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Wapping: How Wilton’s take on The Wind In The Willows stays true to its source

Venue’s festive production for 2022 updates classic to a modern setting and moves Christmas

Author and playwright Piers Torday at Wilton’s Music Hall

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Piers Torday is no stranger to creating festive adaptations for the ancient boards of Wilton’s Music Hall in Wapping.

The children’s author, best known for The Last Wild series, has brought John Masefield’s The Box Of Delights, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and last year Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurse’s Tale (rechristened as The Child In The Snow) to the east London stage.

November 2022, however, sees him go beyond renaming as he and the team retool Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows as a modern Christmas show, complete with strikethrough.

The Wind In The Willows Wilton’s takes the original book’s familiar characters, takes them out of the Edwardian period and carries them into the 21st century, with the plot also pulled further downstream into central London.

“We changed the name partly because it was irresistible not to, but also to reflect the fact that this is a slightly different version of the story from one that people may have seen before,” said Piers.

“It’s always been adapted in period dress, full Edwardian, with colourful waistcoats and police in uniforms – and I’ve much enjoyed those versions – but we wanted to bring things up to date a bit to reflect the world we live in and the audiences that we serve at Wilton’s.

“So we’ve not set it down the Thames in Cookham – where Kenneth Grahame lived – we’ve brought it downstream, where the river goes past Wilton’s, and into the heart of London and the City.

“It’s set now in 2022, Mole lives in Hyde Park and we’ve moved the Wild Wood to the financial district, and we’ve balanced the gender make-up so it’s not just chaps having a jolly good time.

“In doing that, however, we’ve remained completely faithful to the spirit of the book. 

“When it was written, the book was unbelievably modern – full of stuff about motor cars and the characters having very contemporary adventures.

“Increasingly over time those things have become nostalgic, and the spirit of the book is about being very current.”

In addition to altering some details of the setting, Piers has also shifted the timeline around to reflect the season.

Wilton’s festive show is and update of The Wind In The Willows

“The Wind In The Willows famously starts in spring, with Mole doing his cleaning, but in the book, rather madly, Christmas happens two-thirds of the way through,” he said.

 “We’ve rearranged it so that  Christmas takes place at the end – we’ve ordered the events more logically.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s still about four friends and I think most people can recognise themselves or their friends in the main characters.

“Toad Hall will still be taken over by the weasels but part of the fun is for audiences to see what we’ve done with it. 

“It’s been a huge amount of fun, putting it together – no-one has really updated the story before so it’s been the most brilliant opportunity and we’ve done it with lots of song and dance.

“The original book is actually full of songs woven into the story, so we’ve used quite a lot of those lyrics and written some to complement them.

“What many people also forget about this story is that it contains some of the most beautiful descriptions of the English countryside in literature.

“Kenneth Grahame wasn’t really a writer, as such;  he was someone who dabbled in writing and became famous through this book, but he definitely had a poet’s ear for describing our riverbanks, our natural flora and fauna. 

“It’s not very dramatic, but we’ve tried to honour that as we tell the story in the age of climate crisis, so it’s going to be full of real bits of nature.

“We’ve tried not to buy anything new, but to use everything, which is as sustainable and low-impact on the environment as possible. It will look spectacular, but it’s not going to cost the earth.”

For Piers, the task of adapting The Wind In The Willows was more than just about creating a festive show.

“I’ve always wanted to adapt it,” he said. “I write books about talking animals and I date my curiosity in that area to my parents reading me The Wind In The Willows.

“Some of the characters I’ve created myself are probably the result of numerous reiterations that started with Mole or Ratty.

“Even if they’ve not read the book, the audience will probably be aware of the idea of irresponsible Mr Toad, grumpy Badger in his sett or the very shy Mole blinking in the sunlight – it’s part of our national culture.

“To bring this London version of the story to life is a real joy.

“I think talking animals are very appealing because they allow children to experience adult emotions without feeling that they’re having to be little adults.

“In the story the animals live in houses of their own, they have their own occupations, they drive cars, they go to the shops, they go to court, so they do adult things – but there’s something enormously childlike about them too.

“They’re larger-than-life characters.”

The venue’s Christmas show is aimed at kids and adults alike

While The Wind In The Willows Wilton’s is not a pantomime, Piers said it had been written to entertain all ages, including some topical references – a challenge given the current political turmoil.

“When I started writing, the character of Toad was irresistibly like Boris Johnson, but those references have all gone, for the moment,” he said.

“It’s not a panto, so it’s not going to be full of up-to-the minute references to the latest thing or celebrity gossip – but it is a Christmas show and they always have an end-of-term-sketch feel about them

“You want to draw people together. It’s very different to working on a normal play. For many, especially young people, a Christmas show might be the only time they will go to the theatre with their parents. 

“It’s a family outing, so you have to try to include everyone and it’s Christmas so you have to remember people are there to have a nice time.

“To do that you have to have stories and jokes that operate on many levels.

“Children will see the show as a battle, a story with funny scenes of Toad getting cross and losing something, but there may also be references for adults about the cost-of-living crisis or whatever else is going on, to make them feel they’re included in the story too.

“While it’s absolutely terrifying to work on something like this because you can see how it’s received every night, it’s also a great privilege to see those responses. 

“Theatre is irresistible and thrilling because it is something that happens in the moment. That experience – when someone makes it work – is the most special one you can have.”

  • The Wind In The Willows Wilton’s runs at Wilton’s Music Hall from November 24 to December 31, 2022. Performance times are 7.30pm with Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets start at £13.

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Wapping: How Northeastern University London is set to grow at St Katharine Docks

Expansion is on the agenda as seat of learning prepares to launch dually validated degrees in 2023

Northeastern University London is based at Devon House in St Katharine Docks
Northeastern University London is based at Devon House in St Katharine Docks

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“I want studying here to be filled with new experiences, meeting people and fun – a place which our students will remember as one where they grew intellectually, socially and personally and which allowed them to have choices,” said Rob Farquharson, CEO of Northeastern University London (NU London).

Founded in 2012 by the philosopher and writer AC Grayling as the New College Of The Humanities (NCH), the institution has been through a period of growth and development in a relatively short space of time – not least its arrival at St Katharine Docks.

In 2019 it was acquired by Northeastern University, an American seat of learning based in Boston, but with 11 regional campuses in the US and a clear mission to expand globally.

Then in 2020, NCH was first granted the right to award its own degrees and then to legally call itself a university – both after lengthy assessment processes.

Having outgrown its original premises in Bloomsbury, in 2021 it moved to Devon House – a modern warehouse-style building on the banks of the Thames overlooking Tower Bridge. 

It’s an apt location on the site of the historic Bull’s Head pub where it’s not impossible to imagine thirsty Brits finding refreshment as they prepared to emigrate to America over the Atlantic from the nearby docks.

Today, NU London’s presence represents fresh connection between the area and the US, as it looks to the future with the sensitive retirement of the NCH name.

Northeastern University London CEO Rob Farquharson
Northeastern University London CEO Rob Farquharson

“Boston and London are the two pre-eminent seats of higher education in the world,” said Rob.

“One of Northeastern’s key drivers is international expansion – being able to offer its students and staff a global experience.

“You have to connect with the world and understand it to make a positive impact and Northeastern doesn’t want to be constrained by a single location.

“We’re the first campus outside North America, but I can guarantee we won’t be the last. Northeastern wants to have a global student body and to give people the opportunity to study in different locations and experience different cultures – you need to have that physical presence on the ground to facilitate that.

“We moved to St Katherine Docks for more space and we’re just about to take another building here for use as office space so we can grow even further.

“We’ve added a lot of non-humanities, non-social science subjects to the ones we already teach – we now offer courses in business, engineering, chemistry and physics, for example. 

