A walk around the London Olympic Park, Stratford (2018)

This was an unintentional although overdue video. I’d caught the 339 bus to Stratford Station with the intention of getting a train to Harold Wood and going in search of Stukeley’s earthworks on Navestock Common. But alighting the bus on Montfichet Road, I was drawn in by the view of the evolving skyline around Stratford – something that has become a bit of an obsession over the last 8 years or so, as regular readers of this blog will have noticed. So once I’d switched my camera on and turned into Westfield Avenue and then through the newly completed sections of the International Quarter, I was hooked.

Here are links to some of the news articles and videos referenced in the video and also some further reading:

Videos

The Quito Papers: Towards an Open City

Is the London Olympic Park a bit Crap (Sept 2015)

Post -Olympic London – Welcome to Ikea Town

London Olympic Park playlist

 

Links to screenshots

Olympicopolis halves towers’ height and leaves V&A looking for extra space
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/olympicopolis-halves-towers-height-and-leaves-va-looking-for-extra-space/10024263.article

Latest vision revealed for Olympicopolis arts quarter in east London
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/27/latest-vision-olympic-park-olympicopolis-arts-quarter-east-london

Olympicopolis architects on their £1.3 billion vision for E20
https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/olympicopolis-architects-on-their-13-billion-vision-for-e20-a3198041.html

Olympicopolis mark II: reworked plans for east London cultural hub revealed
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/olympicopolis-mark-ii-reworked-plans-for-east-london-cultural-hub-revealed/10031732.article

Olympic Village sold to Qatari developers for £557m in deal that costs taxpayer £225m
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2025367/Olympic-Village-sold-Qatari-developers-557m-deal-costs-taxpayer-225m.html

Qataris strike Olympic gold: Sheikhs who snapped up cheap flats in the Athletes Village set to rake in £1billion profit
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2586458/Qataris-strike-Olympic-gold-Sheikhs-snapped-cheap-flats-Athletes-Village-set-rake-1billion-profit.html

“So which narrative is correct? The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is managed as a private site by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), a mayoral development corporation established in 2012”
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jul/27/london-olympic-park-success-five-years-depends

“When the athletes’ village was sold off in 2011 around half, or nearly 1,500 apartments, was sold to QDD, a joint venture between Qatari Diar, a property arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, and British property developer Delancey, to be sold or rented on the private market.
The remaining apartments were sold to Triathlon Homes, a joint venture between a developer and two non-profit housing providers, to become the “affordable” housing quota, funded by nearly 50 million pounds from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency.”
https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/29/07/2017/Five-years-after-London-Olympics,-Games%E2%80%99-legacy-is-off-track-for-locals

 

Other references

City Mill River originally called St. Thomas’ Creek
http://thelostbyway.com/2017/02/pudding-mill-lane-sugar-house-lane-ikea-city.html#comments

Pudding Mill River – the lost river that runs under the Stadium
http://www.londonslostrivers.com/pudding-mill-river.html

Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap
http://www.thewansteadtap.com/buy-tickets/

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 incredible shrinking park

The London Olympic Park certainly is ‘No Ordinary Park’ as dubbed in the marketing tag line – it just keeps getting smaller and smaller while sprouting bigger and more impressive cranes. Where once there were international sporting events there are now world class cement mixers, spectators have been replaced by phalanxes of builders in hard hats and fluro vests.  The true London Olympic Legacy appears to be a never ending building scheme.

Twilight wander through the Olympic Park

I still don’t understand the Westfield-Olympic Park retail gulag – just can’t process what it is. This sign and the plans for the new ‘east village london E20′ is making my cognitive dissonance even worse – should I be excited by the emergence of a whole new area of London rising out of the marshes just down the road? But why do feel a combination of fear, horror and anger.

I got drawn along the inspiring and imaginatively named Westfield Avenue towards the expansion of this miniature Singapore.

The new mega-ghetto is this high-rise block of student apartments. Clearly the student rental market is a more lucrative investment than when I moved to a terraced house just off the Romford Road in Stratford at the end of the 80’s when landlords were actively discouraging student tenants.

