in an easily operated diesel.

“When you look at the ship and see the small size of the rudder and the huge propeller, you realise she’s relying on torque rather than revs.

Urban Space Management’s Eric Reynolds – image Jon Massey

“I really take my hat off to her crew – operating her in a crowded dock. With modern vessels you have bow thrusters and they can turn on a sixpence whatever the weather.

“With Robin you’d have had to spend 12 hours just getting steam up – their lives were so hard. We have a lot of material about her working life so we’ll be able to tell people all about it – the crew on her maiden voyage, for example. 

“What we won’t do is commercialise her in any way – the whole point about this ship is she looks and feels like one that would carry coals from Newcastle and salted herring from Aberdeen.

“That should be respected and the entire idea is to create a free access open museum, along the lines of Blists Hill in Shropshire, where people can come to learn.”

Trinity Buoy Wharf plans to work with a cross section of organisations including schools, artists and musicians to explore and illuminate the vessel’s heritage as a jumping off point for study, not least in the fields of science and technology.

It also intends to tell the story of the ship’s construction at the yard of Mackenzie, MacAlpine And Company in Blackwall.

“That’s really quite amazing,” said Eric.

“With health and safety now, we could never imagine a 14-year-old boy throwing lumps of red hot metal up for someone else to catch in a shovel.

“The majority of the ship is original, and when we cut some of the metal and sent it away, the people said that you couldn’t get iron like this any more.

“It was probably made by some process that you wouldn’t be allowed to do now.

“For young people it’s a window into a lost world – an educational asset rather than a tourist attraction.”

In time, Trinity Buoy Wharf plans to bring all the historic vessels in its collection together with row barge Diana and the tugs Knocker White and Suncrest connected to the SS Robin, so visitors can tour all of them.

Watch this space for an opening date for the historic vessel.

Find out more about the SS Robin at Trinity Buoy Wharf here

Read more: How Canary Wharf’s Creative Virtual is taming the voice of AI

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- 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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: How Uber Boat By Thames Clippers is cutting emissions of the river

CEO Sean Collins on the launch of hybrid vessel Earth Clipper and forthcoming cross-river services

Uber Boat By Thames Clippers CEO Sean Collins

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

The passenger craft Sean Collins has been running on London’s great river have always had a futuristic edge to them.

Starting with three Hydrocats in 1999 – each able to carry 62 people from Greenland Pier in Rotherhithe into the City – the zippy little twin-hulled craft helped carve out an image of Docklands’ modernisation that boosted the area’s ongoing regeneration.

As Canary Wharf, east and south-east London have grown and developed – so too has the river bus service, now based at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Today, the vessels in Uber Boat By Thames Clippers’ fleet are larger – long slender craft that hug the water as their engines blast them rapidly along. 

While to the untrained eye, the sleek lines of the 220-passenger vessels might appear similar, don’t be fooled.

There’s change afoot – a journey that started with the arrival of Venus Clipper in 2019 as the service targeted green improvement. 

The next step on that path, somewhat delayed by the pandemic, was the recent launch of Earth Clipper – a vessel that is aesthetically similar to the rest of the fleet, but is also completely different.

Earth Clipper runs purely on battery power in central London

Firstly, at 40 metres long, she can carry an extra 10 passengers. 

But this is a mere tweak in comparison to the main difference – the way she is propelled. Earth Clipper uses a hybrid combination of electric power and biofuel power to slice through the brown waters of the Thames.

In central London, she uses only an electric motor with a biofuel engine kicking in out east to recharge her batteries and push water through her jets.

“Earth Clipper has been just under three years in the making.

“We started working on the specification in 2019,” said Sean, CEO of Uber Boat By Thames Clippers.

“We needed extra capacity, to be able to serve our routes with the expansion down to Barking – the increasing volumes that were there and those in the pipeline, such as Battersea.

“We’d just commissioned their predecessor – Venus Clipper – and we were already focused on reducing weight and therefore power in that vessel.

“That was already a 20% emissions improvement on the core boats in our fleet for the same carrying capacity.

The boat is similar to other vessels in the fleet but produces 90% less CO2 emissions

“With that one, we were asking how we could make the boat lighter while providing an enhanced level of comfort and all the facilities our passengers expected.

“We worked on that whole design with 123 Naval Architects and came up with Venus.

“From that, we decided we had to move it on to the next level.”

The drive to do that came from the company’s goal to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and to achieve net zero for the overall business by 2040.

Sean said: “Boats have to last 25-30 years – they haven’t got a similar shelf life to most other above ground vehicles. 

“With that in mind, to reach our sustainability goals, we realised we had to have a significant step forward.

“We looked at the options, took a lot of data from the operating profile of Venus and used it to establish what might be achieved by using a hybrid model. 

“From that, we realised we were not going to be able to achieve 100% battery power at high speeds, but that we could when going more slowly, as we do in central London.

“We formulated a specification and went to the shipyard that had built our previous five vessels and signed contracts to move on with building Earth Clipper.

She has a biofuel engine that charges her batteries and provides power outside the centre of London

“It does exactly what we wanted it to do.

“The model has resulted in a 90% reduction in our CO2 emissions and a 65% drop in oxides of nitrogen and sulphur.

“Those are figures based on measurements we’ve taken during actual running on the Thames.

“There are two more in build – Celestial and Mars – which will both have joined the fleet by spring 2024.

“We all have a duty of care and a duty to deliver on improving the environment.”

There are other benefits too.

Earth and its two sister ships hail from the Wight Shipyard Co on at East Cowes on the Isle Of Wight – a boost to the local economy with 65 people involved in their construction, including 14 apprentices. 

There are also other operational benefits closer to home – welcome news as passenger numbers are already exceeding levels seen in 2019.

“Earth is significantly quieter and smoother on battery and that’s even the case when the engine is running,” said Sean.

“From a noise perspective, it’s a significant improvement and there’s absolutely no compromise at all from the customer’s point of view.

