The Massive (And Massively Controversial) Stratford Sphere

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 6 months ago
The Massive (And Massively Controversial) Stratford Sphere
A huge purple globe rises above Stratford
The MSG Sphere London would be nearly identical to the MSG Sphere Las Vegas. Image: MSG Sphere London

A massive spherical entertainment arena in Stratford is in the offing — and not everyone's bowled over by the prospect.

We've previously reported on the proposed MSG Sphere London — the globular brainchild of The Madison Square Garden Company, which would blaze out adverts from thousands of LED screens for up to 25 years — but right now it's back in the headlines, as its identical sibling has just opened in Las Vegas, with Irish rock band U2 making it a temporary home.

The 'Stratford Sphere' would hold a crowd of 21,500. Image: MSG Sphere London

The Edge has even called it "a canvas of unparalleled scale", and it's exactly that which lots of people are worried about re. Stratford's iteration of the Sphere. While it's all well and good plopping a 300-foot-tall crystal ball in the middle of Vegas (that's the kind of stunt the city was made for, after all) is it really apt for a residential district of east London?

Plenty don't think so. Among those opposed to the plans for the 21,500 seater arena are east London MPs and residents, TfL, Network Rail and Historic England. They feel that having this over-inflated football on their patch would be a breach in planning policy, that it'll take up valuable affordable housing space, steal trade from local businesses, cause congestion at Stratford station, dazzle locals and tube drivers with its bright LED advertising screens, and subject them to months-long renditions of 'Beautiful Day'. (We might've made the last one up.) A Stop MSG Sphere London group has launched a petition against the £800 million sphere, while Green Party Deputy Leader of England and Wales, Zack Polanski said: "People in hotel rooms in Vegas... only have to put up with it for a day or two but the fact that would become your daily life feels inhumane."

Some kind of trippy stage show
Not quite sure what's going on here, but it's something the Stratford Sphere will be capable of doing. Image: MSG Sphere London

And to that, the developers say... well they basically say everything will be fiiiine. The venue, they claim, will 'pioneer the next generation of immersive experiences', not to mention create thousands of jobs. Also, they're happy to give residents free blackout blinds. Which is a bit like installing a giant shower head above people's houses and offering them free sandbags, but hey.

The Stratford Sphere still isn't going ahead for sure. While it's been given the green light by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, still has to give final approval (and remember, he did nix that controversial 'Tulip' skyscraper) as does Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. A lot of east Londoners are going to be praying one of them will stop this huge ball from rolling towards their homes.

Last Updated 04 October 2023