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The Mudchute Agricultural Show – 4th and 5th August 2018

We may be urban dwellers on the Isle of Dogs but it does not mean we cannot attend an agricultural show. The 2018 Mudchute Agricultural Show will take place on Saturday and Sunday, the 4th and 5th of August will lots of events and competitions.

Like many agricultural shows there will competitions like the Sheep Show, The Mudchute’s Agricultural Show will showcase some of the rarest and most ancient breeds of sheep in England.

The best sheep of each breed will go on to compete on Sunday in the Supreme Championship for the Best in Show title. Also on Sunday, a number of other classes for all breeds will be held, in addition to classes for City and Community Farm sheep only.

The show will welcome riders from all over the UK for their very own Equestrian Show, there will also be farrier demonstrations by Harry Morgan and a photo booth with Shetland Ponies.

There will be some bake offs with cakes, bread pudding and biscuit competitions and fresh produce will be judged.

There will be hanging baskets and vegetable boxes from Cubitt Town and George Green’s Schools, as well as entries from gardening enthusiasts from within and around London.

Games will include Stock punishment with wet sponges and Welly Throwing and you can visit stalls to find out more about the RSPB, Poetry in Wood, Woodland Trust, Friends of Island History Trust and Rare Breed Survival Trust.

In addition to the Equestrian demonstrations, there will be the following demonstrations:

Spinners – watch fleeces spun into yarn!

Bird of Prey Display from Avian Environmental Consultants

Horse Dentist – learn more about taking care of equine teeth

Farrier Demonstration – horse shoes and more with Harry Morgan

Fire Engine – learn more about the fighting fire

If that is not enough there will be Fairground Rides, International food stalls, drinks, picnic areas and donkey Rides.

Attending the show is a great way to support the amazing work of Mudchute Farm and have plenty of fun at the same time. For more information visit the Mudchute Farm website here

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Love on the Isle of Dogs by Jude Cowan Montague


I was delighted to contacted recently by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague who we featured on the website when she was writing her Young Hitch series of books about Alfred Hitchcock.

Jude’s latest work is on a more personal level and illustrates her changing personal life against the background of a changing Isle of Dogs in the 1990s.

Jude Cowan Montague lived on the Isle of Dogs with her husband in the early 1990s, it was a whirlwind romance and a very difficult time for her as she became quickly pregnant and her husband’s mental health began speedily to degenerate. The stress increased and the knock on effect for both after the separation dominated their lives for years to come.

The work is very much her story and a love story told with affection but also humour as her style is comic and tender.

The backdrop is the changing times of early 1990s Docklands. The level of construction taking place on the island at this time echoes the confusion of the relationship. The sounds and remaking of the physical world of the Isle of Dogs, the erection of Canary Wharf, the cranes embody the frustration of trying to build a family life.

Her husband was one of the participants in the self-build scheme on Westferry Road. Their house was close to Mudchute Farm, which provided a bucolic escape and a much-needed space for reflection.

In her drawings the Isle of Dogs is a ghost land, full of memories and fear as well as happiness, love and sheer dogged determination of a young pregnant woman and young mother trying to hold the world together.

Holding her domestic world together turned out to be impossible and there are some moments which are too painful to share in this tender narrative which has a wider interest for its psychological interaction with the changing landscape.

The work is still in progress. If you’re interested in keeping in touch with the project, email judemontague@outlook.com

Watching the Historic RAF 100 Flypast from the Isle of Dogs

It seems ironic that after weeks of clear blue skies, it was grey skies and low clouds on the day of the flypast of aircraft to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force.

Rather than battle the hundreds of thousands packing the Mall and Central London, I decided to join the large number of office workers who streamed out of work and made their way to Westferry Circus to get the best view of the flypast over the City of London.

The flypast began to form over Suffolk at around 12.45pm before heading towards London. It was just before one o’clock when the first aircraft appeared. The flypast consisted of 100 different aircraft of 23 different types, with 200 aircrew from 25 different RAF squadrons.

The list of aircraft included: Puma HC2, Chinook HC4, Juno H135, Jupiter H145, Dakota, Lancaster, Spitfire, Hurricane, Prefect T1, Tucano T1, Shadow R1, Hercules C-130J, A400M Atlas, C-17 Globemaster, BAE146, Sentinel, Voyager, Rivet Joint RC-135W, E-3D Sentry, Hawk T1, Hawk T2, Tornado GR4, Lightning, Typhoon FGR4 and Red Arrows.

