Campaigners hijacked the opening of a controversial new supermarket by setting up a barbecue right outside.
As Co-op staff handed out balloons and free cookies to lure in shoppers, Christian Stevenson, aka DJ BBQ of Jamie’s Food Tube, tried to seduce them with locally sourced products instead.
Serving up grilled sausages made by Cuckfield resident Clive Miller on fresh rolls from nearby bakeries, he hoped to encourage Cuckfield residents to use Wealden Stores in Whitemans Green, rather than the new Co-op.
However, Christian said people were using the new store as ‘they didn’t know the story’ of Co-op taking over the pub.
A Save The Ship Campaign was launched earlier this year, and the group posted flyers through residents’ doors discouraging them from using the supermarket.
Christian said: “The dastardly Co-op have stolen our 200 year old pub. Today The Co-op opened for business, bribing customers with free cookies. So we have set up a BBQ and are grilling locally made sausages.”
Co-op now have two stores in Cuckfield.
“The whole thing doesn’t make sense. Moving a store to the top part of the village and taking away a 17th century trading pub. I don’t get their reasoning,” Christian added.
“We are supporting Wealden Stores which has been in operation for 100 years and is in jeopardy due to the Co-op.”
DJ BBQ said there were ‘half a dozen suits’ there to deal with the planned protest.
“ We decided to keep it positive by supporting Wealden,” Christian said.
“They’ve also been putting flyers into people’s mailboxes about how they support farmers and are all about community. Funny that they don’t stock anyone local to us and Wealden do.”
A spokesman for the Save The Ship campaign said the opening of Co-op last Thursday had been a ‘very sad day for our community’.
“This is not just about The Ship. It could just as easily be The Bent Arms, The Victory, The Half Moon or any of the pubs around. It can happen overnight, without the community knowing and without them able to do anything about it. If you have a pub you want to protect, please write to your council and ensure that they take action now.”
The campaign group presented a petition with 1,200 signatures hoping to stop the Co-op opening a store.
A flyer given to residents stated: “Greed has won the day. The Co-op don’t care about the wishes of our community. They don’t care about the livelihoods of the two families running Wealden Stores.
“They don’t care about taking a historic pub away from the people. We can make them care - because they do care about money. Show them we will not set foot inside The Ship unless it is a public house. Show them how important the High Street store is to us and support our local business by shopping at Wealden Stores.”
A spokesperson for the Co-operative Food said: “Whenever we open a new store it is our usual custom and practice to have promotional staff on hand to offer shoppers samples and we did this at Cuckfield last week. Our experience of opening new stores is that they help to retain spending within the locality, and there is no evidence that opening a convenience store will impact on the community store. We have found the greater choice of products on offer at a new store often draws in other shoppers to the benefit of all local businesses.”