“I met a young girl; she gave me a rainbow”: my experience of Croydon PrideFest 2017

By - Tuesday 8th August, 2017

In the heart of Croydon, unity is symbolised by a rainbow flowerbed

Croydon PrideFest 2017.
Photo by Croydon Saffron Central, used with permission.

The clock is ticking and the warm summer days are flying by. The kids are off school, holidays are being taken, festivals have come and gone along with numerous events across our amazing borough. One of those festivals, Croydon PrideFest 2017, was a colourful gathering and celebration in the Queen’s Gardens on the Saturday 15th July.

That space in central Croydon is very special. Why? Because next door to Queen’s Gardens where Pride took place, just behind the hoardings and missed by many who attended, is one of the most inspired ‘it could only happen in Croydon’ projects ever: Croydon Saffron Central. It will most likely be the last project for the wonderful creative space that has been the saffron farm and the bee haven before developers move in…  and do what developers do.

For a grand finale, local ideas man and visionary Ally McKinlay has once again been inspired this year and has had many of us volunteering on the site to create a floral display to represent the LGBT+ flag. Flowers of red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet are still growing in the beds and the majority had flowered by July 15th to create the effect for numerous visitors to pop in and admire this creative use of this space and enjoy Croydon’s community support for LGBT rights and culture.  It’s also interesting to see how the culture and symbolism of the gay pride movement has seemed to expand over time to include the embracing of other differences between people. Pride has become a wonderful way to celebrate human diversity.

So what’s next for Croydon’s rainbow space?

Photo by Croydon Saffron Central, used with permission.

The next event on the horizon for this project is participation in Open House London, which will take place on the weekend of September 16th and 17th. I’d encourage as many of you to come along and take a first or last look at this incredible community space, before the developers move in and it disappears to become jus a pleasurable memory. The future for Croydon’s saffron? That’s for Ally to decide and let us know.

If you meet Ally, give him a pat on the back and thanks for giving Croydon these amazing and far reaching projects. His ideas have got into the ears, then the minds and hearts, of so many people and have played an inestimable part in changing the perception of this place we call home.

The reason for the title of this piece is that my lovely wife and I arrived later on in the Pride proceedings as we had been to a wedding anniversary barbecue.  As we walked into the festival, a young girl gave me a Pride flag to wave. It made me think of these wonderful lyrics by Bob Dylan:

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard rain’s a-going to fall.

Croydon’s beautiful rainbow flowerbed helps our town play its part in healing the wounds of hate.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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