1. Introduction

For the first couple of months of 2017, I’m booked to work in Canary Wharf – or, technically, just outside Canary Wharf, you-could-skim-a-stone-across-the-dock-just- outside of Canary Wharf. I’ve never worked out there before, but every time I’ve visited it I’ve disliked it intensely*.

When I first went there, back in the early 1990s, it felt more like a film set than a real place, a bizarre eruption of faux Chicago in mostly poor East London. Things have changed, obviously – Canary Wharf has grown, it has aged a bit in places, it feels a little less fake. And it feels less at odds with the rest of London than it did then – at that point, the only part of town that had a remotely similar vibe was the newly redeveloped, Gotham-like Broadgate. Now, unfortunately (as I instinctively see it), swathes of Battersea and Lewisham, Paddington and King’s Cross, not to mention Stratford, seem like the sons of the Wharf. And East London is dotted with glossy high-rises.

As the title** and subtitle of this blog indicate, both my political views and the way I feel about cities both make me unlikely to take to a place like Canary Wharf. But I’m not going to pretend that there is any consistency in my positions, or that my politics and my aesthetic choices fit together seamlessly.

So this will be my look at Canary Wharf, mixing a bit about the background of the place and the academic and political arguments that it has generated, and how I feel about it after I’ve worked there for a bit – and hopefully letting you know whether there is anywhere in the area you can get a decent bite to eat for under a fiver. Let’s see whether I can prove myself wrong…

© Google Maps

*Um, obviously, I’m grateful for any work that I can get and will go wherever someone is willing to pay me.

**Well, except I’m well aware that ‘urban’ has come to be used as a euphemism for African-American and Afro-Caribbean, especially (although not only) in the field of popular music. That is not what it means in this case. It means ‘concerning cities’. Although, as it happens, if anyone wants my opinions of the boundless genius of Beyoncé and the equally boundless mediocrity of Drake, or the relative merits of Stormzy and 67, I’m always happy to share them…


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