“There’s a big emphasis on artificial intelligence, partly because that bridges the history we have in humanities and the strengths Northeastern has in Boston, such as computer science and data science.

“At the moment we have about 1,200 students in London and we aim to have about 1,500 by the end of the year.

“In September 2023, we’ll be launching dually validated degrees, which we’re very excited about. It means students will be studying for degrees that are accredited in both the UK and the US.

“The structure for those at the moment is that in the second semester of the second year, students will have the option to study in North America – in Boston or at a West Coast campus, although it’s not compulsory.

The university boasts extensive facilities at Devon House
The university boasts extensive facilities at Devon House

“Students will also be able to do a fourth year in the US as their degrees tend to be four years and there will be an option to do a masters there too.

“One of the reasons we need more space is so we can create facilities such as wet labs for students who want to come over here from the US to study as part of their course. 

“We won’t be able to cover the full range of courses they have in Boston, but we do want to allow students to have some time in London and we want to be able to support them.”

At present, NU London offers undergraduate degrees, masters degrees and apprenticeship courses designed to help businesses develop their workforces.

NU London is also eager to play its part in the local community as it grows and expands its offering, whether that’s welcoming local residents on its degree courses or helping others gain new skills.

“We have students with us who are residents of Tower Hamlets, but we’re keen to get local people from all the boroughs around here and we want to be a valued member of the community,” said Rob.

“If anyone has any ideas how we can do that, then we’re more than happy to hear from them.

“One thing that we do is work with the GLA and the Department For Education to run free digital boot camps. These are open nationwide, but we’re particularly keen for local residents to join.

“The next one starts in January and it’s a 13-week programme for people aged 19 and over, to help them understand a bit more about the digital skills they may need for a career or a new or different job.”

The boot camp is run in partnership with cloud platform ServiceNow, which counts government agencies, prominent consultancies and major brands among its clients.

“We love being here at St Katharine Docks,” said Rob. “It’s a little oasis – close enough to the busy areas of the City, The Highway and Commercial Road if you want to go there, but quiet so you can study.

NUL moved to St Katharine Docks in 2021

“We feel we’ve become part of the community but hope to go further still.

“One of our key priorities is widening participation, to make sure that under-represented groups have the ability, the ambition and the understanding to be able to go to university.

“We have staff whose job it is to spread the word locally.

“They visit primary schools, secondary schools and colleges in Tower Hamlets and other boroughs to demystify university – especially for those whose family members have not been.

“We want them to know that they can come here, meet a diverse group of people and have choices.

“Some might want to make money in financial services while others might want to be social workers.

“What we want is to give them the ability to make those choices.

“Once they are here, we have a careers team that supports students from the practical side of things – writing CVs and interviews – through to clubs and societies.

“We’ve just launched an entrepreneur club, which will bring in recent graduates who have started businesses as well as people from funding organisations.

“We also have programmes which give students an idea of how businesses work. Your passion might be English Literature, but it’s useful to know other things as well.

“You may want to be an English professor, but that involves working at a university, which is a business that pays people and spends a budget – It’s about having that depth.”

NU London is set to host an open day for prospective students on November 26, 2022.

NUL is expanding its offering as it prepares to launch dual UK and US degrees

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Wapping: Why photographer Jonathan Goldberg travels to islands in the Thames

Jonathan will present a talk about his work at the Classic Boat Festival in St Katharine Docks

Photographer Jonathan Goldberg
Photographer Jonathan Goldberg

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Did you know there are 180 islands in the River Thames? That’s 180 mysterious pockets of land most of us will never set foot on.

If your interest has been piqued, you’re in good company, because I was enthralled when photographer Jonathan Goldberg began to tell me of his journey into the unknown.

He has visited 65 islands over the last four years for his series Estuary Hopes, Upstream Dreams, which captures life on their shores including an abandoned torpedo factory and an artists commune.

“I’ve always been fascinated by islands in general, and my projects are often based around my backyard,” said the Willesden Green resident.

“Other photographers might want to go to exotic locations and travel far, but that leaves a big carbon footprint and there’s so much on your doorstep you might not know about. 

One of Jonathan's images of Taggs Island
One of Jonathan’s images of Taggs Island

“The Thames islands are every bit as intriguing as the more publicised locations precisely because they lie under the radar. 

“I’m always quite fascinated by things that are seemingly so close yet a little bit hidden.”

He will be sharing details of his journey at St Katharine Docks this summer as part of the Classic Boat Festival, which in turn is part of the Totally Thames Festival.

The 49-year-old will be discussing his work with author and journalist Sasha Arms, whose book, Carl Goes London Islands informed his travels.

Some photographers do not have a predilection for verbosity and there is an argument that art should not be explained.

But Jonathan gallantly attempted to answer my questions about his travels, which he said gave him a greater awareness of the layers of history and many quirks to be found along the river.

His first stop was Eel Pie Island in Twickenham, one of 60 inhabited blobs of land in the Thames.

One of Jonathan's Eel Pie Island images
One of Jonathan’s Eel Pie Island images

“People of a certain age tend to know about it because it’s got a very colourful history,” he said.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a venue where a lot of the big music performers of the day played – The Who, Pink Floyd and David Bowie.

“It’s sort of private now, but it’s home to a lot of artists’ studios and they have an open day twice a year, so I went in the summer and it piqued my curiosity.”

He took the easier road (or waterway) next, travelling to the islands that are designated parkland or open to the public.

“I fixed on the people who frequented the islands and tried to find interesting and diverse characters and the everyday goings on,” he said.

One of his favourite discoveries was Tagg’s Island near Hampton. 

“It’s quite exotic-looking because the landscape gardener has planted numerous plants and there’s a lagoon in the middle of the island,” he said. 

“All around it are these houses which look really interesting because they are technically houseboats but never move – they are moored permanently.

“Something about the architecture is really ornate and quirky.”

The softly spoken photographer, who started his career on newspapers such as the Hendon Times and the Ham And High in the 1990s, was mostly welcomed ashore.

But he recalls one island that “looked like an 1980s housing estate” where his subjects were extremely reticent about appearing in front of the lens and all but escorted him back to the river after 30 minutes.

In contrast, he has spent “too much time” on Canvey Island and some of its most easterly neighbours.

One of Jonathan's images of Lots Ait
One of Jonathan’s images of Lots Ait

Jonathan said: “Sheppey is one of my favourite places to photograph because it feels rather like the end of the world and is a bit weird with loads of diverse things going on –  an industrial corner, a nudist beach, a tacky holiday resort and a nature reserve.”

The furthest west he has been is Osney, near Oxford, and Fry’s Island near Reading, which is almost entirely given over to the Island Bohemian Bowls Club.

He has plans to explore that area further, ahead of an exhibition in Henley next year which will showcase part two of the project.

“I’ll keep going because there are some islands that really interest me and I want to represent a few other facets of island life in my photos,” he said.

However, there are some islands he knows he will probably never get to set foot on.

“Magna Carta Island, which was where the Magna Carta was signed, has just one big mansion that’s owned by a private individual.

“I don’t feel like I’m going to get a chance to photograph that,” he said.

While that piece of history has been allowed to slip away from public view, others like Platt’s Eyot have benefited from their remoteness.

“It’s home to an enormous warehouse and used to be where World War Two torpedoes were constructed,” said Jonathan. 

“It’s semi-derelict but preserved, so they’re not allowed to knock it down. 

“I think that if this warehouse had been on the mainland it might have been demolished for housing.”

This project follows his series The Runway Stops Here, which documented a different kind of island – an ecological one. 

He spent five years visiting and photographing Grow Heathrow – a sustainable community living entirely off-grid in protest at the proposed expansion of the airport.

One of Jonathan's images of Trowlock Island
One of Jonathan’s images of Trowlock Island

“I would sit around the campfire, help out, make food and that played quite a formative role in my life,” he said.

