Regeneration of Stratford and “Creative” city

Transformation of Stratford

With its historical and geographical legacy, London is without doubt one of the greatest cities in the world. The city is a symbol of political, economic, and cultural power that has changed the history of the Western world over the past 400 years. However, cities like London need to evolve to become more flexible in an era of globalization and ever increasing technological development. The redevelopment of the suburbs of great cities must proceed with their growth, a point exemplified by London’s redevelopment of five London boroughs for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

 Redevelopment Plan

The 2012 Olympic Games were the biggest event to happen to the five London boroughs of: Barking & Dagenham, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest (Olympic boroughs hereafter).

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London Lower Lea Valley Boundaries (source: DCMS)

The collapse of the UK’s manufacturing industry during late 1960’s, in inner cities, led to severe socio-economic and environmental problems in these boroughs. Tim Butler and Chris Hamnett define the processes of de-industrialization and professionalization as London’s traditional, industrial manual working class being replaced by professions such as the “creative class”. Despite this de-industrialization, industrialized areas such as the five boroughs mentioned above remained underdeveloped and dubbed as “brownfield”, since a 318.64 km², total area of the stated boroughs was abandoned and polluted. According to both 2004 and 2007 indices of Multiple Deprivation research conducted by the UK government, the Olympic boroughs were ranked as the third most deprived areas not only in the United Kingdom, but also in Western Europe. The Olympic boroughs therefore represented a land of opportunity with the redevelopment of East London offering solutions for the relentless population growth in central London.

Neal Hudson, “The gentrification of London”, Savills Research UK, January 30, 2014. Accessed April 7, 2017.
newham poverty, accessed in 15 March 2017

Since East London was available with land-use, the government authorized the East London regeneration plan in 2004 to re-boost London’s political and economic strengths as a global city. Moreover, the city needed not only economic diversity but also a greener environment along with the Convergence agenda, which indicate that the Olympic boroughs would have a similar standard of social and economic benefits as their neighbors across London.

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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Accessed March 20, 2017, Available from:

David Higgins, Olympic Delivery Authority Chief Executive in 2006, described London 2012 as the ‘Regeneration Games’. According to his speech at the Thames Gateway Forum, Olympic boroughs were expected to create 40,000 new houses, education and health facilities and the largest new park, with a network of restored waterways and wildlife habitats. He also emphasized the four Olympic legacies: “sport and healthy living, regeneration of east London, economic growth and bringing communities together.” Of course, no one in charge of the reconstruction plan of East London and Olympic Games argued that holding the Olympics, would resolve hundreds of years of deprivation to the disadvantaged people from these boroughs. But, the infrastructure investment owing to the Olympics did regenerate the Olympic boroughs, which has fast-forwarded the development of a new valuable hub in East London.

After the Games, Stratford, the main Olympic city, now has an Olympic Park, but also new and cutting-edge cultural and educational organisations arriving over the next ten years. University College London and UAL’s London College of Fashion will also provide culture-related education on art, design and architecture. Furthermore, according to an article from The Art Newspaper, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, changed with this redevelopment project, has given it a working title of ‘East London’s Heritage and Cultural Quarter’.5 Boris Johnson, the former Mayor of London when the redevelopment plan began, also created the term ‘Olympicopolis’, from which both Khan and Johnson’s title for regeneration shows that East London is turning into the cultural hub. Chung 5

For example, the report by Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced that the V&A and Sadler’s Wells would join modern platforms in the Stratford Waterfront along with two university campuses. The most interesting part of the museum innovation is that the Smithsonian is going to collaborate its permanent gallery space and exhibitions with the V&A in its East Space. In addition to that, in the report in relation to the 2012 Olympics’ legacy organized by UK government, London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) expected to “create 3,000 jobs with 1.5 million visitors to the park area and approximately £2.5billion in economic value to Stratford and the surrounding area. £151 millions of government funds were approved for the project in December 2014 as part of a national infrastructure plan and in the 2015 Autumn Statement and Spending Review. UCL East is planned to open in 2020 and the Stratford Waterfront in 2021. However, not all research shows the advantages of the regeneration plan. Some groups of people agree that there are shortcomings of its plan.

