Use it or lose it, Croydon


By - Monday 19th June, 2017

Amazing things are happening in our town, but they won’t stick around forever if attendance is low


London Mozart Players in Croydon. Photo by Matt Foden, used with permission.

“Use it or you will lose it”

This was the phrase that struck me as I read Liz Sheppard-Jones’ celebratory review of the London Mozart Players’ recent performance at Croydon’s only rooftop bar and cinema, Lost Format Society.

Croydon has never had anything like this before – a live open-air classical music concert, on a rooftop bar, with an outdoor cinema, showing Charlie Chaplin.

You would have to pay upwards of £100 for the privilege if this was done in the Barbican, and yet here in Croydon, the event cost a mere £10.

I threw all the (admittedly, non-existent) social cachet that comes with being the 37th Most Powerful Person in Croydon™ behind the event by tweeting about it.

Despite all of this, “empty chairs still remained on the roof.”

And this is why, Croydon, we can’t have nice things.

Croydon is amazing right now

Croydon is amazing right now when it comes to places to eat, drink and dance the night away. There is no borough outside of central London that provides the cultural experience on such a scale and with such variety that Croydon can.

We are currently experiencing an arts renaissance. We now host exhibitions from the likes of Banksy and Damien Hirst. Over one hundred public murals have been commissioned around town. New art galleries are opening here every few months.

There is no shortage of hipster coffee shops springing up to fuel the borough’s newcomers and their frenetic laptop lifestyles. Similarly, we do not want for unique eateries, as can be found in Boxpark or the South End restaurant quarter. And let’s not forget the gastric delights to found in Surrey Street Market or the open-front markets, butchers and restaurants that line the stretch from West Croydon Station to Broad Green.

Make the effort to turn off Netflix, leave your home and actually support a Croydon event

Croydon is becoming a cultural capital, too. We have fourteen annual music festivals. Croydon is the birthplace of dubstep, and the home of the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology: this borough has created and nurtured talent including Adele, Leona Lewis, and Kate Nash. We have proven repeatedly that Croydon can deliver top-tier acts such as Eskimo Dance – and there are more independent fringe theatre and film festivals here than you can shake a stick at.

Nothing lasts forever

However, nothing lasts forever (except Jesus’ kingdom, obvs).

None of the above magically appeared ex nihilo. Behind every event, every shop, every act, are scores of people who are working hard to deliver something excellent for Croydonians to enjoy. Many of them do this to the detriment of their bank balances, their personal relationships and their health.

All the above rely on you making the effort to turn off Netflix, leave your home and actually turn up.

This is particularly the case for our local SMEs, where the ‘local multiplier effect’ means that independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses (or locally-owned franchises). In other words, you taking the time to support local ventures creates more local wealth and jobs. The same goes for supporting local arts and culture, too. Yay, capitalism.

Support Croydon’s arts and culture

So, to return to my initial point – use it or you will lose it. The people who put on excellent events for Croydon won’t stick around forever if locals don’t support it with their wallets and their presence.

I once ruminated that Croydon gets the politicians that it deserves. If we don’t start supporting the people who are creating arts in Croydon – we will get the cultural wasteland that we deserve, too.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Peter Staveley

    Has anyone actually surveyed the people of Croydon and asked them what they want from their town and their town centre?

    Whilst this gentrification of our town is very nice I fear that it has been, sort of, imposed on us and I worry that it is leaving behind the majority of people of Croydon. Certainly I have not been asked if I wanted Boxpark or Roof Top cinemas. I wonder if people are voting with the wallets.

    • lizsheppardjourno

      There are 360,000 of us; I think there’s space for everything.

      Gentrification isn’t at all the same thing as a diverse and inclusive cultural scene, priced to include a range of entertainment for everyone, and the two shouldn’t be confused.

      • Peter Staveley

        I have no problem with private businesses providing cultural events. What I have a problem about is when public money (or even public loans as in the case of Boxpark) are used to provide events which do not benefit the community.