“It was really great to hang out with a lot of people who were really committed to environmental protest and living sustainably.”

Jonathan said he is often lured by the siren call of the islands to make his own escape from mainstream society.

“I often get a real yearning to snap up a property and think it would be lovely to live there,” he said. “But then again, there are practicalities that need to be considered.

“Some have flooding issues, some you have to get a boat to and, in the winter, they’re not as appealing.”

For now, he’s happy to document these snippets of land that are imbued with so much history and encourage others to look more closely at the landscape around them.

“Hopefully, my pictures will encourage people to seek out places that are surrounded by nature and wildlife, look around more and have a greater interest in the natural world in the immediate vicinity,” he said.

“The islands are a really great place to be a bit more at one with nature because, with water all around, you are, by definition, surrounded by nature.

“You get an amplified sense of the changing seasons and time of day and beautiful sunsets and sunrises – a feeling of tranquillity.”

Thames Islands: Presentation and Discussion is set to take place on September 10 from 3pm-4.30pm. Entry is free.

A free exhibition of Estuary Hopes, Upstream Dreams will be held throughout September at Watermans Arts Centre, Brentford.

The Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine Docks
The Classic Boat Festival at St Katharine Docks

EVENTS + TALKS AT THE CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL

The free three-day boating extravaganza returns with around 40 vintage and preserved vessels assembling in the central basin of St Katharine Docks. 

They will include the Dunkirk Little Ships, Bates Starcraft and other working vessels. Visitors will be able to board some of them and meet their owners.

The festival is set to run September 9-11 in the afternoon (3pm-5.30pm) on the Friday, and from 11am-6pm on the Saturday and 11am-5pm on the Sunday.

The opening and closing will be marked each day with a salute of horns.

There will also be food stalls, entertainment, nautical goods and services available on Marble Quay. Talks will be held on the SKD events platform and include:

  • Tom Cunliffe – Fri, 4pm
  • The Queen’s Row Barge Gloriana – Sat, noon
  • The history of St Katherine Docks with Dr Oliver Ayers – Sat, 1.30pm
  • Thames Islands – Sat, 3pm
  • Gloriana as above – Sun, noon
  • Association of Dunkirk Little Ships – Sun, 3pm

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Wapping: How Festa is set to bring Portuguese wines and flavours to London

Tobacco Dock will host the inaugural gathering of winemakers, organised by Bar Douro’s Max Graham

Festa creator and Bar Douro founder Max Graham
Festa creator and Bar Douro founder Max Graham

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

As a child, Max Graham would dip his fingers in glasses of wine and port made by his family in the Douro Valley near Porto.

His passion for Portuguese food and drink followed him to school in England where he later founded Bar Douro to offer Londoners a taste of his homeland.

Now the 35-year-old has created an entire festival so those in the capital can fully submerge themselves in Portuguese flavours.

Festa, set to be held at Tobacco Dock in Wapping from June 24-25, will offer the chance to meet 54 winemakers from across Portugal, with a line-up of established names and young pioneers. 

A £35 ticket grants visitors unlimited access to the 300 varieties of wine on show with a backdrop of Portuguese food, music and crafts.

Once I get Max talking about the winemakers he has gathered for the event, he can’t stop.

“Every single one of our producers has a story,” said the Highbury resident.

“Portugal’s wine scene has been evolving at such a speed over the last 20 years and now what we’re seeing is the fruits of that. 

“There are some really cutting-edge projects exploring and expanding what Portuguese wines are. They have a character of their own.

“All of these winemakers are proud of their vineyards and their regions and they’re trying to be as true to that place as possible.”

Festa is being held to coincide with São João, a wild annual celebration in Porto, where Max grew up.

His dad, Johnny, will be in London to show off the port made by the family business – Churchill’s – which he set up in 1981 and named after his wife. 

“He was the first person to set up a port company in over 50 years,” said Max.

“But my dad’s side of the family have made Graham’s port wine in the Douro for more than 200 years.

“As a child I’d often just put my whole hand in a glass of wine at dinner – it was normal from a young age.

“I’d go to the lodges in Gaia where the wine is stored and play hide and seek in these vast rooms full of barrels.

“Every birthday, Christmas and Easter the vintage decanter would come out and you had to guess who made it and what year it was.

“I’ve got lots and lots of memories like that and, while I’m not a winemaker, I know how it all works and love tasting wine.”

Churchill's port, was set up by Max's father 40 years ago
Churchill’s port, was set up by Max’s father 40 years ago

The married father-of-two almost took another path. After completing boarding school in England, he studied for a degree in fine art and then a Masters at the Royal Drawing School.

“I was living in London trying to make it as an artist for a while and realised it wasn’t the right direction,” said Max.

“I was working at bars and restaurants and put on a big event called the Art Cellar, a mini festival of emerging art and food and then launched a pop-up for our family during  2012 to engage the younger generation.

“It was during that period I really became aware of the lack of representation of Portugal in London. 

“There was nothing reflecting the energy of Porto and Lisbon. That’s when I started building my business plan for Bar Douro.”

He launched the first bar in London Bridge in November 2016 and the second in Finsbury Park in 2020, just before Covid hit.

“The timing couldn’t have been worse,” said Max. “When lockdown happened and our restaurants closed, we said: ‘What are we going to do with this?’.

“We import a lot of wines directly from producers across Portugal, so we decided to set up a wine shop – and that quickly led into a wine club.”

The shop sells more than 100 Portuguese wines while club subscribers receive six on a quarterly basis, curated by Bar Douro’s wine guru Sarah Ahmed, who is also Festa’s co-founder.

“We had the idea for it back in 2018,” said Max. “But we were thinking about doing it in a much smaller way.

“Launching the shop and club brought us into even closer contact with the traders and we realised we wanted to put on a proper wine festival for them.

“There have been Portuguese trade fairs but never a wine festival and it was important to put the products in the cultural context, so the festival will have aspects of Portuguese culture, music, food, wine and crafts.

“It feels like we had been gearing up to this as everyone’s been at home and needs to have a bit of a celebration. The winemakers are gagging for it and I hope London is too.”

Max with wine guru Sarah Ahmed
Max with wine guru Sarah Ahmed

The event is expected to attract 3,400 people with Sarah leading four red carpet-themed tastings for rarer wines and visitors able to buy some of the wines through pop-up and online shops.

“Sarah and I chose the most exciting parts of Portugal’s wine scene, which is really exploding,” said Max.

“There are some famous wines from the 1960s, but the majority of producers have only really been working for 20 years. 

“Then you’ve got a new generation, who have worked at some of the great wine regions of the world and brought back a wealth of experience to Portugal.

“So you’ve got this really exciting melting pot of creativity and exploration.

“We don’t feel this is fully translating to the UK, so we’re trying to bring all that energy here and give those guys a platform to show their wines in London.”

Max hopes the event will change people’s view of what his homeland has to offer.

“There’s very much a preconception in the UK of Portuguese wine as being really good value, which is great but it’s also quite limiting,” said Max.

“Sometimes I don’t think people appreciate that there are some slightly higher-end wines.

“These winemakers are not holding back, they are showing the top end of their portfolio and our line up is unparalleled to anything seen in the UK before.

“It covers absolutely every single wine growing region in Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira and really obscure regions like Távora Varosa, where Titan is made to Beira Interior where Quinta Da Biaia is made.

“We’ve also got really good representation from the big areas, like Herdade do Rocim from Alentejo which is a more established company.”

Max said the experience of creating Festa from scratch has been a sharp learning curve. It has been entirely funded by Bar Douro and he is expecting to make a loss.

“But for him, it is about something bigger than profit.

“Whatever happens at the core, we know that we’ve got an unbelievable lineup and we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before, for Portugal, that we’re all proud of,” said Max.

