East London is popping off for events, with 2012’s Olympic ambition spurring a vibrant and eclectic scene. In this feature, Access takes a look at a selection of venues both new and old, to find out how the region is building upon its strong reputation.
In June 2007, The O2 officially opened with a concert from Bon Jovi in the arena. Since then, The O2 has transformed into a fully-fledged entertainment destination in its own right, renowned as one of the world’s most iconic venues.
The O2 is owned and operated by AEG Europe, part of the Anschutz Entertainment Group. In one of the first naming rights deals of its kind, O2/Telefonica partnered with AEG to create The O2 and in 2017, the agreement was renewed for another decade. Since opening, over 70 million people have visited The O2. 2,429,763 tickets were sold in 2017 and nearly 20 million tickets have been sold overall.
Recent developments include the completion of ‘Project Loop’ that sees The O2’s offering swell to include ICON Outlet; a 210,000 sq ft premium urban outlet developed by AEG and Crosstree Real Estate Partners, a 50,000 sq ft extension to the existing Cineworld and a 30,000 sq ft Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park. Now ICON Outlet is open, visitors can do a full ‘loop’ of The O2, walking 360 degrees around the central arena.
The O2 was the first arena to obtain a Gold Standard from disability-led charity Attitude is Everything and has since implemented 112 new features to meet the latest Gold Standard.
From a sustainability perspective, The O2 has a bespoke on-site waste compound and currently commits less than 1% of its 3,500 tonnes of waste per annum to landfill; segregating all oils, cardboard, wood, food, glass and Dried Mixed Recyclables on-site to reduce waste impact and has almost completed a major energy reduction project, which has resulted in the reduction of the arena’s electrical consumption by approximately 2 million kWh per year.
2018 has seen some of the world’s biggest tours visit North Greenwich including Kendrick Lamar, Justin Timberlake (who played England’s World Cup semi-final match on his big screens before performing), Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Iron Maiden, Pearl Jam and K-Pop sensations BTS, who smashed merchandise records held by The Rolling Stones since 2012.
The calendar is already filling up for 2019 too, with the NBA coming back to The O2 in January, Post Malone bringing his first UK arena tour, Country to Country Festival returns for its seventh consecutive year, Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk show comes through in June and legends Ozzy Osbourne and KISS will bring their final ever tours to the venue. 2019 also sees Mamma Mia! The Party, an immersive theatrical and dining experience taking up residency in a specially-adapted venue within The O2.
Looking ahead even further, it has recently been announced that Elton John will bring his ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’ tour to The O2 in November 2020.
A Q&A with Alistair Wood – executive vice president, real estate & development, AEG Europe:
How far in advance was the vision for The O2 created and has it always been the goal to be where you are now?
The initial focus of AEG’s interest in the Millennium Dome as it was related solely to the opportunity of building a new arena. That was AEG’s focus in London – to find a centrally located site capable of delivering the new music venue we thought London so desperately needed. So back in 2004, the masterplan for the Greenwich Peninsula was created, with the redevelopment and reuse of the Dome for an arena at its heart. At the time of AEG signing their deal, the land around the arena but inside The O2 was earmarked for mixed retail and leisure development, however it is fair to say the thinking at that time was very conceptual.
Our ownership recognised the opportunity and need for developing additional space around the arena very early on, so plans for the first phase of the Entertainment District were then developed and delivered concurrently with the arena. The hotel and retail were considered options at the time, but plans for those only firmed up once the arena and Entertainment District had been delivered and stabilized.
There are various event spaces of different sizes within The O2 and a variety of experiences (Up at The O2 etc). What research inspired the creation of these experiences and event spaces?
We did a lot of analysis up front, looking at a whole basket of potential uses (including live theatres for Cirque du Soleil, casinos, MICE space linked through to the hotel and surfing concepts). This analysis looked at how such uses might perform as part of a wider development, but also gave reference to both our schemes and other large mixed use schemes globally in identifying how they might perform. This is a key first step in any development we carry out. We then tend to develop mini business plans for each phase and present those to our ownership for approval.
