Switch the Docks is an interactive installation from the Institute of Imagination, commissioned by the Royal Docks Team as part of Join the Docks Autumn Programme. Find out what it’s all about!

Switch the Docks is a month-long instillation in the Crystal Park. It represents the stories from Newham residents, who were asked to imagine the dock – in the past, the present and the future.

During the second lockdown of 2020, we partnered with local community organisations to run workshops with Newham residents. We distributed over 15 activity packs, to allow participants to make their own homemade lightboxes to tell their story. We encouraged everyone to get creative. From cellophane to cardboard, they used a range of craft materials to help reimagine the Royal Docks.

Some of the stories told in the crates include:

Swallows were used to represent stories of migration. With a large proportion of Newham’s residents either born outside of the UK or second-generation immigrants, this theme of migration was a strong thread that arose in many stories.


Looking into the history of the Royal Docks, we found many famous stories that were familiar with residents. The most popular being the way elephants were transported into the Docks by cranes!


Many older residents remembered seeing rats running across the Royal Docks during their childhood.


Looking to the future, many children imaged that Royal Docks being overtaken by nature in the future, with giant fish and overgrown plants.

And of course, many participants took inspiration from the current iconic scenery you can find across the Royal Docks!




The Institute of Imagination worked with industrial designers ‘Concept Shed’ to bring the ideas to life. Playing with light and shadow, these stories were transformed into interactive and animated light box crates. The crates are a symbol of Docks. Now, you can explore the Royal Docks through a different lens. Find their stories across Crystal Gardens, Royal Victoria Dock. This installation will be in place until January 2021.

Stay Up To Date

Sign up below to receive email updates on our events, news and campaigns. View our privacy policy for details of how your data will be stored and processed.
  • I would like to hear about:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.