“It might not be the most financially sensible decision, but it’s worth it for the bigger picture.

“This is an event to make Portugal bigger and better and that’s going to benefit everyone, I hope.”

MAX’S MAKERS – APPEARING AT FESTA

BIG NAMES

  • Soalheiro, Filipa Pato, Wine & Soul. 

PIONEERS

  • Niepoort: “They trained a new generation of winemakers who are now at the cutting edge of Portugal’s wine scene.”
  • Pierre de Rocimhas: “He’s really led the charge on Tahlia wine made in clay pots.”

NEW DISCOVERIES

  • Geographic Wines: “His first production’s just being boxed now and I don’t think anyone’s tried his wines before.”

YOUNG GUNS

  • Arribas Wine Company: “Based in the Trás-os-Montes, they are doing such cool wines”
  • Mateus Nicolau de Almeida: “He comes from a serious lineage of winemakers. His grandfather created Barca Velha, the most famous Portuguese wine and its makers Casa Ferreirinha will also be at Festa.”
Bar Douro
Bar Douro

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Wapping: How Pop Skewer is serving up a taste of Brazil underneath the railway

Marina Simoes and Marcio Yokota opened their kiosk after both losing their jobs during lockdown

Marcio Yokota and Marina Simoes of Pop Skewer
Marcio Yokota and Marina Simoes of Pop Skewer – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Underneath the grey stretch of railway tracks in Wapping lies a surprise. Well, more than one, actually.

Venture off the beaten path of Cable Street and you will find Brazil’s most popular street food on offer at Pop Skewer

Succulent beef on sticks, halal chicken and sausage are freshly barbecued and served up on the side of the road, just like in South America.

The compact kiosk was opened by Brazilian couple Marina Simoes, 46, and Marcio Yokota, 53, after they both lost their jobs during the first lockdown.

They had never worked together, but decided to use their skills and take a chance on their new venture.

Marina said: “We were both doing something completely different before.

“I was working in property sales and then started temping because I knew I wanted to do something else but never thought of opening my own business.

“My husband was working in a coffee shop as manager but because of lockdown we were both at home unemployed, so we said: ‘Why not work together?’.

“He’s a very good cook, so we thought we’d do something that uses his skills and gives people a taste of Brazil.”

They decided to serve the skewers with another popular dish from their home country – rice and beans.

“In Brazil, they wouldn’t normally be served together,” said Marina. “But we decided to combine them. 

“The skewers are everywhere in Brazil. You grab them and eat them on the street really informally on the stick.

“They’re a really profitable business there and, hopefully, we will get the same success here.”

Pop Burger and Pop Sandwich from the kiosk
Pop Burger and Pop Sandwich from the kiosk – image Matt Grayson

They also serve up a Pop Sandwich and Pop Burger and daily specials like beef stew with cassava, beef stroganoff, beef parmigiana and, once a month, slow-cooked beef ribs.

“Every Saturday we serve the feijoada, which is black bean and pork stew,” said Marina.

“It’s made with different types of pork meat served with rice, tomato salad, spring greens and the farofa, toasted cassava flour with bacon and something else.

“Forgive me, I forget as I’ve been a vegetarian for  20 years.”

A vegetarian running a meat-based business? How does that work? 

“To be honest, I don’t like the smell of the BBQ, but I respect everyone whether they are vegetarian or not,” she said.

Marina admits she mostly stays away from the kitchen and sticks to handling other parts of the business.

The couple buy all their food fresh every few days and have items like the black beans delivered from a Brazilian supplier.

“I don’t cook anything, I’m terrible with that,” she said. “Of course, I help put the meals together. But cooking? No.”

Thanks to her, Pop Skewer also serves up plenty of vegetarian options, including a halloumi, onion and courgette skewer, a halloumi burger with courgette and lettuce, tomato and homemade sauce and a vegetarian sandwich in ciabatta bread.

Marina said: “Cooking with a charcoal grill makes such a difference to the taste. 

“We have never just aimed to target Brazilians and, so far, everyone is enjoying eating it, which we find amazing.”

A range of dishes are available from the kiosk
A range of dishes are available from the kiosk – image Matt Grayson

It’s not the first time the Bromley residents have taken a leap into the unknown.

Marina, who is of Italian heritage and grew up in Minas Gerais, left Brazil in her 20s on a one-way ticket to London.

She said: “My first job was working in silver service in hotels. I was terrible. Then I started in retail sales and then management and then property sales.”

Marcio, who is of Japanese heritage and grew up in Sao Paulo, arrived in England 15 years ago. He left behind a clothes business and found work in restaurants and coffee shops.

 Having grown up 370 miles apart, it took them both travelling 5,900 miles across the Atlantic for their love story to begin on the streets of London.

“We met through a mutual friend and have been together ever since,” said Marina.

Their relationship is being put to the test with the challenges presented by their joint venture.

They built the business in just eight weeks, launching just after the first lockdown, and have faced struggles with supplies during the pandemic, getting word out to customers on a shoestring, and working together in very close quarters.

“Sometimes I want to strangle my husband,” said Marina

“But we have separate areas with me in the front taking orders and the other two guys in the cooking area. Sometimes we do bump into each other and bicker.

“It’s been very challenging having our own business under these conditions for the past year, but I’m really enjoying it.”

Pop skewers are very popular in Brazil
Pop skewers are very popular in Brazil – image Matt Grayson

They have also taken on fellow Brazilian Lucas Montagnini and trained him up to work on the grill.

“It was very hard to find someone because of the pandemic,” said Marina.

“He was a friend of a friend who was an engineer in Brazil, but he’d had enough and decided to leave and do something else.

“That’s what we all do when we come to England – something completely different. It’s great and challenging, leaving our comfort zone.”

The Pop Skewer site was empty before they took it over and they rely on Instagram, Google and word of mouth to gain customers. 

But business can be unpredictable, with the lunch crowd sometimes arriving at 11am and sometimes not until 1.30pm, which makes it hard to plan.

“It can be really unpredictable,” said Marina.“We are not just building up Pop Skewer but also the location.

“The residents kept us going during the pandemic, but now the office workers are coming back. Hopefully, when the weather gets warmer, there will be lots of BBQ for everyone.

“We really want Pop Skewer to grow and get more customers.

“The past year has been about working hard and not getting much money, so we really want to move to the next level now and become known by everyone for Brazilian food.”

Pop Skewer is located by the side of Cable Street
Pop Skewer is located by the side of Cable Street – image Matt Grayson

Read more: BabaBoom set to launch kebab restaurant in Stratford

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Wapping: How baths and art intersect at the Bickerton-Grace Gallery at Stirling Eco

Grace Of London set for exhibition alongside Lisa Izquierdo at dealership on The Highway

Anne-Marie Bickerton of Bickerton-Grace Gallery
Anne-Marie Bickerton of Bickerton-Grace Gallery – image Matt Grayson

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I hope you’re sitting comfortably, because this is going to take some serious attention. In Wapping there’s an electric motorcycle dealership called Stirling Eco.

Its founder and CEO is a man called Robert Grace. 

Professionally he rose to prominence as an expert tiler and mosaic artist working at the very top of the interiors profession.

That culminated in Grace Of London, which creates decorative baths inlaid with precious metals, Swarovski crystals and the like, for those whose luxury bathing habits far exceed the means of most – think up to £100k a tub. With me so far? Good.

Robert met photographer and artist Anne-Marie Bickerton when she came to shoot one of his baths with a ballerina in it. Inspired, she created a painting based on the images she’d taken, then came up with the idea of cutting it into pieces to share the art.

In collaboration with Robert, they decided to take that idea – calling it Sentiment – and involve other artists, creating the nucleus of what’s become the Bickerton-Grace Gallery.

Its physical space, based at Stirling Eco on The Highway, has an ever-evolving display of work by the 100 artists in the Sentiment project, including Anne-Marie herself.

