Photograph of Pauline Forster, the owner of The George Tavern on Commercial Road, Stepney Green. Photograph credit: David Emery/The Guardian
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The George Tavern and Whitechapel Gallery join forces in a one-off music event 

For one night only, the centuries-old George Tavern of Stepney Green is coming to Whitechapel Gallery in an unlikely collision of worlds.

The centuries-old George Tavern of Commerical Road will collaborate with Whitechapel Gallery for an evening of live music and panel discussions about the East-End pub, on Thursday 7 September.

Performances by bands such as ‘Tapir!’, Human Interest, and songwriter Sophie Jamieson will be performed to a live audience. The evening will also feature an interview with Pauline Forster, landlady of The George Tavern.

The event will be held at Whitechapel Gallery’s Zilkha Auditorium, a colourful performance venue at the art gallery designed by Turner Prize nominee Liam Gillick. 

The night will be broadcast to remote listeners via Whitechapel Radio Station and then reuploaded as a podcast on Whitechapel Gallery’s website for those who can’t attend on Thursday.

Forster transformed The George into an iconic East End music venue after buying it in 2002. She has continually ensured The George Tavern’s survival despite the nearby housing redevelopment that has threatened the future of her pub. 

In 2008, the Swan Housing Group had plans to demolish adjoining Stepney’s Nightclub, replacing it with a block of residential flats. Such redevelopment would have rendered The George vulnerable to noise complaints which would have been detrimental to its survival. 

In 2016, The George Tavern was victorious in its legal battle against Swan Housing Group in a Court of Appeal. Through Forster’s admirable resilience, and a celebrity-backed campaign involving the likes of Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse, she prevented Swan’s plans for residential redevelopment. 

The musical event on Thursday is part of Whitechapel Gallery’s Grassroots series, which celebrates the rich diversity of East London’s music venues. As part of the event, Forster has curated a visual exhibition of archival imagery relating to The George’s history as a Halfway House and an inn in the 17th century. 

As Landlady Forster highlights, 

“More and more people are coming into the pub and getting excited. They feel its history when they walk into the door because of the age of the building, its atmosphere and vibe”.

For Forster, Thursday’s event marks the beginning of a special and ongoing relationship between the George Tavern and the gallery. About the gallery, she said:

“It’s local. It’s Whitechapel. We’re part of that community”.

Late 20th century photograph of The George Tavern on Commerical Road, Stepney Green
Late 20th century photograph of The George Tavern on Commerical Road, Stepney Green, used with permission of Pauline Forster

If you enjoyed this article and want more of our content on East End pubs, you may want to read our guide to The must-visit public houses around Bow from East End boozers to gastro pubs.

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