Tottenham Ploughman Riverfest: an interview with founder Cheryl Cohen

We spoke to Tottenham Ploughman founder, Cheryl Cohen, about the community events she has been running, held in various locations across Tottenham since 2013. The Tottenham Ploughman Riverfest will be at the Lordship Recreation Ground (Lordship Rec), in the centre of Tottenham, this September.

When and why was Tottenham Ploughman started?

The first event was held in Downhills Park in September 2013. I’d moved to Tottenham a few years earlier and wanted to do something positive to counteract all the negative press the area was getting. I knew Flourish Bakery [formerly based in Tottenham] and Wildes Cheese [a local cheesemaker] and I met Andy from Redemption [Brewery]. None of them sold in Tottenham, despite being based there and that’s where the Tottenham Ploughman came from; bread, cheese and beer all locally produced. That’s been the theme since then; promoting great local businesses who create things beautifully, with style and care. Showcasing Tottenham and putting our community on the map in a positive way.

Your next event is Tottenham Ploughman Riverfest. What do you have in store for attendees?

This will be the third Riverfest and every year we’ve been growing, putting on more acts, getting a stage sorted, attracting bigger names and more people. Our main problem is having to fundraise. Every event we’ve run has been free and we want to continue to do this. (Cheryl has funded the festivals herself in the past and in 2016 they received Lottery funding but were not able to apply for this two years in a row.)

We’d like to include workshops for local kids to take part in; so for example, Drum Works will come and do a number of free sessions with young people, who will then perform on the day. We’ve got some other amazing names lined up too. This year for the first time we have the Tottenham craft beer festival with all six of our local craft breweries attending. Crayfish Bob will be back, we’ll have more activities, more local food and drink, and our River Goddess!

The Riverfest is important to us because in addition to putting Tottenham on the map it’s about challenging the ways we can keep our rivers healthy. The River Moselle runs from the West through to the East of Haringey and into the River Lea. For me it’s a great metaphor for our divided borough to bring it together; the river connects us and we need to look after it. We all need clean water and our 7 Riverfest pledges are simple things we can all do to make our rivers healthier.

What do you like most about running the Tottenham Ploughman events?

Seeing how they bring people together; there is such a magical community atmosphere. One day I’d like to walk in as a guest and experience it instead of worrying about lost children, queues for the loos, escaped crayfish, and checking if any acts are over running…

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Tottenham Ploughman Winterfest 2016

What are your future plans for the Tottenham Ploughman events?

As long as we can find the money we’ll continue to grow the Riverfest. Both Glynis (who works at Lordship Hub) and I would like to revive the Tottenham Carnival and have a parade to the festival. We’d also love to bring a steam fair to the Rec, we want to have another stage, to work with more local music groups and collectives and extend the festival through the park. I work full time, this is my part time thing, and Glynis manages the Hub so it takes us a year to put together.

Are there any other projects that you’re working on?

I’d love to do a tea dance with a live orchestra and swing dance teachers to bring the elderly and younger people together. We just need a really good venue with a great ball room and stage.  And for the longest time I’ve wanted to emulate Turnpike Arts and get some great street art up on Broad Lane. The road connects Seven Sisters to Tottenham Hale and it’s full of permanently shuttered buildings. The Seven Sisters [the trees that Seven Sisters is rumoured to be named after] are planted there, but no one knows about it. It could be a much more inviting road.

What are your thoughts on the regeneration of Tottenham?

It’s all about balance, and that’s something that’s very difficult to achieve because change is constant and everyone has their own vision of their perfect place to live. I’m so glad to have Craving Coffee, Styx, the Antwerp Arms, The Beehive and Loven Presents open, as well as all the great tap rooms from our craft beer makers. One of my favourite places is the Portuguese cafe Bom Pecado on West Green Road and I love the fantastic party supply shop [Celebrations Partyware]. It’s always busy and popular, and buzzing with people. Holcombe Road Market greengrocers is great.  I champion the independent shop over chain stores and clone towns. I’d like to see some of the shut up shops opened up and given to start ups for peppercorn rents.

The Tottenham Ploughman Riverfest is free to attend and open to everyone. They are currently crowd-funding to ensure that the Riverfest can go ahead this September. To find out more and to pledge an amount to help them (and in doing so get the chance to win a prize) visit their Spacehive page: https://www.spacehive.com/tottenham-ploughman-riverfest

If you’d like to be involved with the Tottenham Ploughman festival in another way you can email Cheryl at info@tottenhamploughman.com

Further information can also be found on their website: http://www.tottenhamploughman.com

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Tottenham Ploughman Winterfest 2016
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