An icon at risk

Why it’s Great the George Tavern was Saved!

An icon at risk

East London once had a local pub on every corner – now they’re a collection of soulless flat conversions blotting a divided community. The George Tavern was one of the many local institutions struggling to survive a deluge of KFC rip offs and an ever greedy Tower Hamlets council looking for a quick buck. Thankfully the iconic pub has been saved, for now at least.

A typical Shadwell Scene
A typical Shadwell scene

I moved to Shadwell a year ago and I’ve struggled to find anywhere to go bar fried chicken shops, cramped grocery stores run by rude shopkeepers and… fried chicken shops. Yes, there are chicken shops everywhere. As are their remains – empty fast food boxes and gnawed poultry bones litter the streets between the City and Canary Wharf.

Unfortunately I just missed Peter’s Pie and Mash Shop next to Shadwell station, I would have loved to have spent a lazy saturday there. I hear their menu was simply:

  • one pie, one mash
  • two pie, two mash
  • and the ultimate: three pie, three mash

Not even my cholesterol can rejoice – It’s closed and has recently been replaced by a FRIED CHICKEN SHOP. Exactly what Tower Hamlets has been dying for.

Cultural beacon

There is a beacon of hope in the borough. Somewhere people from all walks of life can meet, be cultured and support a local business and institution. The George Tavern has been a form of public house for 700 years and was mentioned by Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens. Being on Commercial Road it’s off the radar of the now thriving Shoreditch and Brick Lane scenes making it one of London’s glowing secret gems.

Only the wafting sounds of electronica managed to lure me into what I thought was an old man’s boozer. To my surprise I managed to stumble on a shabby chic haven that’s a venue for arts, theatre and music. Probably the most diverse pub venue in London, where anything goes – classical chamber music, contemporary experimental jazz, folk, vintage sales, art exhibitions, rock and pop bands, ska.

The George supports and welcomes just about any creative entity to showcase their talents.

Saved – for now

Photo by Joe Plommer and Courtesy of The OAE
Classical music from the OAE in The George

I was in the middle of writing a long sermon about why The George Tavern must survive – but thankfully, whilst sitting in it’s beer garden, I learnt it’s been saved (for now)! They announced on their Facebook page that due to noise concerns permission was denied by the planning officer to redevelop Stepney’s, the adjacent night club where Pulp’s Common People music video was filmed, into residential property.

Turning Stepney’s into the planned luxury flats would have seen the residents complain about their new neighbour’s sound system. This would have led to The George’s late night license being lost and ultimately the end of their business. Why Tower Hamlets decided to sell the club to Swan Housing is a bafflement in the first place [Amendment – I have just learned that in fact Swan Housing bought the property from Grovershire Ltd for £1million – without planning permission, using taxpayers money for social housing – awarded to them by Tower Hamlets council]. Maybe they thought Swan could create a sparkling commercial unit under the apartments, fit for a chicken shop.

So congratulations to Pauline Forster, the George’s landlord. She’s not only created it – she’s also managed to save it. The George Tavern,  one of London’s greatest pubs and arts venues, is still going to be here for you to discover and fall in love with.