How will the wider development of East London/North Greenwich benefit The O2 and vice versa?
Regeneration projects require patience and time. I think it is fair to say The O2 has had a major positive impact on the sustained regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula and East London and its reuse has positively impacted the perception of the area. Likewise, we are also benefitting majorly from the extensive redevelopment and regeneration being carried out on this side of London. East London is thriving now, but it did take time for the speed of delivery of this regeneration to pick up – The Olympic Games and the sustained growth at Canary Wharf have also been major drivers of that.
What does the future look like for The O2? Are there any other projects in the pipeline?
We have just secured consent for a 36 storey residential tower outside The O2, so we are currently exploring how we might deliver this. With our joint venture partners Crosstree, we have recently delivered the ICON Outlet and Oxygen Freejumping, and have a further eight cinema screens and Phase 2 of ICON Outlet set to open in the first half of 2019. We are also giving thought to what further leisure anchors and visitor attractions we might be able to incorporate into the development and looking at how the scheme might open up to and create more of a relationship with the riverside.
Vibration Group strategy & creative director Simeon Aldred speaks to Access about new venue Magazine London.
When was the venue first imagined, and how did it come into fruition?
Vibration group and our content providers Broadwick Live have an active plan to open new culture venues across the UK in the next 5 years. We have been actively looking for a space in east London that is large enough for the use to create a space of the scale our partners and clients are looking for.
Hundreds of years ago, the site was the storage for a gun powder magazine so the history informed the simple black finishes and design of the building.
What made this site attractive?
For me the most attractive part of the site was its closeness to central London with London Bridge less than 10mins away and great links to the West End, Shoreditch and the new culture audiences developing in south London…Peckham etc etc. Also a big part of our decision to go to Greenwich Peninsula was the relationship with Knight Dragon, the developer of the land. In our view they are some of the most forward thinking place-makers in the UK and a great partner for us.
How is the East End developing for events, and what factors (infrastructure/accessibility) will make it futureproofed?
The east end is booming. The Shoreditch halo is effecting the whole east end and as new train lines and cross rail coming on line, new areas like Greenwich, Silver Town, Canada Water and the like are going to boom with new culture.
What kinds of events are you hoping to attract and what is your USP?
I guess our core USP is the flexibility and simplicity of the space. We are in talking with a number of culture operators, exhibition organisers, award shows and parties to be hosted in late 2019 and beyond.
Bradley Thompson, managing director of Broadwick Live & Venues, provides some insight into Printworks’ first two years.
How has the venue been received?
I really believe that we have created a space that people want to come too and artists, bands and DJ ultimately really want to play. The architecture is perfect for dance music, and given that it is already soundproofed from its days as a printing factory for the Metro and Evening Standard it provides the perfect accoustics, so even at full capacity the parties and events feel very intimate.
The next job for us is really proving the Printworks as a venue can work for live music, we have recently constructed a 3000+ capacity live space situated in the hall next to the Press Halls which has already hosted the likes of Django Django, Pendulum, Tokio Meyers, Bugzy Malone and Chromo along with upcoming shows from Bicep, Skepta and Rufus De Soul.
Have closing hours been restrictive?
No not at all, we actually have as 2am licence, however very rarely use it with the majority of the weekend events taking place during the daytime and finishing by 11pm.
What have been some key events for you?
It’s very difficult to pick individual standout events as we have such an eclectic and packed schedule, and in many ways each show is the culmination of everything that has come before. We are incredibly restless when it comes to constantly bettering the Printworks experience for everyone, and are absolutely committed to unparalleled line-ups, production and venue creativity.
I guess if I had to pick one personally, it would have to be disco legend DJ Harvey who played earlier this year… Looking forward, I can’t wait for Bicep who have 3 sold out live shows and Skepta later in the year who are all playing in the newly developed and constructed Live Venue at the Printworks.