art of dissent
Cover of the Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State, Available from

Salon de Refuse Olympique

Hilary Powell, an artist and AHRC Fellow at the Creative and Performing Arts Centre at University College of London, organized Olympic art forums for several film screenings and exhibitions related to the Olympic Games at Space studio in 2007. After changing its name to Salon de Refuse Olympique, the Forum continued its meetings with various contributors including local artists, film makers and the Arts and Culture team from the Olympic Development Authority (ODA) to “meet, exchange and debate” on issues and critical responses derived from the redevelopment of Olympic boroughs and the Games.8

The Salon held five meetings about different issue and discussed the Olympic-led regeneration from September to October 2011. These discussions led to the production of The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State published in 2012. The next sections are divided by the title of the Salon’s chapters to see what issues had been shared.

1. Hackney Wick (Un)regulated

Francesca Weber-Newth illustrates with her article the landscape of Hackney Wick after reconstruction, stating, “Roads appear smoother, fresh paint marks the arrival of new parking bays, pavements have been extended, new banks installed, and trees have sprouted. The public realm seems cleaner, more ordered and manageable.” However, every participant of the Salon showed different perspectives on the renewed area since the development has provoked a rise in the cost of living. While some artists left the area after the loss of initial attractions such as freedom, unregulated, and empty space, other artists recently moved to Hackney Wick for its new creative atmosphere. Weber-Newth states, “One person’s freedom is another person’s restriction; displacement represents constant movement.” She documents partial agreements settled for common goals among practitioners and residents.

2. Embarrassing Positions: Being Inside-Outside the Olympic Park

In her article, Sophie Hope indicates that “Hilary Powell and Anna Hart held a forum with Adriana Marques from the Arts and Culture team at the ODA, Tim Abrahams, associated editor of Blueprint Magazine; Neville Gabie, Thomas Klasnik and Nina Pope and artists commissioned by the ODA.”11 The Salon discussed the concept of “inside/out” in the context of the Olympics, as people who worked for the ODA were dubbed as an “insider”, whilst “outsiders” were those who did not work for the ODA. On the one hand, the discussion raised a question on the discourse of attitudes and positions of contracted artists whether their works are “productive” in terms of expressing their beliefs when associated with the power, in this case, ODA. On the other hand, “outside” artists may have freedom from adulating commissioners without any real influence. In the end of the Salon, the question is unresolved as Hope argues, from which position is it better to make public issues of urban development that need instant response of the authority?

3. Legacy Vision

This Salon discussion focused on the Olympic Legacy, with Juliet Davis, who is a research fellow at London School of Economics, highlighting that since the regeneration of East London was planned in 2004 before the successful bid of the Games in 2005, “why is a sporting event … being used to realise social and economic transformation?” Tim Black, the archivist of this meeting, makes clear their agreement that East London received not only economic value, but also benefited from the extension of transportation around Stratford and the detoxification of polluted soil by hosting the Games. However, what the Salon participants articulated was that it was not the public who were the “catalyst” for the redevelopment. By only emphasizing the role of the Olympic Games, political illusion was disguised as “vision” in the name of the legacy that could not meet the social needs that residents really needed. Black implies that the government could then blame the unexpected economic crisis of 2008 for the failure of meeting the needs. Davis specified that the government cannot avoid its responsibility of £9.3 billion that had been spent on the 2012 Games and the need for its legacy. However, Oliver Goodall and Oliver Wainwright concluded the meeting with “a glimmer of optimism” after a demonstration of an Amsterdam dock that was originally built for temporary use in the context of short-term use as an Olympic building.

