Volume 76, Number 43 | March 21 - 27, 2007

Villager photo by Esther Martin

Nicky Perry, right, with her husband, Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett, in front of their fish and chips shop, A Salt & Battery.

Rule Britannia! English merchants push for new district

By Brooke Edwards

You’ve had lunch in Chinatown, dinner in Little Italy…. How about tea in Little Britain?

If a group of British ex-pats have their way, that will soon be a possibility.

The West Village restaurant Tea & Sympathy and British airline Virgin Atlantic Airways have joined forces to launch a campaign to get a British neighborhood on the map in the West Village. They’re calling their plan The Campaign for Little Britain in the Big Apple.

The new district they are proposing would extend between W. 11th and W. 14th Sts., between Sixth Ave. and Washington St. This area, they say, already has a high concentration of British businesses, including Tea & Sympathy’s sister restaurant for fish and chips, A Salt & Battery, designer Paul Smith, The Manhattan Classic Car Club, Bumble and Bumble hair salon and Ben Sherman, who has designed a limited-edition T-shirt for the campaign that will be on sale in his boutique.

“In the last five years, there’s been a lot of British businesses opening in the neighborhood and a lot of British residents moving in,” said Nicky Perry, co-owner of Tea & Sympathy. “I sit outside and I hear tours pass by with people saying, ‘And this is Little Britain.’” Now, Perry says, it’s just a matter of making it official.

While most of the people pushing the initiative are from England, Perry said they do have support from Fiddlesticks, an Irish bar in the area, and she said, “I would love for a Welsh or Scottish shop to open in the neighborhood.”

The campaign also calls for the renaming of Greenwich Ave. between 12th and 13th Sts., where Tea & Sympathy is located. They say this will be a service for the city, because, “A landmark name like ‘Little Britain’ will lessen the confusion between Greenwich St. and Greenwich Ave.,” which Perry says causes “mass confusion” with misguided mail, taxis and tourists.

They say “the campaign will be tongue-in-cheek and witty,” and “will use typical British humor. For example, one ad will pose the question “What’s one more Queen in the Village?” while another will remind New Yorkers that the Brits “took Madonna off your hands.” They will also collect signatures on a petition, available at locations throughout the city, and on their Web site, www.campaignforlittlebritain.com. The Web site also features a spoof campaign video and a map of British businesses in the area.

The campaign was officially to launch following a press conference in Jackson Square on Wed., March 21. At the conference, as representatives from Tea & Sympathy and Virgin Atlantic explained the campaign, uniformed flight attendants were to serve tea to the audience. It was expected that there would be some “surprise” celebrity appearances at the event. Maggi Deroian, who is doing P.R. work for the campaign, said, “Celebrities such as Mike Myers, Joss Stone and Mischa Barton, Barney’s Simon Doonan and celebrated journalists Tina Brown and Sir Harold Evans have rallied for the cause.”

In addition to the press conference, there will also be future events at Tea & Sympathy and at the exclusive club/hotel Soho House and Classic Cars Manhattan.

The point of the campaign, they say, is to attract more businesses and tourists to the area. Deroian said the designation of a Little Britain “is expected to have a great impact on tourism and financial investments in the area.”

In a press release for the campaign, Richard Branson, chairman and founder of Virgin, explains, “I started Virgin Atlantic [Airways] because I have always felt there is a strong connection between New York and London…. We’re helping to link the two cities that have become the business, media, financial and cultural capitals of the world. It’s hard to believe there isn’t already a Little Britain in New York.”

Across the pond in Big Britain, many were unaware of the soon-to-be-launched campaign to give them a home away from home.

Chris Batchelor, 34, a business development manager in London, said, “I think it would be a great idea…. In all major cities around the world you have a Little China or Little Italy, and it allows ex-pats living in that city to have an occasional reminder of what it is like back home. I think it would also be good for the U.K. travel economy, as it would provide a better introduction to the U.K.”

Reaction was also positive when a group of locals were told about the impending campaign, though James West, an Australian living in New York, joked, “What would Little Britain look like? A little pocket of the city where it always rains, the class system rules, the food is always soggy and the people miserable?”

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