How not to be boring: A Croydon Manifesto

By - Wednesday 1st April, 2015

Jonny Rose responds to James Naylor’s plea to ‘make Croydon less boring‘ with some suggestions of his own

All-women graffiti troupe Femme Fierce put on a Croydon display.
Photo by Fluid4Sight, used with permission.

Like the Croydon Citizen’s editor in chief, I’ve long thought that Croydon is boring.

Where Naylor and I differ, though, is that he apportions Croydon’s boringness to perception and place, whilst I contend that it’s a people issue. Boring people begat boring places which begat boring cultures.

To wit, I thought it would be helpful to provide this instructive guide to not being boring.

How to live in Croydon and not be boring

1. Interesting people like to have conversations; boring people like to avoid them.

Talk to people. Talk to as many different Croydonians as possible.

One of the worst things about Croydon commentariat is its relentless tribalism and propensity to draw up walls because of suspicion towards the motives of ‘the other side’. The most interesting people are the ones that have a wide social circle comprised of people that span multiple worldviews, income brackets and lived experiences.

If your only social circle is the parents at your toddlers group, the worshippers at your temple, or your colleagues in the office – it’s no wonder you’ve succumbed to a boring hive mind. Mix it up.

2. Boring people are those that enjoy too much comfort.

Nothing breeds boredom like contentment.

Break out of your Croydon comfort zone: go and do something that jars your senses. Like helping at a soup kitchen. Or, spend the day with the characters who populate Croydon’s betting shops. Or, do political canvassing for a Croydon party whose values are antithetical to your own.

Don’t just do it once – do it again and again.

3. Interesting people have several hobbies; boring people have a hobby.

No one cares about your stupid spin class. In 2015, everyone spins. Get a real hobby, get more than one.

Croydon Tech City classes for Croydon.
Photo by Jon Lim, used under Creative Commons licence.

There has never been a better time to learn or do something new in Croydon. There are life drawing classes at Matthews Yard. You can learn computer programming through Croydon Tech City. Croydon Radio will teach you how to put on your own radio show, etc.

4. Interesting people are well-informed.

There’s nothing more tiresome than hearing misinformed blowhards regurgitate something that they’ve half-read on Twitter.

Want to stay well-informed? Stay close to the action. Care about politics in this town? Befriend councillors. Don’t understand what’s happening with Westfield? Go to a public consultation.

Stay up to date on all the current news and views. Don’t just drink from one well: if you only read one paper or Croydon news site then don’t be surprised when you only have one view of Croydon.

5. Boring people stay put; interesting people like to explore.

If I’ve learnt anything in the past year, it’s that my knowledge of Croydon places of interest is embarrassingly scant. If we’re all being honest: our Croydon life is largely just a mix of East Croydon Station, Tesco Express and [insert the single Croydon social venue you frequent here].

The water tower at Park Hill.
Photo by @CroydonPhotos, used with permission.

Have you been to the water tower in Park Hill? Do you know about the David Lean Cinema? Tried to do one of the Wandle Park rambles? Checked out that windmill in Shirley? Been inside Croydon Minster?

There are so many interesting things happening in and around Croydon that it should be overwhelming for anyone who actually takes the time to explore.

6. Hold at least one controversial opinion about Croydon. Tell everyone about it.

It could be that you think that everyone in Croydon is going to hell unless they come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Guilty.

It could be that you think that West Croydon isn’t actually worth much expenditure because it’s a lost cause and the council’s finite resources can be best deployed elsewhere. Guilty.

It could be that you think that the market traders are a little too complacent and don’t deserve special dispensation from the onslaught of Westfield, just because their simple cockney bonhomie makes everyone feel warm inside. Guilty.

I guarantee that sparks will fly. And that any semblance of a quiet, boring life will soon dissipate.

7. Challenge indolence and weak-thinking about Croydon

Every time you hear some milquetoast sad-sack bemoaning the state of Croydon, the correct – and only – response is: “Well, poppet, what are you doing about it?”.

