Changing Croydon: Music Venues


By - Tuesday 6th August, 2013

Anne Giles looks back on her time as a musician in Croydon – and takes our readers on a tour through the history of its venues and clubs


When I first lived in the area in the 1970s I had only just started playing guitar and singing folk songs. The only venues I visited were the local folk clubs. I lived in Thornton Heath then and “The Fountain Head” pub was just around the corner. I met a few friends there. I believe they had their folk club on a Wednesday night. The usual format was for named residents to play a few songs, after which the “floor singers” were allowed to perfom anything from one to three songs, and then the booked artist would come on. Entry to the club was relatively inexpensive.

On Friday nights there was a folk club at the “Swan & Sugar Loaf” in South Croydon. It was run by a couple of Australian women. My only gripe was that floor singers were only allowed to sing one song, although one evening I became a named resident and sang six. Those two clubs closed down eventually and then the “Croydon Folk Club” started using “The Ship” pub, in Croydon High Street. I went there regularly every Monday, until they moved to the Fairfield Bar, at the Fairfield Halls. They are now at Ruskin House. I did perform there a few times.

I joined a group called “Childe Rolande” also in the 70s and was with them for around 15 years. We performed at a garden centre a couple of times and regularly at the old “Red & White” wine bar on a Friday night. We also played at the former Croydon Folk Festival, which was held at the Fairfield Halls in the late 80s. I sang an unaccompanied song there and won second prize! I think that festival only ran for a couple of years. It was there that I met and later got involved with the Northwood Morris group, who – apart from Morris dancing (which they still do) – used to put on plays with music at Addington Park. I played keyboard at these and it was through this group that I met my husband Steve, the guitarist. I joined the Morris group as a percussionist. Ruskin house also hosts their “Folk & Blues Club” on a Sunday night. We have been there too.

For classical music lovers there is, of course, the Croydon Music Festival

But what about now? Croydon has more music than it ever had before. Matthews Yard, just off Surrey Street, has held their folk evenings on certain Thursday nights, when three or four singers or groups have been booked. The music has been exceptionally good. They sometimes have singers at their “Busking by the Window” sessions at week-ends. The “Green Dragon” pub has live sessions on Sunday lunchtimes and the “Scream Lounge” in Croydon’s South End is a small, multi-level music venue which hosts gigs and live events most nights of the week on fully equipped stages both upstairs and downstairs. We saw a folk group there some time ago and they were excellent.

We have had several festivals – the Croydon Heritage Festival held in June had music on some of the days – jazz, pop, old time music hall, etc.  The Addiscombe Carnival and Purley Festival had bands playing, as did the South End Food Festival and the South Croydon Music Festival. Other events with music were the Wandle Park Open Day and the recent one at Lloyd Park. We attended most of these, though not all.

For classical music lovers there is, of course, the Croydon Music Festival, with concerts being held at Whitgift School, the Ashcroft Theatre and the Fairfield Halls. The latter, of course, apart from holding classical concerts, also shows musicals, jazz, rock singers, etc. and is very popular. In October, CROxjam is coming to Croydon. It’s part of Oxfam’s nationwide mega-fest, Oxjam. Enjoy!

Now – did someone some time ago complain that Croydon was a cultural desert? Really?

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

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  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    Really nice article, do you think we could still do with several times the amount of music venues we already do? I totally agree we aren’t a cultural desert but maybe its just the only obvious thing we are is a retail and office district.

    • Anne Giles

      Nice. Thanks. I wonder, though? Where would we have the music venues? Or the bands?

      • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

        I was thinking encourage South end restaurants to do dinner and music. Even the empty shop units say in st Georges walk could be pop up venues. The flower beds there could be decked over and made into stages.

        Someone said to me lots of small intimate music venues is what Croydon needs. I guess they would each cater to those following specific genres.

        • Anne Giles

          Good idea, although we never eat in restaurants where there is music, as it drowns our conversation out!

  • Terry Coleman

    Good stuff Anne, it’s so nice to be reminded of our musical tradition. It has been going on a long time too; I can recall the folk club at the Safari coffee bar along South End on a Sunday afternoon, that was back in the 1960′s. If you wanted a bit of heavy Rock, the Greyhound (opp the Fairfield) was the place to be on a Sunday night.
    We have a good Symphony Orchestra of course, a good Jazz Orchestra too and I do believe we still have a Croydon Borough Band. But none of it gets much attention from our printed news media, a pity.

