|LDDC Completion Booklets|
Providing for the Future
(Note: This Monograph has been reproduced by kind permission of the Commission for the New Towns now known as English Partnerships. It is published for general interest and research purposes only and may not be reproduced for other purposes except with the permission of English Partnerships who now hold the copyright of LDDC publications)
The practical issues embodied in the regeneration of London Docklands inevitably meant that the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) had to concentrate on the major elements - transport and access issues, physical regeneration in the form of new commercial and residential developments, environmental improvements and so on. As part of this process of change, the LDDC also had to take into account issues involving the community and the impact of these changes for people living, working and visiting the area. Quality of life became another significant factor and the role of the arts as a force for regeneration increased in importance.
In the early years, this role was undervalued, but it came to be understood as a strong and positive influence particularly during the last ten years of the LDDC remit. The arts were able to provide links between the many elements in a number of ways, providing performance space and venues; improving the environment with public art; encouraging co-operation between local authorities, the LDDC and the arts funding bodies; introducing new organisations into the area; fostering ideas and cross-cultural understanding through education and training programmes and assisting community initiatives. Attention was drawn to the Docklands area by the use of high-profile international events. The beauty and use of existing warehouses and other buildings were as important as developing new spaces. The use of arts and other events helped to generate interest in the area, reassure organisations contemplating relocation and generate a sense of pride in the place.
Over recent years, there has been an underlying determination to provide a legacy from the arts, both physical and structural. The LDDC has used its resources to pump-prime activities so that there is a good chance for continuation of funding and activities in the area long after the LDDC has ceased operating. The results are encouraging.
This monograph, by the well known arts writer Robert Maycock, can only provide an overview of the role the arts played in the regeneration of London Docklands between 1981 and 1998 but the evidence is there for all to see. The redevelopment of the Docklands area was one of world's largest regeneration projects; the use of the arts can be identified as a key factor in that process.
LDDC March 1998
Like the regeneration of London Docklands itself, the London Docklands Development Corporation's (LDDC) arts programme has all the elements of a great adventure. It comes to an end with a tantalising mix of proven achievements and continuing business. It leaves a permanent mark on the physical environment and a still-changing one on the cultural map.
While the LDDC's arts activities began with undeniable vision and enthusiasm, acknowledgment of the full benefits of regeneration took time to take root within mainstream policy. In the process the programme's goals slowly evolved from a means of showcasing the area's potential into one of the mainstays of the regeneration process, the prime vehicle for enhancing cultural life in the new community.
A whole spectrum of attitudes and agendas, put into action over a decade and more, ensured that the activity covered a far wider range than any one impresario or arts mandarin could have achieved.
The programme had several strands: public art, an incentive and development scheme, finding new uses for old buildings, capital projects and education and training. Sculptures and specially commissioned street furniture sprang up in almost any style from user-friendly realism that gives a smile to riverside walkers, via severely abstract monuments placed at dramatically imposing sites, to celebratory expressions by the area's culturally diverse residents.
Education work with local people and artists and visiting companies gave a properly rooted dimension to a scene of change. Over the years, spectacular one-off performances and exhibitions caught the nation's attention, while venues and festivals were born and brought to thriving maturity with a distinctive East-London-and-Thames character of their own.
The Docklands arts adventure went along uncharted paths into a built and social world that had not existed before. Now is the moment to trace those paths. The following pages outline where the programme started, why it took the course that it did, what it leaves behind, and how the future looks as the LDDC makes its exit at the end of March 1998.
Until the late 1980s the LDDC had no systematic policy of planning for the arts, though there were several areas of cultural engagement. In many cases the architecture itself was an obvious artistic asset. Direct investment went into outdoor leisure and recreation. Heritage and riverside walks came into existence along with the parks, sports facilities and urban farms. There was financial support for the Design Museum at Butlers Wharf, near Tower Bridge, in its early days when it was transferred from the Boilerbouse at the VictorIa and Albert Museum. Other initiatives sprang from the commercial sector, and the LDDC gave support to the London Arena on the Isle of Dogs which was to be used for performances on the largest scale. The Canary Wharf development took shape with plans included for a smaller performance space, Cabot Hall, and exhibition areas. Other developers installed works of public art on their own initiative.
As early as 1985 the LDDC recognised the pulling power of the arts in bringing people into the area when it sponsored two productions in 'K' shed, a redundant listed warehouse in the Royal Victoria Dock: Accions, an ICA production, and Aristophanes' The Birds staged by Peter Avery.
In October 1988, the Royal Victoria Dock also played host to two spectacular light and laser concerts by Jean Michel Jarre, drawing probably the largest audiences ever to a performance in Docklands.
Gradually, the LDDC changed its outlook. It not only took a strategic view of arts development in Docklands, it actively invested in and set about working with artists and companies to bring a fresh sense of cultural vitality to a part of London that all too often seemed strange and new. It was determined to leave a permanent legacy when its remit came to an end. There were several reasons for the arrival of this broader attitude.
Artists had always lived here (East London is believed to have the greatest concentration of artists and crafts people in the UK), and local communities had their own activities. The Whitechapel Art Gallery, the Half Moon Theatre and the Theatre Royal Stratford East were well established just 'over the border', and other companies such as the City of London Sinfonia were starting to take their education programmes into local schools.
Although these resources existed, the internal will to make something of them had to grow. Docklands' regeneration had begun with a rush of typical eighties eagerness. In the more reflective mood that the approach of economic recession brought, some of the gaps in the story so far became apparent.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) brought in tourists on their way to Greenwich who enjoyed the elevated view and became curious about the area. Housing estates had arisen with the same shortcomings as green-field suburbs: lots of incomers and little new provision for socialising and recreation. Older residential areas, built in the heyday of the now-defunct docks, had not been part of the economic boom anyway. Press criticism spoke of a cultural desert. On the ground, the forests of new offices needed more than exciting architecture to soften their impact.
