Artist's impression of the proposed MSG Sphere in the Olympic Park, Stratford. Photograph: The Madison Square Garden Company

MSG Sphere in Olympic Park: exciting music venue or unwelcome blob?

The campaign against the MSG Sphere planned for Stratford Olympic Park reaches new heights but other residents are keen to see its arrival 

With days left before the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) decides if plans for a new music venue in the Olympic Park will go ahead, opposition to the proposed development is heating up.

If approved by the LLDC on 28 September, the new music venue, the Madison Square Gardens (MSG) Sphere, would be the largest capacity concert arena in the UK standing at 90 meters high and 120 meters wide. 

The arena will be covered in LED panels that will display adverts and concert footage. Just about the same height as the Orbit, and as wide as the London Eye, it will be visible to the surrounding neighourhoods including Fish Island, Bow, Hackney Wick and Bromley-by-Bow.

The pressure group ‘Against the MSG Sphere London’ and its petition has gained over 2,100 signatures and is ramping up its campaign ahead of the decision being made on 28 September.

Ceren Sonmez, one of the pressure group’s organisers, said that more and more people are showing interest in, and joining, the campaign. She added: ‘It is incredible how involved people are wanting to be.’

Sonmez said one of the campaign’s main concerns is overcrowding in Stratford, both in the area and in the station: ‘If you chuck in another 20,000 people, it will make the area unbearably busy,’ she said. 

She also added that light pollution will be bad for residents’ health and well-being, particularly during the winter months. It is thought that some residents could be exposed to LED lighting for up to 18 hours during the day, which could potentially disrupt people’s circadian rhythm. 

Alongside the main venue’s capacity for 21,500 people, the Sphere will also house smaller music venues and nightclubs and will be open throughout the year. This, Sonmez added, will cause further unwanted night-time noise and disturbance for neighbours.

For Sonmez, the campaign is highly personal: she moved to Stratford in 2018 and, the day she collected the keys, she was notified of the proposed development. Sonmez said it was ‘devastating’ to learn that her new home would be opposite the proposed arena.

But not all residents are against the plans.

Long-term Wick Lane resident, Michael Dover, thinks that the arrival of the MSG Sphere on his doorstep would be an exciting addition to the changing face of Stratford. Dover said that before the Olympics, Stratford ‘was so down in the heel’ but, after 2012, and subsequent continued investment, Stratford was becoming a more attractive place to live in and visit. 

He added that such a proposed plan will create jobs for locals and business ‘spin-offs’, with concert-goers seeking out nearby restaurants and bars before and after the event. Dover said he believes that ‘it will bring a lot into the economy of Stratford’.

A self-confessed nightclub and music enthusiast, he added: ‘If there are events that appeal to me, I will go.’

Dover concluded by saying that by bringing the MSG Sphere to Stratford, it is ‘moving the heart of London to East London, and I really, really welcome it.’

If you would like to voice your support or objection to the proposals, join the LLDC’s meeting on 28 September: 

If you liked reading this article, take a look at our book review of Regeneration Songs: Sounds of Investment and Loss from East London.

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