    • Adrian Winchester

      The Greyhound was a major loss – a medium sized venue with a good atmosphere that was great for rock (and later punk) in the 70s and early 80s. I recall seeing band likes Rory Gallagher; The Groundhogs, Stray, Amon Duul II, Edgar Broughton Band, Fusion Orchestra, Motorhead, Focus, Golden Earring and even Queen around the time they had their first hit. I never understood why – with very rare exceptions – all the gigs there were on Sunday nights, but at least it kept my mind off school the next day! Later in the 80s, the Underground Club in the High Street (near the entrance to St George’s Walk) had a similar appeal although it was significantly smaller. It was open most nights and bands I saw included Cardiacs, 999, Jayne County and a packed-out show featuring a line-up of The Sweet. There’s a lack of similar venues nowadays, although I suppose the Stand concerts in the Arnhem Gallery were an attempt to revive such opportunities.

Changing Croydon: Music Venues PRINT EDITION


By - Tuesday 6th August, 2013

Anne Giles looks back on her time as a musician in Croydon – and takes our readers on a tour through the history of its venues and clubs


When I first lived in the area in the 1970s I had only just started playing guitar and singing folk songs. The only venues I visited were the local folk clubs. I lived in Thornton Heath then and “The Fountain Head” pub was just around the corner. I met a few friends there. I believe they had their folk club on a Wednesday night. The usual format was for named residents to play a few songs, after which the “floor singers” were allowed to perfom anything from one to three songs, and then the booked artist would come on. Entry to the club was relatively inexpensive.

On Friday nights there was a folk club at the “Swan & Sugar Loaf” in South Croydon. It was run by a couple of Australian women. My only gripe was that floor singers were only allowed to sing one song, although one evening I became a named resident and sang six. Those two clubs closed down eventually and then the “Croydon Folk Club” started using “The Ship” pub, in Croydon High Street. I went there regularly every Monday, until they moved to the Fairfield Bar, at the Fairfield Halls. They are now at Ruskin House. I did perform there a few times.

I joined a group called “Childe Rolande” also in the 70s and was with them for around 15 years. We performed at a garden centre a couple of times and regularly at the old “Red & White” wine bar on a Friday night. We also played at the former Croydon Folk Festival, which was held at the Fairfield Halls in the late 80s. I sang an unaccompanied song there and won second prize! I think that festival only ran for a couple of years. It was there that I met and later got involved with the Northwood Morris group, who – apart from Morris dancing (which they still do) – used to put on plays with music at Addington Park. I played keyboard at these and it was through this group that I met my husband Steve, the guitarist. I joined the Morris group as a percussionist. Ruskin house also hosts their “Folk & Blues Club” on a Sunday night. We have been there too.

For classical music lovers there is, of course, the Croydon Music Festival

But what about now? Croydon has more music than it ever had before. Matthews Yard, just off Surrey Street, has held their folk evenings on certain Thursday nights, when three or four singers or groups have been booked. The music has been exceptionally good. They sometimes have singers at their “Busking by the Window” sessions at week-ends. The “Green Dragon” pub has live sessions on Sunday lunchtimes and the “Scream Lounge” in Croydon’s South End is a small, multi-level music venue which hosts gigs and live events most nights of the week on fully equipped stages both upstairs and downstairs. We saw a folk group there some time ago and they were excellent.

We have had several festivals – the Croydon Heritage Festival held in June had music on some of the days – jazz, pop, old time music hall, etc.  The Addiscombe Carnival and Purley Festival had bands playing, as did the South End Food Festival and the South Croydon Music Festival. Other events with music were the Wandle Park Open Day and the recent one at Lloyd Park. We attended most of these, though not all.

For classical music lovers there is, of course, the Croydon Music Festival, with concerts being held at Whitgift School, the Ashcroft Theatre and the Fairfield Halls. The latter, of course, apart from holding classical concerts, also shows musicals, jazz, rock singers, etc. and is very popular. In October, CROxjam is coming to Croydon. It’s part of Oxfam’s nationwide mega-fest, Oxjam. Enjoy!

Now – did someone some time ago complain that Croydon was a cultural desert? Really?

Anne Giles

Anne Giles

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the daughter of an Anglo-Argentine mother and English father. I went to an English school and worked for a British company out there before coming to live in the U.K. I spent many years teaching Spanish in adult education in various centres in Croydon Borough and have got to know so many different areas – North and South. We have been living in Selsdon since 1989 and I love it. I feel passionately about Croydon and have spent many years writing blogs – firstly for the Croydon Advertiser, then the Croydon Guardian, and eventually my own blog entitled “The Good Life in Croydon”. I am very much involved in the community, attending regular meetings with the Croydon Community Police Consultative Group and am also a member of the British Transport Police PACT (Police & Community Together) Team.

More Posts - Website





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