East London Food & Culture

East Bank

East Bank, Stratford: first peek – don’t miss Nana’s Leytonstone terrace

A reconstructed E11 living room is the centrepiece of LCF's five new galleries, cafe and public space

This was one of those serendipitous moments when we were walking through the Olympic Park to the “other side” of Westfield – and lo and behold, spied that the first part of the £600million East Bank waterfront development was now open.

You can now cross the bridge, as we swiftly did, and walk the short stretch of towpath outside what is now UAL’s new London College Of Fashion campus, flanked by the forthcoming V & A East (opening 2025) and soon-to-be 550-seater Sadler’s Wells theatre (from 2024).

East Bank
V&A, LCF and Sadler’s Wells, East Bank. Photos: Stephen Emms

From the entrance are elevated Granary Square-style stone and wood-clad steps leading down to the towpath, with impressive views across to the West Ham Stadium.

Inside LCF itself is an industrial multi-use space with striking central curved staircase (main pic, above) open to both students and the general public. It’s dotted with five galleries – all free to enter – as well as a very well-priced cafe (where, as we discovered, a generous vegan mixed salad bowl is £6.50 and will give you your 5-a-day hit.)


East Bank
The steps leading down to the canal. Photo: SE

The main exhibition, Designed For Life, explores London College of Fashion’s commitment to what they call “harnessing fashion, design and creative practice” as a force for positive social change.

This inaugural exhibition features key themes including East London as home – we can identify with that – community building, empowerment through making and visions of a more sustainable and equitable future.

East Bank
Designed For Life, LCF. Photo: SE

Presented across five immersive areas, you can enjoy textiles, design, film, photography, artefacts and personal testimonies, all illustrating how creative action can shape our world.

Especially good is Lucy Orta’s wall of 47 textile portraits of migrants on their journey to East London, and Nana’s House, an interactive 1980s living room installation modelled on her “Leytonstone Victorian terrace on a Sunday afternoon.”

East Bank
Nana’s House, LCF, East Bank. Photo: Stephen Emms

Telling the story of ‘Nana’ (who isn’t given a name), and her journey from Nigeria to Leytonstone, as well as her Indian-Muslim lodger, it aims to reflect a broad heterogeneity of lives and experiences in East London, co-created by a team of community curators.

In the cosy room are books and mugs scattered, a record player, sewing machine, fireplace and so on, each item in its own place. An info board tells Nana’s story.

A Dress For our Time
A Dress For our Time, Helen Storey. Photo: Stephen Emms

Another highlight is Helen Storey’s thought-provoking Dress For Our Time, standing in crepuscular light in the rear gallery, made entirely from a decommissioned refugee tent within which a Syrian family once lived. Each pixel of light travelling up from its hem represents a hundred humans fleeing their lives.

It’s powerful stuff. Overall, this feels like an exciting and positive new cultural space only a short walk or cycle from Leyton and Leytonstone: the perfect weekend jaunt, free galleries and panoramic views included.

Designed For Life at LCF, exhibition is free, open until 19 January 2024, Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm. London College of Fashion, UAL, 105 Carpenters Road, Stratford, E20 2AR

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