In short, there was such a thing as the needs of society: the place wanted human touches beyond the newly built environment.
Responses began to appear within LDDC on two levels. In the late 1980s 'social regeneration' became a priority alongside the physical development. Writing in the Greater London Arts (GLA) Quarterly of Spring 1987, the LDDC's Coordinator of Community Facilities, David Powell, argued that 'cultural regeneration might be a fair description for the process of change for which the LDDC is the chosen instrument'. Grant aid for community groups was able to include an artistic dimension - for 1987/88 this was extended to Rotherhithe Theatre Workshop, Age Exchange, the Half Moon Young People's Theatre, the Basement Community Arts Workshop, an Asian dance animateur for the Royal Docks area, and Theatre Venture.
Public art had appeared on the scene before, by courtesy of private developers. Now works were starting to be installed as a result of personal enthusiasm and occasional purchases. An early attempt to set up a Public Arts Trust with sponsors and the LDDC was refused permission by the Department of the Environment, which said that existing channels should be used instead.
The idea of a 'percent for art' scheme, which would require developers to devote a fixed minimum proportion of their budget to public art, was later knocked down by the same hands as a 'tax on development'. But the momentum had started.
There was plenty of debate about the responsibilities that the LDDC ought to take on.
At the time, the prospect of large-scale arts organisations relocating was very much alive. The leading chamber orchestra the Academy of St Martin in the Fields had published plans for a £5 million rehearsal and administrative base at the Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station - plans which evaporated only slowly as the recession took hold. Other buildings such as the vast warehouse spaces in the Royal Docks had already established potential as possible centres for major performances.
The relationship between the arts and the wider economy was already a subject of widespread national discussion, and John Myerscough was preparing his influential 1988 study The Economic Importance of the Arts in Britain, which revealed the scale of employment and business activity that investment in the arts generated. As the GLA Quarterly article pointed out, the right financial basis for supporting the arts in Docklands had yet to be found, 'but we have found willingness amongst LDDC officers, the boroughs and local businesses to work together'.
This sense of a three-way partnership was the key. Liaison meetings with borough arts officers were held regularly, and the LDDC soon sought to appoint a director, Sunny Crouch, to take charge of a new unit for marketing, tourism and the arts. Having successfully bid for increased resources, specialist arts staff were recruited. At the same time, the Comedia Consultancy was commissioned to produce a full-scale study of the area, its arts provision and needs and the way the LDDC should involve itself.
Creating a Real City: An Arts Action Programme for London Docklands (revised version published August 1989) supplied the basic plan and rationale for what followed. It made a powerful and at times radical case that the arts are 'as important an ingredient of urban regeneration as the physical, economic and social aspects'.
By the arts it meant popular,commercial and craft activities as much as the 'high culture' that dominated the subsidised sector. It urged for example that popular music - including folk, rock, jazz, world music, and reflecting the diversity of the population - was more important in this context than classical music, which was potentially over-supplied in London as a whole. Alongside it, a focus on visual arts and a 'permanent fringe' would bring the best opportunities for Docklands, supported with elements of dance and theatre.
The action programme also asserted that the function of the LDDC should be as a development agency and 'a broker and convenor of ideas and resources'. Rather than running projects itself, it would be an entrepreneurial enabler and advocate that looked for schemes with the means of surviving after the LDDC's lifespan was over, aware of the problems of client dependency that tied the hands of permanent subsidy providers. But it would need to gain the support of local authorities in sustaining what it started and in helping to ensure equal access for everybody. It would identify gaps in provision and seek out the artists and the funding to address them. It would try to attract arts-based businesses. It would know that the arts increased the marketability of Docklands to potential employers and residents on a quality-of-life level, that special events boosted the area's image, and that an enhanced built environment benefited everybody.
A realistic attitude was taken about Docklands' place in the London arts scene. Nobody expected the city's centre of gravity to make a dramatic shift eastwards. The area - which in any case was not homogeneous, but a collection of distinctive neighbourhoods - would become an important extension of central London rather than its rival. Duplication of what went on in the West End or City would be pointless. The LDDC should concentrate on the special virtues and character to be found in Docklands itself.
A distilled version of the Comedia recommendations won a budget for starting the Arts Incentive Fund in 1990. The leisure, tourism and arts department was part of the LDDC's marketing department, and the initial thrust of policy used the arts as part of a quality-of-life argument for living, working and investing in Docklands.
When the published Arts Action Programme was launched the following year it was able to point to the success of what had already taken place - the Docklands Jazz Festival, the Next Phase (I) contemporary art show at Tobacco Dock. But interest was already spreading beyond events towards development policies for the 'real city'.
Events moved fastest in the visual arts, where a reputation for supporting innovative work and artists pre-dated the programme. After an approach by Damien Hirst the LDDC had supported his first exhibition, Freeze, in the Surrey Docks in 1988. A generation of former Goldsmiths' College and Camberwell School of Art students found they were being actively encouraged as the LDDC wanted to appear welcoming to artists. Next Phase (II) in 1990 was developed by an artist and architect together - the Wise-Taylor Partnership - and included a performance element with robot structures by Jim Whiting and works by Ron Haselden, Anya Gailaccio and Mark Currah.
When Norma Major, wife of the former Prime Minister, visited the Seven City Artists exhibition at Tobacco Dock in 1991 featuring canvases by Gallery artists including Stephen Chambers, Mark Davy, John Keane and Eileen Cooper, photographs ran on the front pages of several national newspapers, a turning point in public awareness.
Music events included the International Festival of Street Music during August 1991 when the Latin rhythms of Brazilian percussion ensemble Olodum reverberated under the Docklands Light Railway flyover at Millwall Dock. A budget was raised for the education and training programme.
