The transformation will start with the building of a brewery west of Store Road, which will function as a social enterprise, providing opportunities for work and training, including an apprenticeship programme and flexible jobs with a focus on those who need them most: local NEETs and young single mothers struggling to get back into work. In parallel, Create will work with local volunteers on a new community garden, on and from which other projects can grow.
London’s growth has too often delivered private profit at the expense of residents’ quality of life and access to opportunity. North Woolwich is a prime example of this process – its eight thousand residents are surrounded by large infrastructure projects which isolate the community while bringing little local value. muf and Create London are working to reverse the trend, by ensuring every project on the site delivers real benefit to local people.
This approach is open, responsive and experimental. As much as the creation of new buildings and public spaces the project in North Woolwich is about developing a new model of growth, ploughing the rent surplus from the brewery back into the garden and into new projects to continue to activate the area.
Historically the railway brought people to the ferry and served the docks to the north, it also divided the small residential community of North Woolwich from the industrial land fronting the river to the south.
In recent years, these divisions have become more acute with the development of London City Airport to the north – cutting the neighbourhood off from the former Royal Docks — and Crossrail, manifest as a 3m high wall following the former railway line, reinforcing the division between the neighbourhood and the Thames.
The demise of the docks and these large infrastructure projects have isolated the residential community from the surrounding neighbourhoods and access to jobs. North Woolwich has lost some of its sense of place and there are fewer opportunities for social gathering.
The long-term aim of the project is to address the impact of North Woolwich’s isolation by making social and physical connections, and delivering opportunities for home grown cultural experiences, training and jobs. We are delivering this as a step-by-step project to test ideas and assumptions and arrive at solutions that really work, with a long-term ambition for collaborative governance of the site, involving all partners and local people in the ideas and projects that will transform the site over the twenty-year lease.
Phase 1: Earth Station brewery
For many Londoners the artisan brewery is the archetypal symbol of gentrification, but here it is turned on its head – this will be a ‘teaching brewery’, one that proactively recruits local apprentices into training and delivers job opportunities that positively cultivate diversity.
The brewery, run by entrepreneur Jenn Merrick, will also host a taproom which is inclusive and contemporary, to be used for training, tasting and local events. The taproom will reinstate some of the diverse social grain of the many cafes, pubs, cinemas and dance halls lost to the area since the demise of the docks.
Once operational, the brewery and tap room will be a test-bed to establish a governance structure between Create London, the brewery and local people to determine the programme and delivery process for the remainder of the site, as a model for the wider ‘good growth’ development of the vacant large scale riverside plots in North Woolwich.
muf is a collaborative practice of art and architecture, fed up with mythmaking and empty claims. Earth Station is a social-enterprise craft brewery with an emphasis on diversifying the industry by brewing with their doors wide open.
The project has been awarded funds as part of the Mayor of London’s London Regeneration Fund with a further funding contribution from Crossrail, and the project is being delivered in collaboration with the London Borough of Newham. The land will be leased from TfL.