4. Military Urbanism, Surveillance and the Privatisation of Public Space

The fifth Salon was held at See Studio in Hackney Wick. Isaac Marrero-Guillamon, the co-editor of the Art of Dissent, organized the writing of what the discussion was about. Anna Minton, the writer of Ground Control, brought up the issue of enclosure of the public space with high security and surveillance. James Field also criticized the Westfield Shopping Centre owing to globalization of capital and materialization, which gradually displaces a diverse community in Stratford. Accordingly, Laura Oldfield Ford articulated “remembering as a form of revenge not to consent to things to be forgotten.” Also, Local artists arranged their projects in terms of remembering the past: Stephen Cornford’s Trespassing the Olympics, Jim Woodall’s Olympic State and series of photograph work, Amber Alert by Giles Price. Each of them visited Olympic construction sites surrounded by security fence and surveillance cameras to document what was soon to be demolished. On the other hand, the discussion led to the critical point of this meeting, the absence of activist groups. Ford argued that although she worked with a network of people against the bid their protests changed nothing and Minton indicated that the lack of networks between those people made their voices unheard.

Following the logs of the Salon de Refuse Olympique, a variety of people spoke up for their own positions and duties that they are obliged to handle, which brought up vigorous discussion on artistic practices. The dynamic of the Salon’s discussions varied, which lead to the production of the Art of Dissent. Furthermore, it is significant that the regeneration scheme enabled the narrative of Olympic Games. According to the Salon log that Black recorded, Jack Straw who was Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom in 2005, states that the crucial strategy to the victory was London’s “special Olympic vision […] the vision of an Olympic Games that would not only be a celebration of sport but a force for regeneration.” John Gold, the co-editor of Olympic Cities, also clearly notes that the regeneration plan of East London was imperative in winning the bid against Paris.

5. The Art of Dissent

The Salon de Refuse Olympique, Site/Fringe, and ‘The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State’ enunciate the purposes of their work, of their disagreement regarding the Olympic Games and the government’s regeneration policies. In case of the Art of Dissent, whether Powell and Guillamon intend to make readers judge the book by its cover before readers get a chance to find out the deeper meanings of their works, their works could be looked as a protest the Games.

Yes, their works are ‘activist art’, as according to Tate’s art term, “activist art is a term used to describe art that is grounded in the act of ‘doing’ and addresses political or social issues.” Indeed, what The Art of Dissent deals with and what participants of the Salon are gathered to challenge are the social issues derived from the redevelopment plan. But, this is also more than activist art, with Ranciere’s notion of democracy, highlighting that the Salon is the ‘democracy’ itself, Ranciere states that democracy is not about capitalism, free individuals, or the structure of a State, rather it is the relationship created between institutional politics and its subjects. Democracy is formed when dissensus occurs, disagreements are therefore a fundamental condition of democracy. Furthermore, according to his book, The Politics of Aesthetics, Ranciere highlights the ‘distribution of the sensible’, which is critical term in his theory of aesthetics. He argues that the aesthetic is not about Western philosophy, rather it meets the matter of the distribution of what is perceived in society. In other words, it can be said that aesthetics exists through a system of division and interpretation of what is visible and understood through sensible experience. To be specific, according to the Politics of Aesthetic, Ranciere’s concept of politics “revolves around what is seen and what can be said about it, around who has the ability to see and the talent to speak, around the properties of spaces and the possibilities of time.”16 Art is not autonomous but always political, therefore, the aesthetic is a matter of politics. The Olympic Games required the reinforced consensus which did not ask for or listen to people’s opinions. But, the Salon’s discussions from various perspectives achieve the concept of Ranciere’s democracy that the redevelopment plan did not afford to the people in East London.

The work of the Salon, Site/Fringe including The Art of Dissent, transforms personal conflicts derived from the regeneration to the public sphere, not only for specific viewers such as the Salon, or for the government, but for everyone to see. The Salon discussion thus enables the discussion of everyone’s problems. The Salon and Site/Fringe project and the Art of Dissent have therefore successfully insisted on the ‘public distribution of the sensible.’


The City: Creativity, Competition, and its Measurement

According to an annual report on the social media site LinkedIn, the word most used by its members to describe themselves 2011 was ‘creative’.

