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front door of the former step bar in myddleton roadA community group in Bowes Park has been awarded more than a quarter of a million pounds by the government to go towards a project to reopen a once thriving local bar that served as a community hub. The ultimate success of the project will require local people to take shareholdings in what would become a true community-owned asset.

The Save the Step campaign is celebrating the award of £300,000 from the Community Ownership Fund to a Community Benefit Society set up in order to apply for the grant. This is the maximum amount for a single project available from the fund, the purpose of which is to help put local institutions in the hands of their communities. The award, which is conditional on the group raising a further £250,000 through their own fundraising efforts, will allow them to buy the property and refurbish it.

To build their case for government backing, the campaigners set up a detailed survey, asking local people how much they missed the former Step bar, what they would look for in a reopened Step, and whether they would be prepared to invest and become shareholders. The size and positivity of the response doubtless played a big part making the bid successful.

The Step and the renaissance of Myddleton Road

The arrival of the Step, a couple of minutes walk from Bowes Park station, was one of the first initiators of the remarkable renaissance, starting just over a decade ago, of the western end of Myddleton Road, a once bustling Victorian high street that by the 1990s had become moribund and had fallen into disrepair. Opened in 2011, this pub/cafe/bar/community hub, celebrated among other things for its live music, quiz evenings and art exhibitions, closed in 2020, not because of lack of trade, but because the owners had to sell up and move away for family reasons.

crowded tables in the step myddleton road while a quiz night was in progressQuiz nights were among the popular events held at the former Step bar in Myddleton Road

Unfortunately, the developers who bought the building had no interest in there continuing to be a cafe there. They gutted the ground floor, expecting to obtain planning permission to turn it into flats. However, this plan was foiled by community action. Haringey Council was bombarded with more than 500 objections to the planning application, local people set up the Community Benefit Society, which has so far received pledges totalling £177,000, and successfully applied to the council for the former Step to be registered as an Asset of Community Value (ACV - as happened in Palmers Green with the Fox and in Tottenham with the Antwerp Arms, which is now a community-owned pub).

Because of its status as an ACV and the refusal of the current owner to return the building to community use, the Community Benefit Society is now legally entitled to purchase the premises and return it to its former use. Now that the owner has agreed to sell, the campaigners' vision is to buy and renovate the premises, select a suitable tenant and guarantee a reasonable rent, the profits of which will go back into the community. The money from the government, granted in recognition of the clear desire of local people to have their community hub back, will go half way to paying for this. A campaign to raise the required £250,000 will be launched in January.

Dan Jones, chair of the Save the Step campaign, commented, “We are delighted to have received this crucial investment from the government that will enable us to take a big step towards re-opening what was once the beating heart of our close-knit community. The support from locals has been overwhelmingly positive throughout this campaign and we are confident we will be able to raise the final funds to make this project a reality. It’s been a lot of hard work, but ultimately has proved what a special and supportive community we have here in Bowes Park.”

Find out how you can become a shareholder and help Save the Step

The rebirth of Myddleton Road

window display in myddleton road in the early 200s

The Miss Havisham-like window display at George Moore's in the early 2000s

The shopping parades on both sides of the road at the western end of Myddleton Road were built at the time of the transition from the Victorian to the Edwardian era - you can see some fascinating photographs of the shops taken in 1902 on the We Love Myddleton Road website. However, a hundred years later, the street had gone decidedly downhill - nothing illustrates this better than the Miss Havisham-like window display in the long closed George Moore's menswear shop that greeted me when I first visited the street in 2007.

Part of Andrea Aste's Myddleton Road mural inside the Taproom

Part of Andrea Aste's Myddleton Road mural inside the Bohem Taproom

George Moore continued to live above his shop until 2011. That year was probably the turning point for Myddleton Road, because it was when the Step opened and quickly became a successful community hub. It was followed two years later by the start of the monthly Myddleton Road Market (first Sunday of the month, apart from January) and the We Love Myddleton Road group. Since then many interesting new shops have opened on the street (some have come and gone, but that's just par for the course), and it now boasts delicatessens, bakeries and a classy piano shop and music academy that also operates a cafe. A Greek restaurant near Bowes Park station plays host to a monthly folk club, and just across the railway line is Shaftesbury Hall, a splendidly reconstructed "tin tabernacle" owned by the Samaritans and also used for community events.

A notable business on the street is the Bohem Taproom. serving the most authentic Czech-style beer this side of the Bohemian Forest. Petr Skoček set up the brewery in a converted shop in nearby Whittington Road, but increased demand for its products led to the brewery relocating to an industrial estate in Tottenham.

In 2015 four shopfronts were rebuilt to their original designs, having been modernised in an unsympathetic way previously.

restored shopfront in myddleton roadOne of four shopfronts restored to their original designs

The degree to which the street had been turned round was confirmed when Myddleton Road was declared winner of the London section of the 2016 Great British High Street of the Year awards. Then, in 2017, artist Gabriela Schutz's pencil-drawn panorama of the shops and houses in Myddleton Road went on show at the Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham - see the video below.

Log in to comment
Darren Edgar posted a reply
15 Dec 2022 11:48
Nice to see some positivity regarding the Step given some of the vitriol aimed at them over there apparent refusal to back the anti-LTN rhetoric.
Karl Brown posted a reply
16 Dec 2022 14:29
The mentioned vitriol may well be as nothing compared to the potential from plans by the Conservative council running Canterbury to segregate that city into five zones to “close rat runs and ease congestion”. Oxford is planning similar but with six zones. Sort of city-wide Fox lane LTN’s I suppose, fully accessible to all by private car but no way through / across for same without using the periphery. Hard hats on.