Several distinct strands of arts development were emerging, which were to determine the character of the LDDC's work over the rest of its lifetime. They will now be explored in turn.
The quickest way to come face to face with the LDDC arts policy in action is to take a walk or a ride. Drivers through the Limehouse Link see massive sculptures looming to signal the approach of the tunnel entrance. People following the southern river bank< on foot are surprised by life-size humans and animals perched on a wall, or intrigued by abstracts in stainless steel. Shoppers in Surrey Quays, tourists in Hay's Galleria, swimmers in Rotherhithe and outdoor lunchers in Harbour Exchange have their eye caught by striking water-based creations.
Sculpture and the new environment
While London has long boasted a tradition of statuary in prominent settings and sculptures in parks, Docklands gives it a contemporary edge by using art more radically to form an integral part of the built environment, whether as the centrepiece of a courtyard or a link between river and land. Its distinctive character expresses a balance between spontaneity and planning that the LDDC has evolved over the best part of a decade. Commissions had already begun before the Arts Action Programme was formally adopted.
William Pye's tubular steel Curlicue, for example, unveiled in 1989 on the waterfront of the Greenland Passage development, was part of the LDDC's Surrey Docks landscaping programme. This formal sculpture - which at least one former stevedore has found reminiscent of the hooks he used in his work - was a modified and enlarged version of a previous Pye composition that had been on loan to the LDDC.
In that sense it is not typical. The majority of the public art was created specificaIly for the site, often after a competition to choose the artist. Only a few pieces were bought and installed. In the majority of cases too, somebody else paid. Usually this was the developer, occasionally with a supporting LDDC contribution.
Influence, then, was a stronger factor than investment. While a 'percent for art' approach was not allowed, the feeling spread that there were better ways to make things happen. Why force developers to do something that they were often happy to consider in any case? Some, like Olympia & York at Canary Wharf or NCC at East India Dock, did not even need prompting: they already accepted that the changes they were bringing to the area had social and cultural dimensions, and they employed people to tackle them. Of course there would be those who refused, but compulsion was thought to bring its own problems - token art unfeelingly handled, or budgets cynically diverted into interior decoration. So the policy was to recommend, rather than require.
The outcome has been that business and shopping areas are particularly well provided with art. Commercial developers were quick to see the marketing advantages of giving their clients an aesthetic uplift; whereas housebuilders were not so keen - it was regarded as just another thing that would need maintenance. The LDDC itself deliberately put some commissions into the public spacesof housing areas. This meant that upkeep, or at least the responsibility for upkeep, would eventually have to pass on to a local authority.
Substantial powers of patronage had come to the LDDC - in particular, calling the shots over the choice of artists. Throughout the period, the numbers of artists were deliberately maximised. With very few exceptions, each provided one piece. What has changed over time is the actual means of selection, and the stylistic focus.
The early commissions
Early on there was considerable autonomy for LDDC officer teams in each of the separate Docklands areas, and the public art varies widely from one to another in quantity and character. At the time the LDDC published its Public Art leaflet guide in 1993, Beckton had just three pieces, all part of the same collaboration between Brian Yale and the landscape architects. In contrast the south bank of the river was already richly provided for and not only around the Design Museum: the Surrey Docks area has some of the most successful works of the whole project, from Philip Bews' exhilaratingly situated Deal Porters at Canada Water to the fanciful, partly cloned animal bronzes apparently wandering from the Barnards Wharf walkway into the nearby urban farm, designed by a group of five sculptors.
Art and transport infrastructure
The most spectacular installations claimed to comprise the single biggest commission in London since the war - were the £250,000 sculptures for the Limehouse Link portals and service buildings. The LDDC launched a public competition in 1992, run by an outside consultant and judged by a panel of local representatives and art luminaries. What resulted was like a microcosm of the whole programme, three works in disparate styles that share a respect for the distinctive features of their setting.
At the most highly visible and symbolic site, the Western Portal at the entrance to Docklands, is Zadok Ben-David's huge figurative circle of silhouettes, Restless Dream. At the opposite end, exploiting the visibility of the North Quay services building from moving trains as well as cars, is an abstract by Nigel Hall that presents different shapes from different angles. On the massive eastern services building is Michael Kenny's marble triptych
On Strange and Distant Islands, in its own right the largest piece of public sculpture in London.
The later years
In the final years the focus shifted again. Three consultancies were identified to give support in the wind-down period - Public Art Commissions Agency, Public Arts Development Trust and Art of Change - though the LDDC retained control in the commissioning field. For competitions, a varying cross-section of LDDC departments and outside specialists and stakeholders supplied the judges for shortlisting. The years from 1995 on saw an increase in the number of projects, a concentration in the Isle of Dogs area, and a sometimes more adventurous turn, as with Pierre Vivant's Traffic Light Tree proposed for the Heron Quays Roundabout.
A perceived climate of greater trust was eliciting more confidence from the LDDC managers in commissioning work. Other highlights include William Pye's Archimedes, a water-powered sculpture anchored in the dock at West India Quay; Sir Anthony Caro's Salome Gates at East India Dock Basin providing a stimulating entrance to the Bird Sanctuary; and the Dragon's Gate group at the corner of Salter Street and West India Dock Road in Limehouse.
These 'flying' dragons, five metres above the ground, allude to the neighbourhood's history as the original Chinatown of London, and register the area's continuing Chinese connections. They are a key example of Art of Change's community-based approach to public art.
Had this been the only phase of commissioning it would have seemed unbalanced. What has resulted from the whole programme manages to span a unique range of styles and tastes. Ironically this range was never planned, since any one phase had set itself more specific goals. But there it is: the LDDC has made for itself a catholic gallery of contemporary work as well as adding a fresh level of engagement to the outdoor urban experience.
