Arts for craft’s sake, crafts for art’s sake

By - Thursday 14th August, 2014

Andy Dickinson envisions what the monthly Arts and Crafts Fair could become, with or without a Westfield

I was concerned a few weeks ago when I heard on the radio that Boris Johnson had agreed to a £1 billion extension to Westfield in Shepherds Bush. I went online to find out more and found that it will be done at the same time as our development.

What if Westfield take their eye off the Croydon Partnership project? Are they really that big that they can run both projects simultaneously? Would the Croydon project be degraded by the stretch of the resources? If I was Hammerson then I would be getting a little bit nervous.

What do I mean by degraded? Well imagine. You have the Shepherds Bush location which has the attraction and prestige of being the first Westfield in the UK and in central London. It is an established and successful operation with a John Lewis lined up to be on board, then add into the mix the nearby former BBC headquarters to be converted in to luxury apartments. What if, just what if, there was a pinch in the economy and it comes down to completing either Croydon or Shepherds Bush? Which one would take the hit? “Well, we did say we would do this, and we did say that we would do that, but now we cannot”. What do we do, stamp our foot and hit a stalemate and end up with a three-quarters-finished centre, or take a compromise, a downgrade to ensure that it is finished?

Westfield, along with partner Hammerson, has enough resources to cope with multiple, major projects

I put this as a pre-recorded question to the director of the Croydon Westfield development, John Burton OBE, on the excellent In the Loop radio show by Bienosa Ebite on Croydon Radio on the 1st June show. He unsurprisingly assured listeners that Westfield, along with partner Hammerson, has enough resources to cope with multiple, major projects simultaneously as they currently do both nationally and internationally. Therefore I felt really assured and didn’t feel compelled to write about it.

So what I wanted to do was to link this information in with the wonderful monthly arts and crafts event that we have established in Old Town, Exchange Square, previously known as Waterworks Yard. I’ve written before that another market in Croydon such as an arts and crafts affair could be an attraction that might make a floating shopper come to our Westfield rather than going to one of the other two. After their Westfield shopping trip they may want to visit the square, as we have this funky little market to complement the identikit Westfield offering. Well, we have this (albeit monthly) and it is something unique and very local to the future mall development, somewhere to find that handmade item that Westfield just cannot offer.

Therefore I implore you, dear reader, to back our arts and crafts market by paying a visit as often as you can on that third Saturday of each month. Encourage your friends and family to pop in (10am-4pm) and spread the word as month on month we try to build it and make it a destination to stay and linger, enjoy some refreshments from Matthews Yard, browse the stalls, chat to the stallholders, make a purchase and have a bit of a social. Come and add to the buzz of what we are creating down in Exchange Square.

There are many talented crafts people in the borough producing high quality items

Three things that the arts and crafts fair has brought to the fore is that 1) there are many talented crafts people in the borough, and 2) they are producing high quality items, and 3) many of them are keen to pass those talents on through workshops. What better place for it to happen than in one of those boarded-up faux shop front units or the urinal known as the pumping station?

Maybe during this new council administration’s lifetime we will see the opening of those boarded up units that are on the perimeter of the square. Either through the global financial situation changing favourably for the landlords to decide to finish them off and make them available, or through the council pressuring the landlord to make it happen. Or maybe somehow they are just embarrassed into doing it, as the area deteriorates into a rubbish strewn cut-through and a hang-out for drinkers, and the residents in the nearly fully-occupied apartments in the Exchange complex make them do something.

Watch that space.

The Arts and Crafts Fair is held every third week of the month. The next fair is on Saturday 16th August.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    Like the idea of using the empty units and Pump house as a pop-up workshop space. Matthew’s Yard and the fair are surely proof that there’s a demand for this type of meanwhile use project.

    I prefer Stratford city as you have the Olympic park and then there’s Hackney Wick with such creative spaces. As you say there’s a nice mix of the big glossy mall with the Apple store e.t.c. but then there’s the individual. Best thing about Croydon it would be far closer together.

    • Andrew Dickinson

      We could have it so good in Croydon Wes,with some of the areas we have. The xchange square market, right alongside surrey street and then linking across the high street to St Georges Walk which could be refurbed and have independent shops or artist studios/workshops along both sides.Then the new glossy, shiny Westfield up the road and we’d have it all.

  • Croydon Radio

    Thanks for mentioning the In The Loop show featuring John Burton. His answers to Andy and other peoples questions about the development can be heard at

  • Sean Creighton

    market initiative is something that can develop its own life regardless of
    whether the mainstream WH retail development does or does not go ahead. Its part
    of developing an alternative community based economic strategy. Clearly the next
    step should be to try and hold it weekly because it is easier to remember that
    frequency than the 3rd Saturday in every month. Perhaps it could broaden out to
    enable other types of home based business people in Croydon to sell their wares,
    and local history groups have a stall to sell their publications. I wonder
    whether there is also scope to add in something like the new food market in
    Vauxhall – see Would it be
    helpful to have free use of an empty unit in the Square as a base and storage

    • Andrew Dickinson

      Thank you Sean
      long term i feel there will need to be a weekly offering down
      there with more types of traders added in, vintage, local history etc (or a
      seperate market with a different identity?) If you consider all the more famous
      markets Greenwich, Camden etc are, if not daily, then friday,saturday, sunday
      operations. Otherwise we are still left with an empty square for most of the time.

      It does need a base or hub and the pumping
      station or one of the units is what i’d like to see brought in to use. Also a
      temporary covering for the space is another wish.

      Artisan food so as not to conflict with Surrey Street is on
      the agenda as well.

      We have a small start but one which has good long term
      potential and it’s becoming known and the arts/craft spin off workshops is very