news, views and issues around Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath and Woolwich, south-east London – what you won't read in Greenwich Time

Posts Tagged ‘millennium dome

O2 security guards get heavy with Guardian reporter

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It’s worth a look at The Guardian’s story about one of its reporters being blocked from filming the O2 from Millennium Way, with security guards wrongly trying to invoke “terrorist laws” because “this is an Olympic venue”.

Funnily enough, I saw this incident happen – I was travelling into North Greenwich station by bus a few days ago thinking “why’s that bloke filming a security guard and sniffer dog?” I wish I’d taken my own picture now…

I can’t help thinking that “because of the Olympics” is going to be the new “‘elf and safety” cliche, as well as being used by jumped-up berks who are well exceeding their powers.

While I’m well aware that the O2 security guards make the Ravensbourne bike racks among the safest in London, I’ve had my own issues with them. Two years ago, a photographer pal tried to take some pictures of me in Peninsula Square (this new London square, the largest in 150 years”, “a dramatic new public space“.) before some idiot came over to stop the outrageous photography activity. Taking photos without permission is not allowed in this area that us locals are all commanded to be proud of, it appears. For it’s not public space at all, it’s private property.

Odder still, a pal tonight told me of a recent visit inside the venue: “They demanded my 12 year old niece take down her hood the min we stepped in, it was raining outside, she was with 2 adults and a toddler and it was 11am! What did they think she was going to do? They may have a policy but you can at least be nice about it.”

The guards may have a legal right to enforce what goes on inside the Dome, or in Peninsula Square (a superb place to socialise) – but out on grim Millennium Way? They’re on very sticky ground. I’d lay odds on there being a photographers’ flashmob there by the end of the week.

Written by Darryl

17 April, 2012 at 7:30 am

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Proud of Greenwich’s Thames Path? The ‘royal’ borough isn’t

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Of course, it’s almost a heresy in the “royal” borough to criticise something at the Dome O2, but that’s not stopped this website before…

Anyway, take one two-bob crap club which can’t be arsed to clear up its’ punters’ junk, and add to that a local council which can’t be arsed to sweep its streets properly, and combine with a glorious spring Sunday.

The result – scores of people walking and cycling along the Thames Path, somewhere which makes you feel lucky to be from this corner of London, and finding it’s covered with rubbish from the Proud2 club.

Ladies free? Tim Westwood*? Classy. Still, it’s at the O2 so it’s got to be brilliant, eh?

(* video may be unsuitable for work viewing. Tim Westwood is 54 years old.)

Written by Darryl

2 April, 2012 at 7:30 am

Seatwave shop opens near the O2 – but will there be bargains?

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A pal of mine used to live near Brixton Academy, and used to have to negotiate crowds of ticket touts on gig nights. But every now and then, he’d turn up at 9pm, and get into gigs for a fiver because the touts couldn’t shift their wares for full price.

I can’t help wondering if we’re about to get the same opportunities at the Dome, with the opening of “secondary ticketing” company Seatwave’s first shop just around the corner. It’s tucked away in Pier Walk, just behind Wagamana, so isn’t exactly in a prime spot, but bosses at the O2 aren’t impressed

The O2 distanced itself from the firm and encouraged people “wanting to attend gigs to buy tickets through the official O2 website”.

The venue said it did “not allow third party sellers or touts on the premises” and that it policed the Peninsular Square area outside the O2 to stop the practice.

I peered through the window on Sunday afternoon and tickets for last night’s Snow Patrol show looked to be selling for about £6 below face value. I don’t know what hours the shop will keep, but if you’re passing through on an event night soon, it might be worth taking a look to see if there are any bargains.

Written by Darryl

13 February, 2012 at 7:30 am

Stratford’s new casino echoes Greenwich’s failed gamble

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The doors fling open today on Stratford City’s newest attraction, a huge casino within the shiny shopping centre next to the Olympic Park. Aspers Stratford City will be the UK’s biggest, with 40 gaming tables, a 150-seat poker room, 150 slot machines and 92 electronic gaming terminals. Here’s a surprise – the Evening Standard fawning over the rich man who owns it.

If Greenwich Council and one of the world’s richest businessmen had their way, though, all this – and more – would already be up and running inside the Dome. A casino was a central part of the business plan for what became the O2 – and the failure of that plan is still being felt nearly five years on.