Education and Training
The original Arts Action Programme envisaged a limited amount of involvement with the educational sector, but this has turned out to be a growth area. Of the various facets of the LDDC's arts policy, the arts education and training programme has set out most directly to engage with local residents on their own terms, whoever they might be, and it has many successful and continuing projects to show for just six years of existence.
Potential funding partners were already used to working in the sector. The programme could set its sights well beyond the school system. It aimed to offer access to a wide range of cultural activities, including opportunities to acquire knowledge and enjoyment of the arts, for all Docklands residents.
This meant that it needed to be as diverse in the cultures, age ranges and social backgrounds it dealt with as the population itself. As the area's unusual, evolving mix of peoples is as old as the international river traffic, now given a further twist by the influx of more newcomers to public and private housing, the scope for imaginative work was limited only by the available resources. Beyond this, the training element was intended to deal with skills that brought prospects of employment in or around the arts.
Funding began in 1992, and began to acquire greater momentum when a consultative report by Positive Solutions identified a number of directions for development and the LDDC took on a manager, Linda Dyos, to work specifically on the education and training programme from the beginning of 1994.
For the remainder of that financial year (1993/94) applications to the fund were actively solicited, guidelines and application forms were widely circulated and four overall objectives were established. They were:
The process resulted in 22 grants worth between £350 and £15,000. For the 1994195 year the LDDC awarded a further 23 grants. This brought the programme's first phase (1992 to March 1995) to a close with nearly 60 projects supported at a level of up to 50 per cent of their cost: the 'levered' funding from other partners came out at approximately £600,000 from an expenditure by the LDDC of £257,000. In the second phase, from 1995 to the close of the programme in 1997/98, projects had to have what the National Lottery's Arts for Everyone scheme was to call 'sustainability'. The projected closing figures for 1998 showed that over the whole programme, £500,000 in contributions from the LDDC would have attracted a further £1.6 million from elsewhere.
At least 60 per cent of the budget was to be spent outside the statutory education sector, and none of it in supporting statutory provision as such. Successful proposals came from local groups and organisers such as Art of Change and Newham Arts Education Centre, from companies and institutions based just outside the area such as the Theatre Royal Stratford East and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, and from city-wide or national sources such as Community Music and Women's Playhouse Trust. The programme made possible a unique concentration of work in a quite small area.
Seven of the funded initiatives were documented as 'model projects', examples of good practice for others to follow. To demonstrate the nature of the LDDC's work in the field, and the broad, inclusive attitude that it took to the arts, here are the stories behind four different but representative model projects. (The other three were with Theatre Venture, Newham Arts Education Centre and the Half Moon Young People's Theatre).
Art of Change and the Tate Gallery, Awakenings
The aim was to explore issues of culture and identity in relation to works from the collection of the Tate Gallery, with participants including GCSE students from George Green Secondary School on the Isle of Dogs and three art teachers. In Awakenings the focus was Stanley Spencer's well-known painting The Resurrection, Cookham and its central idea of a resurrection in which people woke up to new life instead of torment and damnation. But instead of the Home Counties setting and Spencer's experience of life, the environment and imagined events were decided by fourteen young people on the Isle of Dogs thinking about their own awakening into adulthood. The resulting digital montage was displayed as a 13ft x 7ft photo-mural at the Tate in 1995.
City of London Sinfonia, Docklands Discovery and Building Bridges
Two three-year creative undertakings brought players from the City of London Sinfonia (CLS) to Brampton Manor School and to a special needs project with two Beckton schools. Both projects involved concentrated spells of work rather than a continuing presence. For example year two of Docklands Discovery involved four CLS musicians including a composer/project leader, and began with fact-finding visits to West Ham United Football Club and the Tate & Lyle sugar refinery in Silvertown - the aim being to collect material that would form the basis of creative work. Six full-day workshops followed, culminating in a project presentation at the school to a selected audience of parents, local over-fifties, and other students.
In the same period, Beckton School and Ellen Wilkenson School collaborated on Building Bridges with staff from Newham Music Academy and the composer Paul Griffiths, who led the project, as well as three CLS players. The structure also involved a series of full-day workshops, but divided between two periods five months apart.
For both projects feedback was exhaustively collected and monitored. As the relationships were set to continue, the following year's work could build on what they had already achieved.
London International Festival of Theatre, Utshob
Performances of Utshob with local school students alongside Indian, Bangladeshi and British Asian artists took place at Trinity Buoy Wharf, Leamouth in June 1997. They were the tip of an iceberg. LIFT's venture, set up in 1995, was based on issues surrounding the 50th anniversary of independence and partition in the Indian subcontinent. The LDDC engaged with it as a long-term arts education training programme for artists and teachers in Tower Hamlets and Newham. A third borough with a strong Asian presence, Hounslow, was also involved, and in the later stages professional artists from the UK and India joined in.
This meant that a large part of the project's aims were achieved behind the scenes, as the participants developed their methods of working with the British Asian students on subject matter which often involved family history, with input from the international professionals. The public events turned Trinity Buoy Wharf - a site connected with the long era of trade through East India Docks - into a combination of installation and mela.
Magic Me and the George Green Garden
Magic Me specialises in intergenerational work in East London. For this project it led George Green Secondary School and a day centre for elderly people nearby in creating an accessible garden on part of the school car park and adjoining wasteland at the tip of the Isle of Dogs.
Old and young both had a say in the design and worked together in the making, alongside professional artists, architects, gardeners and builders. In this case a single LDDC grant of £6,000 was the key not only to an 18-month design, construction and planting process but to open-ended plans involving Magic Me and the day centre, and to a continued employment of the professional garden designer/artist to work on the garden and train people to maintain it in future.
The ramifications went further. B&T Reclamation did the building work for a much reduced fee, and as well as providing this sponsorship-in-kind the company persuaded its suppliers to contribute plants, tools and materials. Several school projects spun off from it, including a sundial competition, an oral history exercise with the day centre clients and the launch of a lunchtime garden club. More funding was drawn in for out-of-school activities and visits. Representatives attended a reception in BT Environment Week and received an award for 'student impact'.
