Good vibrations in the Cronx

By - Monday 20th July, 2015

Croydon keeps it real in a city increasingly set apart from the everyday world, says Lauren Furey

Croydon’s colourful new skyscraper dominates the skyline

London is coming to be viewed as a millionaire playboy’s paradise. Wealthy Russian oligarchs and Saudi princes have flocked to the capital to buy up luxury properties, clubs, restaurants and new housing developments, pricing more and more medium to low income londoners into the suburbs. London’s reputation is becoming increasingly negative with people outside the city viewing it as a separate entity to the rest of the country. As the rest of the UK suffers the onslaught of unemployment and social cuts in the name of austerity, it’s little wonder many consider London a world away from the problems of everyday people.

Can you blame anyone for looking at London as nothing more than a hub for the privileged and entitled? As the city draws up grand visions of a new bridge that will support a public garden, there are those more concerned with being turfed out of council houses, losing their jobs and ensuring their children won’t have to rely on one of the nation’s many food banks.

There has been a whitewashing of London’s public space

These problems exist in London too, but media hype surrounding the city’s wealth has caused intense public scrutiny and an overall distaste for those in Westminster who seem to lack the fundamentals of compassion.

The gentrification of urbanised areas has come to represent a whitewashing of public spaces and the disappearance of affordable housing. It has created pockets of London that have pushed out established local residents to make way for niche businesses. To take one recent example, the Elephant and Castle area in Southwark has been the target of new developments and the long-standing Elephant and Castle pub will close to accommodate a branch of Foxton’s, the estate agency whose premises in formerly working class SW2 were attacked during ‘reclaim Brixton’ protests over soaring rents there in April 2015. Even the world-famous Ministry of Sound has been repeatedly threatened with closure because new residents of the area might not appreciate the noise.

Croydon has suffered its own losses. Dingwall Road is now completely unrecognisable since the destruction of offices and the Warehouse Theatre. Developments are well under way to regenerate the entire Croydon gateway with new housing and public facilities, including Boxpark in 2016. Tabener House has been demolished and the Bernard Weatherill building now hosts Croydon Council. A spectacular new skyscraper development, Saffron Square, now dominates Croydon’s skyline. The town has seemingly shifted in the blink of an eye – but does anyone actually care?

So many shining examples of people doing positive things for the town

Yes, I think they do. It’s struck me that, during such a time of rapid change, there are local entrepreneurs and passionate residents that are prepared to hold a torch for Croydon’s cultural and social scene, to light the way for the community to come together. Despite Croydon’s notoriously sketchy reputation, we have always maintained a very strong sense of community. You only need to turn your head to see a shining of example of people doing something positive for this town.

Examples include the Lives Not Knives (LNK) charity which raises awareness on the dangers of knife crime; Matthew’s Yard with its coffee, burgers, live music, workspace and community hub; Platform, the weekly food market at Ruskin Square and Behtareen, the Indian street food restaurant on Dingwall Road, which has a wall plastered with pictures of other Croydon business owners, to encourage customers to shop locally.

Croydon’s new arts quarter has dramatically reshaped the neighbourhood

Then Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison has brought us the RISE Gallery in St George’s Walk and worked to transform the area into Croydon’s new arts quarter; TURF Projects has recently opened a new gallery in the town centre, to continue its work of supporting artists and the community in imaginative and creative ways; Changing Places has been working hard to give young people in Croydon a voice and hosted its first event on 27th June in North End;. Croydon Heritage Festival dominated the latter part of June, inviting the people of Croydon to learn about their local history, and Croydon’s historic airport is on the first Sunday of every month, allowing visitors to learn about London’s first international airport – for free!

Croydon’s heart is in the right place

In a few days’ time, the Ambition Festival comes to Croydon with a swarm of talented performers and artists, including Soul II Soul, Lee Scratch Perry, the Alternative Dubstep Orchestra and many more.

The Croydon Citizen gives the people of Croydon a voice. If there’s a cause you wish to promote, an event to review or a local restaurant to critique, then you can flex your creative muscles and submit an article. Even if you just want to share a thought or opinion on Croydon, you can. The Citizen even has a regular feature called ‘I would make Croydon better by…’ where residents are encouraged to submit their sound bites on what they think could be good for Croydon.

In the concrete jungle, here and elsewhere, some are striving for commercialism and profit at a time when others find it hard to make ends meet. But beneath all that, Croydon’s heart is in the right place. We’re coming together, we’re celebrating, we’re doing something good, and that ripple continues to travel. These projects, investments, charities and events are primarily driven by Croydon people, for the people of Croydon. So whatever changes come about in the next few years, however the town may visibly alter, it seems that the spirit of Croydon will continue to fight through and preserve what’s good about this town and the people in it.

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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  • Marjorie Daw

    Not to forget the David Lean cinema in the Clocktower, reopened by volunteers in 2014 which shows films 2 or 3 times a week. See for the choice of films this July and August.