Mumford and Sons star in peace talks over Somers Town ‘name grab’
Exclusive: Somers Town residents object to Brit-award winning musician's naming new bar on King's Cross regeneration site after their neighbourhood
25 April, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
The Brit-award winning band (Photo: Stefan Schäfer)
MUMFORD and Sons musician Ben Lovett met opponents of a bid to open a music venue called “Somers Town” in a pub on Saturday, after reading in the New Journal about how protective they were of the area’s name.
The Brit-award winner, whose band’s hits include “The Cave” and “I Will Wait”, drank pints at the Cock Tavern, in Ossulston Street, with people who live nearby. The new bar is planned for Pancras Square on the King’s Cross regeneration site, but residents say Somers Town has its own distinct character, separate from the railwaylands’ mega-money facelift.
After the New Journal reported on the licence application, objections to the name of the venue appeared on the paper’s letters page. The chain of events ended up with Mr Lovett, who owns trendy performance spaces in east London and Southwark, arranging a meet-up.
Barry Stilwell, a musician and one of the organisers of the annual Somers Town Festival, who penned one of the objections, said: “A lot of us thought: hang on a minute. A new venue in King’s Cross called Somers Town? That’s the other side of the tracks for us. It’s not that we don’t like Granary Square and Pancras Square, it’s just it is a totally different environment. It’s not what you would call a Somers Towny-type thing.”
He added: “He [Mr Lovett] knows someone I know through music. He said to me he was a bit frustrated about people’s reactions. He didn’t really get to the bottom of why he wanted to call the place Somers Town. “We pointed out there has been a history of the place’s name being taken by the new King’s Cross, and that Somers Town has its own very strong identity and we were worried about cultural appropriation. He was very polite about it.”
Somers Town’s Diana Foster: ‘We are a little village. We do not want to be used to sell beer at a posh bar.’
Diana Foster, who has lived in Somers Town for 30 years, is one of a number of volunteers working to set up a Somers Town museum celebrating the area’s past.
She said residents scratch their heads over the thought that a trendy bar in the heart of the new King’s Cross should want to use the Somers Town name.
“We are overshadowed by developments in King’s Cross and Euston. We feel squeezed,”
Ms Foster said. “It feels like David and Goliath. We live on a permanent building site. We get the negatives, but not the benefits and then we get a bloke from Mumford and Sons trying to take our area’s name – it feels naïve. We are a little village and we do not want to be used to sell beer at a posh bar.”
Mr Lovett told the New Journal: “I’m a huge fan of community and collaboration. Sitting with Barry Stilwell and a collection of wonderful people from Somers Town over the weekend, I’m excited about doing what I can to help support [them], especially within the arts and culture space, as we explore working on a new venue in King’s Cross.”
He added: “Details around any potential new venue are still very much a work-in-progress on all sorts of levels. When we have more details about what it might be, and what we might end up naming it, of course I will be sure to share it with the wider community. “Any further information from our side is a little pre-emptive, as we continue to be in the exploratory stages.”