Roman Road’s Angel and Crown has reopened one year after it was closed down for anti-social behaviour and is on a mission to show that the future of pubs is in the hands of the community.
Once a traditional East End boozer loved by many and feared by some, the Angel and Crown is now a self-styled community pub, welcoming parents and children after school, freelance workers during the day, and drag queen acts at night.
Open seven days a week from 8am on most days for morning coffee, and continuing into the night for those partial to a tipple, the pub aims to be a community hub for all.
Although some original features have been retained, Melise Keogh, the new landlady and owner, is determined to ensure the pub’s atmosphere is nothing like its former days. ‘I think it was quite intimidating…but I think pubs should be the complete opposite of that. They should be a welcoming place for people’, she tells me.
Keogh’s warmth is infectious and, although she laughs when I ask if she sees herself as a natural landlady, her passion for the community is apparent as soon as we begin speaking.
‘I want it to be somewhere that people can just come in and do whatever they’d be doing at home they could do here. You know if they’re on their laptop or just wanna listen to some music in the background, talk to people.’
Restoring the Angel and Crown has been entirely motivated by Keogh’s love affair with East London, which began six years ago when she moved to Whitechapel, and later Globe Town.
Watching the high street decline around her, Keogh knew something had to be done and is not one to shy away from a challenge. ‘I just felt like if anyone’s gonna make it something that’s good for the community it’s me, cause I really do, like, care about the area.’
Not only does Keogh wish to help regenerate the high street and provide a place that locals can look forward to coming to, her neighbours have also become her muse. ‘I based the colour scheme on the arch in Meath Gardens’, she tells me, proving every inch of the pub’s design has been carefully considered.
As an advocate for reusing and upcycling items, it is not surprising that Keogh has transformed the Angel and Crown while simultaneously keeping the British heritage of local pubs alive.
Before the doors even opened, the Angel and Crown oozed community spirit, from Luminor Sign Co hand painting the lettering to re-claiming local fonts, which seemingly became infectious.
Robert Brown, a local university student, visited every week religiously in search of a job, but was turned away due to Keogh’s lack of budget. Brown set to work regardless and patiently scraped the paint off of each bathroom tile. They now glisten in art deco splendour. Keogh’s father, whom she described as a godsend, has also worked tirelessly beside her.
Although the original hanging sign has found a new home inside, Keogh ensured the new one remained meaningful to local residents. Reclaimed from a local yard which fittingly displayed the correct title, Keogh collaborated with a neighbouring artist who made final touches to the sign, and can now admire his work from his window.
A taste of pulling pints for a few months in Kent was enough for Keogh to know it was something she enjoyed doing. ‘I’m quite an active person so being up on my feet and constantly busy, it was just great and then there’s the interaction with the people as well and getting to know the regulars and meeting their families’, she tells me. While she admits it’s the polar opposite to her job in finance, which she dipped in and out of for 11 years, its equipped her for the long hours.
Angel and Crown will be open for early risers and their morning coffee as well as late night regulars. Hoping to attract parents during school runs, solo workers throughout the day, and children until 7pm, Keogh wants the pub to be as inclusive as possible.
‘It’s a bit controversial for some people but I’ve got a drag queen friend who wants to do drag queen bingo and quizzes and, yeah, I really think it’s fun and I think there’s probably a bit of a market in the area as there isn’t that kind of entertainment. It’ll be nice to have something different.
‘I want it to be the go-to for peoples birthdays and other celebrations, like Christmas I’m hoping…I’ll get the people who are on their own maybe come in to just have some company, that’s kind of yeah, how I want it to be used.’
A perfectionist by nature, Keogh’s desire to please the community she’s hoping to serve comes through continuously. ‘I just don’t want to disappoint…I really do care about this place and what I’m doing with it’, she frets after revealing plans to provide a simple yet traditional pub menu and brunch in the New Year, following feedback from local residents.
Hoping to be a second home, Keogh appears to have put the angel back into the Angel and Crown, working to reform its character and pour life back into the high street.
For more information, visit the Angel and Crown website.
If you liked this piece, you might also like reading our feature on Kisses from Nonna, a restaurant on Roman Road serving authentic Italian food.
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