diamond geezer

 Monday, May 11, 2015

Suppose you have a peninsula-ful of flats to sell, and no community to speak of. That's the issue at North Greenwich, where a forest of new apartments are planned, and people need to be persuaded to stump up for one. You'd think that'd be no issue, what with a shortage of housing in London and no end of potential buyers abroad. But you won't keep prices high if your estate isn't firmly rooted, and the developers have recognised that even the O2 has insufficient communal foundations. So they've built a tiny art gallery in their marketing pavilion, they have plans for a 'village hall' that's really a cafe and gym, and yesterday they held their first Urban Village Fete.

They didn't ask the Parish Council to organise this May Fair, because there isn't one, so they got Wayne Hemingway in instead. He took the newly opened parkland to the south of Meridian Square and filled it with stalls, and made the hardstanding by the marketing pavilion somewhere actually worth visiting. You need a maypole at a May Fair, and this event had a hip multicultural troupe complete with fiddlers and human beatbox, who were both lively and excellent. Less usual features were an eco-village and DJ booth, the latter with Gilles Peterson drafted in, although a stall dishing out noodles is certainly par for the course at urban events these days. A variety of child-friendly activities were bursting out all over, ensuring that the place looked good to families with deep pockets. And Richard DeDomenici turned up fresh from the Boring Conference with his swivel chair, inviting passers-by to sit in it and see how many revolutions they could manage in one spin. Bald and besuited Mark, once he'd put down his marketing brochure, managed three spins before friction took over, whereas Johan later managed a hugely impressive 19.

But the main focus of the Fete was purchase and consumption, this of course with a Wayne-inspired designer focus. Down one path was a Design Market, down another a 'curated market featuring the best of British design', and elsewhere a horticultural quarter including an urban gardening design specialist. This echoes the developers' key marketing strategy of focusing on the stylish internal design of their new apartments, be that by Conran or Tom Dixon, because it's important to plant subliminal ideas in potential purchasers' minds. I'd be surprised if most of the day's visitors lounging in the wild flower meadows are ever going to stump up and buy, they probably came simply to enjoy the fun, of which there was plenty. But it'd only have taken a couple of apartment sales to pay for yesterday's Fete, and embedding a long-term communal buzz here in North Greenwich would probably earn rather more than that.

Elsewhere there are increasing signs that the remediation of the North Greenwich is finally tipping over from post-industrial to residential. Fifteen metal masts are rising on demolished land to the west of the main road, these presumably the beginnings of cranes that will eventually form the Brickfields neighbourhood. And at the northern tip the new multi-storey Marriott hotel is nearly complete, its bland facade in regrettable contrast to the iconic spikes of the Dome behind. But then the intention of Labour's millennial tent was always to act as a catalyst for the development of the peninsula, and fifteen years later that growth spurt has finally arrived. Just be aware that what looks like culture hereabouts has been parachuted in by the developers, and don't move in expecting a genuine community to build in its wake.

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