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Keats House: Campaigners triumphant as bosses back down over alcohol and film screenings licence

PUBLISHED: 12:30 13 September 2019

Bill Oddie outside Keats House. Picture: Polly Hancock

Bill Oddie outside Keats House. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Campaigners are celebrating a victory as Keats House bosses have said it won't be screening films or serving beer at the venue.

Keats House in Keats Grove, NW3. Picture: Polly HancockKeats House in Keats Grove, NW3. Picture: Polly Hancock

Earlier this week the Ham&High reported that the historic former Hampstead home of romantic poet John Keats was hoping to hold film screenings for up to 200 people and serving alcohol until 10am.

But as the 11th hour, as Camden Council's licensing committee prepared to hear the application last night, the City of London Corporation, which runs Keats House made a series of changes in response to concerns.

In a statement from their barrister Philip Kolvin QC, it said it had "no ambition to be a pub or major sports venue. It just wishes to continue to operate in a low-key manner, providing the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful heritage property during the day and early evening, without detrimental impacts."

The corporation dropped its bid to screen films. It can only hold half the number of events a year to 50, and attendees at internally arranged events to 100. There will also only be 6 external events a year, such as a poetry reading or fund-raising event. External events will still have a cap of 200 guests, but the outside space and gardens cannot be rented for them.

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The City of London Corporation also said draught beer also won't be served in response to one objection. Camden Council's licensing panel approved the application at the meeting at the Crowndale Centre.

Earlier in the week local resident of 30 years and wildlife expert Bill Oddie spoke out against it, saying he hoped that the City of London Corporation didn't have its "eyes on Keats House as a heavy metal arena."

He said the venue should be a "stylist historical memorial to the poet himself" and mused that Keats and his friends may have turned it into an "opium den" if they are still alive.

Speaking to this newspaper after the meeting last night, however, he said he was happy.

"Every time a company backs down it is encouraging that protests that are done the right way with a certain degree of dignity can win. In wildlife conservation you are often hitting your head against a brick wall to get things done or not done, and it's the same here.

"It is encouraging that they have listened."

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