“The seating is also an upgrade in design – we’ve managed to make all 230 lighter, improving the efficiency of the vessel.

“We had to add nearly nine tonnes of additional weight with cabling, batteries and the motor to enable us to use this method of powering the boat.

“So that’s a process we’ve been through with every component.

“When stepping on Earth Clipper, we feel a sense of achievement.

“We’re really inspired by feedback from the public and also the crews that are working on the boat.

“They really love it – the technical advances and the sense of having taken that step forward.”

The use of battery-only power in central London equates to an extra 16.5% reduction in emissions in comparison to using the biofuel engine alone.

In the future, Sean said hydrogen would likely provide further cuts in emissions as electrical power was currently impractical as a way to deliver high speed services on the river, given the charging times needed.

Earth Clipper can carry 10 extra passengers

A Rotherhithe – Canary Wharf Crossing

However, Uber Boat By Thames Clippers is also pressing ahead with plans for an all-electric cross-river service for pedestrians and cyclists.

The aim is to have this up and running on the company’s Rotherhithe-to-Canary Wharf route by spring 2025 and then use it as a template for similar services elsewhere.

Sean said: “We’re committed to delivering that as part of our plans to invest £70million in new boats up to 2030.

“There are also opportunities between Silvertown and Charlton as well as Thamesmead and Barking in the east.

“We’re also aiming to add more stops including a pier that has planning permission at Blackwall Yard, which the developer will hopefully build over the next few years.

“One of the things that happened over the pandemic is that more people discovered the river and we’ve had three record days this year. 

“Our figures for 2022 were higher than 2019 and Canary Wharf, for example, is thriving. The footfall at that pier is exceeding pre-Covid levels.”

Find out more about Uber Boat By Thames Clippers here

Read more: Sign up for the Santa Stair Climb at One Canada Square

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- 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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: Why June 30 is the deadline for Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize entries

Annual award is appealing to artists to submit their work to be in with a chance of winning £10,000

Submissions are now open for the 2023 prize

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

People have been drawing for a long time.

Hand stencils have been found in caves dating back around 64,000 years but the act of making marks on a surface has perhaps never been as widely celebrated as it is today thanks to innumerable social media time lapse videos.

Things were very different in 1994, however, when artist and academic Anita Taylor set about founding a drawing competition.

“I founded it when I was working in higher education at an art school in Gloucestershire because it was hard to teach drawing without showing students contemporary examples,” said Anita, who today is professor at and dean of Duncan Of Jordanstone College Of Art And Design at the University Of Dundee. 

“What was then the Rexel Derwent Open Drawing Exhibition was one way of supporting artists who draw by giving them the opportunity to show their work.

“But it was also a great opportunity to give students the chance to see the work of artists who made drawings and were drawing now.

“Contemporary drawings were difficult to see other than in museums up to the 1990s, so the exhibition has grown from there.

“It has become very popular and there has been a very big submission.

“Through that we’ve built a lovely community of artists who want to test their work through the format of an exhibition.

Dean of Duncan Of Jordanstone College Of Art And Design at the University Of Dundee, Professor Anita Taylor

“It also works to further education in terms of being able to share drawings and discourse about them with schools, colleges, universities, researchers and the public, of course.”

The competition has been through several iterations since it was founded, including some 16 years as the Jerwood Drawing Prize with funding from the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

Today the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize has been in east London for the past six years – supported by Eric Reynolds and the team at Urban Space Management in Leamouth.

Attracting more than 3,000 submissions, it culminates in an exhibition of some 65 works, which starts off in east London before touring the country.

A panel of selectors is responsible for choosing the shortlisted entries and awarding four prizes – first and second place for £8,000 and £5,000 respectively, a student award of £2,000 and the Evelyn Williams Drawing Award of £10,000, which is given every other year.

There is also a separate submission and selection process for working drawings with a prize of £2,000.

All submissions from the UK need to reach the selectors by June 30, 2023.

“Drawing is hugely important to everybody as a vital means of communication and expression,” said Anita.

“It’s something that we all do, but it has become a very sophisticated language and something that enables us to see where we are in the world – to understand what it is to be human and to communicate effectively.

“It covers the whole range of languages, medium, purposes. We’re looking for drawings that are different in their form, intent, content and execution.

Anita founded the prize to provide a place to see drawings other than in museums

“It might be a performance drawing, a diagram, an expressive drawing – we don’t define what a drawing is, but we do ask people to consider what a drawing is.

“Then, it’s for the panel to decide what a good drawing is and find a good drawing they can agree on.

“It’s a very broad field and this is part of our discussion about what a drawing is today. That’s why we have a series of experts reflecting on this.

“We’ve had works entirely found, works that have been performance drawings and works that are beautifully executed – more conventional drawings.

“We’ve had fantastic things and amazing artists in the show.

“We’ve had phenomenally well-established artists, either at the beginning of their career and also later in their career.

“It’s a great thing where people feel open to test their own drawings.

“We see works by students, by various published artists and people who draw but may not be artists – engineers, for example.

“It’s the panel’s decision whether to include digital work, but if it’s original work, then some argue it shouldn’t be reproducible – but it really depends what its purpose is.

“David Hockney’s digital drawings are really amazing, for example, so we think we will see drawings that reflect that interest, but it will be down to the selectors to see which ones they want to include in the exhibition.”

The exhibition will be in Trinity Buoy Wharf from September 27, 2023

The 2023 panel making those decisions for the main prizes will be Laura Hoptman, executive director of The Drawing Center in New York, Dennis Scholl, collector, arts patron and president and CEO of Oolite Arts and British artist Barbara Walker.

It will be their deliberations, which result in the content of the exhibition, which is set to launch on September 27, 2023, at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

“I hope people who come and see it will be excited by drawing – that most humble of activities,” said Anita.

“It’s something that appeals to everyone. I hope they will see that drawing is really inclusive.

