Stratford Sphere

Why Sadiq Khan was correct to reject the ‘Stratford Sphere’

For once, a politician has put people over profit.

In the news this week, plans for a huge new music venue in East London were reportedly rejected by Sadiq Khan. My first thought was one of opposition; of course, we need to encourage the arts as much as possible under a government who seem to view creativity as a disease to be stamped out quicker than the notion of accountability. Then I heard it was on the grounds of light pollution, saw a photo of the thing, and my faith in Sadiq Khan was restored back to his former glory.

On Radio 4 (I’m very clever) this week, too, they were arguing it would bring in thousands of jobs to the local area – both in building it, and subsequently running it. I’m sure this is true, but on balance, we already have many buildings in central London that are empty; many venues that are struggling to keep up with rising rent costs and an audience trying to weather a cost-of-living crisis; not to mention a music market that’s drowned out new acts in favour of bland pop artists who, when interviewed, sound like they may as well just be reading from their press release.

Yes, the Vegas sphere looks cool on social media, and managed to make Bono look even smaller than he actually is (the height of an average penguin), but do we need one in the middle of Stratford? We’ve already turned that place into Dubai. It has three trees over the entire area, after the Olympics turned everything marble and Westfield took over approximately 70% of the living space. I’m glad that, for once, a politician seems to have put people over profit, and when I saw the proposed look of the thing, it’s easy to see why Sadiq rejected it.

Photo: Chris Graythen.

The giant sphere was lit up like a ride at Disneyland; it would be the equivalent of saying to locals ‘Sorry guys, do you mind if we just put the sun in your back garden whilst you’re trying to sleep?’ (Sidenote: I once slept through a fight on my driveway and a few weeks ago a spurned woman kept her car horn on for fourteen minutes on my street trying to wake up her ex, god I feel alive!). We don’t need it any worse. 

And, of course, the exterior doubles as a billboard – why wouldn’t it? I’ve just been saying recently that I feel like I don’t see enough adverts anywhere, more consumerism please… It hasn’t harmed America at all… The only thing left over there that isn’t being used as advertising space is Biden’s forehead, and that’s only because his skin is so dry it can’t stick the paper up.

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What’s more, can you imagine the ticket prices in that thing? I bet they’d start at £300 and half the people working there on (no doubt) close to minimum wage wouldn’t even be able to afford to set foot in their own workplace. This isn’t boosting the economy, it’s bringing in punters for big nights, fleecing them for as much cash as possible and pricing out the community that already existed there. And nobody’s even talked about the regulation UV protection shades that would surely have to be issued to everyone east of Brick Lane if they wanted to get anything done after 6pm when it’s switched on.

If you really want to boost the economy, encourage creativity, and create more jobs, look at your existing spaces, existing venues, ask what can be done in community centres for kids wanting to spend time in the arts. Give Arts Council funding to local bands who are struggling to get going on account of the insane costs it takes to get six people and their equipment to perform anywhere that isn’t their front room.

Stratford, East London.

Pay art, music and english teachers the money they deserve, do up dilapidated buildings and turn them into rehearsal or studio spaces and make them actually affordable or, better yet, free. (Remember ‘free’?) Reinstate late licences for live music venues and stop closing them to make a fortune on some ‘affordable’ seven-figure flats that’ll be bought up by people who live in them for two weeks a year. 

But whatever you do, don’t build a giant, pointless globe the size of a football field just to look like you care about the economy or the arts. We can see right through you. When we’re not looking directly at it, of course.

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