If you are an adventurer, travel out to Canning Town in London’s Docklands on the DLR and then walk out into the harsh urban environment of concrete flyovers for the Lower Lee Way and the DLR, along with building sites with their extensive pavement hoardings and, if you are lucky, you might find Trinity Buoy Wharf. An old-fashioned map would have been better than trying to navigate using Googlemaps which took me to all sorts of interesting places including the East India Dock Bird Sanctuary, and what should have been a 15 minute journey took double the time. In contrast, the route from East India DLR station seems simplicity itself, even though you still have to navigate under and around major roads. Of course, having now been there, the route is fairly obvious, and there are signs to find, so goodbye to technology.
A much easier way in good weather might be to take the Predator boat service which runs from the O2 QEII Pier to Trinity Buoy Wharf Jubilee Pier.
But why go here in the first place? The answer is to find Trinity Buoy Wharf, an emerging and developing arts complex, which, when the adjacent residential sites are completed by Ballymore, will come into its own and be easier to visit.
There are hints that you might be in the right direction such as a set of artist-designed gates, Peter Hilary’s huge fish hanging over a gateway and an old buoy at the road junction. Eventually you arrive.
Trinity Buoy Wharf was, until it closed in 1988, the engineering complex for the Corporation of Trinity House which maintained the lighthouses, lightships and buoys to protect mariners around the coast of England.
The wharf, now managed by Urban Space Management, is a centre for the arts and creative industries with studios and spaces occupied by artists and organisations such as English National Opera, the Film School, the University of East London, the Faraday School and the Royal School of Drawing, plus affordable workspace created from redundant steel shipping containers. There are function spaces too and, while I was there, a wedding reception was taking place with the backcloth of the O2 across the other side of the river. In an innovative agreement, 25% of the Wharf’s income is paid to the Trinity Wharf Trust to be used for arts activities in the area.
Historic building and ships evoke the history of the site, with the only remaining lighthouse in London, lightship LV95 and the tug Knocker White, along with art including Marcus Vergette’s “Time & Tide Bell”, Clare Morgan’s “Light Bulb”, John Eacott’s “Floodtime Listening Post” and Andrew Baldwin’s Sculpture Park including his “Cab Tree” and what must be one of the smallest museums in the world, the interactive “Faraday Effect” designed by to Fourth Wall Creations toe celebrate the inventions of Michael Faraday whose workshop was on the site.
Probably best visited at the weekend when the Lighthouse and art installations are open to the public, and there will be less cars cluttering up the site, this project has the potential to do more as the area around it is developed and perhaps Urban Space can take over other industrial buildings for arts activities of all kinds, including performance and music, as in FAC in Havana, though there is a risk that the new neighbours might not like that!