Croydon makes shortlist for London Creative Enterprise Zone

By - Wednesday 4th April, 2018

Regeneration prices out creatives. How will Croydon respond?

Part of Otto Schade’s ‘Her Hometown’, Katharine Street, Croydon.
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

As Croydon Council’s culture director, my whole team and I were really disappointed not to be successful in gaining the London Borough of Culture title. We did feel that we were ready to deliver a great programme and that Croydon would have undoubtedly benefitted from that. However, the work that we did in developing the bid, in building partnerships and ideas, will not be lost or wasted. We are now working to have Croydon designated a London Cultural Enterprise Zone.

Affordable spaces for artists and other creatives is at a premium in London, with a reduction of 30% of artist studios across the capital predicted in the next few years. London Mayor Sadiq Khan is seeking to address the perennial problem of creative people moving to less well-off areas to live and work due to lower rents, helping to regenerate the area and then being priced out, by creating three new Creative Enterprise Zones in the next couple of years to help to provide long-term and affordable workspace for artists and creative businesses. The scheme aims to help creatives to put down roots and establish themselves in local areas. These areas will then attract new artists and creative businesses, and develop skills in local people.

Creative industries account for one in six jobs in London

Twenty-five boroughs applied for CEZ status and ten have been initially shortlisted. Croydon is one of them, and as a shortlisted borough we will now receive £50,000 to help support the application. As we develop this over the next three months, I believe that it can become a valuable cultural programme for Croydon.

Partners in Croydon’s bid include Artists’ Studio Company, which is moving to Croydon with 100 new studios due to open in Grafton Street shortly. This will be its first permanent building in London and demand for spaces is expected to be very high.

To qualify as a Creative Enterprise Zone, a borough will need to demonstrate support for its artists and creative businesses through measures including commitments from landlords and developers to charge lower-than-market rents, reduced business rates, business support such as advice on financing and marketing, and training and apprenticeships for young people seeking careers in the creative industries.

The majority of creative industry jobs cannot be automated

The creative industries contribute £47bn to London’s economy every year and now account for one in six jobs in the capital. Creative jobs are growing four times faster than the economy average and the majority of them cannot be automated, providing a major employment opportunity for London.

Over the next few months, Croydon Council will commission research into which sections of our arts and creative industries have the greatest potential for growth and the physical footprint of the planned zone itself, as well as checking out other successful enterprise zones in London. It is likely that the shape of a creative enterprise zone in Croydon would be based in the town centre but with satellites reaching out to different parts of the borough where spaces, activity and creative clusters are developing.

I’m aware of the significance for many in Croydon of Matthews Yard as a cultural hub. The site is owned by a charity which wants to sell it, and that is what it is doing. I understand that the developer has an arrangement in place with Hoodoos, a local music promoter, to have a cultural venue in the new development which will be both a performance and activity space, purpose-built and on the ground floor. I think that this will be a great addition to the development on that site. The Creative Enterprise Zone programme is all about creating the right environment and making sure that the right policies are in place to make things like this happen more.

I am excited about working to formulate our vision for Croydon’s individual Creative Enterprise Zone. In summer 2018 we will put forward our bid for further funding. The outcome will be known later in 2018 and I hope that we achieve success.

Paula Murray

Paula Murray

Paula Murray is Creative Director of Croydon Council, responsible for the shaping of the Borough’s cultural programme. Before joining Croydon Council, Paula played a crucial role at Brighton & Hove City Council, where she has worked for 18 years on delivering the city’s cultural and tourism offer, holding a variety of positions, from Project Manager Arts and Culture and Head of Arts and Creative Industries, to Commissioner for Culture and Assistant Chief Executive. Paula started her working life as a community dance worker, delivering dance in education programmes, projects and performances for various organisations including Knowsley Council. She was Dance Officer for both Arts Council North West and Arts Council South East before joining Brighton and Hove.

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  • Steve Thompson

    I take issue with the second sentence of the penultimate paragraph. Paula is making a statement as though it is a foregone conclusion, but the planning application has not yet been heard. Why is there a perceived attitude within Croydon Council that Matthews Yard as is must be destroyed?

  • Dracar Dweig

    More waffle. AND more consultants!
    Cut the consultants and some proper art/culture might be afforded.
    Meanwhile ‘Croydon Culture’ remains the oxymoron that it is.
    The lack of support that Ms Murray offers Matthews Yard should cost her job.

    • Steve Thompson

      Perfectly put.

  • Sannacott

    Having sat through performances at Matthews Yard ruined by a sound check in Hoodoos venue next door, I would have to be convinced that these were the appropriate people to run a performance venue.

  • Dracar Dweig

    You will be lucky to find a venue in which to see a performance if the council pursues its policy of closing everything.