Jools Holland buys shares in first Lewisham community-owned live music pub, the Ravensbourne Arms

One month ago, Sister Midnight launched a community share offer in a bid to save The Ravensbourne Arms and create Lewisham’s  first community-owned live music venue and pub. Since then, the community has invested in over £50,000 towards the campaign, including a boost from Jools Holland, meaning the king of boogie-woogie will be a shareholder of the soon to be reborn Ravensbourne – and anyone can join him.

Born in neighbouring Blackheath, pianist, bandleader Jools Holland first found fame in the band Squeeze, whose formative years were spent in the locale – they even named an early EP ‘Deptford Fun City’ for another of Lewisham’s near neighbours. Jools’ investment represents the die-hard commitment to the musical arts that’s kept Later… on TV screens for 29 years.

Following his investment into the Ravensbourne Arms campaign, Jools Holland said – 

“The music scene of South East London means a great deal to me. It’s where I came from – it’s where I come out of. And that’s why I want to support the Ravensbourne Arms. I invested and you can too. What harm can it do?”

 Campaign leader Lenny Watson says –

“The support we’ve seen from across our community and the music industry has been overwhelming, we’re just so grateful to everyone who’s got behind this project. Having Jools Holland backing the campaign has been incredible, it means so much that people from all walks of life support our vision for Lewisham’s first community owned live music pub, and are helping to make it happen.”

Other artists to have invested in the #SaveTheRavensbourneArms campaign include Fontaines D.C, Goat Girl, and Porridge Radio, who also played Sister Midnight’s 2 October fundraiser gig alongside a line-up of emerging talent, thrilling the crowd with a total one-off acoustic set (on account of an absent drummer!).

The next fundraiser will take place on Tuesday 26 October at Matchstick Piehouse in Deptford, London with live performances from Tony Njoku, Garden Centre, and Lobby. Tickets are £10 with all proceeds going straight into the Ravensbourne Arms campaign. Those who cannot afford the ticket fee are still welcome to come down and enjoy the evening. 

The community has been offered a chance to invest in a campaign that will make history for the independent music scene in the UK

In order to purchase, refurbish, and re-open the Ravensbourne Arms, Sister Midnight are looking to source a minimum of £500K through a community share offer on the Crowdfunder platform,  with rewards for investors such as gig tickets, merch, vinyl, experiences and one-off artwork, and – yes – beer.

It’s a big, beautiful, tiled old gent of a pub in a booming area underserved by boozers, but since its former owners called time in 2016, the Ravensbourne Arms has been shuttered. It’s been a great loss not just to the locals but to the NHS staff of the Lewisham Hospital across the road (side note: they’re the ones whose choir had two Number One hits). Lewisham is in the middle of a housing boom. Brand new glass tower blocks loom over the town. But at street level, the community is starved of places to gather – and of places to see live music. 

Parachuting into this situation with a mission not just to rescue this beloved pub, but to preserve it for the community and establish it as an events space and grassroots live music venue, is a former grassroots music venue led by group of three remarkable young women, under the name Sister Midnight; having lost their Deptford venue space during lockdown, they are now on a mission to  reinstate the Ravensbourne Arms as a community owned live music pub. That means all profit will be reinvested into the pub, forever, because Community Pubs are run for and by locals with established democratic processes for governance. With a Community Pub, the few don’t get richer, we all do – culturally, socially and communally. Maybe even physically – but only if you attend the daytime yoga sessions!

Inspired by The Ivy House in nearby Nunhead, the nation’s first Community Pub and now the well-established, well-loved South-East London stalwart that brings joy to it’s Peckham neighbourhood, the group has gathered the support and information needed to untangle the bureaucracy required to save this pub for the people. 

Lenny Watson, Verity Hobbs and Sophie Farrell, each in their 20s, have already achieved astonishing things, from shoring up support among the local political establishment to getting one of the hottest bands on the South London scene, Goat Girl, to headline their first fundraiser event in August. Proceeds of that show, which took place at The Ivy House, went towards the campaign’s mounting expenses, including legal fees. 

Formerly known as The Coach & Horses, the Ravensbourne Arms has a chequered past. In an area that saw its share of tension as London’s society evolved rapidly during the latter half of the 20th century, it was blighted by associations to the National Front. The so-called Battle Of Lewisham, when NF marched from New Cross to Lewisham in 1977 and violently clashed with anti-racists and police, was plotted in places such as this. 

Sister Midnight hope to change the pub’s story for good, reviving it as a safe, inclusive, all-day space that puts the local community – the entire community, in all its glorious forms – at the heart of everything they do. This means activities for babies and the elderly and everyone in between. 

Central to the mission will be fostering the incredible music talent in the area, which is home to grime and drill artists, art-school bands and the ever-rising, youth-powered jazz scene. This will be a continuation of Sister Midnight’s operations in nearby Deptford, where the collective opened a grassroots music venue, record shop and bar , sadly, became unviable during the pandemic due to issues with the building. 

With locals now able to invest directly into the pub themselves following a community share offer launching on September 20th, the campaign to save this incredible venue as a community resource looks almost unstoppable.The key however, is getting as many people involved as investors in the pub. 

It was noted at the time that had the local press in Lewisham not been decimated – just as it has across the nation – then the overnight closure of this great pub might not have been allowed to happen unchecked. We’d like your help to make sure that all eyes are this campaign to right that wrong. 

2022 is Lewisham’s year as London’s Borough Of Culture. This campaign to save the Ravensbourne Arms aims to make every year a year of culture in this vibrant, up-and-coming, community-minded, multi-cultural and economically challenged part of London.

Share this!