It was the nine helicopters led the armada before the distinctive Dakota, Lancaster, Spitfire and Lancaster.

The heavyweights followed with the Hercules and Globemaster before the Hawks, Tornado, Typhoon, Lighting and finally the Red Arrows streamed red, white and blue smoke to finish the show.

It seems remarkable that one hundred years as passed since the The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service merged to create the RAF on 1 April 1918 to become the world’s first independent air force. Since that date, the RAF have played a major role in the nation’s defence at home and abroad.

Ruin in Reverse : Part of Robin Hood Gardens to be Displayed at Venice Biennale 2018

Robin Hood Gardens completed 1972 designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – Photo The Victoria and Albert Museum

The demolition of Robin Hood Gardens has been the subject of much recent debate in the architectural world, the housing estate in Poplar is considered an internationally significant example of Brutalist architecture. However the building was refused protection by being listing, and will be replaced by a £300m redevelopment of affordable and private housing.

Robin Hood Gardens completed 1972 designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – Photo The Victoria and Albert Museum

Robin Hood Gardens was designed by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972, it was based on twenty years of research by the Smithson’s into social housing and intended to be a new model of urban organisation.

Whether the building ever achieved these lofty ideals is unlikely but the building has been a familiar landmark in Poplar for 50 years. When the demolition is complete, little will remain of the building. However, part of the building will be making a trip to Venice to take part in the La Biennale di Venezia for the International Architecture Exhibition. In the Pavilion of Applied Arts, the V&A will present Robin Hood Gardens: A Ruin In Reverse, centred around fragments of Robin Hood Gardens. Concrete fragments from the housing estate will be on display. Altogether the V&A salvaged a three-storey section of each façade and the original interior fittings of two flats.

 Robin Hood Gardens completed 1972 designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – Photo The Victoria and Albert Museum

In Venice, three storeys of the façade will be reassembled on a scaffold designed by ARUP, who engineered the original building The structure will allow visitors to stand on an original section of a ‘street in the sky’, the elevated access deck.  

There will also be a new work by Korean artist Do Ho Suh who recorded some of the building and flats before they were torn down. Through archival photographs and specially recorded interviews, the exhibition looks at the vision and fate of Robin Hood Gardens.

Ironically in 1976, the Smithson’s contributed to the Venice Biennale where they displayed a billboard-size photograph of Robin Hood Gardens with the slogan ‘A building under assembly is a ruin in reverse’.

Interiors circa 1970 by Peter Smithson-courtesy of the Smithson family collection.

In many ways, Robin Hood Gardens illustrates how many of the social housing projects from the 1960s and 1970s came to a sad end. They often had good intentions to foster community spirit but the designs were often impractical and buildings were often not maintained by local authorities. With many of these post war housing projects being now demolished or redeveloped, the question of what kind of social housing should be built is still a matter of some debate.

A Spring Stroll to Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm

Last week when it looked like Spring had finally arrived, I put on my walking shoes and wandered around Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm. Arriving at Island Gardens it was with some surprise to see that the Calder Wharf development had started. The development has been the subject of some controversy due to its design which brings the property right up to the Island Gardens wall and dominates the dome where the foot tunnel is located. First impressions are not very good and the local community is still seeking answers to why the development has been allowed to go ahead without adequate consultation.  

Better news was a flag that denoted that Island Gardens had been selected to receive a Green Flag award which is a national quality standard for parks and green spaces.

Wandering around the gardens it was easy to why the award was given, spring flowers were in abundance and the blossom was on the trees.

One of the most unique features of the gardens is the view across to Greenwich, this famous view is still one of the great views of London and has remained largely unspoiled for centuries.

We are very fortunate on the Island that we have Island Gardens and Mudchute Park and Farm. Spring is a wonderful time to visit the farm with spring lambs running around the field. Local children stood captivated as the different breeds of sheep showed off their young lambs. The lambs began racing each other around the field till it was time for a drink.

The sheep were not the only attractions, the Alpaca were enjoying the sunshine as were the various horses and donkeys.

It is remarkable that in the middle of an urban scene that you can watch sheep in the field and the various animals enjoying the more rural location.

If you suffer from some the strains of urban life, why not take a wander to Island Gardens and Mudchute and enjoy the wonderful surroundings.

Celebrating St George’s Day

Photo Laureen Katiyo

Regular contributor Laureen Katiyo kindly sent some photographs of the celebrations from the Feast of St George event which took place in Trafalgar Square last weekend. Like most people, I tend to be quite ambivalent to the celebration of the patron saint of England but why is this?  In some ways we seem to be happier celebrating other countries festivals like St Patrick’s Day.

