#CroydonLitFest: Who wants to help put on Croydon’s first literary festival?

By - Monday 23rd January, 2017

A call to arms for local bookworms to follow in the footsteps of #Croydon #TechCity

Croydon Town Hall: one of several venues to run Croydon Literary Festival:
Photo by Tony Monblat, used under Creative Commons licence.

In 2017, Croydon stands as one of the most exciting places in the UK to be right now.

Croydon is currently experiencing an arts renaissance. We now host exhibitions from the likes of Banksy and Damien Hirst. We have gained four new art galleries in the space of one year. Over one hundred public murals have been commissioned around town. Soon, we will have the UK’s largest subterranean art gallery.

Croydon is London’s fastest-growing tech cluster and the UK’s fastest-growing economy. It’s “the Silicon Valley of South London”. Companies from Israel, US and Norway are moving here. New workspaces and tech hubs are opening. Locals are being upskilled and educated for free by the others in the Croydon community.

Croydon is becoming a cultural capital, too. We have fourteen annual music festivals. Boxpark has landed. Croydon is the birthplace of dubstep, and the home of the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology: this borough has created and nurtured talent including Adele, Leona Lewis, and Kate Nash.

Now, it’s time for the borough’s readers, writers and publishers to get involved in Croydon’s renaissance.

Croydon – The Literary City

It’s no surprise that, as the largest town in Europe, Croydon is home to a thriving community of reading, writing and publishing groups, companies and individuals.

Every day I come across Croydonians who are making exciting forays into the world of publishing. Just this week, I discovered that Bernadette Fallon has been commissioned to write a four-book series on cathedrals, the Croydon Citizen’s Liz Sheppard-Jones has recently become represented by MBA Literary & Script Agents, and that the cool cats over at Rise Gallery are soon publishing their first book (Born In The Cronx) charting graffiti in the area from 1982.

Tom Black, managing editor of the Croydon Citizen, runs a counter-factual history publisher called Sea Lion Press where you can read alternative versions of British and world history.

New Croydon authors are reviewed regularly in the pages of the Croydon Citizen each month. Across the borough, scores of reading groups have formed – most notably, Waterstones runs a weekly reading group in Matthews Yard – and there are also creative writing and public speaking groups across town.

Let’s not forget the vibrant performing arts scene that relies on poets, playwrights and screenwriters to make it all happen.

In short, all of the ingredients are here for Croydon to start its own literary festival.

What is a literary festival?

Authors in discussion at Cheltenham Literary Festival.
Photo by Cheltenham Literary Festival, used with permission.

A literary festival, also known as a book festival or writers’ festival, is a regular gathering of writers and readers, typically on an annual basis in a particular city. A literary festival usually features a variety of presentations, workshops and readings by authors, as well as other events, delivered over a period of several days, with the primary objectives of promoting the authors’ books and fostering a love of literature and writing.

The most well-known and longest-running literary festival is Cheltenham Literature Festival which attracts over 100,000 people to the area each year. Closer to home, Bloomsbury Festival is comprised of five days of artistic, scientific and literary events, immersive exhibitions and performances in unusual locations, bringing more than 150 events to the literary district of London.

Closer to home still, literary festivals have sprung up in Balham and Peckham. These are smaller affairs, and it’s from these local literary festivals that Croydon should take inspiration.

Let’s start Croydon Literary Festival

There are so many themes and ideas that the first Croydon Literary Festival could focus on that utilise local talent that is already here. These include:

  • New media and self-publishing: The advent of blogging and social media has changed the way that writers write and readers read. Similarly, the internet has made it easier than ever for Croydon authors to publish and sell their works online.

  • Historical Croydon and South London literature: Croydon has a rich literary legacy to draw upon and celebrate, including D. H. Lawrence, Cicely Baker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Malcolm Muggeridge, Raymond Chandler, etc.

  • Contemporary Croydon and South London literature: Croydon also has lots of living authors that live in and around the borough, including Allan Ahlberg, Chris Heath, Habib Nader, etc.

Imagine hundreds of people from Brighton and central London descending on Croydon for the day (or week, or month!) filling our cafés and various events spaces around town. Excitedly attending various lectures, or talks from famous authors, or queueing for book signings, or attending a writing workshop, or listening to poetry recitals in pubs.