“It’s an extraordinary space that explores and reflects all sorts of different approaches to drawing, to see marks on paper, on the ground, on film, on tracing paper – testaments about being alive in the world today.

“I should like visitors to take from it that everyone can draw, and we’ll include everybody.

“We’ll also have a fantastic education pack and we’ll be encouraging schools and colleges – everybody – to get involved.

A panel will draw up a shortlist of entries, which will be exhibited

“The exhibition is set to finish on October 15 at Trinity Buoy Wharf before it goes on tour everywhere.

“It’s something people all over the country can really enjoy because drawing can help them deal with complex issues in a way that can engage others.

“That’s one of the beautiful things about it – it can take people on a journey without them feeling that it’s complicated.

“It’s perhaps less frightening and more inviting than other kinds of art.

“The space at Trinity Buoy Wharf is so welcoming, so open and so reflective.

“Anyone is welcome to submit work, but we would recommend that people are over 18.

“There’s no age limit as such – we don’t want anything that would stop work being submitted.

“So if you think it’s a drawing – a good one – and it’s a drawing you want to test in this kind of way, then it’s a fabulous opportunity to get your work seen by a really distinguished panel.”

Submit entires via this link.

The programme will include works by Haydn, Wagner, Dvorak and Coleridge-Taylor as well as readings of poetry by Emily Dickinson and Carol Ann Duffy.

The concert is set to take place on June 18 from 2pm-3.45pm with tickets costing £14.25.

Read more: How Kinaara on Greenwich Peninsula offers authentic Indian flavours

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- 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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: Nashville Meets London returns with fresh acts and a new East End venue

Two-day festival of emerging USA and UK country talent arrives at Trinity Buoy Wharf, partly by boat

Shy Carter will headline the first day of Nashville Meets London

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Nashville Meets London (NML) is back in the East End with a fresh line-up of country talent from the UK and the USA in a new location.

Taking place at Trinity Buoy Wharf on August 24 and 25, 2022 (plus a river cruise on August 19), the festival promises cutting-edge sounds and a good ol’ country welcome.     

“One of the key things we’ve proved is that NML seems to be a taste-maker for identifying artists, particularly from the US, who are about to break in the UK, Europe and beyond,” said Peter Conway who co-founded the festival.

“Russell Dickerson, for example, has gone on to become a major artist and Laura Elena is now massive in America and her profile is very wide in Europe too.

“For this year, we’ve got headliners in Shy Carter and the young Priscilla Block, both of whom have a huge fan base already. 

“We always want to break a new artist too and we have Manny Blu playing exclusively for us both at the opening night party and in a major slot on the Wednesday.

“He’s really starting to make waves in America and all his socials are growing exponentially. 

“On the UK side, we’re delighted to be offering The Wandering Hearts who are based in Hackney and are one of the top three country bands over here. They’re a stunning act and we are predicting great things for them.”

Shy – the main act on the first night of the festival on August 24 – is full of excitement when we connect on zoom between London and Tennessee.

He’s primarily worked as a songwriter, having been discovered by Nelly and his manager Courtney Benson, before going on to create a string of hits with other artists. 

Now the 37-year-old is making a name in his own right on the country scene and can’t wait to take the stage in London.

He said: “I put so much time into being in studios, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to get in front of an audience and see all these different people who come out and really appreciate the music.

“I really engage with the people when I do my shows – I walk into the crowd, get a handshake and make up a song with that person’s name.

“I do a lot of freestyle, it’s real free and a lot of fun, and anything can happen. I sing some hits, some new songs, and it’s really heartfelt.

“Something about being on stage just makes me feel good – if there are people out there, it makes me feel even better. 

“If they’re moving to something you’ve created, it’s one of the greatest experiences and one of the best feelings I’ve had in this life. It’s party time and it also helps me as a songwriter.”

Shy has worked with a plethora of artists, including co-writing Someday, a No. 1 hit for Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, and songs for the likes of Keith Urban, Jamie Fox, Jason Derulo, Billy Currington and Charlie Puth.

Born and raised in Tennessee he was “always around music” at home and in church, learning his first chords as a child and developing a love for r’n’b before recording his first song aged 16 at a home set-up in a friend’s apartment. 

He said: “I was addicted to the process – hearing my voice on a CD. From then on I continued making music all the time and tried to find a way to make music my career.

“Now it’s a real blessing to put my own soul and my own flavours into the music. It’s good to write for others, but this lets me be a little bit more myself.

“I don’t think it really matters, but I’d say my music is country because the songs are no different to the ones I’ve written for artists in that genre.

“As a person of colour, my songs might sound a little blacker – but that’s what I’m trying to do, to bring country music to people who don’t normally listen to it. At its heart, it’s storytelling.

“Being on stage makes me a better writer because it helps me to see what songs people connect with most.”

Day tickets for Nashville Meets London cost £34 and can be booked here.

  • A selection of VIP packages are also available for Nashville Meets London. The Festival VIP Ticket costs £150 and includes entry for the festival on both days at Trinity Buoy Wharf, access to the VIP backstage area and the VIP bar from 2pm and access to the meet and greet area.

The Premium Nash Pass costs £200 and includes all of the above, plus a ticket on the NML River Cruise and entry to the invitation-only Opening Night Party at Pizza Express Holborn on August 22, which will feature performances by Juna N Joey, Kaitlyn Baker, Robbie Cavanagh and special guests.

  • Ticket holders for Nashville Meets London can travel directly to the festival via Uber Boat By Thames Clippers as a special request stop at Trinity Buoy Wharf has been arranged. Journeys on the river bus service must be booked in advance to take advantage of this offer. 

–––––––––––––––––––

Nashville Meest London's DJ Hish
Nashville Meets London’s DJ Hish

THE LINE-UP – NASHVILLE MEETS LONDON

Aug 19, doors 6.45pm, £45-£560

Billed as a “voyage down England’s longest river” this trip along the Thames sets off from Bankside Pier for an evening of music hosted by Absolute Radio Country presenter Matt Spracklen. Expect performances by Kyle Daniel, Vicki Manser and a set by DJ Hish (pictured).

