Can CAN do it for the arts in Croydon?

By - Wednesday 21st January, 2015

Bernadette Fallon talks to the arts networkers who set out to become the change they want to see in Croydon

Like so many things in Croydon, the Croydon Arts Network was created out of a negative. When cuts in the arts started, when the Ruskin Square theatre plan was shelved, when the council’s culture office just vanished – people started to ask: what can we do?

One of those people was Charlotte Davis who founded CAN – and the group is still asking the question. Setting up an arts network was the first step in ‘doing’ and not just talking. CAN aims to ‘celebrate and strengthen Croydon’s vibrant and diverse arts landscape and nurture a stable and sustainable arts scene’. But it’s more than a network for artists – it also wants to encourage greater audiences for the arts in the area.

“If we up the level of audience participation, that would be a great achievement,” says Anna Arthur, who has been a member of CAN since the early days and has a long involvement in the arts as her ‘day job’. She is quietly hopeful for the future, pointing to the fact that the local theatre scene is improving with more events happening now in the theatre at the Spread Eagle pub and in Matthews Yard. It’s no longer just about going to Fairfield Halls.

Just come along and suggest ideas

“And while the music scene got quieter when the Black Sheep venue closed down, Esther Sutton at the Oval Tavern in Addiscombe is starting up a great music programme there.”

And of course the visual arts have received a great boost recently with opening of RISE gallery and the ambitious plans of its owner Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison to bring art into public spaces as well as private ones.

Image by Croydon Arts Network, used with permission.

So – what would be Anna’s wish for the arts in 2015, as we face a New Year that, with all the recent artistic activity, suddenly seems more hopeful than the last for Croydon?

“The chief aims of Croydon Arts Network are communication, advocacy and networking,’ explains Anna. ‘We want to continue to expand our work in 2015 and we’re always open to talking to people who are working in different areas. Just come and suggest ideas.”

On a personal level, she would love to see the old pumping station in Exchange Square turned into an arts centre, with lots of diverse events going on – a bit like Battersea Arts Centre up the road.

So if you’ve got an idea you think the Croydon Arts Network could help with, go talk to the people there. And if you’ve any influence in persuading somebody to turn the pumping station into an arts centre, so much the better…

For more information and contact details for Croydon Arts Network, visit the website.

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Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at

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  • Ian Marvin

    Is there a concerted campaign to turn the pumping station into an arts centre? I realise it’s not going to work as a music venue but for theatre and possibly an installation space it looks like it might work. I understand that the standard line is that it is structurally unsound, does anyone know if this is true?