Have you heard what they’re saying about Croydon?

By - Monday 8th June, 2015

What debt does urban civilisation owe to Croydon? Bernadette Fallon on wrangling, rebuttal and getting supermodels on the record

Mention the word ‘Croydon’ to someone and you’re likely to get one of three reactions:

(a) fiercely dismissive – “Croydon”, said in the tone of voice one might use when discussing the inner circles of Hell

(b) fiercely protective – “are you having a go at Croydon?”

(c) just apathetic


Kate Moss sparked a debate recently (when I say ‘debate’, I mean three people had a conversation on Twitter and a few others commented), after she mentioned Croydon in a rare interview. Due to the fact she never mentions Croydon – mainly because she never speaks publicly – this was a BIG DEAL.

What did she say?

“I’m from Croydon and if you get above your station, somebody will f**king knock you back down.”

Instantly, factions formed. Was Kate dissing Croydon, referring to it as a ghetto where people literally knock you down? Or was she just merely pointing to it as a place where her feet were kept firmly on the ground?

God, it’s so f**king Croydon!

Given the context of the interview, discussing the shallowness of the celebrity world she inhabits, I’m opting for the latter. Because she comes from a place like Croydon – a real place, out of the fashion bubble – she won’t get carried away with delusions of grandeur or the importance of her ‘myth’.

But judge for yourself; see the interview at Showstudio.com.

And while you make up your mind about Kate, let’s see what the others are saying. Because there’s been a fair amount of high profile dissing going on.

David Bowie: ”I hated Croydon with a real vengeance. It represented everything I didn’t want in my life, everything I wanted to get away from. I think it’s the most derogatory thing I can say about somebody or something: “God, it’s so f**king Croydon!’”.

And of course he did escape. To the uber cool, er, Bromley. Morley’s department store in Brixton also lay claim to him, with a poster celebrating his birthplace half way down the stairs to the toasters.

Kirsty MacColl once ranked Croydon number 5 in the top 50 things she hated, adding she hoped it would all be ‘blown up’ someday.

Architecture critic Owen Hatherly described it as “one of London’s more surreal urban experiences … an intriguing but miserable place… you could be in a wealthy West German industrial city – until you walk around a bit”.

Still, there’s (some form of) redemption from the author Angela Carter, writing in ‘Wise Children’, ‘I’ll always love Croydon, even though it’s a dump’.

And finally, the Evening Standard: ‘Croydon is the new… Barcelona’ (headline 2007)

So it’s no wonder that plenty of people are fiercely protective of Croydon and keen to jump to its defence, even under the glimmer of attack. Which isn’t necessarily the best approach. There’s good and there’s bad in Croydon – just like everywhere else – celebrating the good, while acknowledging the bad and figuring a way through it, may be a better solution than bristling indignation at every perceived slight.

Come and hear some thought-provoking discussion about perceptions of Croydon next week in Fairfield Halls.

In fact, scrap ‘hear’, come along and contribute to the debate as authors Andy Miller (‘The Year of Reading Dangerously’), John Grindrod (‘Concretopia’) and Bob Stanley (‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’) talk about their experiences of growing up in Croydon and its influence on how they see the world. What debt does urban civilization owe Croydon? (Okay, so they asked what debt the metropolis owes to suburbia – same thing.)

‘Croydon Till I Die’ promises to be inspiring stuff and has already been on tour – to Crystal Palace (read the review here) and Shoreditch (brilliant evening but the review is only in my head, which is current inaccessible online). Come and welcome it home on Thursday 11th June at Fairfield Halls Arnhem Gallery at 7:00pm.

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Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Bernadette has been a journalist since the age of 7 when she devised, designed and launched ‘Fallon’s News’ – much to her family’s delight. Brought up in Ireland, she was born in Addiscombe where she now lives, though it took her several decades to find it again. She works as a journalist and broadcaster. Follow her at Twitter.com/bernibee

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  • Stephen Giles

    Great article – do I detect a “the only way is Croydon” liberation front!!

  • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

    “David Bowie” “Kirsty MacColl” “Owen Hatherly” “Angela Carter”

    Who are these people, anyway?

    • Anne Giles

      I have never heard of Owen Hatherly or Angela Carter.

  • Ian Marvin

    I was indeed surprised to learn that Angela Carter started her career with the Croydon Advertiser . . .

    As a relative newcomer I’m still trying to work out what it is that makes Croydon so special, and special it is.