Manny Blu is set to perform on Day One
Manny Blu is set to perform on Day One

Aug 24, doors 4pm, from £34

The first day of the festival at Trinity Buoy Wharf will see performances from Sarah Darling, Manny Blu (pictured), Ruthie Collins, Arbor North and Matt Hodges. Shy Carter will headline the first night, with music selected by DJ Hish between sets. 

–––––––––––––––––––

Priscilla Block is set to headline Day Two

Aug 25, doors 4pm, from £34

The second day of the festival, now enjoying a renaissance following a two-year break, will be headlined by Priscilla Block (pictured) with artists Kyle Daniel, Candi Carpenter, The Wandering Hearts, Tebey and Essex County also taking to the stage in east London.

–––––––––––––––––––

Peter Conway co-founded Nashville Meets London

REFRESHING THE FESTIVAL

Cut a slice through Docklands culture over the last 40-plus years and you’ll find Peter Conway woven through the rings of the tree.

His CV includes stints at the Half Moon Theatre, a decade as principal arts officer at Tower Hamlets Council before going on to arrange music events at Cabot Hall – a former venue in Canary Wharf in a space now occupied by Boisdale.

After that was closed for redevelopment, he went on to run Blackheath Halls on the other side of the Thames, before returning to Canary Wharf in 2000 to programme outdoor music events on the estate, creating the Canary Wharf Jazz Festival and more recently Nashville Meets London in 2016 – relocated to Trinity Buoy Wharf for 2022.

“It was a moment of serendipity in Nashville in 2015,” said Peter.

“I bumped into Jeff Walker of AristoMedia and from that meeting came the idea for the festival – an event to promote the best of emerging country music talent in both Nashville and the UK.”

Sadly, Jeff died suddenly later that year, but his daughter Christy Walker Watkins and son-in-law Matt Watkins, who worked with him, joined forces with Peter to make their vision for the festival a reality.

After four years in Canary Wharf’s Canada Square and a two year break due to Covid, NML is back at a new venue in east London.

“This is a kind of new beginning for the festival – we’ve got a great person supporting us in terms of Eric Reynolds at Trinity Buoy Wharf,” said Peter.

“We’re using the Chainstore as the main venue and the building it’s attached to as a VIP area and artists’ dressing rooms. 

“Then you have the wonderful terrace outside that looks over the Thames and the Lea where we’ll be having food and bars. 

“Each day there will be shows running from 5pm to 11pm with non-stop music – we want people to come down and experience the joy of country music, get converted and help us on our journey to build and develop this festival into a much bigger event over the coming years.

I’m very keen to foster a sense of country community and to make this a real East End event.” 

Read more: Trinity Buoy Wharf consults on plans to put flats on a bridge

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- 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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: How Trinity Buoy Wharf could combine a river crossing with flats

Living Bridge would join agreed Hercules plan over the Lea to connect Newham and Tower Hamlets

An artist's impression of USM's Living Bridge idea
An artist’s impression of USM’s Living Bridge idea

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

It starts with an idea. The concept of people living on bridges isn’t new – they’ve been doing that for hundreds of years all over the world.

But Urban Space Management’s (USM) “aspirational” suggestion for a residential crossing at Trinity Buoy Wharf, spanning the mouth of the River Lea still feels a little bit visionary.  

There’s something inherently attractive about inhabiting structures over water. Looking back, we have the historical romance of the Old London Bridge and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, for example. 

Flowing forward, there’s author William Gibson’s sci-fi vision of a jerry-built, self-governing shanty town clinging to the steel bones of San Francisco’s Bay Bridge.

This imaginary leap into a near future – where a ribbon of infrastructure is repurposed by a passionate, vibrant community of squatters, reacting to the pressures of insufficient housing and oppression – is a flash of what necessity and collaboration might be capable of. It’s counter-cultural, haphazard and seductive.

USM’s plan for a Living Bridge has something of both examples.

It’s a functional proposal – a connection to Royal Docks for pedestrians and cyclists that would ensure a flow of traffic through the existing site. 

But it’s also the root of a future community, with around 70 properties suspended from the steel arch that would support the entire structure – brought to life in Cartwright Pickard’s illustrative designs. 

USM founding director Eric Reynolds
USM founding director Eric Reynolds

Access to the river would be preserved for taller vessels with a section of the bridge able to lift to allow safe passage.

Planning permission has already been granted for one crossing in the area – Hercules Bridge over the Lea on the northern edge of Ballymore’s Goodluck Hope development. 

If built, this would connect to both a footpath towards Canning Town station as well as to the Lower Lea Crossing flyover for access to Royal Docks.

USM is currently gathering feedback on a range of ideas to improve connectivity in and around Trinity Buoy Wharf, with a consultation running until July 20, 2022.

Its plans aim to help overcome barriers such as roads, rivers and railways to make journeys that are complicated now, simpler in the future.

USM founding director Eric Reynolds said: “Right from the beginning, I thought the problem for this whole bit of London was that it is disconnected from itself in every way. 

“Standing on the roof of the building that’s now occupied by Faraday Prep School at Trinity Buoy Wharf in the late 1990s, it was clear we should be doing something about this.

“Our outline planning application for the site allows us to build a bridge as a continuation of Orchard Place because it always seemed to me that the Lea should have more than a road bridge over it – there should also be something for pedestrians and cyclists.

“We should be connecting people, not just for us, but also for people living north and east of here – in Canning Town for example.

“They should see the river as part of their back or front garden, not something that’s just hidden away.”

A rendering of the Living Bridge by night
A rendering of the Living Bridge by night

The case for a second bridge becomes increasingly clear when future development is taken into account.

The Thameside West scheme is expected to deliver some 5,000 new homes just across the river as well as a new DLR station, a school and industrial and creative workspaces.

