Following my visit on Monday morning, I’m still feeling slightly depressed. If you include me, the site manager, cleaner, statue of bear and the statue of tiger and boy, you still can’t reach double figures for visitors. There is only one shop that isn’t completely empty – Frank & Steins sandwich shop – but even that seems to have ceased trading. The extremely clean toilets are a sign of the suspended animation that Tobacco Dock (TD) finds itself in. Absolute radio is piped through the excellent tannoy system, but for who to listen to? Howard Jones’ “What is Love?” setting just about the right, slightly downbeat, tone. On the surface, life appears to carry on here as though it was still the bustling shopping centre it had briefly been. TD is waiting for something, or someone, to come and rescue it, like a billionaire freezing himself until science can bring him back to life.
I’m sure, some time in the late 1980’s, I visited this place in it’s “heyday”. There was Next, the Body Shop and Monsoon representing the thrusting new 80’s vision of retail perfection. But on Monday morning that seemed to be nothing more than a dream of a previous me, in a previous, more optimistic life. With no firm plans in the pipeline, the immediate future for TD cannot be good. It’s owners have spoken about redevelopment for a few years now, but nothing concrete has been put in place. And who, in the current climate, is going to pump money into a site that seems to define the term white elephant? And I haven’t even mentioned the faux pirate ship that is, well, just rubbish. It has turnstiles built into the side of the ship to control entry, more than a trifle optimistic me thinks. It’s a shame as Wapping is such an interesting area, excellent pubs on Wapping High St, and more history than you can shake a stick at. Even my Flickr photos show that the surroundings of TD are not all bad. The path that runs along the dock, the imposing TD gates, both have a certain appeal, but until something is done to TD itself, there is no reason to go there. None at all. But I’m going to leave it to Howard Jones to leave us on a more upbeat note – from “Like To Get To Know You Well”;
People wanna talk about the future
Don’t wanna linger on the past
Just wanna reach to the real you inside
Forget cold glances and rejections
Leave the things that separate
Build on a trust that we can stand on
So, Tobacco Dock, forget those cold glances and rejections, and build on that trust. A golden future may still be just around the corner. It’s probably a very big corner though.