Your blogger is packing his suitcase ready for #ecobuild this week – looking forward to the show and to the launch of Plastic Surgeon’s “Save our Surfaces” initiative – but I’ve got to say, I’d normally be dreading the journey. It’s not just that it’s a long way to London from our headquarters in beautiful Devon, but really #excel is the most inaccessible venue in the country, unless your happen to live in the capital’s East London/Essex hinterland.
Legend has it that the previous owners (Ecobuild was sold for squillions a couple of years back) moved the show from the comfortable surroundings of Earls Court, out to Docklands, so that European delegates would be able to get there via the City Airport. Fine for them thanks, but what about the rest of us? For any of you who haven’t previously been there, ExCeL is in the only part of London that still looks like a setting for an episode of “The Sweeney” – with derelict cranes and lots of warehouse buildings surrounded by piles of rubble. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re driving a 1970s Ford Granada or a Toyota ‘Pious’, getting there by road is a lottery, thanks to the commuter traffic and the signposting to the two sides of the concrete carbuncle.
It does have a stop on the Docklands Light Railway, just a couple of hundred metres from the main entrance, but the DLR was undersized before Ecobuild became the world’s most important sustainability showcase, and you’ll probably have to change twice or three times to reach your destination. Previous years, the scrum at Custom House station has resembled the Tokyo underground as one train after another comes and goes with only a fraction of the crowd waiting on the platform being able to complete their journey.
Rather more civilised is the Thames Clipper – the fast catamaran service which runs up and down the river to an incredibly reliable timetable – but that only goes as far as Canary Wharf, from where the organisers normally lay on coaches, or you can catch a black cab for a tenner.
The advance guard from Plastic Surgeon is going up with a van on Monday to set up our Repair Clinic on stand (N1420), so they will have time for a couple of laps of the M25, and the rest of us will follow on to stay nearby the night before.
However I’m going to let you into something I learned about the ExCeL centre back in October: something which makes its location seem almost civilized.
Because it was one of the venues for the 2012 Olympics, Emirates Airlines built a cable-car across the river, linking ExCeL to the Millennium Dome – now known as the 02 Arena – and it’s still there now. So I will be staying in the middle of Greenwich which has one of London’s leafiest parks, complete with Meridian Line, Observatory and Henry Moore statues; beyond which is the restored Cutty Sark and the Naval Museum, plus plenty of great pubs and restaurants. And thanks to the cable car, which allows you to ‘swipe’ in with an Oyster Card, I’ve got a 10 minute journey into work for the three days – so there’s no chance I’ll be late.