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Centre for East London Studies (CELS)

Docklands campus at night

About us

When UEL colleagues, particularly Professor Tim Butler (now Kings College) and Professor Michael Rustin, set up a journal called Rising East in the 1990s, it represented the beginning of a twenty year period of UEL research on East London. Several books, journal articles, reports and working papers have since been published by UEL staff, many of whom have, over recent years, been associated with the Centre for East London Studies (CELS). CELS, established by UEL’s now Professor Emeritus, Phil Cohen, provided a home for those of us who sought to study the transformation of an area that shifted rapidly from the industrial to the emergence of the new financial centre in Canary Wharf in the 1980s and 90s and hosted the Olympic Games in 2012. The continuous process of ‘regeneration’ associated with these developments provided the context for research that focussed primarily upon their impacts on the local, diverse, vibrant but socially disadvantaged communities resident in the city’s east side.
CELS has existed as a research group since 1993 publishing two pioneering books (Rising in the East?: The Regeneration of East London, Butler and Rustin 1996; and Butler ed 2000 Eastern promise: education and social renewal in London's Docklands) along with an online journal ’Rising East’.
Just as the sub-regional regeneration programme was getting under way. It has established a broad network of research fellows and collaborative links with external partners ranging from universities in Brazil to local development agencies such as the Greater London Authority.
Since 2008, CELS has produced a series of multi-authored books on East London and urban regeneration. These have been complemented by single authored texts, journal articles and reports for a number of local, national and regional agencies. Our research has analysed major public interventions in urban regeneration - the Thames Gateway Development Zone; the impact of London 2012 on urban regeneration in East London and other recent host cities, and the implications of the credit crunch and subsequent recession on London’s economic, social and cultural life. Notable outcomes from this body of research include:
  • the development of new theoretical approaches to understanding mega events, especially the concept of ‘legacy’ and its implications for local communities, social equality and urban development
  • the exploration of cross-country, comparative research on the ‘legacies’ achieved by Olympic host cities
  • the provision of evaluations and analysis designed to inform the process of review and development of public policy-making in domestic and international contexts
  • analysis and assessment of the economic models informing contemporary and the social implications of public investments and interventions in regions with high concentrations of disadvantage.
The Centre for East London Studies (CELS) aims to stimulate debates about the changing nature of East London, and its place in the world. We conduct research and consultancy on issues of urban regeneration, focusing on the economic, social and cultural development of East London and the Thames Gateway. We aim to provide information, research and teaching resources that enable policy-makers, businesses and local communities to understand the processes and impacts of development and thereby help optimise regeneration outcomes.
CELS is also interested in more than just questions about the regeneration of East London and looks to promote the examination of broader social science questions concerning social integration, social justice and social change. If you are interested in getting involved with the work of CELS or are commissioning research please contact:

Research and Consultancy

The Centre for East London Studies seeks to promote understanding and debate about urban change in East London. To mark four years since hosting the games we have undertaken a number of interviews with academics, activists and policy makers. In our video below Dr Penny Bernstock, Director of the Centre for East London Studies interviews Dr Paul Brickell, Director of Regeneration & Community Partnerships for the London Legacy Development Corporation on some of the benefits and challenges of legacy.

Visit the centre's YouTube channel to view more.

Other Projects

Information coming soon.

Information coming soon.
Information coming soon.

Information coming soon.


After a decade as a printed journal, in 2004 Rising East went online at

Combining academic analysis and journalistic insight, it brought together contributions from staff, students, corporations and community groups in the attempt to describe the new East London, and account for the successes and failures of regional regeneration.

In 2013 Rising East was re-launched as an online magazine covering the East London region. On a day-to-day basis it is staffed by UEL Journalism students, but it remains open to contributions from all UEL students and staff, and from members of surrounding communities.

If you have an idea for an article, please contact the editor, Andrew Calcutt

Winter, Aaron (2013) ‘Race, Multiculturalism and the “Progressive” Politics of London 2012: Passing the Boyle Test’, Sociological Research Online, V. 18, #2 (31 May).