Here’s the entrance to the O2 arena, seen last week during the ATP tennis finals. The big “Sky Backstage” hoarding marks the space where the casino would have been. The plan was to build a “regional casino” (or “super casino”) here, which could play host to up to 1,250 slot machines. The casino plans were part of the Tony Blair government’s liberalisation of gambling laws. Originally, eight were to have been built nationwide, but this was whittled down to just the one.

Local councils were invited to bid to play host to super casinos, and Greenwich was among eight shortlisted. The only other London bidder, Brent Council, had Wembley Stadium in mind, but pulled out at the final stage. But Newham Council was bidding for something smaller – a “large casino”, of up to 150 slot machines.

Greenwich’s bid was controversial and deeply divisive – a foretaste of the rows to come over the Olympics in Greenwich Park. A campaign group, South East London Against The Casino, was formed, claiming three-quarters of locals were against and it would bring crime and local youngsters into gambling. A report commissioned by PriceWaterhouse Coopers for the council – which it initially refused to make public – said “close proximity to casinos increases the prevalence of problem gambling”.

It wasn’t just Greenwich Council that wanted the super-casino, though. Then-mayor Ken Livingstone, the Greenwich Society and the local chamber of commerce, were all for it, claiming it would help regenerate the area. It had that look of a “done deal” that local cynics have grown used to – not least when it emerged deputy prime minister John Prescott had stayed at the Colorado ranch of Philip Anschutz, the billionaire behind Dome owners AEG. Another scandal erupted when AEG were caught out claiming local religious groups were behind the casino – they most certainly weren’t.

With claims that the council and AEG – never mind senior national politicians – had far too close a relationship, the whole thing was causing an unholy stink. The much-missed Greenwich Watch’s archive of stories – including its exclusive on the “faked” support from local churches – on it is well worth reading.

But the bid continued, and by January 2007, it was widely believed the casino would go to either Greenwich or Blackpool. Neither got it – the bid was won by Manchester, which planned to build it at Eastlands, home of Manchester City’s stadium. It was never built, though – Gordon Brown cancelled the scheme after becoming prime minister.

Over the water, things were more successful. Newham won its bid for a “large casino”, and that’s the same one that opens today at Stratford City, a short hop on the Tube from North Greenwich.

So, five years on, what are we left with? That big gap inside the O2 and a gaming college at The Valley are the legacy of Greenwich’s little flutter on having a casino. There was a section buried deep in the council’s website devoted to Freedom of Information requests about the scheme and the associated PwC report, although that vanished in the recent revamp of the site.

The failure still echoes around the O2, though. Before 2007, AEG planned two hotels for the Dome site, with dreams of turning the tip of the Peninsula into what seemed like a mini-Las Vegas. At the end of 2011, work has yet to begin on the one hotel given planning permission earlier this year.

While the O2 arena itself has been an undoubted success, the “entertainment avenue” next to it hasn’t been such a hot destination. Film premieres on the windy peninsula have been few and far between. Years of Jubilee Line disruptions have dented its appeal to the rest of London. Despite being on a clutch of bus routes, this collection of suburban chain bars and eateries under a mucky roof remains difficult to reach from the suburbs without a car. It’s recently gained a private members’ club but apart from after-show parties, why on earth would anyone want to join an exclusive venue there?

To be fair, it is busy at weekends, but has the unwanted prize of the highest concentration of alcohol-related crime in Greenwich borough.

It all feels a bit like a highly-fortified Bluewater but without the shops. But AEG is now planning to fix that – by turning the casino space into a shopping centre. Early papers submitted to Greenwich planners propose a “retail outlet village” inside the O2, stretching around the southern side of the Dome. Could it work as a shopping centre? Well, the Westfield Stratford City horse has bolted, and Canary Wharf’s malls have steadily built up over the years. But some shops would provide a reason to linger in the Dome, and maybe get a bite to eat too. Full details will no doubt hit the Greenwich planning desk soon.

But until the rest of the peninsula is built up – and that’s more than a decade off yet – it’s unlikely a shopping centre will bring the windfall for AEG – and possibly further investment in the area – that a casino could have done. Then again, considering the amount of alcohol-related crime there, perhaps we dodged a bullet by not having a mini-Vegas by the Blackwall Tunnel. Whatever your view, the O2 casino is one of the great local “what ifs” of our time.

