First-glass honours? Revamped Sekforde Arms pub sends youngsters to uni

New-look Clerkenwell boozer awards scholarships after reopening with a philanthropic mission

Friday, 5th January 2018 — By Joe Cooper

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Students who have received Sekforde scholarships, pictured outside the pub on its opening night: Emilie Parry Williams, Callum Murphy Millbank, Alexander Ephrussi and Victoria Scott

HUNDREDS of people gathered to celebrate the reopening of a pub with a philanthropic mission.

Pints are once again being pulled at the Sekforde Arms, in Sekforde Street, after barrister David Lonsdale bought the ailing boozer and spent almost three years doing it up.

Locals in Clerkenwell feared for its future when it closed its doors in 2015 but Mr Lonsdale and his project manager Hadi Sarmadi have transformed the space while retaining the heritage features of the building which is nearly 200 years old. There is a new restaurant in the basement, space for talks and debates in the first-floor ballroom and overnight accommodation in a new building connected to the pub.

“It’s been exhausting but a lot of fun too,” said Mr Lonsdale, who now lives in a flat above the pub.

The Sekforde Arms has the latest in eco-friendly technology, with an under-floor heating system used to heat colder areas of the building. Plastics are also banned from the premises.

Mr Lonsdale is now on the lookout for staff for the pub. The minimum pay is £10 per hour and all accommodation and bills are paid for.

David Lonsdale and Hadi Sarmadi

Profits from the pub will effectively be ploughed back into the community through a yearly scholarship scheme for young people living or studying in Islington.

On the opening night, December 15, which was attended by Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry, the first five scholarships were awarded to young people, many from modest backgrounds.

Mr Lonsdale had invited applications for grants of £10,000 for struggling students who wanted to further their education but also had ideas to change the world.

Among the lucky ones was Emilie Parry Williams, a classical soprano singer who lives on the Camden Road. She is doing the final year of a degree in music at City University.

“She sang some Puccini in the ballroom on our opening night,” said Mr Lonsdale.

“She has a beautiful voice and everyone was very moved. I am quite certain it is only a matter of time before she appears at the Royal Opera House.”

Callum Murphy Millbank, who also received a scholarship, is doing a masters degree in engineering at City and lives in Islington. Despite a troubled past he has turned his life around and is now rated one of the best on his course. His interest is in sustainable development.

Another recipient is Alexander Ephrussi, who is studying for a masters in Social and Cultural Anthropology at UCL, comes from Germany and speaks seven languages fluently. He has spent many months helping refugees from Syria integrate into German society.

Victoria Scott is a PHD student of Anthropology at UCL and is working on behalf of indigenous tribal groups from Thailand and Burma who have suffered terrible health effects as a result of rivers being polluted by mining companies.

Michal Stevove is an undergraduate from ­Slovakia who could not attend the party. He is studying both the arts and science at UCL.

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