In September 2013, CELS co hosted with UEL colleagues a Conference on Olympic Legacies as a result of which two publications are in production:

'The London Olympics and Urban Development:: the mega-event city' (Routledge)

'Cities and Mega-events' (Ashgate)

Bernstock, P. (2013) Olympic Housing: A Critical Review, Aldershot, Ashgate

Bernstock P. (2010) BBC Thinkpiece on Housing Legacy 5th December 2010

Bernstock, P. (2013) Tensions and Contradictions in London's inclusive  Housing Legacy in International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development (November 2013)

Bernstock, P. (2012) Olympic Housing sidelined Olympic Regeneration in Guardian Housing Network 28th July 2012

Bernstock, P. (2008) Neighbourhood Watch: Building New Communities: learning Lessons from the Thames Gateway, London, Shelter, June 2008,

Bernstock, P. (2006) Affordable housing in Thames Gateway:  A study of S106 agreements Commissioned by  Davis Arnold Cooper

Calcutt, A. (2014) ‘Fictitious Capital: London and the financial imagination’, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, Special Issue: The Financial Imagination, Spring 2014

Cohen, P. and Rustin, M. (eds.) (2008) London’s Turning – The Making of Thames Gateway, London: Ashgate

LERI (2007): A Lasting Legacy for London? Assessing the legacy of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games A Commissioned Research review by the London Assembly

MacRury, I. & Poynter, G. (2009) ‘London’s Olympic Legacy, a ‘Thinkpiece'

MacRury, I. & Poynter, G. (2008). The Regeneration Games: Commodities, Gifts and the Economics of London 2012∗. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 25(14), 2072-2090.

Poynter, G. Calcutt, A. MacRury, I. (Eds) (2012) London after Recession, a fictitious capital? Aldershot, Ashgate

Poynter G. (2006) From Beijing to Bow Bells: Measuring the Olympics Effect, London East Research Institute, Working Papers in Urban Studies, London: UEL mimeo ISBN 1-874210-64-0and Sport, 23rd February 2012

Poynter, G., & MacRury, I. (Eds.). (2009). Olympic cities: 2012 and the remaking of London. Aldershot Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

University of East London and Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability for Economic & Social Research Council on behalf of LOCOG, (2010) 'Olympic Games Impact Study - London 2012 Pre-Games Report'


The MRes in Architecture “Reading the Neoliberal City” analyses the impact of capitalist neo-liberalism on development. It examines neo-liberal policies over the last 30 years and their effects on urban layout, property markets, architectural form and social justice.

Topics for study include the privatisation, monetisation and polarisation of cities and the consequences for their citizens in terms of trust and fear.

Architecture at UEL is based in our Docklands campus, in a pioneer area for neo-liberal models of development and a key study site for the course.

Equivalent to the first year of a PhD, the course is led by Doug Spencer and Anna Minton, and has two key components. Spencer’s modules focus on critical writing about the city, while Minton’s investigate contemporary policy and politics. These include the privatisation of public space, and the politics of housing and urban policy. Students also write their own thesis.

While London is the focus, the global impact of these processes are relevant across the world. Each year, the course will include an international workshop, based in a different European city. For more information on the course please follow the link.

Public Engagement

The Centre for East London Studies (CELS) works with a range of agencies with the intentions of stimulating debate and furthering our understanding of the rapid transformation of East London and the Thames Gateway.

We have worked with a range of relevant agencies either as consultants or on joint projects such as a seminar programme with the London Legacy Development Corporation and on research projects funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, The GLA and Shelter and have provided evidence at government inquiries, along with organising a number of conferences related to Legacy.

We have excellent working relationships with scholars exploring mega events and Olympic impacts in other cities such as Sydney and Rio.

We are happy to respond to media enquiries and provide bespoke lectures on regeneration in East London including legacy.

In the coming year 2014/15 we plan to extend our work with local schools and provide information for students interested in exploring the impact of legacy. We are keen to publish a range of views on the regeneration of East London and welcome contributions to Rising East. If you have something you would like to write about the regeneration of East London then please submit to the Editor Andrew Calcutt at

If you would like to get involved in our work please email Penny Bernstock.


Dr Penny Bernstock

Mike Rustin

Allan Brimicombe

Ralph Ward

Debbie Humphry

Melissa Herman

Jane Stokes