Regular readers will know that I often try to find books that feature the Isle of Dogs, it is often surprising just how many have featured the Island. Much rarer is writers who locate a series of books on the Island, one writer that does is best-selling author Carol Rivers and I was delighted recently to receive a copy of her latest book, Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm.
Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.
Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm is the third of the series of Lizzie Flowers dramas, the first in the series was Lizzie of Langley Street which took place in the period of the First World War followed by The Fight for Lizzie Flowers which is set in the early 1930’s. Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm begins in 1934 and finds Lizzie seeking some peace, after some traumatic experiences, not least overcoming the intentions of East End villain Leonard Savage. At last things appear to be going well for Lizzie, Now not only does she still run the shop of Ebondale Street, she has also built up a successful bakery store with the help of Jenny her manageress.
However, on a personal level, things are not running smoothly, Lizzie’s one true love, Danny, had asked her to move away from the Isle of Dogs to his fancy new showroom in the West End, but Lizzie determined to ensure her family and friends survive refuses, so Danny and his adopted son Tom, move away, leaving Lizzie heart-broken.
To add to her worries, Lizzie spots a woman holding a baby outside the bakery one morning, she cannot believe that this downtrodden woman is her friend Ethel carrying a baby. Ethel collapses into Lizzie’s arms and beseeches Lizzie to help her.
Despite opposition from all around her, Lizzie is determined to take over the lease of the Mill Wall, a pub renowned for its ladies of the night and rivalry. Lizzie gives her husband Frank the opportunity to redeem himself by running the pub and ensuring that its clientele remain ‘clean’ and free from the ladies of the night frequenting it. Will Frank be able to maintain his sobriety to show Lizzie and his family that he has turned over a new leaf.
Lizzie continues to do what she does best, nurturing her family and friends so they have a good life on the Island, however, with the Mill Wall Pub, the bakery and the shop, has Lizzie bit off more than she can handle ? A new villain on the block, “the Prince” certainly thinks so, and is threatening both her family and her livelihood. When there is a fire at the bakery resulting in the death of the cook Madge and severe burns to Jenny, Lizzie is worried she will lose everything.
What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who inhabit an Island that is still reliant on the docks and where family is still of great importance. Whilst the extended families were a great source of support, sometimes loyalties were divided that often led to conflict. This is another characteristic of Carol’s books, she honestly portrays characters who have gone off the rails and how families have to deal with a series of setbacks.
Carol’s books pays tribute to the strong characters, often women who kept families together through adversity. Lizzie Flowers is one such character who is full of true East End grit who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships.
I am sure that Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and will generate plenty of interest in the Island’s fascinating past. If you would like to read Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm, it is available here.
Last Friday, I was fortunate to be invited to the world premiere of a film called On the Docks which features the history of London’s Dock Workers from the 1930s up until the closing of the docks from the 1970s.
What was unusual about the film was that it was made by children from Riverside and Westminster Cathedral primary schools with support from digital:works which is an arts and education charity.
Using the resources of the Museum of London Docklands, historians, two local archives and the community of retired dockers. The children began to develop skills like filming, sound capture and interviewing skills while others will began to learn to write historical and creative pieces.
The Friends of Island History Trust supported the project and provided some of the interviewees that appeared in the film.
The end result is a fascinating history of the docks and the people who used to work in the docks. The film is a reminder that working in the docks was often a struggle with little financial security and dangerous, injuries or even fatalities were not that unusual.
Despite these issues or maybe because of them, many dockers spoke about the camaraderie amongst the dock workers both in work and in the local communities. It was this community spirit and sense of humour that enabled people to survive in the depression in the 1930s and during the Second World War.
The film is nicely balanced between the interviews and action from docks to give a rounded view of the whole experience.
There is often a difficulty when trying to explain some of the intricacies of history to later generations because lives have changed considerably, even over the last 30 years. However, by allowing children to use their technological and creative skills is a great way to keep them interested and willing to learn about other periods of history.
If you would like to watch the film, it is now available to watch on the Thames Dockers website here
Congratulations to everyone involved for creating a film and project that pays tribute to the thousands of dock workers that were a vital part of the workforce especially in times of peril like the Second World War.
If after the excitement of the festive period, you are suffering January blues, it might worth making your way to Canary Wharf for their Winter Lights Festival.The Winter Lights festival returns for a fifth year bringing together some of the most imaginative light artists to create spectacular artworks, installations and experiences.
Some old favourites return and each year the festival seems to get bigger and better. The festival is great for all the family with plenty to entertain the children.
Although the festival does not open till the 15th, here is a sneak preview of what to expect.
1: Prismatica by RAW Design in collaboration with ATOMIC3, Jubilee Plaza
Prismatica turns heads with the countless colourful reflections made by its giant prisms. Visitors can walk amongst them to see city life in every colour of the spectrum and spin the prisms to make them dance.
2. BIT.FALL by Julius Popp, Chancellor Passage, Middle Dock
The speed at which information is sourced, exchanged and updated in our modern society is almost inconceivable, and more ephemeral than ever before. The work BIT.FALL translate this abstract process into an experience for the senses as an ever-changing cascade of words, derived from a live newsfeed on The Times website, falls down on a wall of water.
3. Two Hearts by Stuart Langley, projection in Newfoundland Place, viewing point at Cubitt Steps
As the structure of this iconic residential skyscraper grows, lower level windows flicker and shine with light to momentarily form two illuminated and transient hearts, symbolic of the life and energy the building is poised to support.
4. Whale Ghost by Pitaya, Cubitt Steps
This monumentally-scaled kinetic sculpture echoes the marine mammal and fossil skeletons seen in natural history museums. Whale Ghost invites the visitor to spend a moment thinking about the impact of mankind on our biodiversity.
5. Sasha Trees by Adam Decolight, Westferry Circus
Westferry Circus becomes a magical winterscape as we illuminate this beautiful location with glowing fir trees. The striking neon colours of the trees create a fantastic contrast with natural foliage surrounding them.
6. Blue Neuron by Zac Greening, Columbus Courtyard
Blue Neuron is a beautiful kinetic light installation built from reworked heat-treated plastic bottles. Zac’s inspiration comes principally from nature. Working in a wide range of media, from discarded plastic bottles to laser projections, his works often comment on issues such as sustainability, environmental degradation and consumption.
7. Time & Tide By Paul & Pute, Columbus Courtyard
Time & Tide, with its hourglass design and colours inspired by nature, aims to remind us of the urgency of halting the plastic pollution of our oceans. Its form tells us that time is running out to repair this problem before the damage to our planet is irreversible.
8. Heofon Light Maze by Ben Busche of Brut Deluxe, Cabot Square
Heofon is an old English word for the sky. This fascinating light maze is based on triangular geometry which reflects and shifts light rays along the entire colour range of a rainbow. On the outer perimeter the panels are covered with a mirror film converting the interior into an infinity room.
9. Colour Moves by Rombout Frieling Lab, Adams Plaza Bridge
Colour does not exist. Colour is in the mind. It is the result of complex processes of adjustment and comparison. Colour Moves is an immersive installation of pigments that react with specific wavelengths of light.
10. Recyclism by Oskar Krajewski /Art of OK, Crossrail Place, Level 0
Artist Oskar Krajewski is working towards a new chapter in art history – Recyclism. Recyclism is a platform for artists and like-minded people who care about our global environment. Oskar’s sculptures are made almost entirely of recycled materials such as unwanted toys, obsolete electronics, plastic packaging or any everyday use objects.
11. Aura by Ronan Devlin, North Dock, Adams Plaza
Aura creates a stunning spectacle on the water by combining art and technology. Camera sensors capture participant’s form and feelings and mirror them in real time onto a giant water spray in the dock.
12. We Could Meet by Martin Richman, Crossrail Place, Quayside Level -1
A permanent installation of more than 500 illuminated acrylic rods installed in a water channel, this engaging art work was commissioned by Canary Wharf Group in 2015.
13. Vena Lumen by Fontys Vena Lumen team, Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Level -1
Vena Lumen means pulsing light. Take a seat on this stunning bench, place your hand on the sensor and watch it transform your heartbeat into dancing light.
14. Enchanted Connections by Tine Bech Studio, Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Level 1
Enchanted Connections invites visitors to the Crossrail Place Roof Garden to interact with light and each other in an imaginative way.
15. Last Parade by Alexander Reichstein, Crossrail Place Quayside, Level -1
Last Parade is a site-specific video installation that creates a wildlife reserve filled with rare animals and birds, where the shadows of endangered and threatened species march perpetually along the Canary Wharf Riverside, slowly fading out as their march ends.
16. Lightbench by LBO Lichtbank, Canada Square Park
These firm favourites light up Canada Square Park every evening as part of the permanent collection. The benches subtly change colour and are lined up to create a pleasing spectacle along the pathway.
17. Submergence by Squidsoup, Montgomery Square
Submergence is a large, immersive, walkthrough light experience. This is the largest version ever shown, comprising of some 24,000 individual points of suspended light, that transforms the space into a hybrid environment where virtual and physical worlds coincide.
18. Light, Stone, Pavement by Raoul Simpson, Jubilee Park
Light, Stone, Pavement is a playful, contemporary take on the simple game of hopscotch, where the chalk lines are replaced by a glowing outline of electric luminescent ribbon triggered by the player’s progression through the game.
19. Flow by Squidsoup, Jubilee Park
Flow is a series of explorations using dynamically controlled points of light to visualise the flow of energy, data and objects. The piece is inspired by the myriad of cultural references to energy and flow patterns, from Aboriginal dreamtime paintings to Japanese wave and ripple designs.
20. Floating Islands by Mürüde Mehmet, Jubilee Park
Community artist Mürüde Mehmet will be working with local children in Tower Hamlets to construct colourful organic floating forms made from recycled bottles. The creations will be displayed on the running water streams at Canary Wharf, encouraging awareness of how much waste is created by single use plastic water bottles.
21. Angels of Freedom by OGE Collective, Jubilee Place
These beautiful illuminated wings travel around the world, connecting people by allowing everyone to become an angel in their own way.
The Festival takes place from Tuesday 15 – Saturday 26 January 2019 between 5-10pm throughout Canary Wharf, the festival is free to attend.
We have an early visitor to West India Dock with the arrival of Superyacht Reef Chief in West India Dock. The yacht was last in the dock in June 2018 and shares the berth with the tall ship Tenacious.
Reef Chief is a 49.07m, 160.76ft luxury yacht which was built in United States of America by Trinity Yachts and delivered in 2009. The yacht was previously named Anjilis and her luxurious interior is designed by Glade Johnson Design and her exterior styling is by Geoff Van Aller.
The yacht has a aluminium hull superstructure with an ultra-modern stabilization system. Reef Chief can accommodate 11 guests in 5 rooms and can carry up to 9 crew onboard.
Various reports suggest the yacht has been sold recently, but as usual it is very difficult to find out who actually owns the vessel.