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Aerial view of the velodrome in Stratford, a town in east London, UK


Not quite a ‘geography blog’ but where we can keep you in touch with the latest developments, courses etc.


12th November

Let’s get creative

New research published by the Greater London Authority has revealed that one in five London jobs are now in the creative economy. That comes as little surprise to those of us living in east London. The number of jobs in this sector has grown by more than 200,000 in the past five years, meaning that over 1.1 million jobs in the capital (21.1% of all jobs) in 2021 were in the creative economy, up from 16.9% in 2016. We often think of London as being primarily a centre of finance but, at least in terms of employment, this is no longer the case. About 750,000 people currently work in London’s finance sector.

The term ‘creative industries’ covers a wide variety of businesses, including design, music, publishing, architecture, film and video, TV and radio, advertising, computer games and performing arts. The report does not specify whereabouts in London the creative industries are concentrated but I suspect that a large proportion of the growth has come here in east London.

Since the 2012, the former Media Centre in the Olympic Park has become a creative hub, known as Here East. 4,500 people now work there, employed by a range of creative businesses in a building designed to encourage collaboration and innovation. From major companies and universities to small start-ups, the idea is that in the shared space they can all benefit from each other. Two-thirds of the businesses at Here East have increased their turnover since moving in, while nearly all have collaborated with other businesses on the site.

The latest development in the Park is East Bank, a new cultural quarter on the east bank of the River Lea. It includes V&A East’s new museum, UAL’s London College of Fashion, Sadler’s Wells East new theatre and hip-hop academy, BBC Music’s new studios and UCL East’s campus. Together, they will add hundreds of new jobs and attract thousands of students, giving yet a further boost to the creative economy in London.


9th June

Up the Hammers!

There was a huge victory parade in east London last night as 70,000 people came out onto the streets to celebrate West Ham United’s win in the Europa Conference League final the night before. They beat Italian side, Fiorentina, 2-1 in Prague, with Jarrod Bowen scoring the winner in the last minute of normal time in the match. I was in our local pub, the Fox and Hounds in Forest Gate, to watch the match on the big screen. The atmosphere in the pub was almost as good as the real thing and I probably saved over £100 on a match ticket, not to mention the expense and inconveniece of getting to Prague.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the win for long-suffering West Ham fans who have had to wait over forty years since the club last won a trophy. You need to go back fifty-eight years to their last triumph in Europe – the Cup-Winners Cup in 1965. Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember it, in the glory days when Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters played for the club, one year before the same trio were in England’s World Cup-winning team of 1966.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then. In recent times, West Ham have moved from their spiritual home at the Boleyn Stadium in Upton Park, to the the new London Stadium (formerly the Olympic Stadium) in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Like many other, lifelong, West Ham supporters, I did not make that journey with them. It seemed to me, and thousands of others, that the club had cut the umbilical cord with its local community, swapping it for the much larger crowds and, importantly, much bigger profits to be made from a stadium with almost double the capacity. Worse still, the vast new stadium lacked any of the intimate atmosphere of the Boleyn, almost needing binoculars to identify the players on the pitch. I have only been to the new stadium a couple of times (when I have been offered a free ticket!).

There was a nod to the club’s past last night. The parade started in Green Street, near the site of the former stadium, which has now been redeveloped as a housing estate. The two buses carrying the players turned right onto the Barking Road, opposite the memorial statue to its three former heroes (Geoff Hurst is still alive) and then wended its way for a couple of miles to Stratford Town Hall, where a temporary balcony was erected for the occasion, boldly adorned with the word “WINNERS”. Someone must have had the foresight, or have been optimistic enough, to have prepared the sign in advance!

The previous night in the Fox and Hounds, I had been encouraged by the diversity of modern West Ham supporters, who seemed to be more representative of the local population – women as well as men, black, white and Asian – than they once were. There was certainly none of the racist language that might have been commonplace in days gone by. That’s not to say that there were not many general obsenities or a few derogatory comments about Italians! That would have been asking too much.


