Why the Citizen Supports… The Studio @ Matthews Yard

By - Monday 7th January, 2013

James Naylor explains why Matthews Yard, and its Kickstarter project, are Croydon’s best hope for a cultured future

UPDATE: The Kickstarter project has now ended, raising an incredible £7,858. Many thanks to everyone who took part.

With the closure of the Clocktower and now the Warehouse Theatre, Croydon is at real risk of becoming a cultural desert. While the Fairfield Halls will be supported by public money, its programme will likely remain populist and uninspiring in character. It will be forced, as before, to soldier on with little or no Arts Council funding. While multiple processes exist for transferring assets like the Clocktower to the community to save them, the council have been painfully slow to implement them. Worse, they show no concrete sign of accelerating. Only through an exceptionally concerted effort by the Stanley People’s Initiative has any real progress been made in South Norwood.

What ambitious, educated and engaged young people will want to move to a town so seemingly anti-intellectual?

The detrimental effects of this vacuum will, in the long term, prove very bad for Croydon. It will deprive cultural opportunities to a  generation of young people, it will make Croydon a less interesting place to be, and it will impede the very regeneration efforts that even our foolhardy council is trying to bring about about: what ambitious, educated and engaged young people will want to move to a town so seemingly anti-intellectual?

But it in the end, nature does find a way. All over the borough, new centres of cultural activity have begun to emerge.  The Cherry Orchard Arts Festival presented a veritable chocolate box of artistic delights. The Green Dragon escalated its ambitious programme of music events even further, and the Save the David Lean Cinema campaign hosted record-breaking screenings that topped the capacity of the original cinema itself. In no place were these green shoots more obvious, however, than at Matthews Yard.

Where the shoots of cultural recovery are greenest. Image by Kake Pugh

Since the latter half of 2012, Matthews Yard has been on a determined mission to bring culture back into Croydon. With live music, performance, and the visual arts, it’s become an energetic, stripped-down, boot-strapping successor to the Croydon Clocktower. Since arts co-ordinator Alice Cretney became involved, it’s been firing on all cylinders to preserve and promote its cultural life. With its new project to build a purpose-built studio theatre that will also serve as a cinema, it plans to take this even further and give Croydon back its much needed multi-disciplinary space.

It is from here, a place bursting with innovation and cultural cross-pollination, that Croydon culture can be rebuilt in general.

But the potential of Matthews Yard is even greater than this, because it is the first venue  in Croydon to truly understand that culture is not a hobby. Rather, it is a part of our lives that cross-sects everything else we do. It’s embodied in the building itself; a series of fluidly connected spaces of work and play that are constantly changing their purpose. A brunch-bar that becomes an intimate night-time music venue, a mid-Saturday shopping coffee-stop that is also a gallery for emerging artists and a workspace for technology entrepreneurs that becomes a village hall for the town centre. Incredibly, many of the same communities are participating in all these incarnations.

It is from here, a place bursting with innovation and cultural cross-pollination, that Croydon culture can be rebuilt in general. It is for this reason that the Citizen’s editorial team has already supported this bid.

Within 12 hours of posting this article, Matthews Yard smashed its first £5,000 target. This means that the project will now be funded. But we can do much better. With more funds, the quality of the proposition will be even better. Matthews Yard says that if the top target is reached, they will be able to invest in top-of-the-range equipment and bring the space to a truly professional level. This will give even more creative options to the wide range of local groups that have already signed-up.

It is unlikely that the council will save our arts. But as a community, we can. By pledging even a single pound, you too can become a part of this battle.

Back the Bid Now.

James Naylor

James Naylor

James grew up in Coulsdon. After a brief spell in Somerset he returned to central Croydon as a useful London base. Since then however, his enthusiasm for Croydon has slowly grown into obsession – leading him to set up Croydon Tours and eventually the Croydon Citizen. James is particularly interested in the power of local media to foster new ways of thinking about communities and how to empower them. He is most interested in putting Croydon in a wider context within London, the economy and across time. During the week, he works for an advertising technology company hailing from Silicon Valley. When he’s not working on Croydon-related projects, he enjoys desperately nerdy but hugely enjoyable boardgames. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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