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image credit: Your Bard, Nicholas Collett

The Royal Oak and Castle Inn in Pevensey is to change hands at the end of this month

Successful owners, Karen & Simon Fall are to leave and we understand that the tenancy is to be taken over by new landlords that have a close association with the village .

In their two year tenancy, Karen & Simon Fall have introduced a number of features.

They say, “Karen & Simon Fall, insist upon the freshest of ingredients for all our menu items.

“We have our very own, on-site Traditional Butcher (Simon), who ensures that our Lamb and Pork is reared as locally as possible.

“Over the last year and a half, Karen & Simon have put their own talents to work in improving even further all aspects of this super East Sussex pub”.

The couple in June posted a message to the community on their Facebook newsfeed that said,

There is a rumour that Karen and I are leaving in July this year.

We are NOT. We have been offered a different venue with a much better winter trade opportunity. Winter trade in Pevensey is just not good and rather risky for a business.
We have made a great many good friends in Pevensey, all of whom will be most welcome at our new venue. We will be leaving at the end of September and not before.
Sadly, there are too many folk who seem to just stir up nonsense and lies.
If you want the facts, come and talk to us and ignore the petty gossip.

Certainly in their time as tenants, Karen and Simon have won followers with their food offerings and introduction of music events that have included booking of groups like “Two Hepcats”,  acknowledged here as being an authentic sound on the local circuit.

Ex teacher, and ex-tenant of the Royal Oak and Castle inn. Debby Fitton, established a community profile for the public house, including a successful incursion into the arts, music and theatre.

On 4 March 2017, she put on the masterful national actor, Nicholas Collett (who has worked with Jeff Goldblum) as Shakespeare, in ‘An Audience with the Bard’, which was a notable sellout community event .

Bay Life once asked Debby Fitton what, in her dreams, she would do if she owned the Mint House.

She replied that she would introduce a creative community centre with potters demonstrating their craft with potters wheels, glass blowers showing their craft and other associated crafts.

What Debby Fitton never knew (and perhaps still does not know) is that her tenancy had links to the sale of the Mint House in Pevensey to entrepreneur Jason Rolf.

Jason Rolf bought the Mint House in July 2018, from his own resources.

The company in which he works is based in Edinburgh. Amati Global Investors. The company is a specialist fund management business and has sponsored the arts in Scotland in a big way.

They explain their name. “Andrea Amati made the earliest known violin, and his grandson Nicolo Amati was the first great violin maker”.

In choosing the name the company says “we are setting our sights high to bring world-class craftsmanship, with the thoughtfulness, skill, care and attention to detail that this brings with it, to the ever shifting and hugely demanding job of constructing robust, responsive, and brilliantly performing portfolios of investments”.

In their Backstage area, Amati Investors say on their website, “here we would like to offer you an insight into some of the activities that take place behind the scenes at Amati.

Applause Rural Touring is one of four Kent based arts companies to be awarded investment from the Arts Council England Catalyst Small Grants Programme. This investment kick starts a new phase in fundraising and development for the organisation.

The website quotes one of their partners.

“I am proud to support Applause, I realise how important the work is in terms of reaching isolated communities and supporting artists to tour new work.” Jason Rolf, Amati Global Investors.

Jason Rolf is now also the proud owner of the Mint House in Pevensey.

Here he can be seen on YouTube talking about the investment in Applause Rural Touring.

There is a link between Applause Rural Touring and Amati and the new owner of the Mint House in Pevensey.

Applause Rural Touring were the people who supported some of the events that Debby Fitton put on at Royal Oak and Castle Inn in Pevensey, including the masterful national actor, Nicholas Collett.

When Jason Rolf bought the Mint House, he also bought into the notion of reaching isolated communities and supporting artists to tour new work.

He wrote to the Pevensey Bay Journal the week after he bought the Mint House.

He then talked to the Pevensey Bay Journal following his purchase, in a detailed interview.

In the interview (18 September 2018) he mentioned his support for the arts scene

Journal: We note that the name of your company is a kind of violin and that the Chief Executive is an ex-professional violinist, these are stand out credentials and rare for an investment company generating a philosophy that has very interesting roots, leading to work that is both particular and demanding. Bet the boardroom meetings are a buzz. Do you want to say anything about the company and your place in the company and how your background experience got you to the position of buying the Mint House?

Jason Rolf: I work for an Edinburgh-based fund manager which specialises in investing into high-growth UK businesses. It was named Amati after the family of Italian violin makers from the 16th century. When I joined in 2010 the partners were already supporting the arts scene up in Scotland so I thought I’d try and do something similar down in the South-East. The philosophy behind Amati’s investments is to be patient and invest for the long-term which has been a successful formula for the firm and its clients.

Journal: We talked a little about your suggestion that a possibility might be a few digital start up companies based in the building. Do you want to say if you have thought any more about these possibilities?

Jason Rolf: Ideally I’d like to get the building tenanted with the creative arts. The full property is classed as B1 commercial which tends to bring in small, light industries typically from the creative sector. These can be anything from handicrafts right through to digital productions. There is a huge shortage of simple, inexpensive commercial units for small businesses to work from and I believe The Old Mint House would be a fabulous opportunity and location for this.

Since his purchase, Jason Rolf has been in regular contact with The Pevensey Bay Journal.

The newspaper is soon to publish an interview with him about the progress of his project and the significant challenge involved in developing the Mint House site as a centre for small creative industries.

He has recently put an application to Wealden Council to establish nine small business units at the back of the building, as the first stage in the project.

As the Royal Oak and Castle Inn in Pevensey changes hands this month, we wait to see who the new tenants will be.

Debby Fitton and her team were sorely missed at the time. She is not coming back to the public house as the landlady.

Having said that, one informed source who is a regular at the Royal Oak and Castle Inn, told us this week.

” Can not say who is going to be the new tenants of the Royal Oak and Castle Inn, but I would bet the farm that what happens next with the public house is going to be interesting”

The story of the links between the Royal Oak and Castle Inn and the dream of Debby Fitton with what she would do if she owned the Mint House, in retrospect, is interesting.

Her dream and work with Applause Rural Training did not lead to the purchase of the Mint House by Jason Rolf, but the links in the chain of events are there to see.

At the time he made the decision, no doubt,  he would have been looking at the social and economic context of the village.

As the Mint House begins the application stage with the project to Wealden Council, the Royal Oak and Castle Inn is changing hands at the same time.

The Royal Oak and Castle Inn in Pevensey is beginning a new chapter in their story. Perhaps the arts and theatre will again form part of their profile.

Sitting alongside the Mint House, which may soon begin to be home to some creative arts companies, the prospects for economic regeneration in the historic village become tangible.

As well as being a village with a unique place in the Story of England, the prospect of the village becoming a centre for small creative arts companies, is now coming into the frame.

The possibility that a group of creative arts workers at the end of the working day, with their friends, may cross the road, and go for a drink at the Royal Oak and Castle, to see a repeat performance of masterful national actor, Nicholas Collett as Shakespeare, in ‘An Audience with the Bard’ at the public house, is a scene not impossible to envisage.

The prospects for Pevensey with the development of the Mint House project and with new owners coming to the Royal Oak and Castle public house, will make for an interesting time for the village.

Perhaps we will see positive change that will have a generational effect on both the social and economic future of the historic village.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
― William Shakespeare, Prospero, The Tempest