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‘Crowdsourcing’ could save Cody Dock on the River Lea in time for Olympics

PUBLISHED: 00:27 26 May 2012

Chris Gourlay

Chris Gourlay

Archant

It’s not often that two very different lives arrive at a mutual moment in time which need each other mobilise communities.

It’s not often that two very different lives arrive at a mutual moment in time which need each other mobilise communities.

It happened with Chris Gourlay and Simon Myers, now firmly in partnership in a battle to turn an old gasworks dock on the River Lea into a people’s centre of culture and leisure.

But they only have 10 days left to complete the process of raising £80,000 left needed if the project to rejuvenate the derelict Cody Dock on the River Lea can get off the ground in time for the Olympics just 90 days away.

Chris was a specialist writer on a national newspaper delving into planning affairs.

Simon was a projects manager for prestigious organisations like the British Museum and Southbank Centre.

What brought them together was realising that raising funds for community schemes through conventional channels wasn’t working.

Chris hit on the idea of ‘crowd sourcing’ where projects like Simon’s Cody Dock scheme appeal direct to the public. There’s no bureaucracy, no red tape, no committees to convince. If the public likes the idea, they’ll put up the cash.

The 28-year-old former journalist from Hackney quit his highly-paid job on the Sunday Times and took a chance setting up his Spacehive venture.

“I’s a social funding platform for the environment when there isn’t much State cash to hand,” he explains.

“Anyone puts forward idea and raises cash from the public as well as businesses and even local authorities who want to give something.

“It’s much faster to raise funds and get things done. There’s no struggle through the long planning system.”

He had his first success with a pilot project for a community centre in a South Wales mining village earlier this year. The villagers managed to raise £30,000 in four weeks. Businesses like Admiral Insurance and Tesco chipped in the rest.

“Raising funds through the long planning process gives you lower exposure for what you’re trying to do,” Chris tells you. “You don’t appeal to the public, just to bureaucrats. It’s frustrating when you’ve got fantastic ideas and you’re tied up with red tape.”

Simon’s Cody Dock project on the Lea is the second community project for the Spacehive.com website and the first in London.

His Gasworks Dock Partnership came with “a classic tale of promises that don’t deliver.”

The 38-year-old who lives on a barge at the dock with his family has a passion for east London’s waterways.

“I found people didn’t know much about the three rivers on their doorstep,” Simon explains.

“We ran a survey and found 80 per cent of the population didn’t even know where the River Lea was. Most had never been to it, even though it was on their doorstep. They’re flabbergasted when we tell them.”

He spotted the Cody Dock south of the Bow Bridge while passing in on his barge. It was totally derelict, being locked up for 40 years since the old Bromley-by-Bow gasworks closed and slowly silting with tidal mud and dumped rubble.

Simon spent the next three years bargaining with Thames Water which part owns the site with Newham Council and secured a 999-year lease on a peppercorn rent.

He had the dream, but not the cash.

A £15 million Olympics Legacy project aimed to revamp the entire Lea Valley with a 26-mile ‘Fat Walk’ along the riverbank, from the river source in Hertfordshire down through Hackney Marshes, past Bow Bridge to London’s only lighthouse at Blackwall.

But the regeneration cash ran out with just one gap—Cody Dock.

Chris Gourlay’s ‘crowd sourcing’ Spacehive.com website venture seemed the answer.

The two have pledges of £60,000 in just four weeks through the website.

But they need another £80,000 if they are to make it in time to start the project before the Olympics open on July 27.

They have just 10 days left from today (Sunday) to beat the ticking website clock.


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