Let’s hear it for events at Boxpark

By - Thursday 26th October, 2017

It’s the closest thing that we have to a town square

Well Versed Ink in Boxbar.
Photo author’s own.

It’s pretty easy these days to be cynical about social media as we become inoculated against the fairly constant stream of awesomeness that seems to be everyone else’s lives – all of the time.

And yet, when you spot something that truly catches your eye and actually makes you want to get out and do whatever the hell it is that you’ve just spotted someone else doing, then you know something good must be going on. Really going on.

A few weeks ago I had just one of those moments. Instagram popped up a little video that definitely made me stop: a video of what looked like a rave-er-cise class. I’d never heard of Fight Klub and its drum n’ bass workout events, but it looked like a lot of people having fun to drum’n'bass. (Which it was – their Boxpark events sell out in hours apparently.)

“I love how Boxpark hosts fitness events at weekends”

Photo by Croydon Urban Edge, used with permission.

For Becky Saunders, who blogs as Fittie FODMAP London, the fact that Boxpark is becoming just as well known for its workout sessions as its food offerings is something to celebrate. “I love that Boxpark hosts fitness events at a weekend. I often travel across London to try different classes, and to have Boxpark in my home town putting on these types of events is amazing. I think that it brings different people to the borough and will help to change the unfair reputation that Croydon has.

“It’s lovely to meet likeminded people and enjoy a workout. The fact that you can grab good food straight afterwards is a winner too. If these events can get different people into the borough and interested in fitness, it’s win-win in my eyes!”

There’s commitment to the local arts

A quick glance through the listings shows that there seems to be a similar commitment to local arts as there is to keeping fit and well-fed. As David Byrne, Boxpark’s events and programming manager, explains, this is no accident.

“We work on the calendar three to four months in advance, which allows us to plan around key dates that are culturally relevant and that we feel should have a spotlight. For instance, for International Women’s Day back in March, we worked with Croydon Council to provide an event that included both motivational speeches and performances around the theme of Women in the Changing World of Work. Motivational speaker Dr Ava Brown was amongst the key speakersBut then again, we have other events, like Stormzy’s homecoming gig which are all about our ‘Eat Drink Play’ ethos.”

London Mozart Players at Boxpark, July 2017.
Photo by @FodenPhotography2017, used with permission.

When we at Croydon Bicycle Theatre came to planning our first ‘static’ event, hosting Hackney’s cosiest spoken word night There Goes the Neighbourhood as a showcase for local writing, we started our search for a venue by looking at where other similar events were already happening, which quickly led us to Well Versed Ink, Boxpark’s monthly spoken word night.

Darren Randon (one third of Well Versed’s team) explains how the team ended up at BoxPark:

“Well Versed had been running for about two years in a rugby club in Thornton Heath. We loved the diversity of the community, but we’d outgrown the space. It was just as Boxpark was opening and we were invited to work with Musique London on an event, which led to us using Boxpark’s Boxbar as our regular spot. Luckily, our crowd have come with us and we still have poets of all ages getting up on the mic, from eight year olds to my seventy-four year old grandad.

“Our Well Versed journey has taught us that collaboration is key. We love having the chance to work with the other artists using Boxpark, which is why we’re excited to be involved in other events, like There Goes the Neighbourhood.”

What other central Croydon venue can hold an audience of 800?

Of course, there’s much that isn’t perfect about Boxpark. On a week in which Pret A Manger has announced that it has massive concerns about sustainability, Boxpark’s plastic waste mountains and roasting gas heaters mean that it definitely won’t appeal to everyone, no matter how exciting its events are. Equally, there are other Croydon venues with diverse and eclectic events taking place (see Lost Format Society, for instance) which must find Boxpark’s very presence terrifying.

Yet perhaps Boxpark’s success isn’t just about what goes on there, but also about the feel, and in particular about the size, of its space. The Fairfield Halls is closed. I doubt that my parents would have ended up at Boxpark if it hadn’t been for the London Mozart Players and its Shift K3Y collaboration. Which other Croydon venue can hold an audience of 800, as Boxpark did for that performance?

I can’t help but think that it also shows us what our residents really feel about the geography of our town centre: our underpasses, flyovers and car parks mean that there isn’t much about central Croydon that is human-sized. Boxpark’s bright, family friendly, car-free hub is the closest we have to a town square these days.

I’m sure that Boxpark will continue to go from strength to strength as other new community arts groups, fitness classes and live music shows start to hear of its willingness to collaborate and host Croydon in all of its diversity.

And of course, we hope that you will come down and see for yourself on Tuesday 7th November when you’ll find us in the Boxbar.

Amy Foster

Amy Foster

Amy Foster is a trustee of the London Cycling Campaign and works with Croydon Cyclists to improve cycling for all across the borough. She's a primary school teacher and is based in South Norwood. Find her on twitter @amyecoates.

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  • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

    Love this idea of Boxpark as Croydon’s “town square” – it’s a very powerful (and accurate) image.

    It’s also got me thinking about other questions: Why didn’t Croydon have a town square before? Are town squares where the people go or where the town planners dictate? What other ways can modern Boxpark be used to emulate the town squares of antiquity?

    Great piece, Amy – you’ve got me thinking! :)

    • Ian Marvin

      We have an opportunity for a town square opposite the town hall when St Georges Walk is redeveloped. Let’s try to keep to that vision.

  • Neil Woodcock

    Didn’t Boxpark only have a one or 2 yr lease or am I making it up? I thought that’s why it is defined as a so-called ‘popup’ venue?