Destination: We're all off to... east London

Food, art and plenty of parties. East London has evolved significantly over the past 10 years and now everyone wants a piece, finds Kasia Maynard.

The ArcelorMittal Orbit can be hired out for events
The ArcelorMittal Orbit can be hired out for events

What's it known for?

East London, also referred to as the ‘East End’ is an area which is well recognised for its sordid history, as well as its personality. Home to the famous Columbia Road Flower Market established in 1969, Jack the Ripper, gangsters the Kray twins and the birth place of cockney rhyming slang, the area is also one that has seen huge changes and 'gentrification'. 

In 2012 the London Olympics Games were centred in east London at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which now plays host to a number indoor and outdoor events ranging from sporting activity and music concerts to corporate events.

The area also hosts a spectrum of retail destinations from Europe’s largest urban shopping centre, Westfield Stratford City, to independent hipster boutiques and cockney markets. 

In contrast to all this, east London is also home to Canary Wharf - one of the capital's two main financial centres. 

Famous sights

The Arcelormittal Orbit, UK’s tallest sculpture, is in the limelight this summer with the addition of its new slide. The 178m-tall slide will become the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide. Adrenaline seekers will reach up to 15mph and experience panoramic views spanning 20 miles across London.

Old Spitalfields Market, located just a short walk away from Liverpool Street Station, is a popular market amongst shoppers in the South East. Open seven days a week, its main market days are Thursday to Sunday. Twice a month a record fair joins the market and music-lovers can browse and purchase rare and collectable vinyl. The market is also a popular venue for brand activations with Not On The High Street celebrating their 10th birthday with a pop-up event earlier this month.

The Whitechapel gallery plays a pivotal role in the continued growth of the East End's vibrant contemporary art quarter. Its first exhibition was shown in 1901 with the mission to bring ‘great art to the people of the East End’. It has premiered world-class artists, including Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Paul Noble.

A hotspot for brands...

Only this week Aldi opened a pop-up wine store at Boxpark Shoreditch (26-28 May) as part of its sponsorship of London Wine Week. Twenty different wines are on offer as well as wine sampling opportunities and masterclasses.

Carlsberg got into the Easter spirit outside the Truman Brewery by creating a bar entirely made of chocolate, in March. The activation, If Carsberg Did Chocolate Bars, aimed to combine consumer’s love of alcohol and chocolate in one.

Other recent events include L'Oréal Professionnel's Hair Fashion Night, which it claimed was the biggest night ever dedicated to hair trends. Teaming with agency, Fisher Productions, L’Oreal the experience at Village Underground in Shoreditch. Thousands of stylists and salons in 30 countries around the world took part in the event.

All images copyright L'Oreal

While designer, J. W. Anderson chose Shoreditch High Street as the location for The Workshops, a venue which was designed to operate as a creative platform. Since its launch in January The Workshop has hosted a series of installations, exhibitions and events where Anderson and collaborators can showcase their material.


There are a whole host of creative agencies that called east London their home, including Amplify, The Field and Tribe Marketing.

Marketing agency Pd3, which works with the likes of O2, Playstation and Safestore, chose Shoreditch as their base back in 1999. Cat Botibol, creative chief and owner of pd3 has seen east London change and develop over the last 17 years. "We’re all for change as the city is a moveable beast around us, and the constant evolution of areas is what keeps us inspired and excited in our work. East London is still a place of experimentation amongst creative business, and that’s why we still love it," she explained.

Pd3 recently worked with Save the Children to create an immersive experience in a secret location in east London earlier this month.

Agency, BD Network made the move from Kentish Town to Shoreditch in 2004 because "it was up-and-coming and would enable us to be on one floor, be attractive to staff and it was much cheaper", explains Allan McLaughlin, director of BD Network.

BD Network works with brands such as Virgin Media, Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Corona and they are not short of spaces to hold events for these big names. "There are loads of great venues in east London, we've used lots of them from pop-up spaces to York Hall, Shoreditch Studios, Tobacco Dock, Victoria Park and, of course, Spitalfields Market.

Where to host an event

Centred in east London’s creative hub, Hackney Wick, Shapes, a former printing factory, has been converted into a multi-purpose creative arts and event space. The venue hosts live events, exhibitions and community programmes and has removable walls for more versatile event spaces.

Located a minutes walk away from Liverpool Street Station, Behind the Bike Shed is an exciting new venue in Shoreditch. Positioned under four large, redeveloped railway arches the venue spans over 12,000 sq ft. Although the arches have been renovated, the venue still holds many of its original features and offers a great blank canvas for events.

Combining the space of underground tube carriages with a restored Victorian warehouse, the Village Underground creates a unique environment for any event. Located in Shoreditch, the venue is comprised of a collection of recycled Jubilee line carriages and a restored Victorian warehouse. The space can adapt to accommodate up to 720 guests.

And another thing...

The East End Film Festival (EEFF) returns at the end of June. The EEFF, founded in 2000, is one of the UK’s largest film festivals. It is an annual multi-platform festival which presents international premieres, industry masterclasses, free pop-up screenings and immersive live events. Attracting over 30,000 attendees every year the event showcases more than 50 feature film screenings, several short film programmes and industry activities.

Comment below to let us know what you think.

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