The Independent London Newspaper


HEROIC LOCAL: Why history of the Pineapple is inspiration for those fighting to save their pubs

Published: 22 November, 2012

THE bar was always busy – but its days were numbered. Christmas 2001 saw The Pineapple pub in Leverton Street, Kentish Town, handed over to new owners by Mary Gatey, the widow of publican Sean. He had passed away earlier in the year and before signing over the lease, she had been promised it would be kept open as a going concern.

But the Holborn-based property company back-tracked. They instantly put in an application to turn the “former” pub into expensive flats.
What happened next was a triumph for the people of Kentish Town over the greed of a housing developer. The regulars were not going to let 133 years of pint-pulling be forgotten. They were going to fight, fight, fight to keep their hallowed boozer open.

It is the 10th anniversary this year of the battle for The Pineapple, and the time to revisit the saga, according to the author of a book that chronicles the pub’s history and how it was saved by regular Gill Scott.

“Over the previous decade, many involved have passed away, and with them, so many tales,” she says. “Still so many pubs are still being closed and there is always the chance your local will be sold. If you feel your back-street boozer is important, but it feels like there is nothing you can do, this book is a call not to give up. It is also to let those who took part in saving their pub know their fight is recognised in the wider community as a great campaign.”

On December 6 2001, a death sentence written in council planning speak was tied to a lamp post in Leverton Street. It read: “...application for a change of use of former pub to provide three maisonettes and one flat... and a new structure facing Railey Mews being an office.”

Gill sprang into action with other Pineapplers, who started by getting the pub listed. They contacted the New Journal to drum up publicity. Names such as Ken Livingstone, Ken Loach, Jon Snow, Rufus Sewell, Andrew Motion, Roger Lloyd Pack and Ken Stott ensured the issue was given London-wide publicity, and after hundreds of objections were lodged at The Town Hall, the pub was saved.

As the book shows, The Pineapple has bucked a trend in recent years. Supermarkets selling cheap alcohol coupled with the extortionate rents and beer-buying deals organised by the big breweries are among the  pressures pubs face.

But there is another factor that has particularly affected Kentish Town. As figures collated by Campaign for Real Ale show, NW5 has lost half of its 40 pubs in under 20 years: the worst figures in London, and it’s down to the rising property prices.

The gentrification of streets that once were home to railway workers are now the preserve of a different demographic. It means the core customer group has gone and, to compound this, the pubs  are now worth a fortune on the property market.

All this, combined with the passing of the landlord, put The Pineapple under threat.

Gill says it is not just a “record of the hours, days and months leading to the sale of the pub we did not know we would ever have to ‘save’, it is a beer-stained tribute to friend­ship generated in and around the Pineapple.”

Stories include the Pineappler who crewed a Green Goddess fire engine during the 1977 strike and was called to rescue a cat from a tree. After retrieving said pet, he handed it over to the owner only for the cat to wriggle free and promptly get squashed under the wheels of the Goddess as it cruised off.

According to the book, ITV reporter Reginald Bosanquet was nearly sacked as he giggled through his report of this tragedy. And there was the time Sean Gatey found a regular fast asleep in a skip outside the pub the day after St Patrick’s Day...

It has always been much more than a place to enjoy a quiet pint.

The Broken Wing Club offered a meeting place for pigeon fanciers on a Sunday, the Gentlemen’s Walking Club would meet every six weeks in uniforms of tweed, stout boots and feathers in the hats. There were trips to Walthamstow dogs, darts competitions, fancy dress parties, pensioners’ Christmas lunches, the Easter bonnet parade, a four pram race that took entrants to The Falkland, the Gloucester, The Assembly and The Pineapple to sink a pint with a “baby” in a pram.

Above all, the book is a rallying cry. Gill says that she hopes it will show we don’t have to shrug our shoulders and take it, or wring hands but not man the barricades.

“If you like your local, cherish it and if it is worth it, fight for it,” says Gill. “We did, and we won.”

• Pineapple Rescued By the Comm­unity is available price £14.95 from The Owl Book­shop, 207-209 Kentish Town Road,  NW5, 020 7485 7793


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