Weekend roundup for 16 July
Featuring bouncy castles, Korean bathrooms and Bangkok speedboats
The weather, train strikes, the Met… sweet shops. Sometimes London’s news can feel a bit Groundhog Day-ish. But don’t worry, in today’s roundup we also have a bit of Tom Cruise leaping around one of London’s oldest buildings, a spot of pirate radio nostalgia, possibly the most epic food review ever attempted and a ludicrously expensive cup of coffee.
Subscribers to LiB get all of that every weekend, plus they get our excellent mid-week issues and access to our archives. Join them, why don’t you:
If you’re already a subscriber then let us say thank you very much for supporting London in Bits. We think you are principled, brilliant, kind and unquestionably the best person to lead our country.
🔥 London has been on fire this week. Literally. At the beginning of the week a “stray spark” caused the timber beams on the railway line into Battersea to burst into flames. On Tuesday a fire broke out in the basement of the Admiralty pub on Trafalgar Square resulting in 20 fire engines and around 125 firefighters attending the scene (nobody was hurt in either incident). And towards the end of the week it had got to the point where they were wrapping Hammersmith Bridge in ‘special foil’. We can only guess at what’s going to happen next week.
💰 As expected, when TfL’s current funding deal ran out on Wednesday it was extended… by a whole two weeks. A Department for Transport spokesman said that TfL “have been unable to provide information sufficiently demonstrating that conditions outlined in the current settlement are on track” (in other words, they haven’t shown they can save £400m). In reply, Sadiq channeled his inner Tony Soprano and warned of “serious consequences” and “further painful cuts” if a more long term deal wasn’t reached.
🌂 Apparently there have been enough ‘trap and drag’ incidents on the Overground recently to warrant an investigation. Seven Sisters, Wembley Central and Crouch Hill stations have all seen people getting things (themselves, umbrellas, walking poles) trapped in doors of moving trains, so an “examination of the incidents has been carried out” and “a safety digest will be published in the near future.”
👮 The results of that recent Met facial-recognition deployment in Oxford Circus have been released. The operation last Thursday scanned the biometric information of roughly 15,600 people, resulting in three arrests (one for “assault of an emergency worker”, two for “possession with intent to supply Class A drugs”). The cameras were back on Wednesday when they misidentified and apprehended a French exchange student.
🚨 And talking of assaults… Two Met officers have been charged with “common assault by beating” after they used ‘excessive force’ on a man they had stopped in Hendon, at the end of last year.
🏗️ The mayor has finally turfed out the developer behind the the Royal Docks development. Sadiq tore up the £1bn agreement with Advanced Business Parks this week after almost a decade of not much happening. About a tenth of the 35 acre site has been built on so far and of the units that have been built, 90% are still empty.
🏙️ Meanwhile it looks like we could be getting yet another statement skyscraper in the ‘City cluster’. The proposal for a £600m, 285m tower at 55 Bishopsgate was revealed this week and the main feature is the “structural lattice inspired by the Fibonacci sequence”. The full public consultation (including details of the inevitable rooftop viewing gallery) is here.
🗳 For the past year Siân Berry has been researching the way that London’s landlords persuade tenants in social housing to approve multimillion pound redevelopments. There have been 21 of these ballots since they became a requirement in 2018, and all but one has resulted in a yes’ vote. That might be because landlords have been using “bouncy castles and free pizza” to help sway voters. Berry is now calling on the mayor to toughen the rules.
🤥 YouGov has done some polling (PDF) on who Londoners trust to tell the truth. Unsurprisingly MPs, Boris Johnson and journalists come bottom of the list, while GPs, teachers and scientists fare a little bit better. Maybe surprisingly, senior police officers are more trusted than Trade Union leaders.
🛤️ On that note… Members of the Aslef train drivers’ union (which includes drivers from the London Overground) have voted to strike over pay. The walkout will happen on July 30th, just three days after the RMT strike.
🚉 Talking of the Overground, the first new stop on the Overground since 2015 opens next week. The Barking Riverside extension will open to the public on Monday (about six months late and £64 million over budget, which is a win compared to Crossrail).
🍬A couple of weeks ago the leader of Westminster city council, Adam Hug wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian about those damn ‘candy shops’ on Oxford Street. We didn’t cover it because he didn’t really say anything that hasn’t already been said or offer any solutions. Anyway, a couple of Guardian readers have offered up their own solutions this week. One is to pedestrianise the road (aka ‘bring back the piazzas’) because “radical revitalisation of Oxford Street” will lead to “legitimate businesses thriving” - although we’re not sure we completely follow that logic. The other is for the council to use the Companies House website to check who actually owns the company before it grants them a license. Surely if it was that easy then Westminster would have done it already… Right?
🏊 Just in time for the heatwave, an open water swimming venue has opened at Canary Wharf. 600sq m of water in Middle Dock is now available for lunchtime dips and the website assures us that “the water at Canary Wharf is regularly tested and reaches high levels of cleanliness”. You do have to be a member of the National Open Water Coaching Association before you can try it out though.
Art and culture bits
🎈 The Museum of London has promised an all-night “epic leaving party” as its final hurrah before it closes its doors on December 4 and ups sticks to it new home in Smithfield. There’s even talk of the famous ‘Donald Trump blimp’ being flown over the Barbican to mark the occasion. (In the meantime, the New York Times has dedicated a good amount of ink to a look at the museum’s current ‘Grime Stories’ exhibition).
🇷🇺 The reviews are in for Patriots, Peter Morgan’s play about uber-oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, starring Tom Hollander. The Evgeny Lebednev-owned Standard gives it four stars (“a cracking, exciting piece of theatre”) as does the FT (“a riveting, troubling piece”). While The Guardian hedges its bets with three stars (“compelling… but begs for a far fuller look at the London connection”) and The i agrees (“it all slides by a little too easily”).
🙏 Turning to some real culture now: Mission: Impossible 8 is set to become the first ever movie to film in Westminster Abbey. Hey, if it can get through the blitz then it should be able to survive Tom Cruise leaping around the triforium for a few days.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to London in Bits to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.