The Arts Incentive Fund
For the world outside Docklands, a strong message of resurgence comes from high quality performances, exhibitions and venues. As the previous sections have shown, cultural life has been putting down roots in many places away from the public gaze. So the more spectacular and large-scale manifestations of the action programme are not just an eye-catching arrangement of flowers that grew somewhere else; they are the above-the-ground parts of an organic whole.
This section highlights the most significant achievements from a large array, in the course of presenting the evolution of the programme. Even at the outset, bringing in artists to work in Docklands in order to attract people into the area was not the whole story. The LDDC employed high profile innovative arts activities to draw attention to the area and highlight the potential of its more unusual historic buildings for longer term arts use. In this context, the LDDC arts programme was to have a wider regeneration remit.
To deliver the programme, the main vehicle was the Arts Incentive Fund. As with the education fund, it required funding partners so that the organisations benefiting had a chance to build relationships that could last beyond the LDDC's lifetime, and it too offered a shrinking proportion in the final years. Once established, it aimed to give not less than 12 grants a year, mostly to projects whose significance was more than local.
The general criteria governing the allocation of grants were later formalised by The Arts Business. These were:
Grant aided activities could include all art forms such as dance, opera, classical music, jazz, street theatre, painting, sculpture and photography, and site specific work.
The Arts Incentive Fund has distributed over 100 grants up to a maximum of £15,000 each since 1990 ranging from support for visual arts exhibitions, to site specific installation work, contemporary dance and groundbreaking theatre. In its final phase, since 1994, over 40 grants totalling nearly £400,000 have been distributed. Through a policy of funding only a maximum of 50% of total cost of any one project, the arts programme has brought additional matched funding into the area of over £1.2 million from both the public and private sectors.
A varied arts programme
In the autumn of 1990, one of the star exhibits at the NextPhase (II) show (see above) was the building where it was held: The Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station, a Grade II* listed building overlooking Shadwell Basin. This breathtaking space was to recur several times in the programmes over the next few years when its grand abandoned halls were used to stunning effect for a variety of exhibitions and performances.
Another former industrial site which was to develop strong links with arts activities was Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth, especially for site-specific work such as Brian Catling's At the Lighthouse with Matt's Gallery in 1992 and Mary Lemley's These fragments we have shored against our ruins - 14 giant cloths containing pigment that had been immersed in the incoming tide at the mouths of the 'hidden' Thames tributaries.
In the same year, Women's Playhouse Trust converted the Jacob Street Studios in Bermondsey into a lavish venue for Nicola LeFanu's commissioned opera Blood Wedding. This was a temporary conversion, but the company, whose appetite for relocation had been awakened, returned there in 1994 with its BBC co-production of Aphra Behn's play The Rover.
One of the first fully public events in the Royal Docks K-R Warehouses was Chisenhale Dance Space's series of performances in Summer 1994.
Other successes included the founding of the Clove Gallery at Butlers Wharf, which turned from temporary shop conversion housing LDDC-funded exhibitions - including work by Dexter Dalwood, Roger Kite, Rosie Leventon, Sharon Kiviand, Trevor Sutton, Rachel Evans, Anya Gailaccio, Catherine Yass, Susan Morris and Stephen Hepworth - into a permanently let gallery by the time LDDC completed its remit in Bermondsey Riverside.
In the BT Streets of London Festival, Docklands came to play a pivotal role, hosting many an opening and closing night performance in partnership with Zap Productions between 1993 and 1997.
Building on the success of 1991's Festival of Street Music (see above), the Streets of London participation exemplified many of the aims of the LDDC's arts policy: local involvement and participation, a city-wide awareness and audiences coming into Docklands from much farther afield for a truly international showcase of cutting edge theatre.
Highlights included the Spanish pyrotechnic wizardry of Nit Magica by Xarxa at Canary Wharf in August 1993 - the first UK date for this spectacular Spanish ensemble. Xarxa returned to launch the festival in 1995 with Veles e Vent at the Royal Victoria Dock while the grand finale that same year was provided by Compagnie Jo Bithume with Oceano Satanas, a visual feast of giant puppetry, elaborate images, high wire comedy, live music and fireworks at West India Quay on the Isle of Dogs.
In 1996 the festival's opening performance was Apocalypse Noah by Les Treteaux du Coeur Volant, featuring the former Archaos performer Pascualito. These, and other innovative acts such as Strange Fruit, La Compagnie Malabar and Scarabeus, brought performances to Docklands that could not be seen elsewhere in the capital, drawing udiences in their thousands.
One event that Londoners could not help but notice was A Light in Docklands, a technologically innovative and visually stunning light show devised by local artists Peter Fink and Anne Bean to illuminate Canary Wharf and part of the Docklands Light Railway for Christmas 1995. Sponsored by the Docklands business community, including the LDDC, Canary Wharf and the Docklands Light Railway, this large scale work of public art was commissioned to celebrate Docklands' resurgence post-recession and the completion of the Railway's upgrading works, and saw a vast area at the heart of the Isle of Dogs bathed in a glorious interplay of light and colour triggered by passing DLR trains.
Music events were also on the agenda. High-profiled success arrived with the first Docklands Jazz Festival - Jazz Lunacy - which took place at the Half Moon Theatre at Mile End in 1987. It became known as a milestone in showing that the area could hatch its own events and host high-quality performances, as well as bringing in a mix of audiences from the London area. The programme was lively and drew plenty of attention and was to be built on in the following years, attracting such names as Courtney Pine, the Joe Henderson Trio, Abdullah lbrahim and James Blood Ulmer. It moved to the Design Museum in 1991 and then to Cabot Hall at Canary Wharf where it continued until 1993 when it was sponsored by Texaco Ltd.
