A Revolution With Soul: How The Antwerp Arms Was Rescued By The Community

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 44 months ago
A Revolution With Soul: How The Antwerp Arms Was Rescued By The Community

Some of the Antwerp Arms Association team who helped save the pub from being turned into housing. Photo by Anna Gudaniec

The sad parade of pubs being marched off to their deaths by developers is a sight so common it's wearying. A sigh of inevitability greets the grinding conveyor belt conversion from ales to apartments.

So news that The Antwerp Arms in Tottenham has been bought by the local community after a hard-fought two-year battle is a ringing bell of hope.

When Enterprise Inns sold the pub — affectionately known to locals as The Annie — to be turned into flats, it prompted a paroxysm of protest, even from those who didn't drink there. This was the final straw for many who saw the Tottenham they had lived in for decades, the Tottenham they'd raised families in, being washed away by a tidal wave of identikit housing.

"It's a small pub," says Ashley Grey, one of the founder members of the Antwerp Arms Association, "but it's got a big heart. Losing it would have been like taking the smile off a face. It really brings people together."

Following a community meeting, a group of locals banded together to officially designate the pub as an 'asset of community value', and, like the superb Ivy House in Nunhead before it, mounted a campaign to buy it. Thanks to donations from residents, breweries and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, they will now ensure The Annie remains what the best pubs have always been — a focal point for residents.

The path to buying the pub may have been a battle, but it's now that the real work starts. Yet it's being fuelled by a determined long-term vision, buoyed by the success of the campaign.

A team of volunteers — called Annie's Angels — is being assembled, their first job is to spruce up the pub in time for its re-opening at the May Day bank holiday.

Once the doors are open again, the pub aims to become a home for community groups. Ashley says they're inviting everyone from drawing classes to local football teams to use the venue for free.

Setting out the plans. Photo by Anna Gudaniec

And there's a wider agenda here — the skills learned in mobilising the community to overcome another housing development is hoped to inspire others facing the closure of their local. Members of the association will be at the pub every week to provide workshops, advice and help to others.

Neatly exemplifying the greater aim of its community owners is the pub's Tottenham Ploughman's, which includes locally-brewed Redemption beer, Wildes cheese, and chutney made by the local WI. N17's gargantuan regeneration project will produce a High Street that looks like all others in the country. Chain coffee shops, estate agents and a WHSmith line up, while Tesco Metro, Sainsbury's Local, Little Waitrose and Morrisons M duke it out for the rest of the retail space. The Annie will provide the counterbalance.

"We need to complement the huge regeneration that's happening on the High Street, with something interesting and beautiful," says Ashley. "Tottenham has Craving Coffee, a fish smokers, cheese maker, brewers — and we want the pub to help show we have a local economy and that we need people spending their money locally and investing in local people and businesses.

"We hope in a  few years we'll have a farmers' market, festivals, and outdoor cinema — this is just the first step to bring Tottenham back for local people who believe in it."

What's happened here is not top-down development but grassroots-up regeneration. It may be on a smaller scale than creating hundreds of homes, but it's got more soul.

For more information about how to get involved with the pub's future, see the Antwerp Arms Association Facebook page and website. The pub opens on 24 April.

Last Updated 15 April 2015