        There are many calls on public money and we need to ensure that it is spent wisely.

        • lizsheppardjourno

          Four surprises for me about Boxpark have been the sheer number of its users, their evident enjoyment (go along and see), some pretty diverse events and how many of them are free to attend. A poetry night full of enthusiastic young people was a recent one I went to. The price of the food, of course, isn’t so inclusive.

          But benefit to the community? As a Boxpark-skeptic, I’d say so.

          • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

            As an aside: this has reminded me that I need to update my thoughts on this –> https://thecroydoncitizen.com/economics-business/open-business-seven-initial-thoughts-boxpark-croydon-prospects-town/!

          • darran leo king

            shut up sort out your #croydonVstheWorld hashtag again not worth a wank and dead stay with croydon Tech as for Croydon Boxpark its a free for all one big youth club and the only few good outlets now go and read #boxpark #croydonboxpark #eatdrinkplay all dead not worth a wank tell me if am wrong thanks for blocking me from your account

          • darran leo king

            stop talking about your Croydon Boxpark since jan 1st 2017 you liz stop using Croydon Boxpark hashtags Why Because all of them are dead not worth a wank plus its a big Con, only 2 years then no more Crap apart from Cronx bar and few others as for the rest prue shit the whole of London is laughing at Croydon

        • darran leo king

          please when you read Croydon Boxpark hashtags #eatdrinkplay & #boxpark & #croydonboxpark not worth a wank none of the food outlets used them apart from shoreditch and free Djs plus boxpark is dead from 11pm to 1pm so much for a stop gap

      • darran leo king

        why have you stop using Croydon boxpark plus tell us how good is #eatdrinkplay hashtag going & same with #boxpark #croydonboxpark every one not worth a WANK . why Liz

  • lizsheppardjourno

    A resounding and deeply frustrated amen to this.

    This morning I received a refund on a series of art workshops I’d booked for my son at the fab Elizabeth James Gallery. https://thecroydoncitizen.com/culture/the-elizabeth-james-art-gallery-arts-norwood/. The reason for the workshops’ cancellation? Too few places had been reserved.

    The first time I ever reviewed Lost Format, back in 2015, the comments below were mainly an argument about ticket prices, as though turning a carpark roof into a cinema should somehow be a cost-free exercise. I dealt with it head on when I reviewed The Gold Rush.

    I absolutely understand that many Croydonians are very, very short of money and it angers me. I believe in social justice and I have always voted for it. But event organisers, artists and performers cannot and should not work for nothing, and it’s important to recognise what a realistic price is and be prepared to pay it. These workshops – like the Lost Format event – were exceptionally good value for three hours to work in a small group with the artist Ian Barrington.

    If we can pay, we should pay. I hope we can appreciate opportunities like these when they come to us.

    • arewenotben

      Is there a central space/website for promoting these kinds of events? I would love to go to more things like this in Croydon but there doesn’t seem to be much advertising in the local area (I’m aware that this would cost money/time etc).

      • Janet Smith

        I’ve just restarted my Croydon Arts Show Podcast after the closure of Croydon Radio and I have a website with listings and will be adding an events page shortly – https://www.croydonartsshow.org.uk/ I am tweeting local events and they show up there too.

    • darran leo king

      grow up Liz as for this Eastcroydoncool take a good look once again dead same with CroydonVsTheWorld with 77 followers as for Croydonist nothing new to add and why have you stop Using Croydon Boxpark when from day one you was sending in the tweets to boxpark boxparkcroydon , remember Croydon had 5,2 Billion Private investments and your Labour Support done nothing Support new EVENTS tell me if am wrong

  • Tony Skrzypczyk

    And not forgetting walks and talks by one of Croydon’s oldest society,https://cnhss.co.uk/our-event-programme-for-2017/

