Regular readers of London Living will know that we’re suckers for anything that involves a local community story; whether it’s an art project, a local rugby league team or a social enterprise, stuff that involves a strong sense of community has always been a subject close to our hearts.
And that’s why we’ve taken an interest in the Ivy House, London’s first and only community-owned pub, situated in Peckham Rye. We spoke to the brains behind the operation, Tessa, about the fight to save this historic building, how important a local pub is to your local London community and much, much more…
Firstly, a community-owned pub is an awesome idea! Tell us a bit about the history of the Ivy House and the fight to keep it open – we can imagine it’s been one hell of a ride!
That’s an understatement! The current pub was built in the 1930s, although there has been a pub on the same site for considerably longer than that. The pub was Grade II listed by English Heritage on the application of CAMRA just two days before it closed in April 2012. This protected its beautiful historic interior from destruction on closure. It has a vintage music hall stage and fantastic original Trumans branding. It also has a very rich musical heritage and has hosted the likes of Elvis Costello, Joe Strummer, Ian Dury and Dr Feelgood.
It closed with five days’ notice in April 2012 and was listed by English Heritage in the nick of time. I went into the pub a few days before it was due to close to try to find out what was going on and loads of other locals were doing exactly the same thing. We hadn’t met each other before, but we ended up sat around a table in the pub talking about what we could try to do to save it. The campaign’s steering group was formed out of the same bunch of residents and we haven’t stopped fighting to save it since.
When the Localism Act came into force in the autumn of 2012, we successfully applied to Southwark Council to have the pub listed as London’s first asset of community value. When we completed the purchase on 15th March 2013, we did so as the first community to buy a building using the community right to bid for provisions in the Localism Act. The Ivy House is making history and will also be London’s first co-operative pub! We hope that this will be a chance for Nunhead to do something really special.
We financed the purchase with a mortgage from the Architectural Heritage Fund and a grant from the Social Investment Business Group. We have launched the community share issue to give us working capital to assist in getting those doors open again.
How eager were people to come forward and donate from their own pocket in order to keep the Ivy House open and functioning as a pub?
We launched our community share issue just over a month ago and have been really heartened by the response, not just in terms of people buying shares but also by how prepared so many people have been to donate their time, skills and expertise to support the Ivy House.
Nunhead is not an extremely affluent area but people are very keen on community ownership and see it as a chance to make a positive impact on their environment and to really shape the character of their own neighbourhood; not to mention having what we hope will be a fabulous venue on their doorsteps. I also think that people, quite rightly, really care about good community pubs and the important role that they still have to play in our changing communities.
We have set a target for the share issue of £100,000 by the end of May this year. It’s not only residents of SE15 who are able to buy shares, they are available to anyone who cares about pubs and who shares our ethos and vision for the building. The minimum investment is £200.
Once the Ivy House is open it will be a self-sustaining, viable business. We expect it to make a profit and be a fantastic venue; shareholders’ investments will not be required to subsidise the pub’s operating costs.
Now that the pub is community owned, how will the future of it be decided? Will everyone with a share in the building have an equal say on matters going forward (e.g. who will decide opening times, ale selections, interior décor etc.)?
The management committee consists of the original members of the campaign steering group. We are responsible for making strategic decisions about the business and for monitoring its financial performance. However, we will shortly be advertising for an experienced manager for the venue and a head chef. They, not the management committee or the shareholders, will be responsible for the day to day running of the Ivy House, in line with the vision and ethos established by the management committee. We want it to be like the old Ivy House, just better!
All shareholders will have a right to vote at annual general meetings and this will include the election of future members of the management committee. As we are a co-operative, we operate according to the principle of “one member, one vote”. This means that everyone has the same vote and right to be heard, regardless of whether they have invested £200 or £20,000. All shareholders also have a right to inspect the business’s audited accounts.
The Ivy House will be a community pub so we will also welcome input and ideas about use of the space and offers to share skills and expertise.
Just how close are you to raising enough funds so that the pub can finally open its doors again?
We’re making progress and have raised just over a quarter of our target so far. We’re always happy to talk to people about the project and how the share issue works. We can be contacted through our website.
Why and how do you think local boozers are so vital in upholding the character of a local area? Has the news that the Ivy House will be staying put dramatically changed the local community’s mood in SE15?
Good community pubs are so much more than just boozers. They offer a chance to meet your neighbours, socialise with your friends, hear music, watch comedy, a space to have your wedding or christening party and meeting space for other community groups. They are important social and cultural intersections within our neighbourhoods and many also have historic value. We should fight to protect them. There is a huge shortage of affordable housing in London and it’s understandable that there is a market for developing pubs. Of course we need more housing, but there is no point building more housing if there are no facilities and amenities, including places to go and socialise, in the area.
We hope that everyone in SE15 is excited and interested in the project and we have certainly received many messages of support. I think it has also heightened our sense of community; people feel cheered that not only is something exciting unfolding, but that they can be part of it and help shape the character of their neighbourhood.
Aside from the Ivy House (!) where is your favourite pub in all of London and why do you love it?
I love The Gowlett on Gowlett Road, SE15. I used to live round the corner and have many happy memories of evenings there – it has a no-nonsense interior, serves great pizza and beer and has very nice staff.
What is your favourite:
- Bar snack: Hot scotch egg
- Pub game: Darts
- Cocktail: I’m more of a beer girl, but I wouldn’t say no to a margarita!
Finally, tell our readers about some of the best hidden gems in and around the local SE15 area…
Not much is hidden in SE15 anymore! A few of my favourite places are Bambuni deli on Evelina Road, for their great Volcano coffee, and the amazing fishmongers Sopers, just next door. And you can’t beat a curry from Ganapati.