This afternoon I spoke to Iain Loe, Camra's Research and Information Manager. He was really helpful and gave me a bit of background - they have indeed been watching this closely, although they hadn't been provided with any dates or confirmation of "demolition". Iain then put me in touch with John Cryne of Camra North London who said: "We have just ended a long battle to Save The Duke of Hamilton in Hampstead, which is looking as if it has been successful. I am getting our forces into order. We have been awaiting this bad news for a few months." Couldn't ask for a better response, really, could you?
I hope you're as heartened by this as we are.
I'd also like to address the obvious question. "If it's been sold, why even bother doing anything?" I work for a community development charity, and I know that there's never any guarantee that anything will happen as a result of your campaign; but if you don't speak up at all it definitely won't. I think this one's worth protesting about. Think about how bad we'd feel if scaffolding just goes up in the dead of night one weekend in October. No fanfare. The Wenlock is just not there anymore. Don't you at least want to say you tried to stop it?
So what can you do?
1. Spread the word
- First off, make sure all your friends know that it's closing - someone (I guess the property developers) are keeping this very quiet. People who loved the Wenlock deserve to know what's happening and have a chance to say goodbye.
- Next, let the world know that you loved it. The Wenlock is, as the Drapers Arms said this morning, an iconic pub. It's possible that whoever's bought it just doesn't realise it's not just any old random scruffy boozer (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's the Wenlock! You never know, we might be able to convince the developers that a pub with this degree of heritage will be an asset to the block of flats that's going up next door.
- Do you blog or Twitter yourself? Please do tell your readers about this campaign.
- Do you know any people or organisations who you think might be concerned? This could be community groups, local papers, national organisations, journalists. Do you know anyone that works locally? Maybe it's their office pub. Tell them! What about other local businesses? And so on - make sure everyone who loves the Wenlock knows what's happening. The more of us that do this the better.
- Add this (or something similar) to your email signature:
2. Help us get to the bottom of the planning issue
The planning issue is, frankly, a bit murky. A couple of people on Twitter have asked if this is even legal. The honest answer is - despite a law degree in my distant past - I don't know. This is what I do know:
- The Wenlock Arms is on the border of Islington and Hackney, so I searched both borough's websites. A search on Islington Council's planning applications returns no results for the keyword "wenlock", but you do get a few on Hackney's website - click here for details. Basically, there are quite a few documents relating to the development of the adjacent site on Wenlock Road - but they specifically exclude the pub.
- The developers for the adjacent site are these people - LondonNewcastle. (Fans of indie dance from 2002 will enjoy the website, because it amusingly plays "Girls" by Death In Vegas at you whether you like it or not). I called them this afternoon and asked if someone from the Wenlock Road project could call me back to confirm or deny whether their development included the pub. I haven't heard back from them. If anyone else is feeling a bit Nancy Drew and wants to try and find out, then please do!
3. Get involved with Camra
- If you aren't already a member, join. It's cheap and they are brilliant. You can find your local branch here: http://www.camra.org.uk/page.aspx?o=100283
- John Cryne, Chairman of North London Camra, has posted a comment on one of the blog posts - he said "By chance we have a meeting in the pub next Tuesday night the 21st - all welcome! Hopefully a chance to find out more." So that's good, innit.
- See also this thread on the Camra forum - there's some really interesting comments about planning issues. Thanks to The Beer Nut for getting that started!
4. Go to the Wenlock.
Just go. That's it. Go. At every available opportunity, go. Try an ale you've never had before, and treat it like it's your last night there.
Thanks for everything so far - let's keep the good fight going.