Local news for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets

Is Tobacco Dock wasting another opportunity?

By on June 8, 2013 in Comment, History

Wandering past Tobacco Dock an hour ago I was just behind a group of visitors to Wapping who were being shown around by one gentlemen.

As they walked up the steps in front of me I heard him say “…and Tobacco Dock is just abandoned” or words to that affect. I have to admit to eavesdropping on any guided tours I see and this time felt I had to correct him.

A conference and exhibition facility in a unique historical setting

Which I did. And explained to him and his 20 or so guests that Tobacco Dock was alive and kicking and explained that it was now a conference and exhibition facility in a unique historical setting and if they had been there the day before they would have seen this for themselves.

(Then I gave them a potted Wapping history lesson for free naturally then off they wandered. Correctly informed.)

Perception is everything

I hope our visitors didn’t think me rude but it seems to me that the owners of Tobacco Dock are failing to explain to the world that they are open for business. Just a shiny website does not do it.

Apart from correcting errant guides in the last month or so I have had to correct an article in a local paper which also stated that Tobacco Dock was now abandoned and a flood of tweets from various people who have the same idea thanks to a journalist who does not do  even basic research. And these are just the things I notice. How much else is out there which is just plain wrong?

How many other business people walk past Tobacco Dock and also believe it to still be abandoned? Is there anything to invite people to come inside and find out?

Ship-shape and Bristol fashion

Now I know the owners of Tobacco Dock want to make it better because only this week I saw someone doing some basic maintenance to one of the ships outside. Fantastic! Our local pirates would be proud!

The trouble is that lots of others still think the doors of Tobacco Dock are shut and it is just an abandoned shopping mall. How wrong they are.

Tobacco Dock shows how to keep heritage alive

Tobacco Dock is a key part of our community as it demonstrates how our heritage can be put to good use and keep it alive.

But please TD people, at least put a sign up telling visitors that you are open for business. The people of Wapping do not want Tobacco Dock to once again fall dark. And close its doors once and for all.

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There Are 5 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Hi Peter/Mark

    Sorry for the delay in responding – I have only just seen the comments & David left Tobacco Dock to move to Australia last year. Regarding music events, due to a large volume of enquiries from this sector we reviewed our policy on this type of event in late 2013. Our review included consulting with LBTH licensing and environmental health departments, the Metropolitan police, our approved security suppliers and other parties such as a noise consultants. We restrict the number of music events to 6 per year and have an exclusive contract with LWE to organise these. LWE is the only organiser/promoter we were convinced understood the restrictions of operating in a Grade 1 listed venue and responsible enough to adhere to noise level restrictions, minimise disruption to the local area on entrance and egress, litter-picking streets around the venue etc. There are also thorough reviews after each event both between our and LWE management teams and also with LBTH and the police to further fine-tune areas such as route stewarding, litter patrols, dealing with ticket touts, anti-social behaviour from attendees etc. We also aim to be as responsive as possible to concerns of local residents, for example, LWE arranged additional litter picking around Reardon Street last Sunday after we were contacted by a local resident.

    We hope that despite some unacceptable public behaviour by a very small minority of event attendees that the consensus is that music events help breath life into our amazing venue.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions/queries about any of the events being staged at Tobacco Dock.

    Jonathan Read
    Commercial Director
    Tobacco Dock Venue Ltd

  2. Peter says:

    Hi Mark,

    I am more interested in the view of what is in the best interest of the owners and residents referred to by David as not being dance parties and ticketed music events, as this view seems to have changed?

    Granville Island have a public market, think of it as a mix of the funky shops of Camden market and fresh produce of borough market http://granvilleisland.com, at least that was how it was when I was there last, admittedly that is more than 16 years ago.

  3. Peter says:

    Hi David,

    As a local resident, only 2 min from tobacco dock, I am always very pleased to see the venue used for the occasional events, it is an amazing space and I long for the days it can be in full time use, so I am very happy with the progress we have seen in the last couple of years. However, having read your update, I am slightly puzzled by your statement on turning down dance parties and ticketed music events as not in the interest of the owners and local residents. If I am not mistaken, the LWE event today, 09/08, is exactly such an event, as was their New Year’s Day event – or am I missing something. I am guessing it was a success as I saw several people coming to wapping today, unfortunately everyone I saw was drinking alcohol on their way in and most (but not all) left rubbish in places it did not belong, I know that you can’t guarantee the behaviour of all the people attending, nor can the event organiser, but when I witnessed a guest throwing a mannequin torso over a fence on dellow street and hitting a car, walking away with no care, I wish you would reconsider your statement on what is in the interest of the owner and the local residents, surely this is not it.
    I do wish you all the best with the development of the site, personally I was hoping for a Borough market style for east London, or a copy of Granville Island in Vancouver, I guess one can always dream.
    All the best, Peter

    • Mark Baynes says:

      Thanks very much for the comment Peter, could you point us in the direction of more information about Granville Island in Vancouver please?

      David Stringer – comments on the mannequin incident Peter referred to?

  4. David Stringer says:

    Hi. I am the Commercial Manager for Tobacco Dock Venue Ltd. and I thank you for your interest and for correcting the tour guide about Tobacco Dock. In fact the guide should also know that the building has never just been ‘abandoned’. It has had maintenance personnel , security staff and service engineers in the building every day since it closed it’s doors as a shopping centre – (there have also been a number of want-to-be property developers and rave organisers through the gates and of course the very welcome, colourful tattooed crowd once a year). A cumulative bill of over £1million per annum is testament to the level of internal activity that goes on to look after the ’empty’ building.

    Recently – and thanks to the current owner – a refurbishment programme has commenced, aiming to bring the property back into full-time use, so it can once again become a facility that Wapping can be proud of. With such a huge and complicated property this process is going to take some time and needs to be, as far as possible, self funded by income generated by hiring the building for ad-hoc events.

    You are quite right to say that we are not overtly advertising that we are open for business – because at the moment we are only open for occasional business and the right type of business. I get 10 calls a week from promoters wishing to hold ‘dance parties’, ‘ticketed music events’ and the like – often offering sizeable hire fees for the privilege. However this is not in the interest of the owners, the building and most importantly the local residents.

    The process of turning a ex-shopping centre and occasional event space from yesteryear into a multi-purpose state-of-the-art facility that will attract businesses, jobs, investment and kudos to Wapping involves many stages and we have progressed well over the last year, (albeit like the maintenance team – somewhat out of the public eye). We very much hope that over the next months and years we will continue to work with the owners and it will become very apparent that Tobacco Dock is firmly and permanently open for business.

    We will be updating our website and releasing information about the progress of the refurbishment and the ongoing developments at Tobacco Dock in the forthcoming months.

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