Jonathan Fryer

London’s 2nd City

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 3rd July, 2012

From my front room window I can see Canary Wharf, which is how most of us East Enders refer (incorrectly) to Canada Tower on the Isle of Dogs, constructed to be the symbol of London’s second City or financial centre, but with a nod to the Elizabeth Tower of the Houses of Parliament (equally incorrectly generally known as Big Ben). Canary Wharf is actually the central ensemble of the audacious development in the old Docklands. This is now the subject of a short but insightful volume by Bow writer and journalist Kevin d’Arcy, London’s 2nd City*. In brief, snappy chapters Kevin introduces many of the main characters in the drama of the Canary Wharf area’s conception and birth, from Michael Heseltine and the megarich Reichmann brothers to the Liberal duo Eric Flounders and Brian Williams, who gave local leadership and vision in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Even as someone who has been around the wholetime, I learnt a lot from this book, including the reason (or at least, a reason) why the shoppping arcades at Canary Wharf are underground: the developers cut their teeth in Toronto, Canada, where such tunneled emporia are a haven in bitter mid-winter. The whole enterprise had its ups and downs and all these are charted, but in a way that steers clear of libelling anybody. It’s an attractive little book, written very much in journalistic not academic style, though alas, as so often with self-published works, there are some glaring errors; the Coalition Government was elected in 2010, not 2009, and there could not possibly have been 3.5 million homes destroyed in London during the War, as none would have been left. Such gripes aside, a worthwhile read.

£9.99 from Rajah Books, 40 Bruce Road, London E3 3HL

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