Photo Laureen Katiyo

To determine whether this is a more recent phenomenon, I decided to look back into the past through newspaper reports and found this apathy to St George’s Day has a long history.

In 1839, the following writer tries to build up the day.

 A man may be, in the fullest sense of the word a ‘citizen of the world,’ and still preserve that veneration for the important festivals of his native soil — of which, indeed, every Englishman should be proud, and with which must necessarily be associated many early and joyous reminiscences. We fervently hope that whatever dimness may this year have been cast upon the lustre of St George, will be dispelled by the halo which shall arise from the celebration of the 23d April, 1839.

Even the Victorians were neglectful as this report from 1885 describes.

It is a matter of known fact that of late years St. George’s day bas been neglected through the complete insouciance of the Englishmen. While the Scottish and Irish have stood forward and insisted on their Patron Saint’s Days being annually honoured the name of St. George has not been often heard.

A report from 1928 turns this apathy into a virtue, it is all because of our natural modesty.

An Englishman considers it is bad form to boast about his work, about this country, or about its achievements. Even on St. George’s Day, the festival of the nation’s patron saint, and the birthday of Shakespeare, the world’s greatest poet, the English people are very subdued, as a rule, in their celebrations.

Another problem is St George himself, he seems to have a mysterious past which had no obvious links with England, it is generally accepted that St. George was a soldier who was tortured and killed for his Christian faith in around AD 303. After this stories about his strength and courage soon spread throughout Europe. The best-known story about St. George is his fight with a dragon, it was believed that it was the 12th century Crusaders however who first invoked his name in battle.

Photo Laureen Katiyo

King Edward III made him the Patron Saint of England when he formed the Order of the Garter in 1350, and the cult of the Saint was increased by King Henry V, at the battle of Agincourt. Shakespeare famously included the rallying call by King Henry V with the famous phrase, ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George’.

Perhaps one of the major issues is the tendency for English people to consider themselves as British first then English. It has been very common to many people in the past for people to say that they are British rather than English because they are part of Great Britain or United Kingdom.

Photo Laureen Katiyo

So why the renewed interest in St George and Englishness? Ironically it is possibly the greater independence of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in recent times that has led England to reconsider its role and English people to find their own identity. The various events on St George’s Day is part of this movement, whether these events can overturn centuries of apathy is a different question.

The Changing Face of Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs – March 2018

At the start of each year, I try to keep readers up to date with some of the latest developments on the Island and Canary Wharf. Last year saw the completion of the new Novotel hotel, Baltimore Tower and the Dollar Bay development.

Whilst there are some major developments on the Island, most of the larger developments are around Millwall Dock, Marsh Wall and especially overlooking the South Dock around South Quay and the developments in Canary Wharf are taking place in the east and west fringes of the estate. Two major schemes are under development, New Phase (formerly known as Wood Wharf) and the Newfoundland development.

Both developments have made considerable progress with the buildings steadily moving upwards, the New Phase site in particular is taking shape with its residential tower clearly visible and other buildings in various states of development. When completed the New Phase site will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.

At the other side of the Island, the 58-storey residential tower on the Newfoundland site is now well into construction with glass facades being added. If you think this will be tall, it will be dwarfed by the new development over the road from the Newfoundland site, it is based on the old City Arms site and is called the Landmark Pinnacle which will have 75 levels which the developers claim will be London’s largest residential tower.

This will eventually be part of the Landmark complex which is situated near the site.

Along Marsh Wall are the beginnings of the Wardian towers, there will be two blocks at South Quay Plaza, Galliard are building more towers which will be part of Millharbour Village and finally there is the beginnings of the Madison scheme. 

It is remarkable that except for complaining about the various road and path closures and the disruption of lorries delivering materials, most people take very little notice of the various developments until they are completed.

It is worth noting that this is one of the biggest developments in the United Kingdom since Canary Wharf was built. Because most of the development has been concentrated at the top of the Island, there has not been widespread criticism, although many questions are being asked about coping with the increased population and the increase in workers coming into Canary Wharf to work.  In the next few years, it is expected the population of the Isle of Dogs will be double that of 2011.

The history of the Isle of Dogs has been about change, however in the next decade; the whole skyline of the Isle of Dogs will change dramatically. It is part of the process that started with the building of Canary Wharf skyscrapers that seemed to change London’s attitude to tall buildings forever.