Sarah Turner’s latest feature Public House will tour UK cinemas in May and June. The film tells the story of the Ivy House Pub in Peckham, London. Slated to be sold to property developers in 2012, the local community triumphantly came together to save the pub from closure. This experimental documentary is an inspirational story of social resilience and the power of communities working together. Originally premiered at the London Film Festival, Public House was nominated for the Grierson Award.
Made in collaboration with some of the many users of the pub, the film features their voices, poems and performances, as well as key moments in the community takeover which led the Ivy House to become London’s first co-operatively owned pub. Through dance, poetry and song the film builds into an exhilarating participatory opera telling a tale of social resilience in the face of creeping London gentrification.
The film moves from a documentary exploration of the pub’s rich history as host to gigs by Elvis Costello, Dr Feelgood and Hugh Cornwell in the 1970s to its place on the 1980s alternative comedy circuit, through to its near closure and eventual reclamation as a public space by a group of dedicated individuals who worked to designate the pub as the UK’s first “asset of community value”.
The film shifts into a poetic portrait of memory, community and social reinvention. Turner’s ambitious, multi-layered soundscape weaves together the intertwining voices of the local community with the memories of customers past and present, with The Ivy House itself as central character, embodied and inhabited by those past and former guests. It culminates with Turner’s own playful reimagining of William Blake’s vision of angels on Peckham Rye, as the Ivy House community take to the streets in a communal celebration of human creativity and resilience.