Legacy: Just take one street...


If there needs to be a hangover cure following the headrush of acclaim that will follow the Olympic Games one of the ingredients may be Lord Mawson of Bromley-by-Bow.

The man from Bradford who has made east London his domain and his cause has a remarkable ability to cajole people from the doldrums.

For him, nothing is impossible and it is unsurprising that a decade ago he co-authored one of the earliest papers suggesting the Olympic Games could be staged in east London.

But the message from the serial social entrepreneur is still daunting. We are half way there. Not in this Games phase (let's not forget the Paralympics are yet to come) but in far grander marathon - the multi-generational, 50-year project to put this part of London back on track.

The 58-year-old sees a grand link between the drive of the early scientist-entrepreneurs who made this part of the capital a global economic driving force, and those that will cluster here in the near future in the digital, green, cutting edge sci-tech businesses.

The years in between, marked by the closure of the docks, the ruination of communities, the haemorrhaging of enterprise and the loss of talent, were a tragic break in that long chain.

Talking to The Wharf at St Paul's Way Trust School in Tower Hamlets, Lord Mawson said: "The past present and future is connected and in the Lower Lea Valley - there is a new city emerging, a Water City - if you look at what's happening in Greenwich, the airport expanding, £3.7billion development in Canning Town, Canary Wharf expanding, a billion pound programme in Poplar and, of course, the Olympic Park and Westfield.

"I led a debate in the House of Lords and [Lord] Tom King said when he and Michael Heseltine flew over this area 27 years ago they saw two living things - two foxes on empty docks. This is not true today.

"What's happening is that green technology is beginning to emerge here, UCL is looking to possibly come to Stratford, the whole link with science and technology is beginning to occur even down in Canary Wharf and here is a school leading the way to answer the question: how does Britain become the best place to do science in the world."

The new school, with its lavishly furnished Faraday centre and patronage of Professor Brian Cox, is a microcosm, a test bed, a practical example of Lord Mawson's great belief in collaboration and getting government out the way.

The St Paul's Way area was in crisis when Lord Mawson took on the transformation project five years ago.

He said: "The question was: How do we create a more joined up community between a school that was failing, a health centre that was in difficulty and 500 homes that needed to be built but nothing was happening.

"So bringing people together developed into the St Paul's Way Transformation Project which I was asked to direct.

"One of the things we had to do was bring £30million of investment together for a brand new school, bring in £1million science complex then, with the housing company Poplar Harca, bring in a health centre across the road.

"We realised that the 11,000 patients of the health service and the education and science programmes at the school are connected. We thought: if that's going to be health centre and that's going to be school why don't we join it together as a campus.

"New ideas don't come out of the clouds, they don't come out of policy papers in Downing Street either. They come out of these collaborations between artists, scientists, engineers and somewhere where people get to know each other, like this street.

"We've got doctors, educationalists, scientists, working together - every week there are new ideas because it's an integrated street it's not a set of silos.

"How do we understand how to do that on a larger scale? Start on one street and understand the devil in the detail.

"If we understand what's going on in one street we can begin to develop it right across a Water City area and suddenly the Olympics becomes a catalyst over the next 25 years for east London to become, once again, become an interface with the world."

So what's his in tray when the cauldron flame is finally doused?

"What I am trying to get together is half a dozen serious businesses who have a long-term stake in this community, in people who live here, and who want to finish the job.

"And finishing the job is driving a vision developing investment opportunities here and making these linkages from education, science and making this a better place to live."



Lord Mawson's all-encompassing vision for an invigorated and re-focussed east London can be summed up with his Water City initiative.

The name comes from another Docklands champion, Reg Ward, first chief executive of the London Development Corporation.

Lord Mawson said the project was not just a geographical observation- "just fly over it into City Airport and look down and all you will see is islands and water" - but something more urgent.

He said: "Water City is a vision for the future of the Lower Lea Valley. The legacy of the Olympic Park has to have integrity, it has to be built upon the real story of this area. What is the real story? Water has driven the economy of this area for nearly 2,000 years."

The Water City includes the Royal Docks, Canary Wharf, waterside Greenwich and the Lower Lea Valley through to the Olympic Park.

"We need a vision in east London that I can share with entrepreneurs in India and China that they can get in 10 seconds and buy into, not a 50-page strategy document from Government. It has to have integrity based on the real experience of people who have lived here.

"If you get to know East End families as I have, all their parents used to work on the docks. Then something got lost; we need to reinvent ourselves for our own time.

"We need to focus on the next 25 years and science and technology is going to be a fundamental. The Games is a catalyst for the redevelopment of the Lower Lea Valley as one of the most significant investment zones in Europe."

Go to amawsonpartnerships.com.