“One of the things we did achieve years ago was to persuade the DLR planners to leave a straight bit of track on that land to allow potential for that station,” said Eric.

“It didn’t make sense then, but, with thousands of homes and a new town centre coming, it does now.

“Regarding the bridge – it may be that we put homes on it, we don’t know yet. We think there are two good reasons for doing it.

Firstly it creates new land and a new opportunity for a community.

“Secondly, in doing that, it offsets the cost of the bridge – so there’s an economic and a social argument.

“The Living Bridge would also be a big signpost to the importance and value of the River Lea, which was a vital part of the transport of this area – a line of power and industry – before it silted up. It deserves that recognition.

“Imagine coming up the Thames and seeing this out-of-scale bridge, all lit up with people living inside it.

“I really think it would appeal to Londoners – every building along the river is worked so as many properties as possible have views of the water.

“Here it would be right underneath – with no risk of anyone building in front of or behind you.”

An artist’s impression of the Hercules Bridge proposal

But does an area that is already connected to Canning Town via London City Island’s bridge and, potentially the already agreed Hercules Bridge really need another crossing?

“At the moment, the existing bridge takes you to the top of London City Island but we have an awful lot of walkers, dog owners, cyclists, hikers and so on who come to Trinity Buoy Wharf and would really like not to have to go back on themselves,” said Eric.

“The Hercules Bridge gives people the chance to do something different – to walk round the edge of the Lea and follow the river north. 

“What the Living Bridge would do is to make it much easier to follow the Thames along the southern edge of Royal Docks as far as Barrier Park.

“It increases the potential for pedestrians and cyclists to reach these areas.

“It’s also in some ways an attempt to re-invent a community that was here in the past.

“There was a small fishing community and a school here, which was wiped away when local authorities decided that slum clearances were the thing to do.

“There also used to be a little ferry that took people across the Lea because the Thames Ironworks and Orchard Wharf needed to get their workers to work.

“During the Crossrail Works, the foundations for that ferry were found, so this has grown partly out of what we perceive as a respect for the past and an aspiration for the future.”

At present Trinity Buoy Wharf is a dead end for walkers and cyclists
At present Trinity Buoy Wharf is a dead end for walkers and cyclists

Read more: Genomics England set for relocation to Canary Wharf

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- 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
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: Faraday Prep School seeks pupils to apply for supported place

Fishmongers Faraday Award covers up to 100% of fees at Trinity Buoy Wharf-based independent

The Fishmongers Faraday Award application deadline is April 18

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Children in Years 2 or 3 who show academic promise are being encouraged to apply for the Fishmongers Faraday Award by April 18.

The scheme, now in its fifth year, is open to candidates who would not otherwise be able to afford an independent education and covers up to 100% of school fees for one place at Faraday Prep School at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth.

Funded by the Fishmongers’ Livery Company, the award may also contribute to the cost of after school clubs, the school bus and school trips. The current scheme will support a place for a child to attend Faraday from September 2022. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity to join a growing and exciting prep school for those who might not otherwise be able to attend,” said head Lucas Motion.

“We want the children who receive it over the years to reap the benefits of what we offer here at Faraday.

“We’re a small, independent school, with just over 100 children. All of our systems are geared around individual attention so that we can really nurture, inspire and give children more support when they need it, and provide some stretch and challenge where they need that.

“We have small class sizes, with an average of 14 children.

“From Reception all the way up to Year 3, we have a teacher and a teaching assistant in each class, so we have a high ratio of adults to children to support that ethos.

Faraday Prep School head Lucas Motion with two of his pupils

“We put a lot of emphasis on high-quality interaction between staff and children, and having smaller class sizes really helps us to move them along.

“In terms of our vision and our values, they are all around nurturing children and delivering a good value education.

“I would also mention our broad and creative curriculum, which sets us apart and is certainly unique to Faraday.

“We teach much of the National Curriculum alongside a core knowledge curriculum and we have five specialist subjects, which are taught from Reception all the way up to Year 6 – French, music, dance, drama and sport.

“For example, we have a dedicated specialist sports teacher who is with the children all through their time at the school so they have the benefit of that – it’s a great model to help inspire them.

“An emphasis on high-quality English and Maths is always essential, and I think that, for that reason in primary, sometimes, the more creative subjects can take more of a back seat, but we’re committed to keeping them in the timetable throughout.”

Average class sizes at Faraday Prep School are 14 pupils

Lucas, who was born in Hackney and now lives in Leytonstone, arrived at Faraday in January this year, having previously held the post of deputy head at its sister institution – Maple Walk Prep School in Harlesden.

He said: “I came across when the previous head, Claire Murdoch, became head at Maple Walk, so essentially we swapped over. That’s made the transition quite smooth and natural because the values and ethos of the two schools are the same. 

“Faraday is in an unusual situation – our playground is on a bend of the River Lea – but a real highlight in my first term here has been reaching out to the community at Trinity Buoy Wharf – it’s such a collaborative and creative place.

“I want to continue the work Claire has done here, because she’s done an amazing job. I want to build on that.

“We’re currently a one form entry school except in our current Reception class, where we have two – we’re on a journey of growth – and I feel really excited about where that might lead.”

Selection for the award will be based on interview and references.

Children will be asked to provide their most recent school report and will be asked to undertake a range of activities and assessments.

Appointments to visit the school before applications are made can be arranged. Help with filling out the means testing element of the application is also available.

Those who would like more information can call the school on 020 8965 7374

The school is based at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth

Read more: How JP Morgan and The Sutton Trust are boosting social mobility

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: Typewriter artist James Cook set for Trinity Buoy Wharf exhibition

Workshops will also be on offer for those who want to have a go at typing out their own pieces

James Cook will be showing his artwork at Trinity Buoy Wharf

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

When I was a young child, my parents gave me an old typewriter to play with. I loved hitting the keys, hearing that distinctive, hypnotic clacking sound, twisting the knob that made the roller revolve. 

