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June 12, 2012 / landscapeiskingston

East London’s Waterway Cultural Revolution – Heritage as driver for economic growth

As the world turns its gaze to London’s East End this summer for the 2012 London Olympics, there’s a cultural revolution happening along its waterways.  The Olympic Stadium dominates the view from the pontoon terrace of the Counter Café.  This warehouse gallery and the Carlton Café are two of the creative spaces to be found along the waterways of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, London.  Once empty warehouses and merchants’ yards now teem with people re-visiting waterways heritage sites put to new uses.

Not since the days when dock freight passed inland along these waterways has there seen so much traffic tobe found on the towpath of the Regent’s Canal through London’s Docklands and the banks of the River Lea.  Travelling east from the Angel, Islington, pause at the Narrow Boat pub or Towpath Café along the waterfront.  Further on, the Waterline – all high ceilings and bare brick, is a haunt for folk, jazz and cinema nights, as well as exhibitions in the back lounge.  A short barge ride on from there through Old Ford Lock, past Victoria Park and into Mile End, you’ll hit the Palm Tree for live music.

At the Royal Docks, where the canals meet the Thames, a huge project to resurrect canals (londonpleasuregardens.com), will be completed in the heart of the Olympic East End.

This is a major new arts and entertainment destination. The 20 acre riverside site features open-air concerts, dance and theatre arenas, historic and contemporary architecture, an urban nature reserve, a boutique hotel and a floating cocktail bar.

The WF partners note that EU funding is already allocated specifically for ‘protection and preservation of cultural heritage’. Waterway’s heritage is part of the ‘cultural infrastructure’ of Europe, contributing to economic attractiveness, job opportunities and quality of life.

The WF partners:

  • Recommend increased recognition in EU policy for culture that supports initiatives to conserve and promote public access to waterway heritage and to build on this heritage as a driver for economic growth eg. through tourism or regeneration of waterfronts

London 2012 Waterside Festivals

CREATE LONDON –  waterside art on the rooftops, parks and hidden places of the east. CREATE (createlondon.org) invites people to explore the city with a programme of workshops and public art.

BLOC WEEKEND –  an audio-visual experience held at the London Pleasure Gardens, you can party until the sun rises over the water.

SHOREDITCH FESTIVAL  (14-22 July; shoreditchfestival. org.uk) where a floating stage on the canal will showcase a programme of music and entertainment.

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