In 1980s, the City of London’s regeneration efforts preserved its architectural heritage in terms of recalling London cosmopolitan city in the age of Imperialism. In Edge of Empire, Jane M. Jacobs writes, “here one senses a nostalgia that extends beyond the heritage value of the built form, to a social and moral order once more surely held by the nation and reminiscently embodied in this symbolic site of empire.”17

However, the Olympic boroughs have not been allowed to keep their cultural and architectural history. For example, the transformation of Hackney Wick demolished its previous landscape and warehouses that used to be an artistic space, which raises the question why could the Olympic boroughs not keep theirs? Moreover, various governmental regeneration reports of hosting boroughs always include the word, “creative”. Does the government understand the matrix of cultural investment in East London in the context of making London “creative” again? In following section, before measuring the possibilities of Stratford and the Olympic boroughs becoming creative and/or competitive cities, the meaning of the terms creative class and competitive city need to be clarified.

 The Rise of Creative Economy

In the Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida indicates that the rebirth of urban cities, overpopulation of peripheral areas, and the rise of the ‘Creative Age’ lead to the emergence of a knowledge economy. He writes, “the quest for clean and green is powered by the same underlying ethos that drives the Creative Economy. […] human capabilities and potential became greater factors of production in the knowledge-based industries that began to emerge in the 1960s […] the creative ethos demands that we cultivate and utilize all of our natural and human resources.” Florida makes a category of “creative class”, which is a group of people who work in “science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology and/or new creative content.”

His notion of knowledge economy takes account of information as the most profitable asset. He claims that his creative class tend to earn twice as much as average workers and work in key growth industries such as IT and biotechnology, therefore, becoming significant drivers of economic growth in the context of knowledge economy. On the one hand, his class of individuals welcome certain ways of life that respect their individuality including self-expression and openness to diversity, which are inseparable from creative work. The creative class treats the ‘experiential lifestyle’ as providing them with a variety of fertile experiences for inspiration, as a complement to their work. Applying Florida’s theory to the regeneration plan, livability and sustainability become one of the most vital elements for urban cities.

Competitive Global City

Phil Jones and James Evans state that “regeneration is often thought of in terms of competition between cities.”20 Owing to the advent of global cities, economic regeneration policy in the UK adds another category to consider, that of the ‘competitive city’. To identify the economic measurement of transforming economy, the British government invested in research programmed called ‘CITIES: Competitiveness and Cohesion’ in 1997.

 UK Creative Economy-JOB, downloaed from ources/infographics

There are three significant ways to understand the global economy: “economic outputs, such as income, unemployment, growth; intermediate measures of success, such as visitor numbers and student population and more general indicators of quality of life”. Moreover, cultural infrastructures such as theatre, sports and shopping amenities are essential in drawing the attention of start-up business and visitors by means of ‘hard’ assets. Furthermore, Jones and Evans also emphasize the infrastructure of information communications technology (ICT) such as providing Internet networks to residents and visitors in public spaces.” They add, “regeneration projects need to be planned, financed and executed to ensure new facilities are located in the right place with the right mix of land uses.”21 The elements listed above are similar to attractions of people in Florida’s concept of creative industry.

UK government “creative industry” policy

Florida indicates the crucial factor that urban cities need is to attract people who are qualified to deliver cultural diversity, as well as experiential lifestyles. Through the CITIES research, the British government recognized the value of creative industries in terms of contemporary urban regeneration.

Chris Smith, the author of ‘Creative Britain’ and New Labour’s first Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, purposes cultural-led regeneration as: “an effective route for personal growth; a valuable contribution to social cohesion; of benefit to environmental renewal and health promotions; a producer of social change.” In this context, the initiative of Core Cities is an example that shows that the British government have embraced the idea of culture-led regeneration, building partnerships with government and other substantial stakeholders to use cities as an apparatus not only for regional and national economic growth, but also for making globally competitive district.