But I couldn’t really comprehend what it was for. Even though this was the 1980s, by the time I came of age to make marks on paper, computer keyboards had already replaced the old mechanical machines with their inky ribbons and staccato rhythms. Fun for a kid – a relic of a bygone age, perhaps – but nothing more.

It’s fortunate James Cook didn’t have that experience.

While studying A-Level art in 2014, he developed an interest in inventive ways to make marks, drawn to David Hockney’s iPad paintings.

“Then I came across Paul Smith, who had used typewriters,” said James. “What really caught my attention was his story.

“Born in 1921, he suffered with cerebral palsy his whole life. At the age of 11, his parents gave him a typewriter because he couldn’t hold a pencil.

“But, instead of writing, he ended up creating drawings, which was his passion. He only learnt to speak and walk as an adult, but at the age of 11 he was already creating these amazing pictures – drawings of the Mona Lisa and it fascinated me that it was even possible to do such a thing.

“Immediately after I had read about him, I started trawling around charity shops trying to find a typewriter – at first without much success.

“Then an elderly couple in one of the shops overheard that I was looking for a typewriter and told me that they had one belonging to the man’s late mother.

“It had been sitting in the attic for about 40 years, not being used, and they suggested that I could come round and collect it.”

After a few squirts of WD40, James got the mid 1950s Oliver Courier going and began to experiment.

“I was lucky I picked that typewriter up and that I didn’t give up straight away,” he said. “As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that there are some models that just don’t work for this kind of work.

“But what I had was a very expensive, very mechanically precise machine. If this hadn’t been the case I might not have stuck with it.”

They include landscapes and portraits
They include landscapes and portraits

Perseverance paid off however and James now makes his living generating work on his collection of 40 typewriters, painstakingly using them to tap out artwork, either from life or photographs.

It’s exacting work, with drawings typically taking between a week and a month to complete.

“Usually the typewriters have 44 keys, so I have those parameters to work within and choosing the characters to use is one of the most interesting parts of making these drawings,” said James.

“I’ve been doing this for about seven years now, mostly part-time, and more recently full-time, and I’ve learnt by trial and error which particular character works.

“If I’m drawing a portrait, and I need to recreate someone’s skin complexion, most people want to be seen in the best light, so even skin tones require a character that has a large surface area, like the ‘@’ symbol.

“That’s also good for shading, which can be achieved by hitting the key more softly.

“If someone has dimples or freckles, then I might use some asterisks, because it’s a much sharper mark, whereas the underscore is a perfect shape for drawing horizontal lines in an architectural drawing, like the bottom of a window sill, or doing brickwork.

“Achieving curves is very difficult, especially if you’re working across multiple sheets, because they all have to line up.

“Typewriters inherently want to go from left to right so they’re great for straight lines, but not so good for verticals and curves.

“So what I’m doing is using my left hand to ever so slightly twist the paragraph lever by a minuscule amount while I’m typing to create a curve, like the roof of The O2, for example.

“I can’t think of any other way of drawing that requires you to use both hands in this way. Your right hand is on the keys and your left hand is responsible for making sure you stamp that mark on a very precise point.

“Once it’s been made that’s it, there’s no way of undoing it – I won’t use Tippex so mistakes become part of the drawing.

Every drawing is made by painstakingly typing to make marks
Every drawing is made by painstakingly typing to make marks

From April 1-10, the largest ever exhibition of James’ work ever gathered together is set to be held at Trinity Buoy Wharf, with many of the pieces created at the east London location in Leamouth. Entry is free.

“Visitors will see the biggest collection of my work to date,” said James.

“It’s mostly pieces from London locations, usually drawn on site with views of places like Greenwich Park, the Thames Path and Trinity Buoy Wharf itself.

“What’s also important for the work is to add a second layer of information, so the drawings are not just about piecing together various characters, they also contain concealed messages or hidden lines of text.

“I’ve often done that more recently when I’ve been working on location and I’ve spotted something, or when a thought pops into my head, especially if it’s the middle of winter.

“I did some of the drawings in January and it was pretty cold outside, so a lot of the messages are me complaining how cold it was.”

James draws many of his pieces on location
James draws many of his pieces on location

Every weekday during the exhibition, James will be hosting free workshops for those who’d like to try creating their own typewriter art.

He said: “When people look at my art, usually it’s not enough, they want to know how it’s made.

“The idea is these groups of about five will get to sit in front of a typewriter and have a go.

“It won’t be creating finished masterpieces, but hopefully we’ll have some fun and it will be a start. 

“They can bring along pictures to inspire their typing or I can provide them for reference.”

Read more: New team at The Pearson Room deliver fresh flavours

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: How Lightship95 offers musicians high quality recording riverside

Trinity Buoy Wharf-based studio on a boat is all set up to capture any sound you can make

Giles Barrett, left, and Dave Holmes of Lightship95
Giles Barrett, left, and Dave Holmes of Lightship95 – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

There’s a moment during my interview with Giles Barrett and Dave Holmes when the waters of the Thames sweep into the mouth of the Lea and lift the entire venue we’re sat in, gently off the riverbed.

But it’s not the subtle undulation of the liquid beneath that these two are primarily interested in – they spend their days tuning into and capturing waves of sound created by a diverse stream of musicians flowing through the recording studio they run.

Now moored at Trinity Buoy Wharf, Lightship95 was originally built as a floating lighthouse, part of a fleet of similarly sturdy vessels capable of holding position in all weathers.   

Owner Ben Phillips, a producer and engineer, bought her after she’d left active service and conceived and undertook a two-year project to turn her into a recording studio – an alternative to the pressures and uncertainty of building one on land.

He ran the business until 2017, when Soup Studios relocated to the vessel from Cable Street in Limehouse.

In 2021 Soup moved back onto dry land, but Giles and Dave – two of its crew members – opted to remain aboard, launching their own partnership under the name Lightship95 and continuing to record.

