A soho pub landlord’s launched a crowdfunding campaign to help feed the hundreds of migrants currently living in makeshift camps in Calais.
‘Living’ might be too generous a word, as being holed-up in a tarpaulin jungle, taking nightly risks to cross the channel and being regarded as vermin rather than than people (thanks for that, Katie Hopkins) hardly constitutes a life (and that’s without the rumours of harassment from French police).
Alistair Choat of The Coach and Horses pub, Greek Street has decided to approach the situation with a decidedly more human approach to well, humans. It sounds like a no-brainer – you know, be nice to your fellow man and all that, but between the hostile reaction of the government and the toxic reporting from your right wing press, Great Britain ain’t looking so great.
The idea’s to raise £5000, cook up a storm in the pub’s kitchen and drive over to Calais and feed as many people as they can. It’s an ambitious venture, but it’s probably what Julia Child would do.
Choat said: “Ideally I want to take good food to as many as possible and through that demonstrate real British values.
“I suppose to feed hungry people who are, let’s face it, only about a hundred miles away surrounded by barbed wire , guns and oppression. Pretty much what they have mostly escaped from. Well done Cameron!”
These real ‘British values’ are the campaign’s raisons d’etre – treating others with ‘dignity, respect and kindness’. Something Choat reckons hasn’t been happening and why he’s trying to show that not all Brits are mannerless oiks even if our government and media hasn’t been setting the best example.
Choat said: “It’s not the immigration issue per se that has spurred me to try and do something positive but perhaps more in the little our government has done and this searing branding they and much media have tainted these people with.
“The statements they have out and their choice of words I believe we’re carefully picked to help further demonise these stranded people and maintain their stance of fortress Britain.”
And for publican, Choat, perhaps the very essence of these ‘British values’ leaks straight out of the beer barrels and wood paneling of the Victorian boozer. A time when you could roll into an establishment and be greeted with more than a nothing-y nod, and there was more on offer than just a mass produced lager and microwaved meal, served to you by a dead-eyed student on minimum wage.
My local drinking hole in Elephant and Castle sums up the sentiment of pub-outings perfectly. Yes, from the outside, it looks scary – all mock tudor panels and flushed, unsavoury afternoon drinkers – but inside it’s a different story. Old school charm and South London banter is ripe and the hand written scrawl above the bar sums it up perfectly – ‘A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet’. It’s attributed to ‘Anon’ but of course, we all know it’s from A Streetcar Named Desire. Not that it matters.
The campaign seems less about the politics of entitlement and the ‘why should they come over to our country, take our money/jobs/women/seats on the bus’ rhetoric that’s tattooed on the lips of the ignorant, and more about remembering our manners. People are people and deserve to be treated as such – even more so if they’re struggling or in need. Simple as that.
Support the campaign here: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/coachandhorses-soho