Marcus MacKenzie

Marcus Mackenzie

Chair of GDP Board of Trustees with lead responsibility for Business Operations and Engagement with key stakeholders

Although I have worked my whole career, so far, in law (I am a partner at a firm called Freshfields based in London), I have always harboured a desire to get involved in a business project away from the law. Freshfields was the official legal sponsor to the London Olympics and as part of its commitment to the ‘Olympic legacy’, it invited employees to sign up to ARC – a programme which sought to match people from firms involved in the programme (including Freshfields) with social enterprises in the boroughs around the Olympic Park in need of support to assist with their business growth.

And so through a ‘speed dating’ process I was paired with Simon Myers in 2012 to support him in his initial work with the trustees of GDP to get the Cody Dock project up and running. Initially my role was as mentor to Simon. But since then, my role, and the role of my firm, has developed and diversified. Teams from my firm have assisted with a range of issues – property and planning matters, disputes which have arisen from time to time, and GDP’s financing arrangements; I became a trustee and then Chair of the board of trustees – a really exciting step for me in terms of getting more involved in the development of Cody Dock and the GDP business.

I, and my firm, are very much behind the project – providing volunteers to assist with specific projects like building the Gallery, dock restoration work etc, as well as providing legal and business support.

For me, the highlights so far include being awarded various sizeable grants including the Reaching Communities grant from Big Lottery Fund and a substantial grant for the Green Recovery Fund which, together with other fundraising from a whole variety of interested parties including Thames Water and Big Issuer Invest, have transformed the financial position of GDP and make it now possible carry our some of the developments in GDP’s the master plan to restore the dock and build the various buildings to really bring Cody Dock to life.

The Cody Dock project is a shining beacon of what can be done with sheer perseverance and the cooperation of countless volunteers – to help bring about the transformation of this historical site from abandoned tip to a vibrant arts and community hub is truly exciting. All who spend time there cannot help but get inspired by both the story and the effort which so many people have made to get it this far, especially the hard work of Simon and Julia and the core team at GDP, to whom the community will owe a huge debt of gratitude for driving on with the creation of this wonderful space.

Tim Vaughan

Tim Vaughan

Trustee with lead responsibility for Cody Dock Masterplan; Risk Management and Safeguarding

On a cold winter morning at the start of 2018, I made my first visit to Cody Dock. It was to meet Simon Myers, the chief executive, and Marcus Mackenzie, who chairs the Board of Trustees. I was there for an informal interview, after I had applied to become a trustee. I remember the discussion ranging over many aspects of the plans for Cody Dock, as well as my experience for the role. Soon afterwards, Marcus contacted me to ask if I would be willing to join the Board. From what I had by then learned of GDP, I was keen to accept and I completed the formalities to be appointed that spring. 

I had first found out about GDP in late 2017 at an event called Board Match, hosted by the East London Business Alliance. For the preceding two years, I had worked with ELBA on a voluntary basis in schools around east London. By the end of 2017, I had decided I wanted to commit more to the voluntary sector and take on a more long-term responsibility with a charity. Cody Dock seemed a very good fit for my aims and my experience – it was just moving on from a mostly developmental period to one of project delivery.

Since qualifying as a chartered accountant with one of the “Big 4” firms, I have worked at several banks, including Goldman Sachs and Nomura, as an auditor. For the last 15 years, I also held management roles. However, since deciding to become more involved with the voluntary sector, I have switched to working on a part-time contract basis. Alongside that, I am now a trustee at four charities based in east London, at one as a company secretary and another as treasurer. 

Joining Cody Dock attracted me particularly because of the opportunity it gave me to contribute to the project during a critical period as it seeks fund raising and begins to implement its plans, which have now received planning permission. More fundamentally I see the Gasworks Dock Partnership as a vital initiative to create a social hub for the local community with an innovative mix of space for living, working, learning and entertainment. I expect there will be challenges along the way, but I feel confident and enthusiastic that in a few years’ time we will have transformed the dock and it will be making an important, lasting contribution to the surrounding community.