Written by Darryl

1 December, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Boris makes his mark on the Greenwich peninsula again

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Oh dear. Late mayors aside, the tennis brought a good buzz to the Dome last week. It wasn’t well-publicised, but you could wander in and watch action on the practice courts for free if you wanted to. So long as you got there on time. Adam at The Scoop has more about the mayor’s recent confusion in south London. I just hope he took the Jubilee Line there and back.

I completely forgot about Saturday’s “open day” (three hours) at the cable car site – but Diamond Geezer didn’t, thankfully, and brings news that we’ll be seeing the towers within a couple of weeks. If you went, I’d be interested to hear what you thought of what you saw.

Written by Darryl

28 November, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Greenwich’s secret ferry

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I went over to Trinity Buoy Wharf‘s open weekend the other day (thanks to Diamond Geezer for the reminder). I’d only been there once before – for a work thing on a cold day about 10 years ago – so it was good to go back and have a proper wander around in the sunshine.

If you’re not familiar with it, Trinity Buoy Wharf is directly opposite the Dome, and the location of London’s only lighthouse. Climb the narrow stairs to the top of the lighthouse, and you can peer back across the river while listening to the eerie Longplayer.

Once the place where the river’s buoys were made, Trinity Buoy Wharf is now a thriving community of artists and small businesses. It’s a little bit cut off from the surrounding area, tucked away at the end of an old street called Orchard Place. Once home to the isolated community of Bow Creek, its residents were moved out following the flood of 1928.

So there’s a ferry from North Greenwich Pier, run by an old police boat called Predator II. Its main job is as a crew shuttle for Thames Clippers, which is based at Trinity Buoy Wharf. But it’s also available if you need to visit Trinity Buoy Wharf, running between 5am and about 7.30pm, charging a £2 fare. Trips were free at the weekend, and if it’s choppy it’s not for those prone to seasickness – but it’s a quick way to get across the Thames. It’s hardly advertised, though – there’s a tiny timetable and phone number at the western end of North Greenwich Pier – and it’s probably best to give Thames Clippers a call first to check it’s running.

With work under way on the cable car Boris hasn’t got the money for (the riverside walk is set to close next week), taking the boat seems a cheaper, and more sensible way of crossing the river.

Written by Darryl

26 July, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Welcome to the O2, in association with Wifebeater

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The big displays around the Dome were showing off a new big brand last night. Stella Artois has joined the venue’s sponsors. An appropriate choice considering the O2 has the highest level of alcohol-related crime in Greenwich borough, according to statistics issued by the council earlier this year. See you in A&E.

Written by Darryl

20 April, 2011 at 8:00 am

Tour the Dome with the BBC – 11 years on

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I was delighted by the response to yesterday’s post about the threat to the BBC’s internet archive – if slightly perturbed how quickly someone spotted the failed site I was involved in, and how many people clicked through to look at it. I’ll never get a proper job now…

Here’s a bonus treat which mixes both old BBC website content and super south-east London stuff. Presenting BBC News Online’s virtual tour of the Millennium Dome, which I actually dimly remember being made.

I wasn’t involved in that project, but this was A Big Deal then – using all that Apple Quicktime felt daring in those days of dial-up and slow speeds. But it was suitably futuristic for the dawn of the 21st century, eh? There was even a webcast! It doesn’t seem as if the Real Player stuff works any more, so sadly that may be lost for ever, denied to the producers of a future I Love 2000 programme.

For all the slating the place got, it’s worth remembering the vast majority of visitors came away happy, according to a straw poll conducted by the team there. I enjoyed my day there too (free on the famous residents’ Greenwich Card, of course.) Now we can relive all those happy memories again, courtesy of the BBC. Even if we have to squint at the screen a bit. This is why keeping your archives is a good thing.

Written by Darryl

26 January, 2011 at 8:30 am

Wagamama and the changing peninsula

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If you wanted proof that the area around the Dome is shedding its grim, lifeless persona, then it’s above – a branch of Wagamama is on its way behind Ravensbourne’s new building, breaking the monopoly the O2’s tenants have in the area.

The area around the Dome will, once again, be unrecognisable within a few years – with planning permission given for an enormous hotel to the west of the structure, on some of the last remaining parts of the millennium exhibition site.

