ALL’S well that end’s well at The People’s Supermarket, sort of. Nobody is saying the issue of its business rates won’t come back, but staff in Holborn say they are out of danger for the moment. They fended off the bailiffs with the help of money from donations last week.
The cheque for a key installment apparently came into the Town Hall on deadline day along with a box of chocolates, possibly to take the sting out of what had become a spitting debate between rival politicians, arguing over who was being a help and who was being a hindrance.
What’s interesting is that while politicians dragged themselves into a debate as to whether The People’s Supermarket should be getting business rate relief, the store wasn’t actually asking for it – they were asking, instead, for more time. But the arguments and natural political suspicion had quickly galloped away into a code-red row, maybe because people still remember the image of David Cameron inside the shop on the day he re-launched his Big Society campaign. The wisdom of that photo shoot was questioned by some members at the time for the risk of alienating a ward which traditionally votes Labour, but the publicity and interest from up high seemed too good to turn down.
So, what about the man showing the Prime Minister around the shop in the pictures: founder Arthur Potts Dawson. The People’s Supermarket staff said he left the shop roughly six months ago because he had plunged two years of his life into the project and needed to start earning some money to live on. The idea he somehow has a million pound bank account which could simply save the day was just fantasy, one of the members said.
February, as it turned out, was a busy month for Mr PD, including a booking to chef up food at a fund-raising do for Wells Conservatives Association, according to this party flier.
But he did find time to show his passion for The People’s Supermarket still burns. If you listen to this radio interview he did for 612 ABC Brisbane in Australia, and if you have half an interest in this story I strongly recommended you do, he sounds more thoughtful and persuasive than ever before. “We need to stop thinking about food as a commodity – and more as a necessity,” he tells the interviewer. He smartly explains the whole idea of the shop.
The conversation does, however, just after the 13 minute mark, eventually wheel around to Mr Cameron’s visit to Lamb’s Conduit Street. There is a pause and a laugh before Mr Potts Dawson answers, struggling to find those little words ‘Big’ and ‘Society’.
“Oh, yeah, ol’ David, yeah,” he says. “You know The People’s Supermarket – it sort of ticks all of the boxes of what his political agenda is. You know this kind of… what did he call it? I can’t remember what he said now. He basically wanted the people to get up and do it for themselves. Now, The People’s Supermarket is not a political tool. It’s not there to be given a tick by a politician. I couldn’t care less if the Prime Minister turned up. What it did do was show that a small business with a good mind and a good conscience has the ability to get Prime Ministers to come and have a look at it, because they think: ‘You know what, these people are doing it for themselves’ and actually that’s what this economy needs right now.”