Saving a pub
I FOUND myself sitting on a low wall, wearing a cheesy grin, and
trying to hold in my stomach while rearranging my double chins, and
staring down the lens of a Sunday Telegraph
Personally, I blame Warren Carter, a local anarchist activist
who is also a splendid fellow governor at the equally splendid
Moulsecoomb Primary School. "'Ere, Father John," he said one day.
"You know the Bevy they closed a couple of years ago? There's a
real danger it's going to be redeveloped into flats: what about
turning it into a co-op pub?"
So started my involvement with the local derelict pub, the
Bevendean Hotel - or "Bevy", as it is generally known (Diary, 10
It has been an interesting media helter-skelter over the past
month, starting with the launch on 1 December. (See it on Facebook/theBevy.) The
Brighton Argus was hugely tickled, and did a nice article,
"Brighton congregation prays for pub's future", with a picture of
me in a wide-brimmed clerical hat I only ever wear for a laugh.
The media coverage then snowballed, often, unsurprisingly, from
the "funny vicar" angle. The Sunday Mirror put us in as
"Vicar prays for success of pub deal";
The Guardian put us in more soberly as "Keeping it local
this Christmas: the rise of the community co-op". We got
everywhere, from Wales on Sunday to Wigan Today
and the Liverpool Echo. My favourite strapline, though, is
one of the 70-odd websites that we landed on, namely "Ale Mary". We
have now raised more than £5500 with some 220 share-holders: a good
THE last time I got into anything like this was when I was
involved, a few years ago (thanks to the Church Times)
with an advertising campaign for Slendertone, which resulted in a
media feeding frenzy, including a brush with Irish Radio. All
rather surreal, really.
It was all dying down, when The Sunday
Telegraph rang. It was doing a good-news article on what the
Church of England contributes nationally: it had asked every
diocese in the country what three things they were most proud of,
and I was hugely touched that the diocese of Chichester had made us
one of theirs.
So it was that I found myself sitting self-consciously, and
slightly queasily, on a wall outside "the Bevy". And the result?
article came out, mercifully, without a photo: it was decided
that Canterbury Cathedral was more photogenic, and I could not
ON A cold and frosty morning, I found myself clambering over
frozen mud in unaccustomed wellingtons, encouraging Moulsecoomb
schoolchildren (the ones who had escaped the novovirus, at any
rate), to plant an orchard of apple trees next to "the Keep", the
new Records Archive for East Sussex and Sussex University.
I blame Warren Carter, who remains an anarchist activist, but
with a decided horticultural bent. His day job is the hugely
successful Moulsecoomb Forest Garden Project, a group of allotments
where a range of people come to invest time and energy in learning
how to make things grow. Young children who can be in real
difficulties at school seem to click into place at the allotments,
and Warren is spearheading similar allotment-growing schemes in
When the project was vandalised and their tree-house/store was
burnt down, the local community was livid, and money and equipment
were liberally donated (we gave some catering stuff from the church
hall). So they are now building an architect-designed tree-house
that would be the envy of any Tarzan.
I was at Warren's allotments - eating, I remember, some very
good pork baked in cider - when Warren came up. "'Ere, Fr John," he
said. "Meet this lot: they want to plant apple trees." They were
from the Brighton Permaculture Project, and had, amazingly for
these times, obtained grants to plant heritage fruit trees: and
they were looking for places to plant orchards of them.
I then had an idea of which I am terribly proud: where better to
have an archive of heritage Sussex apples than by the new document
archive being built at the north of the parish? I put them in touch
with Wendy Walker, the redoubtable project manager for "The Keep",
and so there we were, a few months later, 100 yards or so from the
tall, new sepia-coloured mass of "the Keep", planting trees.
There was a Brighton Argus shoot for this, too, but
mercifully I was late, and missed it. I think I have had enough
media coverage for a while.
One last thing: it is an oddly comforting thought that, years
after I have left St Andrew's and Moulsecoomb, and years after any
connection with "the Bevy" has been forgotten, this little apple
orchard will be there, softening the bulk of the depository in a
haze of pink and white apple blossom.
The Revd John Wall is Team Rector in the Moulsecoomb Team
Ministry in Brighton.