No-one likes this, of course, because it’s always easier to complain than to actually go about the hard work of doing something. We have entire blogs and letters pages dedicated to moaning about Croydon – all of which convince contributors that they’re ‘doing something’, when, actually, they’re doing nothing (as I’ve said before: “The poor can’t eat your empathetic retweet, bro”). Challenge the bien pensant miserabilism.

In conclusion

This mini-manifesto is, of course, not a license to succumb to an uncritical, saccharine ‘Croydon is perfect’ utopian view.

Yes, exercise some critical-thinking and healthy skepticism, but not so much that you can’t see the wood for the trees. Good things – no, great things – are happening in Croydon everyday that make it anything but “boring”.

So, if you’re using your oh-so-superior BS detector to talk down efforts to make Croydon less boring, I hope at some point you’ll turn the gun on yourself and see: Croydon is only boring because you’re boring.

The next Croydon Tech City event takes place on Thursday 23rd April 7:30pm at Matthews Yard. Don’t be boring, sign up to attend – NOW.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Anne Giles

    Jonny – you have hit the nail on the head!! I cannot understand “boring”. I am involved in so many things, I often wonder how I ever had time to go to work. Also – when people refer to Croydon as a dump, they should try driving across London Bridge to Stoke Newington and back, as we did on Saturday. Now that was really awful!

    • Croydonian

      Technically, you know, just because Stoke Newington is also a dump doesn’t make Croydon a non-dump.

      However, I agree, Croydon isn’t actually all that boring. Grim, yes, depressing, even violent — a dead end town, a no-hope sinkhole riddled with broken communities, no-go areas, vomit-streaked sidewalks, and dead-eyed scum staggering aimlessly up and down gawping gently at the flickering lights of the surviving shop displays. Yes, it is those things, I grant. But it’s not actually boring. Croydon has:

      It’s own blacksmith! Yay!
      More comics / games shops than an introverted suburban kid could shake a Space Marine at! And that’s a good thing!
      Some really jolly nice little venues, from the Spread Eagle to the Ship to the Edge to the Scream — not a bad little strip!
      Lots of really nice food if you know where to look!
      An increasing amount of entrepreneurs and new businesses.
      Every chance of being the next HOUSE PRICE SKYROCKET!
      A train to london bridge that very often runs! Well, not often, but sometimes.
      Matthew’s Yard, for now!
      Lots of green space!
      Croydon Tech City!

  • Bernadette Fallon

    Since moving to Croydon last summer, I can say there is nothing boring about it; from the people I’ve met – people with passion who want to do things and make a difference, people who want to change the negative perception of Croydon – to the events I’ve gone to – arts and culture, meet-ups, tech and more.
    Sure, parts of the place could do with a facelift, and there is still huge amounts of work to be done around challenging negative perceptions and matching ambition with resources – but if there weren’t challenges, then that surely would be boring, and where would the fun be in that?!
    So it’s not really helpful to kick off with a big blanket statement like ‘Croydon is boring’ -
    even if then you go on to give examples of all the reasons why it’s not! Cheap
    ploy. What are the odds that’s the bit that gets picked up and touted by other
    media – rather than all the good stuff that’s happening here?

  • DJ

    On point 5 – we’re lucky to have some really great green/open spaces in Croydon. This is as true for the north of the borough as the south.

    It’s my long term goal to visit each of the ones listed here when on my runs.

    Read the ‘history’ section before visiting as there are some interesting stories behind these spaces.

  • Catherine Pestano

    and we are lucky to have great citizen reporting like this and croydon radio and social media networks, just croydon and CAN – Some people with great energy here! And the highest proprotion of young people per head of population; they are our bridge to the future, to quote my own lyrics here. And despite some unfriendly people who shout at us in the street, quite a good little LGBT community as well, as last year’s brilliant Idaho day church and community celebrations showed……