A student protest against a Winston Churchill-themed cafe in North London that branded the wartime leader a racist has unexpectedly propelled the eatery to being rated as one of the top-rated cafes in the capital.
The Blighty Cafe in Finsbury Park was stormed by 14 members of the SOAS Students Union, who described Churchill as a “war criminal” and read out sections of Heathcote Williams’s condemnatory poem ‘Great Britain’s Greatest Beast.’
Members of the group could be heard saying in a video: “Churchill was a racist. We cannot accept the unashamed colonialising and gentrifying presence of this cafe” as they called for it to be boycotted until the branding was changed.
Since the protest last weekend, the cafe, which also sells a vegan breakfast called ‘The Gandhi’ and tries to source all its ingredients from Commonwealth countries, has shot up through the TripAdvisor charts from a position in the 300s to the top 20 cafes.
Following the protest, the Students’ Union has released a statement claiming protest leader Halimo Hussain had been subjected to racist attacks, apparently due to coverage by the “right-wing press”, though it maintained: “You will never make colonialism palatable.”
Cafe owner Chris Evans told HuffPost UK business had been booming since the protest on 27 January.
He said: “That was useful wasn’t it? The upshot is that we’ve had some positive reviews and our chefs are making many more Winston breakfasts.”
What’s more, Evans has invited the SOAS Students’ Union – which HuffPost UK has contacted for comment - to come back to discuss the issue with him.
He said: “It was pretty scary when they walked into my cafe and started demanding changes but I’d ask them to please contact me again and let’s chat about it. It’s not nice to hear they are being harassed.
“I’d hope to convince them that their thinking is regressive. We celebrate the Commonwealth. Yes, it was born out of the empire but that doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on these countries. From a trade point of view, it’s important to have mutual, respectful relationships with these countries.”
Online reviews since the protest include Matt Drewry stating: “Thanks to the idiots who complained for introducing me and I’m sure many thousands of others to this wonderful cafe.”
Ali Clelland-ball said: “Let’s get this place on the map. Please ban all the soap-dodging snowflakes from your establishment.”
Cafe owner Chris Evans with a wax effigy of Winston Churchill
Jack McCree added: “Outstanding food, service and ownership. Keep up the sublime work and never give into political correctness perpetuated by a tiny elitist minority.”
In 1937 he told the Palestine Royal Commission: “I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.”
During his time in the War Ministry in 1919 he said he was “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes” and described Palestinians as “barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung”.