Planning/management specialist Bliss Events has set a precedent for the industry, designing and developing London’s largest urban beach, at Royal Docks, to incorporate a swimming pool, which opens on July 18 for six weeks, and an August event space.
Funded by the GLA and the London Borough of Newham, Bliss partnered with Star Events to plan a set of structures, linked by walkways, and create the first pool proper on the London leg of the Thames.
Buoyed by Star’s extensive experience with waterborne projects, Park Live for London 2012, Airbnb’s Floating House on the Thames and several Jaguar Land Rover activations among them, the 2018 Royal Docks’ beach is a massive technical achievement.
The pool deck, based around Star’s proprietary VerTech™ sub-structure, incorporates a children’s paddling area and extends existing infrastructure around the beach to cover any hazards hidden by the shingle and prevent ad hoc access to the dock.
A sun deck on the water is built from a commercial grade Linkflote system rather than the lightweight plastic and ‘NATO’ type pontoons events typically turn to. As a result, all the floating sections of the structure, which are decked with Star’s standard slip-free stage cover, are every bit as solid as the land-based elements.
The sun deck is accessed by two 16.6m by 2.5m floating walkways, which also serve to fix the structure to the land. All are secured by fencing to keep swimmers out of uncontrolled areas and combine to envelop the lido itself. The 22m by 18m pool incorporates various water level swim platforms, lane/depth markers and access ladders.
There will be changing rooms, a beach kiosk serving snacks and drinks, and lots of safety signs on the lido, where the water and its approaches have been inspected and passed fit for purpose. The beach is controlled by the site manager, who will be assisted by a security team, lifeguards, a first aid responder and GLA staff.
Bliss has also fitted a stretch tent to the lawn areas adjoining the beach, providing shade in the short-term and an event space across the four August weekends. Replete with a licensed bar and food traders it will feature some of London’s best buskers on Friday evenings, film screenings, for kids on Saturday mornings and for families in the evening, a lunchtime barbecue on Sundays and more besides.
Anne McLellan, Managing Director at Bliss Events, comments: “This is very much a joint project between Bliss and Star Events. Star has watertight relationships with the likes of Livett’s and other agencies vital to an event like this, along with the kit and the nous to build the lido and the pontoons.
“It’s been an incredible, exciting and challenging job to plan and to work on. With great support from the client and from our suppliers we have delivered a real feat of engineering in the shape of fantastic summer venue at the Royal Docks.”
Robert Baffour-Awuah, Promotion and Investment Manager for the GLA’s Royal Docks team, says: “The beach is a fixture in the local calendar that’s improving all the time. The Bliss pitch covered everything we’d asked for with innovative but practical responses. Anne understood our vision to present a more ambitious, enhanced offer with strong production values and an engaging programme.
“We’d seen examples of floating walkways and floating stages/screens but not this kind of decking, enclosing a managed swimming area. The system is much more affordable than bringing in a temporary swimming pool, it works effectively with the event site we have and it’s really good to pilot new things in the Docks.
“It was important to us that this year’s beach event reflected the step change in the story of the Royal Docks and it’s been great to work with Bliss/Star Events. They understand the ambition to ensure that the offer remains attractive to local people while attracting a wider audience from across the borough and the capital.”
The 2018 model beach is a flagship event in front of a £314m regeneration plan for the Royal Docks. Money that will support a comprehensive physical, economic and social change in the area over the next five years, creating a potential 35,000 new jobs, building 4,000 new homes and encouraging events, like that beach, that provide invaluable opportunities to bring locals and visitors together.