A community’s ‘Tottenham spirit’ saved their local
To say everyone is welcome at North London’s first community pub would be an understatement. At the Antwerp Arms you’ll find families, dogs, hardcore football fans and real ale aficionados all together under one roof. It’s Labour MP David Lammy’s favourite pub, Tottenham Hotspur legend Gary Mabbutt is a shareholder and in 2020 the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) named it North London pub of the year. “As much as it’s a business
it’s also a real community,” says Joanna Yeung, who has been the chairperson for the last three and a half years.
The pub has a long and rich history in London, dating back to 1851, making it the oldest working pub in N17. However, in 2013 the pub was at risk of being lost when it was sold to developers. The community stepped in and since 2015 it’s taken on a new lease of life as a community owned pub, superseding the role and function that many would associate with a drinking establishment.
With support from Power to Change, The Antwerp Arms is much more than a pub, which can be seen via the communal pub garden that’s tended to by volunteers and where people can learn to grow fresh produce; the work with the Alzheimer’s Society they’ve undertaken to hold dementia-friendly evenings in the pub, and the provision of free meals to the local community in need, which has spanned everything from Christmas dinners to regular home deliveries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Joanna herself doesn’t even drink alcohol but her love for the pub, its community and history of the building and surrounding area is something she’s dedicated herself to. “I love it,” she says. “I just want to communicate to people how wonderful it is. A small local corner pub has stayed open and maintained itself in a heritage conservation area in London – it’s a really unique thing to have done and I’m going to try and raise the profile of the place always.”
Joanna says at the heart of what the pub aims to do is to “consider everybody’s perspective and to be inclusive.” The diversity of the local community is a broad one and the pub aims to be a home to all people. On match days for Spurs you’ll hear the cheers for miles as hundreds of white shirts pack the pub, yet other times it will be a place where vulnerable people come for a much-needed hot meal and socialising with peers.
The pub may have a longstanding history with its nearby football team and its community of supporters but Joanna wants everyone to feel that sense of camaraderie. “It’s about balancing the traditional segments and honouring the history of the place with the needs of the new community and their perspectives,” she says.
“Their customs are very different because they don't have that sense of belonging that some of the football fans do. The special characteristics of the pub made up by this community makes it really alive and kicking. We’re at the heart of something that's really strong in the community - I call it the Tottenham spirit.””Joanna Yeung Chairperson