Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: if David Bowie saw Croydon now

By - Friday 26th June, 2015

“I hated it with a vengeance”, said David Bowie. Or did he? The clues are all there, thinks Andrew Dickinson

Approximately 300 of us packed in to the Arnhem Gallery last Thursday 11th June to be part of the travelling book-reading-cum-public-debate show, ‘Croydon Til I Die’, which looks at suburban life and questions why it’s so often – and so famously – been sneered at. Although I enjoyed the evening, a quote that was mentioned kept nagging away at me, made by one of my musical favourites – David Bowie.

“I think it’s the most derogatory thing I can say about somebody or something: God, it’s so f**king Croydon!” he revealed in a 1999 interview.

Assuming that he had these thoughts while he was still plain David Jones from Bromley (he changed his name to Bowie to avoid being confused with David Jones of The Monkees) it puzzles me that as an artist with a ‘Fascination’ with outer space, Mars especially, he didn’t find progressive Croydon, with its Apollo House and Lunar House, pretty interesting, and think it ‘Right’.

I’d like an opportunity to take Mr Bowie on a musical tour and heritage walk of today’s Croydon. I’m sure he would find it a ‘Fantastic Voyage’ and ‘Brilliant Adventure’ and would be amazed at some of the ‘Changes’ to come and the ‘Golden Years’ and ‘Better Future’ that lie ahead. I’m sure he’d also find that ‘Everyone Says Hi’.

Croydon doesn’t get so much sun – Bowie would still be a thin white duke

With Jo Negrini as Executive Director of Place at Croydon Council and with two successive female mayors, he’d surely think it was a ‘Suffragette City’. OK, as compulsory purchase orders fly around it’s hardly ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ but with the Westfield development and the plethora of new shops he would see that people here like their ‘Fashion’. I’d take him to one of the Richer Sounds stores where he could buy some equipment to improve his ‘Sound and Vision’.

We’d have lunch in the restaurant quarter so he could appreciate that we had many ‘Kooks’ in town. If there’s ‘Time’, then maybe a pint in the ‘Star’ pub (if it hasn’t closed down). He might not see many ‘Young Americans’ amongst the tourists but no doubt he would see a ‘China Girl’.

If he came in July, when the Ambition Festival is on, he’d see ‘All the Young Dudes’ and some of us older ones ‘Dancing In the Streets’ and might be challenged to ‘Let’s Dance’ – and no doubt the event would remind him of a ‘Memory of a Free Festival’. With our excellent transport links he could easily travel ‘Station to Station’ but with Croydon getting less sunlight than many other places he would still be a thin white duke.

A visit to the Croydon Radio studio would make him aware that I was a ‘DJ’. I’d get him to listen to a broadcast as ‘It Ain’t Easy’ and ask him ‘Can You Hear Me’? He’d probably reply, ‘Hang On To Yourself’.

I think he’d be Under Pressure to come up with any more derogatory remarks

I’d introduce him to Adrian Winchester of the Save the David Lean Cinema campaign as he is one of my ‘Heroes’. We can also pop in to Rise Gallery to see a work by ‘Andy Warhol’.

I’m sure he would express ‘Sorrow’ for the damage caused by the riots but now he would not see any ‘Ashes to Ashes’ or ‘Breaking Glass’ at Reeves Corner or on London Road. It’s not the kind of ‘Fame’ that we want. And he might well ask, ‘Where Are We Now?’

At the end of the tour he would be ‘Under Pressure’ to come up with another derogatory remark and he’d appreciate that overall things are ‘Hunky Dory’. You never know – he might even ‘Stay’ over and with no ‘Sense of Doubt’ consider ‘A New Career in a New Town’ , or sadly ‘Move On’.

But in the end, I do believe Mr Bowie would ‘Look Back in Anger’ at his remark and realise that this is our ‘Kingdom Come’.

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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    Oh very good! One of you could be ‘Aladdin Sane’ …..

  • Andrew Dickinson

    a lad insane oh yes that’s very much me thanks Mrs Onions x

  • Steve Lawlor

    Very good Andrew. Especially liked you getting that many Bowie songs into one article.

    if David returned to Croydon, would he “love you Til Tuesday” or think that we are all just like the “Laughing Gnome” :) . Or perhaps he would be “Dancing In the Street” with Mick Jagger?