It’s hard to believe how time flies and how our story really maps the progression and development of the Docklands and Isle of Dogs we know today.
Back in 1989 the Docklands area of East London was a very different place in terms of support for parents and child-carers. There were nurseries in the state sector but nothing available if one didn’t fulfill the criteria to get a place, and the private nursery sector was tiny. There were some terrific child-minders but not much else. Pre-war and before East London had been home to some of the poorest people in Britain (it is still home to some of the poorest, now living cheek by jowl with some of the wealthiest which makes it a complex environment).
After the second world war the docks become depopulated and were desperately in need of regeneration by the 1970’s. By the mid 1980’s the new residents of the area were artists who loved the spacious warehouses at knock down prices. By the time we arrived it had become a fascinating and vibrant area to live in. I guess what we are saying is the East London we love and have huge pride in being part of is not a new development, it is 30 years in the making.
Jill Wheatcroft and I moved to Wapping in the mid 1980’s, neighbours living in a ‘new’ development – the beginning of the redevelopment of the waterfront from Tower Bridge down to the Isle of Dogs. I had my first child in 1989 and Jill was by this time working as a paediatric nursing sister at Barts Hospital. We realised very quickly that there wasn’t infrastructure for people like us, the new East-Ender (and yes Angie Watts from the show lived on our Estate – coming across Brian May at the front door was plain strange the first time we bumped into him).
The real jolt into reality came for me when I wanted to return to work only to be told by a snobbish west london nanny agenct that ‘no-one will come and work in East London, forget it you’d better move.’ How wrong she was. Perhaps I should thank her profusely retrospectively as it acted as the trigger to create Riverside Cares.
Between the the barbed comment from the westie and opening of the first segment of our business, Riverside Nannies, Jill travelled extensively in Africa with a game plan for us to launch in April 1989. Our first client was the then Editor of the female section of the Daily Mail, how times have changed this was seen as innovative in print journalism, Tessa Hilton, without telling us went on to write a two page spread on her experience with us. We were meanwhile carving out a reputation as flexible and found ourselves with, and still do today, a huge client database of freelancers, at this stage all flooding into the East End looking for support services, think BritArt folk. We entirely understood what it means when you get a contract and you have to have someone you trust care for you child immediately – basically we still are the folks that properly understand how to offer that support.
Meanwhile a whole world was flying up floor by floor around us – Canary Whalf was built, the DLR and the speeding drivers nightmare Limehouse Link tunnel (don’t even ask how many tyre changes were needed from pothole and lumps of metal dropped on the road – or the afternoons when electrics just disappeared as major work was taking place down the road.
The Dinner and Dance held in the Limehouse Link Tunnel the night before it opened to the public – unveiled as the most expensive road at that time in Europe, was a grand affair. Parachute silk draping the walls, silver service and a dance floor. Peak under the table and the white line on the read was under our feet! Invited as Docklands pathfinders, we were chuffed to be there.
For three years I relocated to New York and returning to London full time last summer, an experience that was invaluable enabling us to widen our operations and bring to our UK business innovations and ideas.
So, 25 years later where are we now, supplying schools, day care, nurseries and creches, an accredited Cache training establishment, teachers of parenting skills and paediatric first aid, supplier of tutors, babysitters, nannies and a lot in between. Jill is now a Lecturer in Child Health, Heather Wilkinson Director of Training and I continue encouraging people to develop their skills and presentation alongside supporting families to find the best solutions for their needs .
This year in our continuing effort to respond to what families need in 2014, we have launched an Elderly Care section, or as we like to think of it wrap around care for all the needs of a family from newborn to the elderly, and support for workers wishing to find work in these sectors, training or update of skills.
All in all it’s been a splendid 25 years. Thanking all our customers for their amazing support.
Gaby Morris and Jill Wheatcroft
020 7374 6363