David Asuni

David Asuni

Trustee and Treasurer with lead responsibility for Treasury oversight and Education

Chair of Governors at Park Primary School
Director of Newham Partnership Working Ltd 

I believe that we all benefit when we feel welcomed and connected to the broader community that we live in; and that a sense of welcome, connection and shared ownership is particularly important for young people. In my view for this to have meaning there must be freely accessible, attractive, safe and sustainable spaces that draw people together to work, to learn and to create.

I was happy to join in with the work the GDP had already undertaken to rehabilitate and develop a contaminated dock in a way that provided work, learning, and community cohesion. I was particularly impressed that the very process of cleaning and rebuilding has been done in a way that brought together volunteers, engaged the community and created opportunities for work experience.

Recently I have been delighted to participate in activities, led by our engagement officers, to develop links with local schools and to deliver services for young people. It was great to experience the fantastic dockside choral performance given by the pupils of Star Primary School. We know that it is important to continue working with our community while also building for the future.

A lot of progress has been made toward GDP’s long-term goals, however more work is needed to realise that future and to ensure that progress to date is not lost or diluted.

I am very grateful to all of the people and organisations that have contributed so much time and resource to bring us to this point. The vision that will bring public activity to the dock and on the river is a commendable one and with your support, the trustees, the staff and volunteers are working hard to bring that vision fully to life.

Bianca Mawani

Bianca Mawani

Trustee and Board Secretary with lead responsibility for Human Resources and GDP Charitable Objects and policies

Having grown up (and worked) in London, I have a true appreciation and admiration of the great diversity of people who live side by side in this city, and I have been fortunate enough to build friendships with neighbours who have become like extended family. Community is therefore very important to me and I think that everybody should have safe, welcoming spaces which encourage people to come together and connect with their wider community. In my spare time, I enjoy travelling, dancing, hiking and I love to get out and explore.

I have worked in the City for 8 years (initially at a commercial law firm and now in-house at an asset manager) and was keen to get involved in a project outside of work in East London. When I came across GDP/Cody Dock (via the East London Business Alliance), I was very excited to join a charity which combined my interest in the community and the outdoors, and which had already been instrumental in developing a contaminated space in a way that engaged people who live and work nearby. I was particularly inspired by the enthusiasm that Simon had (and continues to have) for the projects at Cody Dock.

If you are reading this, I would really encourage you to come to visit Cody Dock, whether it is to one of the art or cultural events, for a walk along the river, or to try some of the yummy food available from the Cody Dock Café. Hope to see you there soon!

Martin Torres

Martin Torres

Trustee with lead responsibility for Board Growth and development; Projects and Logistics

I was born in Colombia and moved to the UK more than 15 years ago, initially to do an MBA, but then I had the opportunity to develop my professional career and stay. I have always been very grateful for the opportunities that this country and especially London has given me. As a result , I decided to look for a project in which I could actively participate and which would allow me to give back.

From the moment I walked through the Cody Dock gate back in 2016, I fell in love with this project.  Next to the gate was a room that served as an art gallery and some children from local schools were painting with an artist.  On the site itself, were volunteers who, despite the rain, were gardening and preparing for a community Halloween party.

It only took me a few minutes to realise that I was in the right place. The community spirit, the sense of belonging and the feeling of togetherness inspired me to want to join immediately.

As I have extensive experience in Finance, Supply Chain and Project Management, operating across a wide range of global and domestic industries, including telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, banking, and consulting, I thought I might be of some help. This was the first time I have ever worked for a charity, so I have also been able to learn new things, and since I became a trustee, I have been really pleased to assist in fundraising campaign preparation and in working closely with local authorities, community and our valued sponsors.

The Covid-19 pandemic upended all our lives. We learned that “community” is really essential. People realised the importance of human connection, and those who didn’t have that kind of support, realised they needed it. And so, Cody Dock fulfilled that role – as a place for everyone to socialise, volunteer, learn something new, grow things or simply have a coffee and enjoy something different. I am so proud and happy to be part of that.