The staging of the 2012 Olympics at Stratford was designed to help regenerate a blighted area, an area of high unemployment. An area which has suffered centuries of industrialisation and pollution where, regularly, investment in improvements had been redirected to other causes.
A new book Over the Border: The Other East End by Neil Fraser investigates the reality of this image and the reactions of those who live in the area to the decision not only to hold the Olympic Games on their patch but ‘improve’ their lives in legacy. It is salutary to realise that plans were already in place to regenerate Stratford – now incorporated into LOCOG’s plans – and to consider the impact that a new shopping mall like Westfield will have on the local people. Has it been staffed by locals, is it shopped in by locals? How much is hype and how much reality? One is left with a confused feeling that whilst exciting and dramatic changes are happening, real values remain with the older communities. That the plans have not been universally welcomed but imposed upon people.
In this thoughtful book, we also explore surrounding areas such as West Ham, Plaistow, Silvertown Town and the River Lea. It is not a polemic but engages the views and everyday activities of acquaintances and friends to build a fascinating slant on this spectacular initiative in the East End.
While we are all enjoying the Olympic Games, I recommend reading this book which will add many layers of understanding about the history of the area and the proposed legacy.