diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 17, 2020

Postcards from the Olympic Park

I apologise for venturing outside my local area recently and bringing you posts from such far-flung places as the City of London and Southend. You must be itching to hear about more parochial matters, especially the latest updates from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as a follow-up to hundreds of posts I've written about the place in the past. If this doesn't help nudge my daily readership back up I don't know what will.

Been to the cinema recently? Never fear because the cinema will come to you so long as you a) live in East London b) have a car. It's an event called @TheDriveIn, a 126 show tour of 13 cities sponsored by a well-known vehicle manufacturer which has already been to Edinburgh, Liverpool and Cardiff and has just turned up in E15. Mean Girls and Grease are showing today, if you're interested, and Toy Story, Aladdin and A Star Is Born this weekend. It's just not in a terribly glamorous location. The QEOP events page describes it as 'South of the Park', the event's webpage describes it as 'Pudding Mill Lane Car Park' and I'd describe it 'Godforsaken Expanse Of Hardstanding Nobody's Built Flats On Yet'.

The joy of a drive-in cinema, from the management's point of view, is that it takes very little setting up. One big screen to erect, one backstage cluster of technicians and some signs up front so punters know where to park. You don't even need any loudspeakers because those who turn up are asked to tune into 87.9FM on their radios... and to watch the film through a sheet of slanted glass. I wondered how many people would turn up for the matinee of Back To The Future yesterday and the answer was not many, maybe ten carfuls, with the vast majority of the parking area left empty. At £35 a time (plus booking fee) the chance to watch a classic film everyone's seen multiple times perhaps didn't inspire. Evening and weekend screenings might do a lot better, of course, which'd be useful as it'd give the security staff, caterers and on-site medic something to do.

In common with most trips to the cinema the film begins long after the time advertised on the ticket. Arrival times are staggered in case there's a rush, which yesterday there wasn't, and early punters end up watching adverts, playing 'Lucky Licence Plates' or engaging in in-car karaoke. The words I saw flashing across the screen suggested a song lifted from The Greatest Showman, so there's your target audience. One of the event's sponsors is Just Eat who hope to meet your snacking needs by delivering to your car, but remember it's app-based purchase only ('Do Not Approach the Catering Facilities At Any Time'). It must have been a relief when the opening titles of Back To The Future finally appeared (at 2.52pm rather than two o'clock), and simultaneously a right pain that the sun was blazing down from immediately behind the big screen. A bubble-secure drive-in may be a lot better than not going to the cinema at all, but if you value your bank balance best stay at home and wait for the film to pop up on ITV2 instead.

Over the weekend New Bridge H14 was finally lifted into place across the River Lea. It's been sat waiting inside the nearest building compound since 2018, but only now are the abutments ready allowing a giant crane to do its work early on Sunday morning. The tale is a long one, beginning before the Olympics when a smart footbridge was added at this very spot. But plans for the local road network changed post-Games and a vehicle-friendly bridge became necessary instead, allegedly, so last summer the footbridge was lifted out and ten adjacent trees fed into a chipper. Since then earthworks have been relentlessly tweaked and, in a separate seemingly-endless project, new roads surfaced in readiness for delivering traffic.

It's not yet possible to walk across the bridge because additional metal sections have yet to be winched into place to connect it to ground level, indeed I wouldn't hold out much hope of using it soon. But you can walk underneath it already because the construction team were careful to close the towpath for only one night. From what I can see two pedestrian walkways run along the edges of the new bridge with the vehicle deck screened behind curved metal walls inbetween. Those bright yellow steps lead down to a cafe terrace, currently only accessible through a narrow alleyway. The bridge will initially open in 'restricted mode', with the 339 bus the only motor vehicle allowed across, but expect full-on connectivity once the new flats at Sweetwater start to reach completion. There's plenty of room to build them now that the bridge has been lifted out of the way.

Hackney Bridge, the "brand new, canalside public destination close to Hackney Wick" opens at the end of next week, by which point hopefully this towpath connection will be complete.

The project's Engagement & Partnerships Manager reached out to me last week ("I hope this email finds you well") and wondered if I'd like to pop down for a tour of the site. I turned down his kind offer, because obviously I did, but he was very keen that I "spread a bit of positivity around the project" so I'm pleased to be able to share 5% of his latest blogpost.
"Embracing engagement... collaboration and vision... our journey... engagement-focused events... ingraining ourselves in the local community... curating our Members... enterprise platform... bridge opportunities across the neighbouring boroughs... kicked off the dialogue... user-focused designs... diverse local audience... key stakeholders... a core function of the engagement strand... amplify our voices... open up a two-way dialogue... unanimously supportive feedback... nurture the right partnerships... encourage collaboration... join the dots between local programmes, initiatives and activities."
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park first earned a Green Flag award in 2014, the year after it opened to the public. But only this week has an actual flag actually appeared on an actual flagpole, fluttering above the road junction on the bend in Waterden Road. It doesn't flutter terribly well however, even in some wind, hence this is the best of a dozen attempted photos.

The Green Flag Award is a green space accreditation program run by Keep Britain Tidy on behalf of the UK government, recognising environmental excellence, pristine maintenance and tip-top visitor facilities. It can't be staggeringly difficult to achieve because around 2000 UK sites earned the award last year, but it is the recognised international standard, with parks in San Francisco, Turkey, New Zealand and the UAE somehow also included.

The Park is full of slugs at present, hiding in the grass, lurking in the lawns and sliming across the paths. You can only see two in this photo, sorry, because if I'd pulled back much further you wouldn't have seen any.

I know they come out after heavy rain but we haven't had any of that lately so I'm not sure what's caused the explosion. Best look where you tread.

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