Review: Croydon’s Street Art Tour and bottomless lunch

By - Wednesday 15th August, 2018

A walking tour followed by a delicious lunch – what’s not to like?

Photo public domain.

Saturday 21st July marked the dawn of a new grassroots Croydon event: the Street Art Tour and bottomless lunch from RISE Gallery and East Croydon Cool.

In recent years Croydon has firmly planted itself on the street art map, and not just in London. Renowned artists from all around the world have flocked to the borough to leave their mark, and the results have been extraordinary.

The birth of this movement can be traced back to one single event: the launch of Rise Gallery in St George’s Walk. Art dealer and Croydon boy, Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison, saw the opportunity to transform the aesthetic of the town into something that would literally stop people in their tracks. By leasing out approved shopfront shutters and vacant wall spaces to established and emerging artists, Croydon was brought to life with a sea of colour, style and imagination.

What inspired the artists who have spun our streets into life?

The Street Art Tour aims to shed light on the artists who have spun our sullen streets into what we now know as the arts quarter; what inspired them, where did they come from, and how did they do it?

Our tour began outside Rise on an absolute scorcher of a day, where we were met with a warm smile and a cool glass of prosecco. Ticket-holders were invited to explore the gallery and get to know each other before Kevin led us away on a journey through Croydon’s street art. Now, as tempting as it is to tell you all the ins and outs of the tour, I won’t do that. It’s definitely something that you should experience for yourself; however, I’ll spare a couple of titbits to whet your appetite.

Did you know that the powerful #JusticeForGrenfell piece on Katharine Street caused controversy when it first appeared? Local lad, Stormzy, won the hearts of millions at this year’s BRIT Awards when he took it as an opportunity to call out politicians for their thoughtless response to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower:

“You criminals! And you’ve got the cheek to call us savages.
You should do some jail time. You should pay some damages.
We should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.”

The wording was transformed into a powerful mural by artist, Edwin, who’s known for using language in his work, often humorously, to provoke thought in the observer. The original piece was plastered over by Croydon Council just one hour after it was completed. Fortunately, public outcry forced the council to review their “error in judgement” and Edwin was brought back to repaint it.

Here’s another nugget for you.

Otto Schade, the Chilean-born artist responsible for the brilliant Snoopy and Woodstock sunset image on Park Street, returned to Croydon fairly recently to construct a giant mural opposite the Spread Eagle pub. The giant face is called Her Hometown, and the coloured bandages represent the banding together of the local community. If you look at the girl’s eye, you’ll notice that it’s reflecting a familiar skyline – Ikea towers included.

There’s a fun backstory and fact behind every single piece in town, so I won’t spoil the tour for you here, but one thing worth noting is how some of these artists, most of great renown, have travelled from all over the world to make their mark on Croydon.

The café is cosy and the service is superb

The one-hour tour snaked its way through the town centre and planted us neatly at Crushed Bean, where we were treated to a three-course, bottomless lunch. For those of you who are already familiar with Crushed Bean, this place needs little selling. However, if you’ve yet to sample it for yourself, then it comes highly recommended. The café is wonderfully cosy and the service is superb. The savoury bites and sweet treats are delicious and the perfect bookend to a walking tour. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options available, too. The post-tour lunch is a breezy 90 minutes, which gives you the perfect opportunity to sample delicious dishes, sink some cool beverages, and get to know your fellow art lovers, many of whom had moved into Croydon and fallen in love with the town’s aesthetic and community spirit.

Our town is swirling in a pool of change at the moment, but the thing that keeps it Croydon is the home-grown passion of local entrepreneurs and visionaries. In order to maintain and support the immense cultural wealth of our diverse borough, we need to show support and solidarity for these events, and hope that they continue to thrive.

The Street Art tour will return, though no dates have been confirmed as of yet, so be sure to follow East Croydon Cool for future updates and bookings.

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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