Perhaps it could even be in conjunction with other alternative arts events that are springing up around Croydon all the time, such as Croydonites – the two week fringe theatre festival organised by one person – or the Croydon International Film Festival.

However it turns out, it would be an absolute WIN for Croydon – and something that everyone in the area could benefit from.

So, who wants to help to make this happen?

Book signings from famous authors.
Photo by World Literature Today, used under Creative Commons licence.

Here’s the crunch.

It’s one thing to have a cool idea. People have cool ideas all of the time. But just having an idea won’t make it magically materialise.

Perhaps you’re reading this and nodding at how awesome it sounds. Perhaps you’re even being so good as to make a mental note to attend the festival when it’s on. Thanks. But, again, that won’t make it happen.

I’ve got too much on running Croydon Tech City to take on this task and do it justice. However, I have no doubt there are people out there who are more talented, energetic and capable than I could ever be, who could deliver this vision of a dedicated literary festival for Croydon.

Therefore, I’d like to assemble a team of Croydon-loving volunteers who want to take the reigns of this idea and make it happen. You might not have experience running events or be a literature expert, but so what? This just needs people who are committed and proactive, and know how to search Google and send an email.

The team should consist of people that fit into these roles:

  • Project manager: This person is the organiser who can keep everything on track and can plan milestones and deadlines so the whole endeavour doesn’t collapse or run out of steam

  • The marketer: This person knows how to market an event by ringing up newspapers, writing about it everywhere, building an email list and being active on social media

  • The seller: This person will have a commercial/sales background. Even if no money or sponsorships are involved in delivering Croydon Literary Festival, they will have the skills to ‘sell’ the idea or ‘convince’ others to help

  • The well-networked Croydonian: This person knows everything and everyone in Croydon – if a need or problem arises, they will know the Croydon person or establishment that can solve it, and pro-actively contact them

  • The well-networked literary enthusiast: This person may have had a career in media, know lots of authors, or be connected to various reading/book groups in the South London area, and pro-actively contact them

The above are just guiding ideas of the sort of team required to make Croydon Literary Festival happen. To be honest, it could be delivered by just TWO people if they were competent and enthusiastic enough about the idea.

That said, something like this can’t attract well-meaning individuals who get all excited, start strong, attend a few meetings, and then lose interest quickly. This will require you to dedicate at least three hours per fortnight (emailing, meeting, thinking, phoning, strategising, planning, etc) by yourself or with the team. If you can’t even commit that small effort, don’t bother.

Crucially, this can all be done FOR FREE. No money necessarily needs to be raised to deliver a Croydon Literary Festival. In fact, it’s better to deliver it on a shoestring at first so as not to overcomplicate things. Local and London authors can be booked to give talks for free. Venues can be booked for free. Marketing materials can be made for free. It just takes a winning (and winsome) team of people who have time, vision and drive and are enthused about it.

If you would like to make Croydon’s first Literary Festival happen, please email me at  with an explanation of how you can contribute (or leave a comment below the article with ideas). Once I have enough volunteers I’ll connect you all and we can have a kick-off meeting.

A final word on Croydon’s first Literary Festival

Croydon Literary Festival can be a smaller version of Cheltenham Literary Festival!
Photo by Cheltenham Literary Festival, used with permission.

Croydon Literary Festival could put Croydon on the map as an epicentre for creative, literary and intellectual talent. This town could become a hive of writing talent and events that draw academics and the general public to the area. Rather than just relying on local artists and entrepreneurs to change Croydon’s narrative, this is an opportunity for our writers, publishers and readers to get together and make something happen.

It doesn’t have to be huge. Not at first. All that it takes is a group of enthusiastic and industrious Croydonians working together to get something small off the ground. The rest will come.

After all, why should Cheltenham and Bloomsbury have all the fun?

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 owns a lead generation company. 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 and a Linkedin lead generation service. 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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  • Sean Creighton

    Good idea Jonny. As I have my own small publishing imprint I’m up for being involved.


  • Jemilea Wisdom

    Sounds awesome. I run a creative arts company writerznscribez.org and we hold workshops and events in croydon. I was also born and raised in the borough. Very passionate about all things word based. Would love to help.