We all know that local pubs are the cornerstones of our community, but some are extra special. Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub is one of those rare gems. Award-winning, yet always friendly and inclusive, there really is something for everyone in this well-loved Walthamstow venue. It seems almost diminutive to describe Ye Olde Rose and Crown as a pub when it offers such a wide range of services to the E17 area. The venue is a social hub of creativity, companionship and soul. Oh, and booze. Don’t forget the booze!
We spoke to Jo, a co-owner and established actress, about how East London’s prized theatre pub was born. Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre Pub is run by a team of five, comprised of Aaron, Andy Jo, and Jo’s parents Bun and Viv. Not only an award-winning ale pub; the local hangout is also a theatre, live music venue and host to many community charity events.
They first opened their doors to the people of Walthamstow in March 2008 and the people kept on coming! The team pride themselves on providing a place for everyone and anyone to relax and feel comfortable. Jo told us that one of the loveliest things a customer had said to them was that ‘coming to us was like relaxing in their own front room’. The idea to open a theatre pub in Walthamstow first came about when Jo, Andy and Aaron were rehearsing for a show around the corner from the now Ye Olde Rose and Crown. During post-rehearsal drinks with Viv they spotted a for sale sign and made a joke about buying the place. The rest is history!
When we enquired about some of her favourite productions and shows hosted at the pub, the answer was profuse and passionate! At the forefront was the locally famous panto. It is a real community project with local children taking part in the performance, and a third of the tickets donated to local organisations for families who could not otherwise afford it. The team pride themselves on offering professional theatre at affordable prices, as Jo says: ‘art is truly for everyone’.
Another pivotal production to the Rose and Crown is Into The Woods. Aaron and Andy’s theatre company, Allstar Productions, put on a production of Into the Woods prior to purchasing the pub and this was how Jo and her parents first met them. So when it’s performed within the walls of YOR&C it is always an emotional event! There are also countless live music events, Red Imp comedy shows, and of course, the E17 Art Trail, that make up the rich variety of performances that appear at the venue.
Community means everything to the Rose and Crown team. It is at the very heart of their operation. Jo explained how they have always opened up their arms to the community and that is repaid in abundance through kindness, respect and loyalty. There is nothing more special than walking the streets of Walthamstow and being stopped time and again by people you know.
When reflecting upon change in East London, Jo shared that: ‘the demographic has been rapidly changing over the last few years but the one thing that has remained strong is the sense of community and balance’. She feels that the creative community has evolved massively over the 13 years the pub has been here, and it is ‘a real positive force that grows from strength to strength’. The creative movements within East London improve the local experience for both those that live here and those that visit, and Ye Old Rose and Crown feel honoured to contribute even a small part to that.
We asked Jo what other organisations make East London the place it is, and speaking as a publican, she replied that it was the ‘growing brewing industry’ that provides employment opportunities to the local area and increases the local beer offering: ‘It reduces carbon footprint when you can get wonderful beer from wonderful breweries on our doorstep’.
Like many businesses across the country, Ye Olde Rose and Crown was hit hard by the Covi pandemic. The team made the decision to ask the community for help as otherwise their doors may have remained closed permanently. They received an incredible response, and within 10 hours their Crowdfund page has obliterated it’s target. By the time the campaign closed the target had been nearly doubled. Jo describes the generosity shown by the community as ‘utterly overwhelming’: ‘This community made it very clear what we meant to them and that they didn’t want us going anywhere. It was like the whole of Waltham Forest and beyond ( there were people following our story in Australia ) joined, put their arms around us, and said ‘don’t worry we’ve got you’.’
Sadly, business challenges were not the only implication of the pandemic for the YOR&C team. Bun, one of the business partners and Jo’s father, nearly lost his life to Covid. Thankfully, he is in recovery now and once again the local community stepped forward to share their love and support.
Ye Olde Rose and Crown are currently rebuilding after the difficulties of the last 18 months. The team are beyond excited to bring back live music and live theatre to the people of Walthamstow, especially Carols by Candlelight. If you would like to show them some support then hit up their social media, join their mailing list and, generally, just get involved! Start booking tickets for shows as they are announced on their website and spread the word amongst friends. Mostly though, Jo and the team want to see your face in the pub for a drink and a natter!
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