“I’d been running small studios in London since 2005, when I graduated, but the weird coincidence for me about this ship is that I could see it from where I grew up in Kent,” said Giles who takes the role of Lightship95’s studio manager.

“It was working as a lightship on the Goodwin Sands and I could see it on the horizon pretty much every day, so it’s quite strange to be on it now.

“The reason I’m here now is tied in with the reason that Ben decided to build a studio on the ship in the first place.

“I’ve built and then been kicked out by gentrification very quickly from a number of studios in London over the last 16 years.

“That’s what happens – artists go in, they build something, it’s a nice building and then the landlords realise it’s time to raise the rent.

“That’s difficult when you’re trying to run a studio.

“Soup wasn’t kicked out of our last studios in Cable Street, but we never had any security there, because there was a yearly rolling lease, so you’re terrified of the landlords the whole time.

“The really good thing about Trinity Buoy Wharf is that it has written into its lease an obligation to make a certain section of its income from cultural activities and that’s a rare thing in London.”

Lightship95 moored at Trinity Buoy Wharf
Lightship95 moored at Trinity Buoy Wharf – image Matt Grayson

Dave is Lightship95’s senior engineer and didn’t see the vessel growing up, on account of doing that in New Zealand. 

He said: “I came over in 2011 after a couple of years backpacking in Europe and South-East Asia and thought I would have a look around and see what was happening on the other side of the world.

“Initially I was freelancing, doing bits and pieces for about a year, mostly at the Royal College Of Music, before a mutual contact put me in touch with Giles in 2015.

“Then I started hanging around at Soup, bringing my microphones and other equipment over from New Zealand bit by bit.

“We worked hard to grow the studio and the client base and then we found out the ship was available. It was a bit of a risk, but our clients followed us, so it paid off.

“The pandemic has been different to normal, obviously, but it has given us the opportunity to refocus and get this business the way we’d imagined it.”

The studio’s 1980s tape recorder – image Matt Grayson

With a control room contained inside the ship’s former diesel tank, its live space occupying the former engine room and a vocal booth nestled between the two, Lightship95 offers a wealth of flexible facilities and expertise to its clients.

“The lion’s share of what we do, apart from making good coffee, is to allow people to forget what is normally invading their conscious minds and come and do what they’ve booked the place to do,” said Dave.

“It’s about looking after our relationships with our clients, because we want them to come back.

“It’s our job to understand what they’re trying to do, what their set-up is so we can arrange the live space in the best possible way.

“There are lots of little things – like the sounds of the instruments in the room, the sight lines and the monitoring so that when we take them into the control room and play it back people say: ‘That’s what we’re looking for’.

“There’s a huge amount of experience and knowledge which is hard to break down, that goes into building what that sound is.

“But I quite like the idea that our clients aren’t really aware of that – we want them to focus on what they’re doing and not be worried about the technical stuff.”

The live room at Lightship95
The live room at Lightship95 – image Matt Grayson

Giles added: “We make records in lots of different ways and one of the things that we do in a studio of this size is to encourage whole bands to come and record together. 

“Lots of records get made in a layered, computerised way – one instrument at a time – and that’s fine, but it’s great to encourage musicians to come and play together to get that interaction, that live feeling.”

Alongside different recording set-ups, Lightship95 is equipped with a bewildering array of tech, both digital and analogue. 

Giles said: “From a technological point of view, this is the best time to be making music. We’ve gone through the time when everyone chucked out their analogue gear, brought in the digital stuff and realised that a lot of it wasn’t good enough

“But now we can make a record on just a MacMini and challenge anyone to tell whether it went through analogue or digital.

“Then we still have all the analogue gear which we can use as creative inspiration and with total flexibility because it can be integrated into a digital environment.” 

Dave added: “Some of our microphones are 80 years old and we have a tape machine from the 1980s, which was the pinnacle of analogue.

“The mixing board is analogue too – the last model before the company went totally digital.

“The beauty of digital is that it’s such a clean result – you might want a 1960s-style guitar and you can get an instrument from that era, use a microphone that will give it that colour and then, digital capture of that will be perfect.

“It’s also the flexibility of having so many inputs and outputs that means you’re never short of workspace – the computer power is ridiculous.”

The studio offers both digital and analogue tech
The studio offers both digital and analogue tech – image Matt Grayson

While the extensive soundproofing prevents anything much being heard outside the boat itself, Lightship95 has hosted all sorts of clients – many on the modern jazz scene – as well as the likes of Ghostpoet, Mike Skinner and Roots Manuva.

“It’s a really exciting time to have a studio business,” said Dave.

“We want the place to be used – we’ve been quite crafty in that we have all these things we like to use, but it’s still affordable, and that’s important.

“This is our life – as we’ve grown, our clients have grown at the same time and it’s been really exciting to see the successes of people we’ve been working with for for many years.” 

Lightship95 costs £480 per day to hire with discounts for block bookings. Rates include use of instruments, equipment and an engineer.

Read more: Tom Carradine celebrates six years of Cockney sing-a-longs at Wilton’s

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Leamouth: How Vicky Phillips is drawing the future aboard Lightship Print Shop

Based on Lightship95 at Trinity Buoy Wharf, her pattern designs are used on all kinds of products

Lightship Print Shop founder Vicky Phillips
Lightship Print Shop founder Vicky Phillips – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Visit Trinity Buoy Wharf and it’s impossible to miss the bright red vessel, moored where the river Lea meets the Thames.

Crowned by a lighthouse, it now contains a recording studio in its belly.

But up front, tucked down a tight stairwell from its bows, lies something else – a space where Vicky Phillips draws the future.

Lightship Print Shop inhabits a cabin in stark contrast to the industrial scarlet gloss of its shell.

Illuminated through rows of port holes and by pendant lights that gently sway with the motion of the Lea as the ship bobs at her moorings, Vicky’s studio is brilliant white.