Subsequently Docklands accommodated events for the London Jazz Festival, including in 1996 the festival's opening event which brought a big line-up of acid jazz and drum-and-bass, featuring artists from Mambo Inn and the Groove Collective plus d-j LTJ Buken at K-R warehouses in the Royal Victoria Dock.
Another musical example of the LDDC backing an independent initiative came with the all-too-short run of concerts at Cabot Hall in Canary Wharf in 1991. Free lunchtime events attracted large audiences and helped to vitalise the new office environment as well as firmly establish Cabot Hall on London's arts map. When the building's then developer - Olympia & York went into administration in 1992, the LDDC continued to co-fund events at Canary Wharf to maintain profile for the venue.
Today the new owners, Canary Wharf Ltd, have reinstated an adventurous programme of mixed events and have continued with the monthly Comedy Club initiated during those lean years by the LDDC, featuring some of the best talent on the UK comedy circuit.
Support for local arts groups
Local initiatives were also nurtured by the LDDC, most notably the Docklands Singers, a choir led by conductor/composer Andrew Campling, and a young professional orchestra, the Docklands Sinfonietta, whose first concerts had already won it an immediate reputation for fresh and lively playing. The latter had a strong agenda in music education, making links not only with local communities but with other parts of the curriculum, such as science.
Soon the Sinfonietta was giving LDDC funded series of concerts in local venues and becoming involved in the Corporation's education programme. At one stage it published plans for a floating concert hall to take its performances around the area's water spaces, though the practical obstacles proved too great. Later the orchestra altered its name to Sinfonia 21 and in 1997 it left Docklands for a new base in Kensington, but continued to maintain its educational links in the area.
Similarly, the LDDC supported three outdoor sculpture exhibitions by postgraduate students from the University of East London's MA Art in Architecture course (1993 - 1995).
One aspect that the LDDC's project support aimed to respect was the cultural diversity of the area. A notable example here was Notes from the Street, a photographic project and exhibition in which Antony Lam, a lecturer at Tower Hamlets College, worked with local young people of Bangladeshi origin - some of them fairly disaffected. By no means all the images of Docklands conveyed here were positive, but they were truthful, and the LDDC backed a presentation that spilled over into exhibition panels on the Docklands Light Railway. The East End Festival was another local initiative to receive consistent financial support from the LDDC. (See Education and Training for other culturally specific activities.)
A shift in focus
From 1995, given its remaining lifespan, the LDDC decided after internal staff changes that instead of filling a post on a short-term basis it would put the arts development programme in the hands of an outside consultancy. It appointed The Arts Business after a competitive tender process. While the Incentive Fund programme continued for the moment along broadly similar lines, some of the events were to have great significance for the future.
The most highly publicised in 1996 was Anya Gailaccio's ice installation Intensities and Surfaces at Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station, which was enthusiastically reviewed and had its run extended by public demand. Behind the scenes it brought together two LDDC regulars, the venue and the commissioner - Women's Playhouse Trust (WPT). The previous year WPT ran an education-oriented project there involving the Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company and Mulberry School, plus concerts by Shiva Nova and Nitin Sawhney, and subject to funding it had now agreed plans to turn the space into a theatre and a permanent home.
The Greenwich Festival crossed the river in 1996 to become, for the first time, the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival. Previously the festival had been a Greenwich Borough event, mostly local in impact. The local authority and the Festival Director, Bradley Hemmings, had wanted to increase its significance, and to the LDDC the idea of collaborating made more sense than setting up a separate and competing festival for Docklands. The LDDC funded several events in the enlarged 1996 programme, and as the festival expanded it drew in support from the neighbouring boroughs of Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Newham.
During the 1996 festival, there were 12 events in the LDDC area, plus involvement with the opening event which imaginatively linked the north and south of the Thames (using Island Gardens and Cutty Sark Gardens) with performances on an axis that ran straight through the Greenwich foot tunnel, and fireworks over the river. Street theatre was also much in evidence, with animation events happening in key DLR stations.
Following the objectives of the succession strategy defined by the Arts Business, the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival looked to local, substainable activities as well as high-profile events. One of the Festival initiatives was to develop Gallery 37, an arts apprenticeship scheme designing and building, under the tutelage of professional artists, elaborately decorated items such as benches and tables for sale.
For 1997, the number of events had increased to 35 giving the festival undeniable international clout. The LDDC's input covered among others lrvine Welsh and Boilerhouse Theatre's Headstate at Trinity Buoy Wharf, the flamenco singer Miguel Poveda in concert at Canary Wharf and the brilliant London debut of lndia's first professional woman tabla player Anuradha Pal in duet with Taivin Singh at The Space on the Isle of Dogs. With 1998's festival secure, its future seems assured. From an annual local-authority season with limited outside interest, it has grown in a short time into one of the biggest and most musically wide-ranging festivals in the capital, with roots firmly planted on both sides of the river and a genuine 'East London' focus.
One of its resources is now The Space, a new venue on the Isle of Dogs which the 1996 festival had previewed. Many years in the making, this imaginative conversion of a derelict church was driven by the vision of its director, Robert Richardson, against what seemed insuperable odds. At first even the LDDC was uncertain - the building looked too far decayed and the investment impossibly large. But funds were painstakingly raised from a range of sources which eventually included the LDDC who made a substantial contribution (£325,000 in total). The turning-point came with the arrival of the National Lottery's capital scheme, to which The Space was the subject of a successful bid.
From the outset it aimed to provide a musically diverse programme aimed primarily at the local community. Mixed in with the music, The Space also offers comedy, film and dance as well as exhibitions in the cafe upstairs. It makes a smaller, relaxed counterpart to the more formal setting of Cabot Hall in Canary Wharf, and it has become a popular as well as distinctive asset. A further phase of development is planned.
