Tale of fume and fury


Forman's Games: The dark underside of the London Olympics
Biteback, £20

It's a good thing for Lance Forman, author of Forman's Games: The dark underside of the London Olympics (Biteback, £20), that his book - and this review - didn't come out in October. Because, he writes, October is "the month that's borne witness to every one of the greatest catastrophes suffered by H. Forman & Son during the past twenty-five years."

This includes a fire, a flood - and a forced relocation by the Olympics committee. This last is the book's ostensible story - how one East End, family-run business stood up to the London Development Agency. But it is actually a wider ranging memoir.

Lance Forman, owner of the nation's oldest salmon smoking business, begins with his time at Cambridge, then as an accountant at PWC and special adviser to John Major before joining the family fish business. All this builds up to the Olympic Games story.

In 2005, Forman's smoked salmon manufacturers - situated in the East End since its establishment in 1905 - was forced to relocate to make way for the 2012 Olympic stadium. And Forman writes at length about the painful search for a new site, alleging dodgy deals and evasions by the LDA and various property groups and steering committees associated with the Games.

While the press, in the run-up to the Olympics, largely presented a positive view of a boost in employment, tourism and goodwill to all men, Forman claims that many of the decades-old, family businesses pushed out by the Games buckled and accepted a pay-off to close down, rather than try, like Forman, and fight the LDA, or relocate.

Lance Forman worked hard to stand up for his business, and the livelihood of those who worked for him; he took on the role of press spokesperson, PR and private investigator on his own behalf.

One has to admit that the prospect of reading a book about smoked salmon production and massive construction activity is not the most compelling. But I did find myself compelled to get to the end and find out how this small, family outfit combated the might of the LDA (learning along the way about the transformation of smoked salmon from a staple of the Jewish East End into a gourmet foodstuff).

You can decide for yourself who really won the contest - the Olympics or Forman. Nevertheless, like any hardy entrepreneur, Forman ultimately made the situation work to his advantage, turning his new premises into a prime venue, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner , all with a view of the Olympic stadium.

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