Fun Fair in the Olympic Park

Olympic Park Fun Fair

Photo 06-04-2017, 20 09 23

Photo 06-04-2017, 20 09 50

‘Roll Up Roll Up for all the fun of the fair in the Olympic Park’, nobody said. A pound each just to enter. Barely a soul around, like one of those ghost theme parks somewhere out in the American midwest, or a scene in a zombie movie. Loitering too long at one of the amusements meant being descended upon by eager, underemployed staff. My son didn’t really fancy much apart from the mini-Zorbs bobbing in a paddling pool in the corner that I managed to persuade him away from. Three arrows for £3.50 to win a wan-looking soft toy. £3 for a bag of pink candyfloss that was mostly air, my son wanted a fresh one on a stick, ‘the lady who does that ent ere’, the girl behind the counter said eyes glued to her phone. The burgers were solid black like discs of coal, the sausages resembled greasy truncheons. The dodgems sat idling remembering better times. The Ghost Ride was in good company this evening. The deserted Fun Fair should become a permanent fixture in the Olympic Park, an Olympic Legacy.

We left with the bag of pink sugar vapour and made our way to East Village in search of food that wouldn’t kill us. The illuminated apartments seemed to be far outnumbered by those in darkness, whether this indicates a large number of vacant flats or the late working hours of the inhabitants I wouldn’t want to say.

There was some sign of life at street level along Victory Parade, even a posse of teenage boys ambling along and a smattering of people in the bars and restaurants. I’m told militant vegans were out in force protesting at the cheese and wine fayre at the weekend, noisily picketing the Gelateria until the police were called. That’s an event that needs adding to the social history of the site.

It’s nearly 4 years since I was given a tour of East Village before the first residents moved in, a tour that focused almost entirely on the impressive environmental sensitivity of the landscaping missing out any mention of the 51% stake owned by the Qatari government purchased at a £275 million loss to the British taxpayer – an interesting idea when looking at skyrocketing property prices in London and an ever-worsening housing crisis.

I tried to point out to my son some of the things I remembered from the tour, but he was distracted by his hunger with his heart set on pizza. I was about to tell him we might have to settle for fish and chips when he spotted what turned out to be really good pizzeria that allowed us to park my son’s bike inside and served a favourite pizza from my Modena years.

I’m determined not to give up on East Village and the Olympic Park, to not let the cynicism ringing in my ears even louder than my tinnitus completely cloud my view. Nor do I want to be seduced into a SOMA daze of compliance by good pizza and swan pedalos. The deserted fun fair and the good pizza seemed to provide a decent balance on this occasion.

The ever changing face of the London Olympic Park

swan pedalos olympic park

The Olympic Park was abuzz with summer this afternoon. The BBQ area was puking out plumes of smoke like an Outback bushfire, a couple sat dripping wet on a wooden jetty after a swim in the River Lea. I enjoyed a drink by the boats on Stratford Waterfront wondering what Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair will make of the Swan pedalo rides that start next weekend.

manhattan lofts stratford

Stratford International Quarter

But of course the shadow of constant development looms over the surrounding area. The Manhattan Loft Gardens are finally rising into the Stratford sky – after existing solely as a series of projected images outside Stratford International Station for the last 5 years.

And the International Quarter will consume a large chunk of land between Westfield, the Aquatics Centre, and the Waterfront.

London Olympic Park map

The grey areas on this map mark out the development sites that will be completed over the next 3 years. By 2020 London’s newest park will be encircled by high-rise blocks.

Celebration Walk Stratford E20 IMG_2476Back in January this year I snapped the new blocks going up on the edge of Victory Park – on Celebration Avenue. It was a nice scene around Victory Park this evening. A few cafes and restaurants have opened and were busy, people played ping-pong on the outdoor tables, children ran down the Telly Tubbies mound. The development will cast one side of the park in shadow.

Opposite, the site next to Sainsburys is being developed – not part of East Village I was told.

celebration avenue Stratford E20

When I first became, if not quite obsessed then preoccupied by East Village and the Olympic Park about 6 years ago, I offset the creeping horror I felt by telling myself that it would take time to become ‘a place’, that people would have to annotate the newly laid streets with their narratives before we would could really know what it was. But until then it was a land-grab, a year zero scheme with a fictional E20 postcode borrowed from EastEnders, the erasure of the Europe’s largest tenant owned housing co-op at Clays Lane, an outpost of the Qatari Royal Family.

walk olympic park

However, we did have a good time in the Olympic Park today. I plan to go back and try the new cafes. And we’ll be riding the Swan Pedalos on the Waterworks River next week in honour of Andrew and Iain’s Swandown incursion.

 

Alien Invasion of East Village

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How am I supposed to process the latest arrival at East Village. I already feel unnerved by the looming presence of the monolithic blocks – this Mega City One in its infancy then these ‘things’ appear over night like something from an episode of Doctor Who – apparently benign and cheerful but containing an underlying threat of some terrible robot death.

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It seems I am not alone in my fear of this place – whoever was commissioned to create what I suspect is possibly ‘public art’ had a similar reaction.

East Village (Olympic Village) diary video

I’m becoming slightly obsessed with East Village, the name given to the London 2012 Athlete’s Village. It’s fascinating to watch a new neighbourhood slowly creak into life. And it’s right on my doorstep – a small provincial settlement dropped onto the marshes. There are few things as mundane as waiting at a bus stop on a wet Wednesday evening – but these are the experiences that form the bedrock of the narrative of a place, a world away from the glitz and hype of the multi-billion pound Olympic Games when celebrated gold medalists strutted these same streets. They’ve moved on to become a face on the front of a box of cereals and now people with less accessible histories and mythologies and moving onto the same ground, stubbing their toes on a loose paving slab, munching on fried chicken, dropping their dummies out of a pram.

Olympic Park – East Village: first wander along new London streets

Passing through East Village in the Olympic Park today I was overjoyed to find two new roads (re) open – Honour Lea Avenue  and Olympic Park Avenue, apparently opened to the public yesterday, 7th March.

I seem to be developing am ongoing relationship with East Village and the wider Olympic Park (to a slightly lesser degree) which started when I sent a frustrated tweet to the East Village admin people about the naming. This led to me being invited to a tour of the site last July by the charming PR team and somebody from the construction firm.

I think my blossoming obsession perhaps comes from my interest in researching and exploring London suburbs of the past, so to witness a new neighbourhood come into being in front of your eyes is a unique opportunity. The horror I feel at times might be what people felt when they saw the first streets laid out in the fields of Perivale and Sudbury Hill. I’m now trying (really) hard to dispassionately document but it’s a struggle at times.

I wonder where all this is heading.