If you’ve got a view of the Dome from where you live – enjoy it while it lasts, because after a decade of it dominating the skyline, it’s likely to be hidden behind more big developments in the next 10 years.

Written by Darryl

31 October, 2010 at 9:00 am

Ravensbourne college opens its doors in Greenwich

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Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

Is the area around the Dome looking a bit busier today? It should do – it’s the first day of business for Ravensbourne college, which has spent the summer relocating from Chislehurst to its new, £70m home at the tip of the peninsula. This blog was lucky enough to get a tour from the college’s director, Professor Robin Baker, as his staff geared up to accept 1,400 students – ranging from pre-degree learners to undergraduates and postgraduates.

More significantly for Greenwich, today looks like being the day the area immediately around the Dome stopped being a bleak, windswept, lonely corner and started to gain some life.

Contracts have been signed for cafes to open on Peninsula Square, and there’ll be a bit of life around there during the day now, instead of the O2’s security guards and their dogs. By next spring, it’ll be radically different around there. This can only be a good thing…

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

The impressive exterior – the pattern is a mathematical formula based on “non-periodic tesselation” , where the windows are tiles left out – bucks the trend for contemporary buildings to show off their interiors to the public. “It’s camouflaged, it’s challenges you,” Professor Baker explained. “You can’t look in and see what’s going on.”

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

Inside are 9 floors and vast open spaces, where students will follow courses encompassing design, broadcasting, fashion, architecture, animation and music production. No rabbit warrens of classrooms, computer rooms and lecture theatres – unlike the exterior, most of the interior is open. It’s almost like a cutting-edge, modern business centre, which isn’t an accident.

Most students will have their own laptops, there’ll be a clean-desk policy, but the building will be open 16 hours a day – with teaching taking place across just six of those. Professor Baker says he’ll have one big message for today’s new students. “We try to treat students as professionals. We’ll say to them, ‘this is the first day of your career’.” One aspect of the new site is what isn’t there – there’s no metalwork and woodwork facilities here, with them either being provided elsewhere or students being encouraged to find their own. It’s “all about using London as a resource,” Prof Baker says – something that wasn’t easy in Chislehurst.

One thing that did strike me as a little odd – their student union bar will be, effectively, one floor of the American Bar at the O2. Granted, they’ll offer a discount, but I’m not sure I’d like to have to walk through a security cordon every time I fancied a cheap beer.

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

What is provided, though, is state of the art. What’s thought to be the most advanced high-definition television facilities in the country sit alongside a recording studio paid for by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. When Led Zeppelin played the O2, they turned to Harvey Goldsmith and said, ‘we want to give something back.” The cash is also going towards a course, designed to create entrepreneurs in the music industry. Fibre-optic links connect Ravensbourne with the O2 and the data network being created to support the Olympics. But easily the most impressive thing in the workshops was a 3D scanner, which you could use to create a virtual version of anything – a toy car, or your body.

Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich

What does Ravensbourne’s arrival mean for its neighbours? Pre-degree courses already mainly attract students from the boroughs of Greenwich and Lewisham, and Greenwich Council is backing the Greenwich Digital Skills Centre, offering courses for all ages. In the long term, the council wants to see the peninsula become a “digital destination”, and has two floors in nearby Mitre Passage as a “digital enterprise centre” for businesses to showcase what they can do.

But it’s Ravensbourne that’s playing a pivotal role here, providing a role incubating start-up businesses and giving them a space to get going. There’s a track record of success here – one student recently signed a £280,000 contract with Sony to develop a game. There’ll be 40 based in the new building, although only 15 are expected to survive – but those that do will be given help in finding cheap locations in which to base themselves. I hope that the benefits of this will be felt further into Greenwich – it’d be unfortunate if all this new activity was isolated up on the peninsula, and with nearby Deptford having a pedigree for nurturing creative businesses, something special could be created in Greenwich, if the will is there.

Indeed, with Ravensbourne joining Trinity College of Music in Greenwich, Laban in Deptford and Goldsmiths in New Cross, it adds to an interesting little belt of creativity in this bit of SE London.

So that’s your quick tour of Greenwich’s newest arrival. Thanks to Ravensbourne for inviting me up there, and if you want to take a sly peek at it, their ground floor cafe is open to the public. At last, an alternative to Starbucks on the peninsula!

Written by Darryl

25 October, 2010 at 10:46 am


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