The cynical suspicion that ‘east village E20′ is being set up as a privately-controlled outpost of transient, well-off, passive consumers with MBAs rather than ASBOs is offset by this glorious view north across the top of the Velodrome to a dark smudge of distant hills.

Although there is a steady trickle of traffic, the fact the footpath is fenced off starts to make me feel as if the way isn’t formally open to pedestrians. This makes me even more determined to push on towards Hackney Marshes.

Soon there are not even bollards to separate me from the 4x4s who seem to be enjoying the smoothness of the newly laid tarmac a bit too much for comfort. A voice with a strong African accent calls out, ‘Excuse you can’t walk here’. It is a female security guard in her hut. ‘You need to go back the other way – I am worried for your welfare’. I take her careful advice. Beyond the hut there was not even a kerb to tightrope walk along, and the light was all but gone.

The park looks far from finished, and I shared a joke with the security guard that the the summer opening may take place in November but that they’ll call it ‘late summer’ somehow, like calling the new suburb ‘east village’. Whatever they call it, and whatever they build – the once mighty River Lea couldn’t care less, it’s just waiting for a chance to reclaim the marshes.

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The Leyton Olympics

I couldn’t let my pre-Olympic skepticism allow me to ignore the fact that it is taking place right on my doorstep. I’ve been moaning about it for the last 6 years but now it’s here felt an obligation to see what was going on.

I’ve watched the Stadium and Velodrome mushroom at the end of the Asda Car Park – and via the Asda Car Park is the best route into the Olympic Park if you want to avoid the crush at Stratford. Since I moved to the area I’ve walked along the Eastway noting the gradual change.

So I bought a ticket for the Women’s Basketball.

At the end of Ruckholt Road there’s a gate at Eton Manor with a new bridge leading over into the park. This bridge and cinder track to the basketball arena crushed what was left of the Eton Manor Boys Club – a 19th Century philanthropic enterprise for the boys of Hackney Wick.

still from a video I shot in 2007 – watch the video here

Where there were a series of rugby pitches is now a coach park. Tucked away in the corner was a small blue hut serving as a box office – there was not a soul around. It seems people don’t fancy entering the Olympics from Leyton.

The wild flowers are the real stars of London 2012
This reminded me of a scene from I Am Cuba

I’d rather the Lower Lea Valley had been left alone to be overgrown with budliea, Japanese Balsam and Giant Hogweed. However, the landscaped banks of wild flowers are beautiful, and paradoxically possibly more in tune with the ‘natural’ habitat.

I was telling my wife how I preferred it the way it was and she pointed out that hardly anybody came down here when it was a post-industrial wilderness. I tried to make the point that that was the beauty of it but I suppose psychogeographers are a fairly narrow demographic.

The River Lea running through the park though is haunted by the absence of Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kotting in their swan pedalo. The end of their odyssey from Hastings to Hackney was truncated by barriers prohibiting passage along the Olympic Waterways.

I don’t get the giant crayons poking out of the Lea

Two of Britain’s great topographers pedaling past the stadium in a giant swan would have been the perfect opening ceremony.

Have a look at this clip from the Culture Show in 2005 with Bob Stanley wandering around the Lower Lea Valley as it was then.

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Save Marsh Lane Fields – video

I’ve cut together some footage of the demonstration on Marsh Lane Fields in December. The video hopefully explains the issues, but in short the Olympic Destruction/Development Agency are planning re-locate the Manor Gardens Allotments in Hackney to one corner of Marsh Lane Fields.

The issues/objections are:
– the re-location of the allotments onto land that was used as a tip after the war will involve the removal of vast amounts of earth which will cause enormous disruption to this tranquil corner of Leyton (think of the diggers, trucks etc.). It’ll turn this quiet lane into a rat-run.

– it will involve the enclosure of Lammas Land that has been open, common grazing land since it was drained by Alfred the Great in the C9th. This is both a disaster locally but also on a larger scale it represents yet more common land being enclosed.

It’s instructive to note the two historical precedents of the 19th Century when the authorities intervened, both here on the Leyton Lammas Lands and in nearby Epping Forest, to fend of the advances of land grabbers and keep this vital open space in common ownership. But both these landmark rulings were triggered by the actions of a few.

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