Painful start for London's Pleasure Gardens

Thu Aug 2, 2012 11:18am EDT
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By Venetia Rainey

LONDON (Reuters) - The plan was ambitious: to turn a rundown docklands site on the River Thames into a cultural oasis, but the London Pleasure Gardens have so far failed to live up to their name, leading the venue's artistic director to resign this week.

Harnessing public enthusiasm for the Olympics, organizers aimed to create a reincarnation of the cultural amusement parks of the 18th and 19th centuries on the scruffy 20 acre site.

But the reality is markedly different, with half of the east London festival site shut and even the open half verging on empty.

Reasons for the shortcomings are various, but appear to stem from the expense and time needed to clean up the post-industrial site, and from visitor restrictions imposed over the Olympic period.

Apart from a short statement on the visitor limits, the gardens' management said they were too busy to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Co-director Deborah Armstrong, who quit the project this week, said she did not feel that the team's original vision was being followed.

"Hopefully the road will swing toward it again at some point," Armstrong, who is also the organizer of a dance and performance area at the Glastonbury festival, said in a personal blog post.

Disappointed traders say the Gardens are in part a victim of London's "Olympic effect", whereby visitors have been deterred by warnings to avoid attractions and the capital's public transport during the Games.   Continued...