So, I went for a walk on Sunday afternoon to do a scout for a guided walk i’m doing.. I was there just a couple of weeks ago when I went to Marvel Live at the O2 – had a burger at the dockside ‘gourmet’ burger hut (football burgers, gourmet prices), watched the newbies coming in and out of the clinical looking new flats, took the cable car over the river.. So was fully expecting to see that hut when I made it over the DLR line to the waterfront on Sunday..
But guess what? Gone, vanished.. Said not-quite-gourmet burger establishment had disappeared, and the water it overlooked had suddenly sprouted a fully built hotel! I was looking quizically at this impressive feat wondering what on earth was going on – had it been built in a fortnight? am i suffering from some kind of false memory consciousness and its been there all along?..
Luckily, a very nice security man (Alex – thanks Alex), sitting in his patrol car, watching a pair of swans checking out the hotel (not common), called out to see if I wanted to know more, and oh yes I did..
He explained how the Good Hotel had been brought in to the Victoria Dock the morning before – floated on to a barge in its holding place, the nearby King George Dock (the one south of City Airport), to have some engineering work completed over a short while.. On Saturday morning, it had then been tugged through the Albert Dock, through the Connaught Bridge and under the Victoria Dock footbridge – just about scraping through, before being anchored and secured to the dock. Quite an engineering feat.
I then got really lucky when Marije Janssen (title NGO Relations Manager) came by. Marije explained that the Good Hotel had been sited in Amsterdam until recently, and had just been tugged across the North Sea by barge in one piece to its new London home.. It had been planned to be potentially taken by sea to Rio for the Olympics – economics eventually sidelining the idea.. Can you imagine – a fully built hotel floating across the Atlantic!?
Marije told me the concept behind the Good Hotel. It’s a not-for-profit, Social Enterprise.. A force for good – hence the name. Their intention is to tap in to the local community, offering employment and training for unemployed local people and to collaborate with community organisations in Newham – hence Marije’s job title.. They realised that Newham, despite the impression given by the developments around Victoria Dock, was still a deprived area, so decided to come here.. The Good Hotel has a five year contract for mooring at the Dockside, and will be opening later this year.
Conditions are great for this to work – I love the idea of a ‘Little Amsterdam’ around the Vicky Dock.. It was in 2013 that Boris Johnson unveiled his plan for a ‘Floating Village’ at this corner of the Royal Docks – hopefully the Good Hotel will be the first of a colony of canal boats, floating bars, studios, and living spaces at the west end of Victoria Dock.. Hopefully the swans will stay put..
The regeneration of the area has brought undeniable improvements, and I’m pleased that the dock is being used at last – these are not ornamental water features for newcomers’ apartments; they need to be put to work to honour their history.. But the main thing it lacks is a bit of colour and character – maybe this is the start, and maybe one day we’ll even get a flower market at East London’s ‘Little Amsterdam’!?..
While I’m here, i found this on the Royal Docks Management Authority pages..It was in this month in 1988 that French musician, Jean-Michel Jarre brought a sound and light extravaganza to the very same spot at the Victoria Dock..
He might not be your thing either, but it’s well worth watching to get an idea of what post-industrial destitution looked like in the area, after 20 years of decline and abandonment.. And who doesn’t love gawping at 80’s fashions?.
I remember this being a big deal – Jarre was very, very big at that point and he’d chosen the Royal Docks because of it’s desolate atmosphere and wanted a lighshow that recalled the WWII bombing of the area… Schoolkid me watched the lightshow from the top of the Beckton Flyover on the A13 wondering when Iron Maiden were going to come and do a show too..