From March 25-April 8, however, it will host a joint exhibition of work by painter Lisa Izquierdo and some of Robert’s baths.

Robert and Lisa will display their work together
Robert and Lisa will display their work together – image Matt Grayson

Anne-Marie said: “With the Sentiment collection, an artist sends us a work, which we divide into 1,000 pieces, mount on 24-carat gold leaf and stitch a gold thread through – that’s all about connection.

“They can then be purchased, potentially connecting 100,000 people with this installation. We also invite the artists to exhibit in our space and it’s an incredibly diverse group – we have classical artists, street art, acrylic painters, pretty much everything.

“Then you have all the collaborations I do with Robert and the pieces in the Sentiment collection themselves.”

The electric bikes aren’t just a backdrop. Stirling Eco prides itself on offering artistic makeovers for its rides, some in collaboration with Sentiment artists. 

Much of the space, which is free to visit, is adorned with artworks large and small.

Anne-Marie, for example, uses the walls to create vanishing pieces that are painted over shortly after creation, with digital versions deleted and only limited edition prints surviving.

It’s an environment that feels less about selling two-wheelers and more about unbridled creativity.

“Running a gallery is really interesting,” said Anne-Marie. “I get so inspired by the other artists that are on board and it’s a bit of a love project really, because I get connected to every one of them.

“Art is an emotional response – it grabs you or it doesn’t, and it’s very personal. 

“It’s like a fire in your tummy – I really like that but I can’t explain it, like a buzz of energy – it’s a nice feeling.

“The idea of Sentiment is that if you see a piece by an artist but can’t afford it, you can still buy a piece of something they’ve created.

“With Lisa, her pieces are very dramatic, beautiful big oil paintings, and they tie in really nicely with what Robert makes – they complement each other without clashing and that’s why we’ve brought these two artists together.

“Visitors will see their work together, but also work by other artists as well.”

THE ARTISTS IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Robert with one of his baths
Robert with one of his baths – image Matt Grayson

Grace Of London – The words of Robert Grace

“I did an apprenticeship as a ceramic floor tiler and I’ve always had an artistic background, which set me aside from my peers,” said Robert.

“I pretty much won every award that was available as a City and Guilds apprentice, and by the age of 25 I was abroad fixing mosaic domes in palaces.

“I’d worked for pretty much all the royal families in the world.

“Towards the end of my tiling career, I was getting older and I was trying to think how I might use my brain rather than my brawn.

“The idea to create the baths came when a client asked me what colour she should paint her bath – it was in a £60,000 bathroom and I just thought I could create something that would turn the interior from a stunning one to a spectacular place.

The exhibition will take place at Stirling Eco
The exhibition will take place at Stirling Eco – image Matt Grayson

“She painted her bath in the end, but I went back to my workshop and thought about creating some samples.

“Then, with the the help of top refurbishment firm Grangewood, I launched them with a week-long exhibition. 

“They cost from about £50,000 but the customer is getting 35 years of experience and something that’s unique and hand-cut. I’ve made some for more than £100,000. The last one I did had over 40,000 pieces of glass.

“The bathtubs are a good match with Lisa’s art because her work is astonishing, really beautiful and also the kind of piece you could include as part of an interior design.

“It’s subtle, the colours are well-chosen and the textures are beautiful.

“I’ve worked with some of the finest interior designers in the world and, to be really good in that world, you have to understand how light falls, shapes and colours what’s in a room.

“One of the most important things is to understand how to place and decorate with pieces of art themselves.

“I’ve always been artistic and creative and this is an extension of that.”

  • Robert will show three baths at Bickerton-Grace Gallery as part of the exhibition, including the black and white Harlequin
Lisa, pictured with one of her paintings
Lisa, pictured with one of her paintings – image Matt Grayson

Lili – The words of Lisa Izquierdo

“The pieces I’ll be showing at the exhibition will be the from my Essence Of Woman collection,” said Lisa, who lives and works near Manchester.

“There are no faces, it’s more about texture, movement and dynamic. I’ve always had an interest in art. When I was very young – aged six – I would draw these elfin-like, elongated silhouettes with wings.

“I think I was inspired by strong women in my life who brought me up, like my mum and my sister.

“I have six collections, all on different subjects, but painting these images was a real way to escape when I was struggling – painting is meditative, a lovely, expressive way to cocoon myself in my little studio and put it all on canvas.

“Everyone goes through bad times and you wouldn’t appreciate the good without that.

“It was tough in my 20s, I started modelling when I was 13 and at 15 I went to Madrid on a contract and then Tokyo for a year. On the one hand I got to travel the world and it taught me a lot of lessons in life. 

Lisa will be showing pieces from her Essence Of Woman series -
Lisa will be showing pieces from her Essence Of Woman series – image Matt Grayson

“But I was in an environment at a very young age that was horrible and it scarred me. That’s why I don’t paint faces, because it’s drilled into you that you need to be a certain way.

“There were eating disorders, drug addictions – you see it all – it was exploitation of very young girls. Even now at 46, I have to be OK with eating. 

“Those experiences are part of what makes me the artist I am today.

“For me art is the release. I get really lost in painting. Sometimes I can be in the studio until four or five in the morning.

“I’ll go home, sleep and go back to the studio and discover what I’ve created, whether it’s an abstract piece or a painting of a man or a woman.

“I hope people feel uplifted when they see my work. I want it to be thought-provoking too and to feel some positive energy – it’s a bit hippy, but then that’s what I am.”

  • Lisa, who signs her work Lili, will show a selection of her oil paintings at the exhibition. 

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Wapping: How The Rattle is investing in crazy in the depths of Tobacco Dock

It has 600 members from 9,000 applicants and is ‘deliberately mysterious and secretive’

Jon Eades and Chris Howard of The Rattle
Jon Eades and Chris Howard of The Rattle – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

Something is growing in Tobacco Dock. Tucked away in one of its workspaces is The Rattle – a company that wants to give creatives the same power as tech CEOs.

Deliberately mysterious, its website and social channels are almost barren and membership is notoriously hard to come by. In five years, it has vetted 9,000 applicants and taken 600 members. 

But with founders Chris Howard, 40, and Jon Eades, 38, about to land $10million in funding for an international expansion, the subversive ploy seems to be bearing fruit. So what the hell do they actually do?

“I began investing in weird humans in 2017,” said CEO Chris. “I had this personal belief that startups are really boring and every single one was yet another Uber for olives or Netflix for donkey saddles, just the same company over and over again.

“So I gave money to musicians and authors, comedians, math olympiad competitors and psychologists. I wanted to see what happened if you joined their team for six months and, it turned out, it was really cool stuff.

“It shows if you place the same trust you would in a tech nerd in a crazy creative type, they can create something just as valuable and socially powerful as Mark Zuckerberg.”

The premise is simple, at least on the surface. Members of The Rattle pay a fee and can drop into the Wapping site anytime between 8am and 10pm. 

It comprises two small studios for writing or recording demos, a live room for up to 10 musicians, which can be used for live streaming and video shoots, and a well-equipped production room for recording and later stage production.

It sounds pretty standard, but under the surface there is much more going on.

“The Rattle is deliberately mysterious and secretive,” said Chris. “We want people to find it hard to join because it implies a certain character type. 

“It’s important to us that every member is fucking crazy and has a world view that makes you go: ‘What?’.

“Then they have to be insanely talented at something, particularly something creative, or have made something really special.

“Finally they need to have this magnetism that draws people in.”

The space includes recording facilities
The space includes recording facilities

So how do you nurture such a diverse mix of people without stifling them?

“We’re not trying to make another Abbey Road,” said Jon, referencing the studios where he worked for a decade. 

“This is a very fluid, very human environment where you are free to experiment and not count the clock or be hyper-conscious of how much it’s costing you.