In the later years, instead of encouraging relocations of existing companies or activities for their own sake, the LDDC came to place much more emphasis on the capacity for continued life. One task was to prepare for the possible future of redundant building complexes, such as Trinity Buoy Wharf, the Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station and the K-R Warehouses in the Royal Docks.
The LDDC's capital responsibilities had taken on increased prominence in the final years, and some of the funding was devoted to high-profiled events that would keep key sites in the spotlight. These sites are really part of the Docklands legacy, and will be looked at in the following section.
Providing for the Future
With the LDDC due to complete its remit at the end of March 1998, a key issue facing its Arts team in the final years was the kind of arts legacy the LDDC could leave behind. Public art is here to stay. There are publications, too. Photo Docklands, published in 1997, is the outcome of an international photographic competition. Six photographers - John Goldblatt, Dave Lewis, David Moore, Jim Rice, Ruth Stirling and Gerhard Stromberg - were chosen from dozens of entries to create a themed portfolio showing their own interpretation of Docklands life. The photographs were also placed on show in an exhibition at the new Gallery West at Canary Wharf.
Otherwise, in the final period of the arts programme, attention focused on two further areas. one was physical: revitalising buildings with a range of arts uses, some public (like The Space) and some for the benefit of artists. The other was structural: seeking to ensure that a spread of activities, from the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival to the achievements in education, was set up and funded in such a way that it had a good chance of lasting. Although direct funding and action had to cease along with the LDDC, the partners it brought together were therefore encouraged to continue their cultural work.
This was one of the prime sites to be dealt with during the last stage. Trinity Buoy Wharf is a self-contained area poised at the confluence of the rivers Lea and the Thames, directly opposite the site of the Millennium Dome. Containing an eclectic mix of historic buildings - including London's only lighthouse (Grade II listed) riverside and open space, it was until 1988 a storage and workshop area belonging to the Trinity House Company.
Equipment was made and tested there, and the experimental lighthouse of 1864 was used for training keepers. The history and symbolism of the buildings made it seem a fitting place for activities that would renew opportunities for employment, and for creative or enlightening work.
Through the Incentive Fund, projects were encouraged which swung the spotlight towards Trinity Buoy Wharf while at the same time a long term use for the site was being sought. Studios, rehearsal and working space, and general cultural industries were in mind when the development brief was launched in 1996 to try and ensure that artists stayed in the area. This kind of use had been tested in the working-up of some of the more site-specific performances and appeared to be thoroughly practicable.
In 1997 a series of public events attracted plenty of notice and were often specially designed or adapted for the setting. They ranged from the London International Festival of Theatre's Utshob, described above, to Boilerhouse Theatre's Headstate for the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival and the site-specific Buoy-o-Lux Festival by the Earthworks Collective, a renowned group of installation artists and performers.
By Spring 1998 the LDDC had established a Trust to safeguard the future use of the site and had selected Urban Space Management (who had successfully rejuvenated Spitalfields Market in the City) as the preferred management contractor for a raft of cultural developments.
K-R Warehouses, Royal Victoria Dock
The breathtaking indoor spaces of these linked buildings made them seem a natural home for performances on several scales, especially music, dance and filming opportunities. They were the focus of a sustained campaign to attract established central London companies which would be able to put on stagings with unprecedented freedom and adventure. Before the recession, they had appealed strongly to a number of organisations for concerts, theatre and commercial promotions but their sheer size then came to seem daunting.
Subsequently they came to attract dance companies and promoters of massive club-style dance events. As at Trinity Buoy Wharf, a planned series of events - including performances by Chisenhale and Random dance companies gave K-R Warehouses a high profile, so that they were successfully moved on to a future use. They will become part of the new London international exhibition centre, ExCeL, which is being developed on the north side of Royal Victoria Dock. This means they will house events on a large scale, though it is too early to say whether any continuing arts theme will be possible. The nearby University of East London's Docklands Campus will be home to plenty of activity in the visual arts when it opens in September 1999, so there could be the possibility of a relationship.
West India Quay
West India Quay first gained notice as the venue for the highly successful London Docklands Seafood Fair which for six years from 1992 was held annually on the quayside. This event had expanded from its original mix of food-tasting and popular music to include street theatre and other arts activities. Temporary exhibitions inside the magnificent warehouses included The International Symposium of Shadows by Loophole Cinema in 1996 (an exploration of film and video images mixing contemporary technology and long-established techniques) and Cities and Water featuring a collection of artists showcased by the Francis Kyle Gallery in 1995.
Thanks to a £11.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant and additional LDDC funding of £3.5 million, part of the fine early 19th-century Grade I listed warehouse complex here will become the Museum in Docklands, due to open in January 2000.
The new museum is the fulfilment of many years' planning in conjunction with the Museum of London. While the LDDC helped to fund the collection and restoration of dock artefacts and records over the years, the museum vvill have a larger scope than the immediate area, featuring London as a maritime city and telling the story of the river, port and people.
The building conversion will provide galleries, library and archive facilities, temporary exhibition spaces and education facilities. In a separate scheme, adjoining warehouses will be turned into restaurants and shops, with a cinema and hotel planned for a neighbouring site. This substantial piece of cultural regeneration will see a steady flow of visitors, both local and international, in a prime Docklands location close to Canary Wharf, a footstep away via a pedestrian bridge across the dock.
Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station
Women's Playhouse Trust have refined their plans for the pumping station over several years. The site was eventually sold to the company through a development agreement which cleared the way to turn it into a theatre and company headquarters, including a rehearsal space, shop and restaurant as well as the fully equipped theatre and administrative offices.
Initial restoration and conversion work is due to take place in the Spring and Summer of 1998, once funding is in place, and the freehold - temporarily placed into the care of the Commission for New Towns - is to pass to WPT as soon as the works are completed. Having been one of the most consistently enthusiastic of arts organisations to explore and work in London Docklands, WPT is set to make its relocation permanent and, with an exciting and imaginative architectural scheme, to bring new life to one of the area's most characterful buildings.
