Plenty of venues claim to be iconic, but few genuinely merit that status. Stepney’s historic George Tavern has a pretty good case, though. For the last decade and a half it has played a vital part in the East End and London’s alternative music scene, putting on acts like Nick Cave and Anna Calvi, hosting photoshoots for Justin Timberlake, running club nights and generally giving up-and-coming artists and local audiences a great pub-venue experience – rough around the edges, defiantly non-gastro, loud, crowded, buzzing. But now, like so many venues across the capital and the country, it’s struggling to survive and is crowdfunding to keep paying its £5,000 a month running costs with no punters coming through its doors.
It was hardly plain sailing for the pub even before the current crisis. Back in 2008, its future was under threat after planning was granted for posh flats (what else?) to be built on the site of a disused nightclub next door. That would have almost certainly have resulted in the pub losing its late licence because of noise complaints from the new residents. After a protracted campaign that saw celebrity endorsements from the likes of Ian McKellen and Kate Moss (and generated possibly the only piece of merch ever to be worn by both Johnny Vegas and Grace Jones), in 2016 the pub was granted the right to appeal against the planning decision.
There’s been a pub on the site since at least 1623, and the current imposing Grade II-listed building has been an East End landmark for getting on for two centuries. It’s since 2004, though, that The George Tavern has seen a new lease of life as a music and arts venue, when the pub’s current redoubtable landlady, Pauline Forster, took over. An artist herself, she has given over the pub to the local creative community. Last year, she gave Time Out a video tour of The George Tavern, in which she explained its unique place in the capital’s cultural landscape: ‘It’s really important in London. It’s a pub that’s been here hundreds of years. It’s right in the heart of a community. It’s a door that’s always open.’
Let’s help keep it that way, eh?
Support The George Tavern via its crowdfunder (which also features a video filmed there by shouty Tunbridge Wells punks Slaves, if you like that kind of thing).
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Join a nationwide campaign to help small music venues survive.
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