Miles and Paddison summarize their emphasis on culture in the following quotation from Comedia:

“Culture is a source of prosperity and cosmopolitanism in the process of international urban competitiveness through hosting international events and centres of excellence, inspiring creativity and innovation, driving high growth business sectors such as creative industries, commercial leisure and tourism, and increasing profile and name recognition[…] Culture is a mean of spreading the benefits of prosperity to all citizens, through its capacity to engender social and human capital, improve life skills and transform the organizational capacity to handle and respond to change … Culture is a means of defining a rich, shared identity and thus engenders pride of place and inter-communal understanding, contributing to people’s sense of anchoring and confidence.”

However, the disappearance of New Labour government in 2005 could not keep up their initiative policies with ongoing-reconstruction.

“Creative” Stratford

This section will now evaluate the possibility of Olympic boroughs especially Stratford’s transformation from brown field to being a creative, competitive, global city.

Jacque Derrida illustrates Europe as a “culture of oneself as a culture of the other, a culture of the double genitive and of the difference to oneself.”25 Following his way of seeing western world, identity is generated when ‘difference remained gathered’. And, the identity of hosting boroughs is in Jacob’s word, a “gathering of difference”26 For instance, the variety of ethnic groups form the identity of the East London borough of Newham including Stratford is 70 percent non-white residents and has highest number of refugees and stateless person in London, which made it the second most diverse population area in Britain in 2010.27 Not only the new largest park for 150 years in Europe, cultural facilities and another largest retail centre in Europe, the Westfield Shopping Centre, there is additional attraction for Florida’s creative people. According to Inspired by 2012, the fourth annual report published by the UK government, ‘Here East,’ which was the former Press and Broadcast Centre, was changed into an emerging pivot of digital and tech profit-based organisations of for creative and digital companies. It offers more than a million square feet of space, The first occupiers, BT Sport, started to transmit two sports channels in the middle of 2013. Loughborough University in London renovated research faculties for infrastructure, robotics, and healthcare. Other companies, including Infinity Data Centre and Studio Wayne McGregor, joined Here East and contributed space to frame further multi-faceted infrastructure.28These “creative” corporations indicates that “creative” Stratford is made. Nevertheless, although the government supports the ‘creative economy’, it is difficult to find confirmation that the authorities have subsidized art studios and artists to compensate for the displacement caused by redevelopment and hosting the Games. This raises another question: Is there adequate data gathering to evaluate the connection between culture and urban regeneration, including the links between social changes and individuals and communities working in art field?

Correlation between Culture and Regeneration

There are numerous theorists who insist their ways of approaches to the methodologies. According to Loretta Lees and Clare Melhuish, Eleonora Belfiore suggests in her article that Franco Bianchini and Michael Parkinson applied “qualitative indicators” to determine the outcome of the “performance Indicator approach” supported by the Arts Council.29 In contrast, Evans argues that the combined approaches of anthropology and sociology should be applied to assess social transformation. Belfiore contends that different means of indicating social, cultural and economic values of the various productions are urgent.31 Even though several attempts have been made, including in the Art Council’s 2006 report, The Power of Art/Visual Arts, to take an ‘evidence-based’ approach, the report failed to standardize the key elements, merely providing purposeless quotes from investors. The evaluations of the influences of art-led regeneration were based on quantified economic value and numerical data. François Matarasso asserts the significance of measurement tactics where management and social anthropological approaches meet. Unlike other theorists, he draws attention to the gap of expectations that exists between theory-based practitioners and commissioners, stating that “practitioners spoke most positively of their experiences of working with academic researchers, perhaps because this work combined authoritative methods with a discursive process”34 In 2011, Ennis and Douglass presented a working paper with the title “Culture and Regeneration–what evidence is there of a link, and how can it be measured?” According to their paper, they requested the Greater LondonAuthority (GLA), the organisation in charge of calculating the outputs of culture-led regeneration, to make their methods and data public when they were assessing the links between culture and regeneration. Unfortunately, their methodological approach was improvised and unnecessarily complicated; the paper criticizes the GLA’s methods and ends on a note of uncertainty.