“It’s a laboratory free from stress for prototyping and experimenting.”

While members casually chat, live stream, record and write, behind the scenes a team of 20 experts is busy documenting every move in order to “engineer serendipity”.

“It’s behind the scenes puppet mastering,” said Chris.

“That sounds weird, but all our members know we do this and the huge wealth of data we track allows our team to understand who needs to meet who and under what conditions. 

“Then, for around 20% of our members that move into the venture side, we have a veteran team of about 20 ex-hackers, founders, music folk and tech developers whose job it is to co-create these projects that we think can change the world and transition them into companies. That’s our primary business. 

“The last thing we do is connect the outside works into The Rattle so we curate investors and superstars that have done incredible things to come and inspire our members to be more daring and break as many rules as humanly possible in a safe and responsible way. 

“Our entire mission as a company is to help the next generation of artists, hackers and inventors become disruptive founders.

“We think they are the ones who change society and the economy and we want to make sure this category of human has a chance.”

The co-founders have very different roles, defined by their obviously contrasting personalities and the diverse paths they took to find each other.

“Day to day, Jon focuses on getting the machinery working well together,” said Chris.

“My job is to make sure the right humans are in the mix from a team point of view and that the people who give us money don’t have too much influence over what we do. So I’m kind of like the shield and Jon’s the sword.”

Neither can keep a straight face at this point but while Chris guffaws with laughter, Jon gives a wry grin. 

He grew up playing in orchestras, studied music and sound engineering at the University Of Surrey and pretty much walked straight into a technical role at Abbey Road Studios.

He went on to discover a  passion for startups and launched Abbey Road Red, an incubator for tech entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Chris was the council estate kid with a music A&R dad who he defied to become a moderately successful singer-songwriter. 

But believing he was “too shit or too ugly” to make it work, he jacked it in and, on completing a degree in physics and a Ph.D in computational physics, ended up across the pond at MIT conducting research into the online psychology of motivation and social influence “because why the hell not?”.

He spun this into tech company Libboo, which identified audience trends and helped a thousand authors sell their books.

But when it began to fail, alongside his marriage, he landed back in England at Tobacco Dock, as MD of the UK arm of MassChallenge, a global network for entrepreneurs.

It was through their shared passion for music and startups that the two finally crossed paths. 

“Having the Abbey Road business card meant I attracted a lot of people and one of those was Chris,” said Jon. 

“Most people don’t forget their first meeting with Chris and I certainly didn’t. He just tells it how it is and suffers the bullshit less than some.

“As a young founder if you have a meeting with Chris, you get the truth and sometimes it stings.”

Chris said: “I just sent Jon a random email saying: ‘Hey, you don’t know me but…’ He had his guard up, but I decided to just keep trying and finally he invited me in.

“I just had the impression that he thought: ‘Urgh another one desperate to be involved’. So I just thought: ‘Fuck it, I’m not going to sell myself I’m just going to say what I think’.

“Fair to say I didn’t play it cool. I’m not cool.”

They kept in touch as The Rattle first took root and, when it secured its first investment at the end of 2017, Jon decided it was time to leave the “safe haven” of Abbey Road and follow his “entrepreneurial urges”.

“That’s how The Rattle started officially – on February 9, 2018,” he said. “It was a quick turnaround and at this point Chris decided to get married and go on honeymoon to Thailand.”

Chris, who now lives in Bath and juggles jetting round the world with parenting, laughs gleefully at this point and shortly afterwards dashes off unexpectedly once again to do a pitch to an investor.

“Man on the ground, Jon, notes his business partner has a “love-hate relationship” with raising funds, but his brilliance at doing so should soon land them enough cash to launch the next phase of The Rattle.

The Rattle began with 50 founding members
The Rattle began with 50 founding members

Jon, who lives in Peckham, said it started with 50 founding members as “an experiment” and they had made tonnes of mistakes along the way, but by the end of 2018 had raised $2million, which allowed them to open a second location in Silverlake, Los Angeles, in March 2020. 

“Most people remember that week,” said Jon.

“I got the last flight back as America was closing its borders and we had to put a blanket over it for four months, but our founding members all stuck with it and so did the London crowd.

“There is this real feeling of belonging and being chosen.”

That nurturing environment is now evolving into an ecosystem that he wants to see spread across the world.

“In 2019, we started to explore the notion of venture building where you join someone’s team, temporarily, parachute in and leverage everything you have to help them.

“The other people who tend to provide that sort of thing in music are managers, labels and lawyers.

“Our offering was such a breath of fresh air and we were amazed by the results – that’s become the seedling of everything we have done since. 

“Really what The Rattle is today is a venture studio where we can explain our world view about drawing on expertise from the startup world and approach funding in different ways to see how it can benefit them.

“Once you have built that trust you can partner with them and now we are taking long-term positions with people.

“They stop paying us and we take a bit of ownership and hope in five years they become profitable.”

Today it has 75 members per location and has started roughly 25 ventures that it thinks will help change the world.

“It’s not about trying to become famous and high numbers,” said Jon. “Streaming only really makes sense for the Ed Sheerans and Dua Lipas of the world. 

“But if you really know who you are and how to engage with high-value fans, there’s real money to be made and a social impact that really affects people’s lives.

“We are the first ones who have found a way to show people a different path, which is all about behaving like a founder, taking responsibility and not handing over control to people prematurely and being taken advantage of. 

“If members choose to interface with the existing industry then so be it – we are not anti-label – but we want people to do it from a position of strength so they know what they are getting involved in.”

The Rattle is structures so it shares in members’ profits

Everything The Rattle does is on an equitable basis. They never touch revenue or rights, but become shareholders, so are the last to get paid if there is any profit.

“That means we can give honest advice because if we screw the artist we are screwing ourselves,” said Jon.

“Although we are down every month from a cash flow perspective, we are signing more and more equitable agreements with people, so the assets we are accumulating are increasing. 

“At the moment, we are trying to close out $10million, so that’s really exciting and we’re also trying to lead the way by doing a crypto raise, which is attracting more new investors.

“Having that money will mean we can refresh our spaces, maybe even move to new facilities and set-up New York and one or two more within the next couple of years and for the first time be on the map as a real challenger. 

“We have been this scrappy outsider so far, but now it is really starting to come together and we can start to challenge some of the bigger record companies and offer the best people a real alternative.”

ON THE RADAR

Broaden your horizons with members of The Rattle:

“Instead of signing a record deal he formed a limited company, sold shares and raised £150,000,” said Jon.

That enabled him to explore business models and he grew a super fan community using WhatsApp and other platforms and built his whole operation around figuring out what they were interested in buying from him and being quite high touch about it.

He isn’t very famous, but he has built up a really solid business.”

“Created a platform that allows people to create immersive 3D experiences really easily so musicians can perform inside interactive worlds and make live streaming less dull. They are just closing out a big round of investment.”

Feed Forward

“Using AI to improve music search and retrieval, which sounds quite boring but is quite impactful.”

“They call themselves high five hip-hop. It’s throwback 1990s where they are quite irreverent and write songs around topical themes. They did one for World Bee Day. They have built up a core of fans and throw house parties with beer pong and Super Nintendo.”

“British psychedelic band trying to revive that golden age of the 1970s. Saw other bands doing it and incited a whole lifestyle around tie-dye and slow living.”

Read more: Discover The Well Bean Co in Royal Docks

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Wapping: How Tondo Pizza’s founders are bringing their childhood flavours to diners

How Gregorio Carullo and Dario Truden created a restaurant in celebration of their shared love of food

Gregorio Carullo, left, and Dario Truden – image Matt Grayson

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

It’s a classic bromance. Gregorio Carullo and Dario Truden grew up on opposite sides of the Tyrrhenian Sea in southern Italy.

