I first wandered into Crouch End’s famous Harringay Arms when I was a tech student at Mountview Theatre School. In those days the drama school was located just across the road, so it was a bit of a student hang-out.
About a year ago the Harringay Arms was taken over by new Aussie owners Ben and Anthony who say they fell in love with the place the first time they saw it.
The lads have definitely injected new life and energy – adding regular live music, a cool retro jukebox, and they’ve lined the walls with iconic old record sleeves and vintage collectable figurines.
In the early days of our weekly podcast we wanted to give the programme an intimate, chatty feel – so we told the listeners we always recorded it in the Harringay Arms.
To help create this illusion we once spent an entire evening in the pub, with our digital recorder sitting on the table between us, recording endless stereo sound effect loops that we could play under our voices in the studio.
We referred to the place fondly as “The Gay Legs” – our sound engineer’s nickname for the pub since the early seventies. HarrinGAY Arms: Gay Legs. Get it? Lousy joke, but the name stuck with thousands of our regular listeners.
Eventually, I think Georgina and I actually began to believe that we really were in the pub during the podcast, and the warm, cosy atmosphere became very much a part of our brand.
As I write this article on my iPad, perched at the bar, the pub is being used as the hub of the Crouch End Festival – the old barrel storage room having been transformed into an amazing little gallery for local artists and craftsmen.
It would be great to see this inventive use of the space continue after the festival, maybe expanding the arts programme to include small scale performance events such as acoustic music nights, poetry or even open mike nights.
I’ve seen smaller comedy venues than this on the Edinburgh Free Fringe, and Crouch End is so strongly associated with the comedy business that an intimate “feeder venue” like this would fit right in with the local scene. In these tough economic times it’s always better to pack out a tiny venue than struggle to fill a large one.
Georgina and I run the regular comedy night Sketch Club over the road at the Kings Head, so we’d personally love to hire Ben & Anthony’s “annex” some to pilot ideas. Maybe we could actually record a regular podcast in there, with a live audience.
We’ve been lucky enough to meet up in the Gay Legs with dozens of podcast listeners from around the world who believe that a visit to London is not complete without a pilgrimage to the Harringay Arms in Crouch End to have a pint of Guinness.
Having had such a long history with the place, Georgina and I are thrilled to see that the Harringay Arms is now embracing the local arts and media scene with such enthusiasm, and we’d be excited to be a part of that in the future.