A central slab of table, complete with neatly plumbed-in, eggshell blue anglepoise, is served by steel and leather seating and supports a slim but serious iMac and Wacom pen tablet, all ready to go.

 The floor is pale grey wood and pot plants decorate this workspace, faithfully in motion with the rise and fall of the water outside.

For Vicky’s business, it’s the engine room.

“Lightship Print Shop is a surface pattern studio,” she said.

“I create designs for fashion, homeware, textiles and anything else that needs a repeated print on it. I started the business in 2019, about eight months before the first lockdown.”

In essence the core of Vicky’s operation sees her either draw or paint images and scan them or make digital pictures before bringing them all together in her computer to be arranged as a tile that can be replicated to create a pattern on almost anything.

“That’s what I sell to companies – they buy the copyright,” she said.

“It normally takes at least a year for my designs to come out on products, because all the businesses have their own lead times.

“You wait for ages, but then it’s really exciting when you see it reproduced on whatever they’ve created.

“I usually start my designs with a lot of trend research. I use companies such as WGSN and Trendbible, who predict future fashions.

“Their guides are a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy really, because all the brands that use them buy into the process and so it becomes true that they are the trend makers.

“From a business perspective, it makes sense to follow what they are predicting with my work.

WSGN, especially, has been very useful over the past 18 months around the lockdowns and other restrictions.

“They would normally go to trade shows to see what’s next from our side, but instead they’ve been setting briefs – we can respond to them and get included in its publications. That allowed me to reach new clients, who wouldn’t otherwise have seen my work.

“After I’ve done my research, the process starts with trend boards, looking at colours and how I should interpret a theme. 

“Should I use watercolours or gouache? Or should I start on an iPad? There’s a variety of approaches. Each one then has its own route until it all ends up on the computer.”

One of Vicky's vibrant patterns
One of Vicky’s vibrant patterns – image Matt Grayson

Drawing was a passion from a young age, leading Vicky to study to become an illustrator at university.

She said: “It was always my first choice at school. I just love drawing.

“The course I did was very good, but it was quite traditional – great if you’re going to be a natural history illustrator but other worlds were not really explored.

“Early on I decided I wanted to be a freelance illustrator where you have to be known for a certain style of work so clients know what they’re going to get. 

“That was my problem, I didn’t really have a style – I jumped around a lot, probably to my detriment.”

Having worked for clients such as Scholastic, Dolce & Gabbana and The Independent, Vicky took a job with homeware company Bombay Duck.

“I thought I needed some commercial experience,” she said. “But because I was the only designer I didn’t get to learn much from anyone else. 

“That’s when I applied for the job at Paperchase. Back then I had no idea surface pattern even existed as an industry.

“I thought everything was done in-house by different brands, but it makes sense for companies to have an external source so they can buy prints and have much more variety.

“They can keep on top of trends more easily. At Paperchase there was a lot of in-house design, but they couldn’t do everything themselves so they’d purchase the copyright to patterns and make use of them.

“At that point, I thought I’d like to be one of the people selling the prints, having the freedom to do what they wanted and hoping somebody bought their work.

“That’s when I founded Lightship Print Shop and, luckily, I was able to do a couple of trade shows in London and New York before the pandemic arrived.

“I managed to get some clients and keep that going over Zoom and that’s really helped me. In surface pattern it’s an advantage to have a variety of styles to present to a client, so that’s been a benefit too.”

Work in progress at Lightship Print Shop
Work in progress at Lightship Print Shop – image Matt Grayson

Vicky’s work has been bought and used by brands including La Vida Loca, Peter Alexander, Knightley’s Adventures By Samantha Faiers, American Eagle and Paperchase.

“I’m working on some designs for Paperchase at the moment, actually,” she said.

“I kept that connection after I left and I’m producing some bright and colourful things for them. When I’m done with that I’ve got to work on some tropical prints for Spring/Summer 2023.

“My work is typically conversationals – basically designs that aren’t floral. The majority of surface patterns are based on flowers, but that’s not something that interests me much.

“The designs I produce are more fun and whimsical – they don’t have to be hard-hitting, cutting-edge fashion.

“I like things that are fun to draw whether that’s tigers or toucans wearing glasses. I do try to gear what I do to a trend, though.

“At the moment that’s all about optimism – after the lockdowns people will want things that are brighter combined with hope for the future, so that means vibrant colours printed on recycled fabrics.”

Lightship95 at Trinity Buoy Wharf
Lightship95 at Trinity Buoy Wharf – image Matt Grayson

Lightship 95 was originally converted into a recording studio more than a decade ago by Vicky’s now husband Ben. 

“I love the ship,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful icon and a great thing to draw as well.

“It’s also the identity of my business – it wasn’t difficult to think of a name. I think being based there helps in my work – it’s certainly easier to get people to come and visit. 

“With surface pattern, you’d normally be asked to go into a company’s office and you’d have to bring a huge suitcase with all the designs – there’s lots of moving things around.

“But people are quite keen to visit me here, which is nice.

“My plan for the future is to do more of the same and continue to build my client base.

“Although I don’t have any control over what my prints are used for, it’s always an amazing feeling to see them out in the real world.

“That’s often on social media, where people post images of themselves wearing these products and talking about them. 

“It’s a real honour that anyone would choose to wear something I’ve designed.

“Because of the sorts of illustrations I do they get used for a lot of kidswear, and seeing the designs photographed in a playful way is really cool.”

Vicky also produces prints and a limited range of products that are available to buy direct from her website.

“During the early stages of lockdown, I thought my core business might stop completely, so I thought I’d produce some of my own stuff – pin badges, notebooks and things like that,” she said.

Her work will also form part of the decoration at rooftop venue Roof East in Stratford when Urban Space Management, which is also based at and operates Trinity Buoy Wharf, reopens the space in 2022. 

Read more: Floating restaurant Hawksmoor opens at Canary Wharf

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life