As growing boys, they feasted on pizza and, as men, embraced the sensual arts of nude photography and hairdressing.

Fate brought them together five years ago in London when, like so many residents of the capital, they found themselves thrown together as flatmates.

They bonded over their heritage and a shared passion for pizza, which quickly grew into a desire to share it with their new community.

There were ups and downs along the way but, two months ago, the story had its happy ending, when the duo opened Tondo Pizza in Wapping High Street.

The 24-seater restaurant serves up food that fuses traditional Neopolitan flavours with modern sensibilities. I sat down with married father-of-one, Gregorio to find out more.

how did the idea start?
Dario and I lived together as flatmates for two years and, although we do totally different jobs, we always had the same passion for Italian food and the dream of opening a small restaurant.

The idea of ​​Tondo started a long time ago when I had the opportunity to work in the evening in a pizzeria here in London and, over six years, accumulated the experience and the desire necessary to start this new adventure.

Pizza chef at Tondo Filip Fric
Pizza chef at Tondo Filip Fric – image Matt Grayson

what inspired you?
We are both from the south of Italy. I was born and raised in Salerno and Dario in Sicily, so having the need to make great pizza is in our veins. We both grew up eating it and we wanted to recreate the flavours of our childhood in our own way.

what were the challenges?
There were certainly enough difficulties to carry out this project, starting with finding the right place and making everything functional. However, everything was possible thanks to the support and commitment of Dario who immediately believed in the potential of my idea.

why open in Wapping?
For me it is the most beautiful neighbourhood in London. It’s an island of quiet in the middle of the largest city in the country. I loved it from the first moment I walked its streets back in 2016, when I first moved to London. 

I would come here often to take long walks and relax, away from the chaos of the city and I finally moved here in 2020.

Pizzas are served on wooden trays
Pizzas are served on wooden trays- image Matt Grayson

what do you love about it?
I love the architecture of its buildings and that it is a place rich in history.

what was your childhood like?
I was born in Salerno, and my childhood was carefree, my family is the typical family of southern Italy with its rules and traditions to respect. I am the youngest of three children and, perhaps for this reason, I have always been the most pampered.

your first memories of pizza?
My first memory is surely the one related to the pizza from the Aquila Nera restaurant, where I had thousands during my childhood. It was my daily appointment – almost a ritual – with my friends.

who taught you to make it?
My first teacher was definitely my mother, I will always be grateful to her for having transmitted to me the value of the Italian culinary tradition. 

Then I was able to refine my knowledge thanks to the help of colleagues over the years.

what’s a Tondo pizza?
Tondo follows the tradition of Neapolitan pizza – using Italian raw materials that are always fresh and working everything slowly. Our dough rests from 48 to 72 hours to allow it to be light and delicious.

Tondo Pizza's interior
Tondo Pizza’s interior – image Matt Grayson

what kind of oven do you use?
A new generation electric oven that allows us to have a perfect temperature for cooking pizza and does not emit odours or smoke, respecting nature. 

We serve the pizzas using wooden trays with sheets of recycled paper, which gives us a water-saving of 90% and we recycle all our waste personally. 

where do you get ingredients?
All the ingredients are Italian Protected Designation of Origin (DOP) products, from flour to tomato, mozzarella and all the toppings. We are proud that all our ingredients arrive from the producer to our restaurant in less than a day.

what’s on the menu?
Delicious starters such as meat platters or burrata and our pizzas range from the well known Margherita to our bestsellers Diavola, Panciona and many others. 

We offer vegan and gluten-free options as well. There are also desserts such as Italian pistachio, chocolate and vanilla gelato and then the Neapolitan baba with lemon cream from the Amalfi coast or dark chocolate cream – absolutely worth trying.

Tondo Pizza is located in Wapping
Tondo Pizza is located in Wapping – image Matt Grayson

why is your pizza special?
Tondo’s pizza fully represents the taste of Italian tradition. Although we started this adventure just over two months ago, our customers have already rewarded us with enthusiastic reviews.

how does it fit with the day job?
Luckily I can manage the two activities quite well – by day as a photographer and by night as a restaurateur – like Bruce Wayne and Batman. 

Photography is a passion before a job, in fact, I tend to do only personal projects because only that can make you achieve great results.

what kind of photos do you take?
I do only nude art. I have been pursuing this career for nine years and it is always a great satisfaction to have the honour of photographing strong and independent women. 

They fight every day for their rights, putting themselves on the line, with a type of photography that is sometimes looked at from the wrong point of view by society.

which is tougher?
Without a doubt, pizza. Photography can be learned with courses and practice. Pizza must be in your soul.

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Wapping: How Tom Carradine’s show is simply a good old cockney knees-up

Pianist celebrates six years of sing-a-long performances at Wilton’s Music Hall in east London

Tom is set to perform at Wilton's in January and February
Tom is set to perform at Wilton’s in January and February image Matt Grayson

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Tom Carradine is adamant that he doesn’t have a cockney bone in his body.

But anyone who’s seen him levitate and click his heels, grinning from ear to ear couldn’t fail to doubt that more than a little East End magic courses through his lithe and dapper frame.

A singular individual, clad in sharp vintage clothes, he’s a man perfectly suited to the niche he inhabits – showman, entertainer, crowd pleaser. 

More than that, he’s an education, a smuggler of facts in with the bonhomie, such that audiences attending Carradine’s Cockney Sing-A-Long, will leave having absorbed a smattering of knowledge

A regular Thursday night performer at Mr Fogg’s Tavern in Covent Garden, he’s a regular name at venues across east London and is celebrating six years of sell-out shows at Wilton’s Music Hall in Wapping with gigs on January 20, 22 and February 8.

It all started, of course, with biochemistry.

“I was born in Coventry, in the Midlands, and grew up there,” said Tom. “To cut a very long story short, I was told by the careers advisors not to be an actor or a musician and that I needed to get a proper job.

“I’d always been fascinated by London – I’d pored over maps of it as a kid and knew the Tube lines inside out.

“My mum and dad had trained at the teacher training college in Roehampton, so I was always fascinated by the history of the city – its ghost stories and all that kind of stuff.

“We’d go a couple of times a year to see shows and I’d always wanted to live there since I was tiny.

“I ended up doing a biochemistry degree at Imperial College London, that’s when I moved to the city.”

Tom met West End musicians while at university
Tom met West End musicians while at university image Matt Grayson

It was while at university Tom realised music had a bigger pull for him than test tubes and Bunsen burners. Having always played piano, he became involved with the student operatic society. 

“I met West End musicians that way and gradually I was being asked to play for things like cabaret concerts, auditions and rehearsals,” he said.

“I finished off my degree as joint honours with business studies and then spent time doing fringe theatre and touring as the keyboard player in shows such as Blood Brothers – living out of a suitcase for about eight years.

“Then I decided to hang up my touring shoes and was playing a bit for Les Miserables in the West End. While I was doing that, I was introduced to the London cabaret scene.

Carradine’s Cockney Sing-A-Long was lots of different things coming together. There was my love and fascination for London and old-time music.

“Even though there are no Cockneys in my family, I was involved with Scout gang shows back in Coventry growing up and through that I learnt a lot of music hall and wartime songs.

“Then on the London cabaret circuit and the vintage scene I was starting to develop my own vintage style. I discovered as an adult you can do what you want and wear what you want. 

“I was playing with a 1920s-30s band called Champagne Charlie And The Bubbly Boys.

“We were playing at a vintage festival in Bedfordshire – actually based at the airfield where band leader Glenn Miller took off from on his last flight when his plane crashed and he was lost.

“After the show we ended up in an old Nissen hut, which was a pub, with a battered old piano. Half the keys weren’t working and it was completely out of tune.

“But my friend Dusty Limits, who was hosting one of the stages, tipped me the wink and said: ‘Play some of the old songs’.

