Newest Review: ... developments, but are more the old Eastend corners that escaped the wartime bombings which hit Tower Hamlets probably more than any othe... more
Member Name: vhart
Date: 15/09/00, updated on 15/09/00 (157 review reads)
Advantages: rich cultural diversity, unique, history of the area is fascinating
Disadvantages: roots of the far right, scruffy and ramshackle in parts, contrast of richness and poverty can be surprising.
Docklands has undergone a transformation through the eighties and nineties, but it can't escape it's roots amongst the Thames' snaky path east. From the building developments, Canary Wharf, presently the tallest building in London, towers.
Canary Wharf is an office building with a shopping centre in the middle, in a vain hope of attracting the new yuppie-types moving into Docklands. I've never seen this shopping centre at anything remotely near to busy, but then, it doesn't have the greatest selection of shops!
A new cinema has just opened in West India Quay, multi-screen multiplex, same as there are all over the place really. Nothing especially of note.
To me though, the most interesting corners of Docklands aren't the new developments, but are more the old Eastend corners that escaped the wartime bombings which hit Tower Hamlets probably more than any other part of London.
Wapping, known for the News International production plant, for example, is a bundle of new developments, gyms, supermarkets, closeted south of Cable Street, famous for the so-called 'Battle of Cable Street' where Mosley's blackshirts were opposed by the immigrant population who refused to let him pass. There is a great mural depicting this on the side of the library on Cable Street, that grabs my attention every time I pass it (which happens.. oh, most days!).
Towards Blackwall, and the East India Docks, if you walk further back from the riverside itself (which is now mostly trendy 'apartments with views of the river') you find a London which is quite unique. This part of London is home to a very large Bengali and Somalian population, and the smells of the cooking that hit you if you walk down some of the sidestreets at about 5pm make you (or make me, at least) just want to head west towards Brick Lane with her plethora of curry houses!
The Docklands Light Railway has opened up a great deal o
f this area to a wider audience. It's a great transport system and may be the way of light transit systems of the future, with very good access (except at peak 'crush' hour).
Basically, Docklands isn't all high rise offices, and yuppie pads, reminiscient of some of the worse excesses of the 80s. Walk a few hundred metres north from the river and you are in the heart of what is possibly one of the most richly, ethnically diverse parts of the city, if not the country. Of course, it is important to remember that this is the only place in the UK a far-right candidate has ever held an elected position (Derek Beacon, if I remember correctly), a cautionary note if ever there was one.
This part of London was shaped by the bombings and what they left behind, it is the richest and the poorest part of the city, but above all, unique. I wouldn't tell people they must rush there if they only have a couple of days to 'do' London, but for people with a bit more time, an amble through Docklands is a lesson in opposites living together, sometimes happily, sometimes less so, but always fascinating in her own peculiar way.