The last few commissions - Vowel of Earth Dreaming its Root by Eilis O'Connel, Globe by Richard Wentworth, Traffic Light Tree by Pierre Vivant, all on the Isle of Dogs - were due to be installed by the end of the LDDC's lifetime, or soon after. Concerns then passed to operation and maintenance and to reaching agreement with the local authorities who would be responsible. These issues were part of the general discussion with local authorities regarding the handing on of LDDC responsibilities. As for continuing the adventure, everything will depend on the will and the budget of the successor authorities, and on the social attitudes of private developers who raise the buildings of the future. Individual councillors are likely to remain supportive, but their hands could be tied by government-imposed spending limits. Upkeep will certainly be required. Some pieces have weathered better than others: the bathers at Harbour Exchange, for instance, quickly lost the distinctive blue clothing seen in their widely publicised photographs and gained a coating of green oxide on rather different body parts.
Any desirable future for this wide-flung collection of art needs to have at its centre the means of being seen, enjoyed and valued. One way would be to market tours of the sites. A regular scheduled trip to see the public art of London Docklands would make a fine and surely popular addition to the capital's tourist repertoire and not just for visitors, because many residents who know only a few of the items would be amazed and delighted by a chance to discover the rest.
Events and education work
In these areas the role of continuing public investment is especially crucial. Otherwise the only shows will be commercial productions. Performers who come to The Space and Cabot Hall, or artists who exhibit in the galleries, will sometimes be in a position to bring part of their own subsidy with them. But projects that are initiated in the area will often need input from the former funding partners.
Some projects have been deliberately initiated so that their conclusion will be long after the LDDC has ceased operating. The success of combining commercial interest and public sector support can be seen in an imaginative project for Locke Wharf, a housing development on the old factory site on the Isle of Dogs that produced the propellers for the Queen Mary ocean liner. Working with Public Arts Development Trust, the artist Stefan Gec is embarking on a project to stir people's memories from those days, linking London with New York, which will result in two years' time in the siting of one of the liner's original propellers on the Docklands site and the regular blowing of the fog. horn in New York. The LDDC has provided the start-up finance; the balance comes from the developers over the next two years.
Following the launch of TourEast London, a consortium of 22 interested parties to deal with some of the post-LDDC arrangements for tourism, a discussion group including the London Arts Board and local authorities along with the LDDC met under the name of CulturEast London to look at coordinating activities in the arts. The potential members, however, were not able to establish it on a permanent basis. What happens is therefore very much up to individual local authorities: they have a platform on which they can stand if they wish. The Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is a good example of how things could go. Having started as the concern of one local authority, the festival has grown with LDDC encouragement to take in three more and is likely to increase the number in future years.
Applicants to the Arts Incentive and Arts Education and Training programmes were always asked to show long-term plans, and for 1997/98 they had to assure the LDDC that funding was available for the future. All the LDDC-backed projects were followed up during the year to help consolidate the links with other funders.
In practice, many of the projects that had already run for several years had found a momentum of their own and were in a position to continue without difficulty. Some of them are described earlier in this report. It was often an uphill struggle for the companies to raise the required matching funds in the first place, but once having secured the income they have been able to sustain it.
Some other organisations, such as the Academy of Indian Dance and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, have the sources they need to continue their involvement with the area. The University of East London, with its visual arts expertise and potential, is expected to play a substantial part in future plans.
The LDDC has in less than a decade created substantial elements of an arts infrastructure in a part of London that had previously lacked many of the basic facilities. Alongside independent ventures such as Cabot Hall and the exhibition spaces in Canary Wharf, it has put its resources into the emergence of new galleries and performance venues and helped bring a new life to distinctive buildings whose working days had seemed to be over.
The still-developing plans at Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Royal Docks will create further employment in the arts and cultural industries. To workers, visitors and residents, the LDDC has enhanced the physical environment by offering art commissions of its own and by encouraging developers to take the same public-spirited attitude. Artists and organisations from neighbouring parts of London have discovered the scope for involving themselves with the various communities of the Docklands area, and those communities have found new ways to comprehend and express their experience in a world that has seen change occurring faster than the rest of the city and for a longer time.
Even the name 'London Docklands' is part of the change. It was a creation of the LDDC age. The disparate areas of London's dockland have a long and proud history, but the actual name London Docklands was chosen to express the way these areas with their own characters had been brought at the end of that history under one temporary umbrella.
If 'London Docklands' persists it may be mostly as a brand name for international marketing purposes. But in its brief flourishing it symbolises the most fundamental aim of the arts programme. Making connections: that was the point. Not just between areas that had a shared history, but between one culture and another, between employers and residents, sponsors and local authorities, schools and artists, old and young. There is still much to do, and the LDDC cannot control the political wind that shapes events from now on. It is for others to take inspiration from what is surveyed in this monograph. If the will is there, the LDDC's adventure in cultural regeneration has shown the way.
Artists and Arts Organisations which have worked with the LDDC
The idea of writing a series of monographs on various aspects of the Corporation's work was initiated and nurtured by Eric Sorensen whilst Chief Executive of the LDDC.
This monograph has depended on access to numerous documents that were either internal to the LDDC or produced as a report on LDDC funded projects, and on extended interviews with present and past staff and consultants. The writer wishes to record his thanks for much generosity with time and materials, and constant efforts to pursue elusive detail, which have greatly helped to ease the voyage of discovery. In particular, special thanks go to Richard Gerard for an entertaining and informative tour of public art sites and for sharing personal memories of life as a stevedore, and to Trisha O'Reilly, Senior Media and PR Officer at the LDDC, for bright ideas, efficient contacts and unfailing patience.
Others I wish to mention include: