With the warm weather, summer seems to have finally arrived and we welcome a regular visitor to West India Dock with the arrival of the British Tall Ship Stavros S Niarchos into dock .
The Stavros S Niarchos was last in the dock in September 2016 and is a regular visitor to the Thames and Tall Ship events.
The Stavros S Niarchos is a British brig-rigged tall ship owned and operated by the Tall Ships Youth Trust. Built in 2000, she has been used to give young people the opportunity to develop skills and talents whilst undertaking voyages to various locations. She is also available for voyages and holidays which provide revenue to maintain the operation of the ship.
In the last couple of years, the Stavros S Niarchos has been put up for sale to enable the Trust to get a smaller ship, so if you have dreamed of owning your own tall ship here is your opportunity.
The ship has a length of 197ft , masts of 148ft and beam of 32ft, she usually operates a crew of 69 which include regular crew and volunteers. The Stavros S Niarchos is quite a bit larger than the TS Royalist which is still in the dock.
In the midst of all the building work around the dock, it is nice to see a couple of tall ships to remind us of the past.
In 2014, I was contacted by Alex Barrett who was raising funds for his very interesting film project about London. The project has now become a reality with the impending release of London Symphony.
London Symphony is a new silent film which offers a poetic journey through the capital. It is directed and edited by Alex Barrett, and features an original musical composition by composer James McWilliam.
The film is a contemporary take on the ‘city symphony’, a genre of that flourished in the 1920s and consisted of works that attempted to build poetic portraits of city life. London Symphony is celebration of London’s culture and diversity, footage for the project was captured in over 300 locations around every borough of London.
London Symphony will get a theatrical release in the UK on September 3rd 2017 and will be launched with a special screening at the Barbican Centre, where it will be presented with the live premiere of McWilliam’s musical composition, conducted by Ben Palmer.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Barrett, McWilliam, Palmer and London history specialist Mark Rowland, chairman of Footprints of London. It will also mark the opening of the Barbican’s autumn ‘Silent Film and Live Music’ series.
After this special launch event, London Symphony will tour around a number of carefully selected venues throughout the UK, including conventional cinema spaces and alternative spaces such as a Parish Church and a Buddhist Meditation Centre. “In many ways,” says Barrett, “London Symphony is a community project, and we hope to bring it directly into those communities during our release”.
If you would like to see the film, you can find tickets here
After the departure of one training ship, the Lord Nelson, we see the arrival of another with the TS Royalist.
This is the new TS Royalist, the old TS Royalist was decommissioned in 2014 after 40 years service. In her years of service it is estimated she had taken over 30,000 cadets to sea. The cadets generally join the ship for a week and learn the rudiments of sailing a large ship.
To build a replacement for the ship, the Sea Cadet organisation had to raise nearly 4 million pounds in two years, when the target was reached the organisation awarded the contract to a Spanish shipbuilder but sourced a considerable amount of the equipment from the UK.
The new ship which is the Sea Cadets flagship looks on the surface very similar to its predecessor but is fitted to better suit the modern sailor and is more economical to operate. The training brig takes twenty-four cadets to sea for six day voyages.
The new TS Royalist is beginning to build its own reputation appearing at the recent Tall Ships Festival 2017. It is one of a number of training tall ships that play an important role in providing training for young people to learn seamanship, sailing skills, leadership and teamwork.
Wandering around the West India Dock, it is nice to see the familiar masts of the STS Lord Nelson which arrived a few days ago.
The Lord Nelson was the first tall ship that was purpose-built with the aim of integrating disabled with able-bodied people. The ship was the fulfilment of the vision of JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd who believed that physically disabled people should be able to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew.
The Lord Nelson sailed on her maiden voyage in 1986, Since that voyage, the STS Lord Nelson has sailed 461,943 Nautical Miles and taken nearly 29,000 people to sea. Of these, 10,500 people were physically disabled and more than 3,500 were wheelchair users.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the ship is that Lord Nelson’s has many facilities for disabled crew including flat wide decks, powered lifts, speaking compass, Braille signage and bright track radar for visually impaired crew members.
However, the whole purpose of these facilities is to enable the disabled crew to work side by side with the able-bodied crew.
Between 2012 and 2014, the Lord Nelson undertook its greatest challenge by completing a voyage around the world visiting 7 continents and 30 countries. Whilst in Australia and New Zealand she raced in tall ships races and also carried out an Antarctic Expedition.
The Lord Nelson and her sister ship, the Tenacious are regular visitors to West India Dock and both ships are a wonderful reminder of what can be achieved by fulfilling a vision of providing opportunities to people with a wide range of abilities.
Whilst enjoying the sunshine in Greenwich, I came across the Return of the little ships: an installation in Greenwich in front of the Royal Maritime Museum. The installation celebrates the anniversary of the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation of troops from the beaches by a large number of small ships.
In mid May 1940, the British and Allied Forces were desperately fighting to stop the German advance through Europe, but the decision was made to evacuate the Allied Forces in the North from a small area around Dunkirk.
On the May 27th, the Ministry of Shipping requested that all small craft that were capable of taking troops off the beaches should be made available, the small craft were particularly important to reach parts of the beaches where the larger ships could not penetrate. A large number of boats with shallow draughts were assembled to make the dangerous trip across the channel.
The Little Ships and a fleet of Naval and Merchant Marine vessels operated off the Dunkirk beaches and the harbour between the 28th May and the 4th June 1940 and over 338,000 British and French troops were evacuated.
The installation is an attractive and poignant reminder of the bravery of the people involved in the Little Ships rescue who saved a large number of lives.
With all the new development in the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf, it would have been easy to overlook the demolition of the Westferry Printworks. Although it was only built in the 1980s, the works played an important part in the modernization of the newspaper industry and led to the decline of Fleet Street as the heart of British Newspapers.
Whilst many people may remember the Wapping dispute, the newspaper revolution of the 1980s led to the introduction of new technology. Docklands played a major part in the story with printing facilities set up on the Isle of Dogs, the West Ferry Printing Works of the Westferry road were considered the largest newspaper print works in Western Europe when it was built in 1984–6.
The closing of the docks led to large expanses of relatively cheap land not far from the centre of London. Newspaper owners saw the opportunity to modernise the printing plants and introduce different working practices. This was not completed without conflict which was mostly focused on Wapping.
There is some irony that the decline of the newspaper industry has coincided with the rise of land prices in the Isle of Dogs. This led to the decision to close the West Ferry Printing Works in 2011, move the works to Luton and redevelop the site.
The 15 acre site will provide over 700 new private and affordable homes which will be available to buy or rent. There are plans for open spaces, waterside walks, two new parks and a waterfront promenade.
Some concerns has been raised about the future of the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which is near the site and will be impacted by the development.
The West Ferry Printing Works has always been quite mysterious, when it was open, you seldom saw anyone go in or come out. The dark mirrored glass made it difficult to see inside. It seemed just the place where a Bond villain would hang out and rather bizarrely the works were used as Elliot Carver’s printing works for his paper “Tomorrow” in the film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), where James Bond fights with several henchmen.
The rise and fall of the West Ferry Printing Works is just the latest of a long line of businesses who have been located in the Isle of Dogs in the last 200 years that became internationally famous before they either closed or moved elsewhere.
Yesterday saw the arrival of the HMS Richmond, the ship is a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy and was launched in 1993. HMS Richmond was last warship to be built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders.
Since her launch, the ship has been deployed all around the world. In 1997, the ship was the first Royal Navy vessel to visit the Russian port of Vladivostok in over 100 years.
The ship took part in 2003 Iraq War and provided support in the Caribbean in the aftermath of a series of devastating hurricanes.
The ship had a refit in 2004/2005 before returning to the fleet.
More recently, HMS Richmond and HMS Duncan ( another recent visitor to the dock) escorted a fleet of Russian Navy vessels, including their flagship Admiral Kuznetsov passing through the English Channel.
The ship has a length of 133 m (436 ft 4 in) and beam of 16.1 m (52 ft 10 in) and a crew complement of around 185.
Today, the 13th May 2017, HMS Richmond will be open to the public for free tours, the ship visit will be strictly for ticket holders only ( book on Eventbrite) and the visit will last approximately 60 minutes.