For our Ministructures series, artist Lucy Sparrow sews us a mini version of a famous London landmark each week. For each one she makes, we interview a person with an interesting story to tell about it. Today we meet Giles Broadbent, 47, newspaper editor.
Tell us what you do in this mighty tower.
‘I’m editor of The Wharf, a newspaper for Canary Wharf and the surrounding areas. I started this job in 2008, just when the crash was happening. It was an interesting time.’
This area hasn’t got the best reputation since the crisis…
‘In the height of the crash Canary Wharf became the icon of bust banks. I don’t defend what happened at all but the vast majority of people who work here aren’t big-money gamblers – they’re back-office staff who rarely come into contact with money. Also, there’s a lot of corporate outreach work that goes on here – programmes that help people in the community, schools, elderly people. The banks did some bad things, but this is not the centre of villainy.’
Why do you think One Canada Square is such a landmark?
‘It was the tallest building in Britain for a long time, until the Shard came along. And it’s the go-to place for people filming a story about the City – it’s shorthand for the financial centre. They even fly over it in “The Apprentice”.’
What’s it like working here?
‘You feel like you’re right in the centre of things – where it’s happening. When The Wharf started in 1998, there were only 19,000 people in the area. Now there are 100,000. Things change here all the time. Canary Wharf is about to overtake the City as London’s preeminent financial centre – because there’s so much space here for development. And it’s quickly becoming a digital hub, a la Shoreditch.’
Wait – so Canary Wharf will soon be full of hipsters?
‘Not necessarily, but things are evolving rapidly.’
You work in the building, right? You must have a great view…
‘I used to work on the 19th floor, and I could see the bend in the river at the Isle of Dogs, the Royal Docks and the Thames Barrier. From there London really looks like a city of water, like Venice. But now I’m on the 22nd floor, and I don’t have a window seat…’
Bummer. Tell us something we might not know about this tower.
‘The light at the top can be seen for 20 miles – and it flashes 40 times a minute. I also have a fact about the area – the Canary Wharf estate has one of the largest collections of public art in the country. My favourite piece is a sculpture by Giles Penney, of a giant man with his arms raised like he’s greeting the sun. People don’t expect that kind of thing to be in the Wharf, it’s got a reputation for being quite sterile.’
What do you make of our little Canary Dwarf?
‘It’s quite cute. I think it should be left in strange places for people to adopt for the day. They could take it home to their kids and say, “this is where I work!”’ Interview: Flo Wales Bonner
Read more from the Ministructures series.