“So I did My Old Man Said Follow The Van and Knees Up Mother Brown – all the songs I knew from childhood and took requests.

“The pints kept coming and I kept playing. Then we did the same the night after.

“I didn’t really think about it again until we went back the following year and people saw us on the way and asked if we were doing the sing-a-long again.

“The rest is history. Now I make a full-time living pushing around my mobile piano – Kimberley – and driving my van all over the country.”

Tom wears a mixture of vintage styles
Tom wears a mixture of vintage styles image Matt Grayson

Ticket holders for Tom’s shows can expect a blistering array of sing-a-long classics from British and, often American, pens including tunes so well known over this side of the pond many assume them to be native. 

“It’s a good old-fashioned knees-up,” said Tom, who these days operates from a base in Tonbridge.

“It’s my job to whip the crowd up and then we’ll go through maybe 200 songs you never knew you knew.

“The lyrics are projected on the back wall and it’s all about audience participation – bringing back those memories with tunes people haven’t heard for years. 

“It’s fast-paced – there are medleys – and you can buy a ticket for anywhere in the theatre, but I get to be in the best seat in the house, which is right in the middle of everyone when they sing.

“As much as anything the show is exploration and education as well as entertainment. 

“I like to try and link things together in medley – for example, last time I was at Wilton’s I did one based on tramps with Burlington Bertie From Bow – about a man dressed above his station in life as an upper class toff – echoed by Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London with the old man in the closed down market. 

“I’m a firm believer that songs from the 1890s to the 1950s need to be performed and shouldn’t sit as dusty old sheet music whether it’s the better known ones or the others.

“People will know Daisy, Daisy and I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, the latter written in America.

“But will they know The Postman’s Holiday or It’s a Great Big Shame? Unless we sing them and pass them along, they’re just going to die out.”

Tom's spats, made to an Edwardian design
Tom’s spats, made to an Edwardian design image Matt Grayson

Audiences can also expect to be delighted by Tom’s wardrobe as well as his moustache.

He said: “When you have facial furniture like this, it’s hard to wear anything but vintage. It’s very rare I’m ever seen outside the house without a collar and tie on, even when I’m putting the bins out. 

“I completely appreciate vintage purists, but I mix and match if only so the really precious pieces get a longer life.

“For this shoot my trousers are 1950s, the spats are modern but to an Edwardian pattern, the waistcoat is 1960s and the jacket is 1920. 

“The collar and shirt are new – thankfully there are companies that still make these kinds of clothes. I wear clothes that make me feel good.”

Performances at Wilton’s start at 7.30pm with tickets from £9-£18.

Audience members should bring a pair of lungs and expect to work them enthusiastically.

Read more: Inject some colour to fight the January blues

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Wapping: How Wapping Docklands Market provides a platform for small businesses

Zeroo Markets founder Will Cutteridge talks under-used land, sustainability and his plans for expansion

Will Cutteridge of Wapping Docklands Market
Will Cutteridge of Wapping Docklands Market – image Matt Grayson

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Will Cutteridge is a bit of a visionary. Where some see awkward, unused expanses of land left over from Docklands’ industrial past, he sees opportunity.

Take the patch of cobbles, wharf and compacted earth beside the Glamis Road bascule bridge, for example. 

Walk under the crossing’s red riveted metalwork, turn right through a gate off Wapping Wall at the entrance to Shadwell Basin you have the site of his first venture under the banner of Zeroo Markets.

“I worked in commercial property for five years on an apprenticeship scheme, changing teams every year,” said Will. “It was managing real estate in many different formats, but it wasn’t for me.

“When I was very young and working in property – I was 17 when I joined the industry – I didn’t have much money so I was looking at ways of making some extra cash on the weekends. 

“I started working for a company called Bath Soft Cheese who have a farm just outside of Bath, funnily enough.

“The job was selling their products at various markets around London and I absolutely loved it.

“Before I became an apprentice I’d had an interest in starting my own business of some kind. I had experience of real estate and markets – I didn’t enjoy one of them so the other one seemed the obvious place to go.

Hannah Nicholson of Peaches
Hannah Nicholson of Peaches – image Matt Grayson

“I think people are increasingly conscious of sustainability, the environment and the future of the planet.

“That was also an interest of mine, so I wanted to see how I could work that into my ideas and actually make a difference. 

“I felt almost a moral duty to factor that into my business plan and markets provide a brilliant platform for primary producers to sell their products at a price that doesn’t need to compete with large commercial supermarkets. 

Chegworth Valley, for example, is our fruit and veg supplier based in Kent, so it’s only 50 miles away.

“Our butcher is in Leicester, so that’s about 100 miles. When you buy a steak in a supermarket for £3, it may well have come from Australia or Texas.

“It’s far better to shop local and we describe ourselves as a sustainable alternative.”

By we, Will means Wapping Docklands Market, the venture he launched in April after founding his company in October 2020.

“The most important thing to do is to find the site, get the right demographic and then apply to the landowner,” he said. “In this case it’s Tower Hamlets Council.

“This was just an abandoned car park – it’s not used by anyone for anything.”

Egle Kleivaite of Stomping Grounds
Egle Kleivaite of Stomping Groundsimage Matt Grayson

Visitors to the market, which normally operates on Saturdays, will find a range of traders.

“It’s lots of different things for many different kinds of customer,” said Will.

“For the residents of Wapping and further afield in east London, it provides an opportunity to support local businesses and to get their weekly shop in from us.

“A lot of people do that – one of our best performing pitches is the fruit and veg stall. People do support that mission.

“We also have a pub, in effect, operated by the Krafty Braumeister.

Visitors can come and have a beer and enjoy refreshments from a plethora of street food stalls as well.

“On average our products have travelled 900 miles less when compared with a like-for-like product in a supermarket, so what we’re doing is working, and we’re always looking to improve.

“That’s a very important part of the market and attracts a younger crowd.”

Ben Tyler-Wray of Celtic Bakers
Ben Tyler-Wray of Celtic Bakers image Matt Grayson

The market also features baked goods, gifts, clothing and homewear brands.

“It’s been going really well since we launched and the local community have taken to it really well and we’re immensely grateful to them for that.

“We’re still trading strongly despite the weather turning. We don’t see a dip in our footfall with cold – it’s wind and rain that can be the problem.

“We want to continue to operate here and to extend our normal operation to Sundays and then Fridays, which is what we’re doing for Christmas.

“Eventually I’d love to work with the council to redevelop the site with a temporary canopy in the style of Borough Market and have a high street in a market setting.

“That potential is what we’re looking for at all of our sites.

“That’s why we wouldn’t operate at schools, for example, because it’s not under utilised space and there would be no flexibility to expand there. 

“With our next ventures, I’m looking to keep it local – my dad lives in Wapping and, while I’m in Holloway at the moment, I’m looking to move to the area. 

“We’re in contact with a number of local authorities, private developers and private landlords on a number of sites around east London.”

Brendan Preece of Brnd And Co
Brendan Preece of Brnd And Co image Matt Grayson

Wapping Docklands Market is always interested to hear from potential traders.

Will said: “There’s an application form on our website, which goes straight through to us.

“There are lots of things we’d love to add to the market. I’d love to have a crèche. A lot of parents come here with their kids and say they’d love to stay longer but have to leave because of them.

“I think a lot of adults would like that freedom to go and see Uli Schiefelbein – the Krafty Braumeister for a beer.

“He’s completely eccentric and totally awesome in every way and is great to talk to.”

As for the future, Will intends to create a business model called Squid, designed to work with landlords to generate value from under utilised space.

In the meantime, Wapping Docklands Market will be open Fridays (3pm-10pm), Saturdays and Sundays (10am-5pm) throughout December, before taking a break until January 19.

Read more: Discover Jake’s shirts, handmade in Royal Docks

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