This page is aimed neither at advocating nor criticizing the ongoing redevelopment of hosting boroughs in East London. In fact, it is informed by the belief that “one person’s freedom is another person’s restriction” as Weber-Newth stated in the Salon de Olympique. The contrasting variety of approaches suggests that the milieu of regeneration has produced countlessly varied situations and individual viewpoints. The aim of this paper is to show how changes made in East London have affected both the physical landscape and the lives of locals, carefully examining what have been claimed by the authorities to be the benefits of redevelopment. As mentioned above, the regeneration of Stratford is an ongoing project. Any impetuous judgement on the project at this point would be meaningless. Nevertheless, it is clear that culture should not become an apparatus of economic growth because, to borrow the words of Belfiore, “Culture is a not a means to an end.”


  1. Arts Council England. The Power of Art: Visual Arts: Evidence of Impact. London: Arts Council England. 2006.
  2. Bailey, Mary. “London mayor Sadiq Khan ditches Olympicopolis name, but presses ahead with East London cultural hub,” The Art News Paper, August 18, 2016. Accessed March 10, 2017.
  3. name-but-presses-ahead-with-east-london-cultural-hub.
  4. Bianchini, Franco and Parkinson, Michael. Cultural Policy and Urban Regeneration: The West European Experience. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 1993.
  5. Black, Tim. Legacy Vision. The Salon de Refuse Olympique. Accessed March 11, 2017. visions.pdf.
  6. Department for Communities and Local Government, The English Indices of Deprivation 2015, 2015, National Statistic.
  7. Derrida, Jacque. The Other Heading: Reflections on Today’s Europe. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 1992.
  8. Eleonora, Belfiore. “Art as a means towards alleviating social exclusion: does it really work? – a critique of instrumental cultural policies and social impact studies in the UK.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 8 (2002): 91-106.
  9. Ennis, Nick and Douglass, Gordon. Culture and regeneration – What evidence is there of a link and how can it be measured?. London: Greater London Authority. 2011.
  10. Evans, Graeme. “Measure for measure: Evaluating the evidence of culture’s contribution to regeneration.” Urban studies 42, (2005): 959-983.
  11. Florida, R. The Rise of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books. 2002.
  12. HM Government, Inspired by 2012: The legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games – fourth annual report. DCMS, 2016. Chung 19
  13. Hope, Sohpie. Embarrassing Positions: Being Inside-Outside the Olympic Park. The Salon de Refuse Olympique. Accessed March 11, 2017. positions.pdf.
  14. Jacobs, Jane M. Edge Of Empire. London: Routledge. 2006.
  15. Jones, Phil and Evans, James. Urban Regeneration in the UK: Boom, Bust and Recovery. London: SAGE, 2013.
  16. Lees, Loretta and Melhuish, Clare. “Art-led Regeneration in the UK: The Rhetoric and the Evidence on Urban Social Inclusion,” European Urban and Regional Studies 22 (2013): 242-260.
  17. Matarasso, F. The Human Factor: Experiences of Arts Evaluation. 2009.
  18. Miles, Steven and Paddison, Ronan. “Introduction: The Rise And Rise Of Culture-Led Urban Regeneration”. Urban Studies 42 (2005): 833-839.
  19. Powell, Hilary. “Salon de Refuse Olympique.” Accessed March 10, 2017.
  21. Rancière, Jacques. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. Translated by Steve Corcoran. London: Bloomsburry Academic. 2015.
  22. Rancière, Jacques. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. Translated by Gabriel Rockhill. London: Continuum. 2004.
  23. Site/Fringe. “The Film: On The Edge.” Site/Fringe, July 12, 2012.
  25. Smith, Chris. Creative Britain. London: Faber and Faber. 2002.
  26. Stolberg, Sheryl G. and Pear, Robert. “Wary Centrists Posing Challenge in Health Care Vote,” New York Times, February 27, 2010, Accessed February 28, 2010,
  27. Trust for London and New Policy Institute. “London’s Poverty Profile.” Accessed March 11, 2017.
  28. Wales, R. “The Olympic Objective: Inspiring People.” Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal 5(2012): 318-319.
  29. Weber-Newth, Francesca. Hackney Wick (Un)regulated. Salon de Refuse Olympique. Accessed March 11, 2017.
  30. wick.pdf.

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