26th May

Delays to Carpenters regeneration

A year on from the publication of a one billion pound masterplan for the regeneration of the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, the project has been delayed by the refusal of one family, living in one of the high-rise blocks on the estate, to accept Newham Council’s offer to buy them out of their home. The family, living in James Riley Point, due for refurbishment in the first phase of the project, are leaseholders in the block having taken up the right to buy their council home many years ago. Now, the few remaining leaseholder residents in the three high-rise blocks on the estate are proving to be a difficult hurdle for the Council to overcome as they seek to get work started on the much-delayed project.

The optimism generated on the estate a year ago, when the plans were first published, has evaporated. For more than twenty years, local residents have witnessed the decay of their estate while other parts of Stratford have been transformed, thanks to the legacy of the 2012 Olympics. Now, the plan is to build over two thousand new homes on the 23-acre site, with more than fifty percent available for social rent. But, as a result of the family’s refusal to move, a compulsory purchase order has been agreed that could delay the first phase of the regeneration for another year. Most of the other homes in the three high-rise blocks have been lying empty since long before 2012, as they were deemed unfit for human habitation and the council could no longer rent them.

In the meantime residents living in the low-rise homes in the rest of the Carpenters Estate say that is is becoming a ‘ghost estate’ where the streets are increasingly unsafe and there is more anti-social behaviour. Part of the problem is that, as older residents move out or die, more of the homes are being used for temporary accommodation. Warren Lubin, the former chair of the Residents’ Steering Group says “Rather than have compulsory purchase, there should be offers that mean people can reasonably get another property”. The problem is, the exorbitant cost of homes in London. The one remaining family in James Riley Point have refused a council offer of around £400,000, presumably on the basis that it would not buy them another three-bedroom flat in this part of London.


24th March

Claret and blue – and Green!

For years, when taking students through the Olympic Park, we have highlighted the sustainable features of the sporting venues designed for the 2012 London Games. There are many features to point out on the Aquatics Centre and Velodrome, both iconic structures with their elegantly curved roofs, but easily confused with each other. However, when it comes to the Olympic Stadium there is not so much to say. Yes, it was originally intended to be a temporary structure, built using recycled gas pipes that were bolted together, rather than welded, so that it could be dismantled after the Games. After the decision was made to keep the stadium as a permanent venue in the Park, expensive changes had to be made that rather negated any sustainable claims that it might have. But, could that be about to change?
The London Stadium, as it is now known, is set to have its roof covered in solar panels in a bid to help it go green and generate its own energy. Plans have been revealed to wrap the stadium, which is the home of West Ham United, in a multi-million pound solar membrane to cut carbon emissions and harness the sun’s rays. The scheme has been mooted by the stadium’s owners, the London Legaacy Development Corporation (LLDC), set up after the Games to plan regeneration in and around the Olympic Park.

The estimated cost of the project would be about £4million over two years, but would pay for itself after just five years, thanks to the electricity it would generate. Work could begin this year with power starting to be generated by the end of the next football season in April 2024. Of course, the impetus for the project is the commmitment to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2030. That aim cannot have been helped this week by the revelation that 85% of Premier League football team’s journeys to away fixtures within England are made by plane. West Ham were not named, but they are likely to be one of the culprits.

When the stadium was built, over ten years ago, the technology to generate its own energy was not available, because solar panels then were too heavy for the roof to support. These days, photovoltaic panels can be embedded within a sheet-like membrane that is light enough to be supported on the stadium roof. The Greater London Authority have agreed to fund a feasibility study to ensure good value for money but, given the £1/4 billion cost of adapting the stadium into an all-year venue for football and other sports, it is hard to see how a mere £4million extra could not be justified.


Footer image of the velodrome in Stratford, east London
Footer image
Footer image of the velodrome in Stratford, east London