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Poirot helps ‘crowd-fund’ derelict east London dock into new arts, enterprise and nature hub


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Poirot helps ‘crowd-fund’ derelict east London dock into new arts, enterprise and nature hub


May 08, 2012  


He’s spent 22 years unlocking clues as TV detective Hercule Poirot, but now actor David Suchet is fronting a campaign to revive an historic dock in east London. Tucked away in the neglected industrial hinterland between Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park, Cody Dock on the River Lea has been forgotten and sealed off for decades. Now, without a penny of government money, the dock is being turned into a hub for London’s creatives, ramblers and nature-lovers. The charity behind the plans, Gasworks Dock Partnership, is raising money for the scheme via Spacehive.com, a new crowd-funding website which enables anyone to pledge support for community building projects hit by the economic downturn. 


 
Like Wikipedia, the concept is that ‘many hands make light work’, with projects attracting funding from a mix of individual supporters, businesses and grant bodies. Spacehive aims to help people to take planning into their own hands. Since launching just 2 months ago, the social business has enjoyed backing from an unlikely array of figures – including RIBA, Tesco and Stephen Fry. And now Suchet is involved, backing Cody Dock’s transformation alongside comedian Andi Orshi and Billy Bragg, the singer and left-wing activist. Bragg’s grandfather worked on the dock when it serviced a thriving gasworks, before being closed in the early sixties. The 2.5 acre scheme would be the first spark of regeneration in the raw Lower Lea valley.  While Canary Wharf Group has invested billions of private money in nearby Docklands and taxpayers have funded £9.3 billion of Olympic regeneration, the area near the mouth of London’s second river has been neglected for decades.
 
The aim is to open the dock before the Olympics. Over £56k has already been raised but with just 37 days left until their funding deadline they are reaching out to Londoners-at-large to help them raise the remaining £83k. The project is the brainchild of Simon Myers, a former artist, who hopes to create a new cut-price home for the capital’s creative community in the industrial Lower Lea. Myers said: “We’ve got our hands on the most amazing space here. For decades Cody Dock has been a hidden secret. With your help we can not only open it up but create a really exciting new place for Londoners to enjoy.”
 
Cody Dock is the capital’s first development project to try crowd-funding its plans. It follows the success last month of Spacehive’s pilot – a new community centre in South Wales. The project attracted cash pledges from around the globe, after capturing the imagination of Stephen Fry, Griff Rhys Jones and Sam Warburton – captain of Wales’ 6 Nations-winning rugby team. The approach has recently become popular in the states, where New Yorkers successfully used it to fund the Lowline – an underground park. Spacehive’s next projects include a dog gym in Redbridge, a forest garden in Stockwell, and a clutch of outdoor kitchens dotted around the capital.
 
Actor David Suchet, a keen boater and chairman of the River Thames Alliance, praised the initiative: “One of London’s most historic docks currently sits behind lock and key in a neglected corner of the capital. This brilliant grassroots project will reinvent it as a vibrant home for artists, entrepreneurs, and boaters. Not only that, opening Cody Dock will complete an epic 26-mile walk along the banks of London’s second river, the Lea.  Suddenly people will be able to walk all the way from Hertfordshire to the Thames. The capital has a wonderful network of waterways that allow people to explore and relax amid the metropolitan bustle.  Cody Dock is the missing piece in the jigsaw. I hope people will dig deep so we can unlock it for all to enjoy.”
 
Spacehive.com founder Chris Gourlay believes the crowd-funding model could help solve many of the funding issues around local community projects. He said: “Cody Dock is a great example of how communities can use crowd-funding to cut through the inertia of the planning system.”
 
Local MP Stephen Timms said the project would help to revive Newham: “Cody Dock is a hidden gem.  Bypassed by successive regeneration initiatives, it is now set to be transformed into a vibrant, creative place, generating dozens of jobs.  It is pioneering a ‘crowd-sourcing’ model of community-based fundraising, alongside the local authority, business and philanthropic support.”
 
James Lazarus, head of property at British Waterways, said: “It is great to see Cody Dock coming back into use. It is a wonderful sign of the way that The Waterways are helping to bring the Lower Lea Valley back to life.”
 
Liz Peace, Chief Executive of the British Property Federation and an adviser to Spacehive said: “The reality is nearly £300m of funding for capital public space developments has been lost since the downturn. Enabling the public to take direct action through Spacehive.com could help ensure vital improvements go ahead by channeling funding from companies and individuals.”

 

 

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