  • Mark Sultana

    I have personally been involved with at least 7 festivals here, it is always the same, poor attendance unless its free or there is cheap beer. Or if the events are widely advertised with an advertising budget outside of the borough and attract people from outside the borough. After years of trying, seeing my ideas given freely used by others, losing money and seeing how often the talent is simply who they can get cheap, I have given up. Their is a little club of people, who never change and continue to run things making the same poor choices of entertainment that are not widely embraced. The net result is all of these ‘Festivals’ are not well attended. I do think Purley is the exception but it has sponsorship from a number of sources and much more community feel as its really run by community members, not advertising agencies or people who own pubs and seek to just fill their pub or tap into council budgets or charity goodwill. Boxpark does not pay its performers, so you get what you get for free, sometimes good sometimes terrible. The place itself is a great addition to the landscape and people are voting with their wallets. If you want talent, they have to be paid, there is no fictional group of fantastically talented professionals that want to come and play in croydon for ‘exposure’ they want to be paid the going rate as they should be.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      Thanks for this response, Mark. It’s always interesting to here from people who are at the ‘coalface’ of doing arts & culture in Croydon :)

      Why can’t Purley Festival’s financial/operational model be replicated by other independent promoters around the borough (both big and small)?

      • Mark Sultana

        I don’t think their model is perfect, but they have a nice space to hold the festival and a greater community feel in Purley which all contributes, it has a distinct family feel/vibe and friendly inclusive marketing. I’m not an expert on their model either so don’t want to give an unqualified opinion. I still feel there is just not enough combinations of quality middle of the road entertainment that has wide appeal combined with good food and drink here in this town, quirky arts things are interesting but like many of the festivals that have a lot of this type of thing its all too niche – joe public is not hardcore fan of niche material, but it all comes back to if you don’t want to pay the price for quality entertainers or curation you end up with a line-up that is a hodge podge of punk, heavy rock, Irish dancing and a children’s choir!

        • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

          This is really interesting, thanks!

          If you have any more thoughts on the topic it would be great if you wrote an article on it for The Croydon Citizen. I’m only coming at this from a layman observer – it would be good to read the thoughts of an expert all in one article and not across several comments :)

          • Mark Sultana

            I think as you know I’ve tried, you mention Saif – he seems to comment on everything from his home in Spain, perhaps lend your support to burger and beer and bobski’s they are who is actually running and funding the place. Saif just has a deal with the owners, and is enjoying the sun in spain – fancy a bit of digging – look at who owns the building and how it was funded in the first place,. now that is a story cheers

  • darran leo king

    we have two face on coke lol Liz Sheppard from day one jump into bed with Croydon Boxpark since jan 1st 2017 Liz has stop using all Croydon Boxpark hashtags now saying the sheer numbers using a boxpark we all know its half dead and a free for all as for the Djs allways a free event remember Boxpark was here to support us in Croydon so far nothing unless your from the City of London . No Community Projects or Croydon Events yes we have been Con Big time but its only money gone in 2 years

  • blath8@googlemail.com

    Advertising. And more advertising. To different audiences and on different media – posters, facebook, local papers, email, twitter, libraries, etc. And well in advance would help too, with many people having very busy lifestyles these days it pays to get your event into their diaries before anything else crops up. By the time I heard about the Charlie Chaplin film I had already committed to something else.

    The variety of events is fantastic, and usually a range of prices too but like our great variety of restaurants in Croydon, I can’t afford to go to them all, nor can lots of other Croydon residents. So just like with most things in life, we have to choose, and can’t (usually!) have everything. And do so many people really expect all these events to be free? I don’t think so. Make the most of what you can.

  • Croydon OldTown News

    Croydon council are the worst when it comes to promoting / advertising events. With that said it seems to me Croydon is trying too hard to replicate other London boroughs who have seen their areas gentrified and improved for better or worse because of those who would otherwise move to Croydon (suburbs) and start a family because of its quiet / boring safe bubble it used to have especially south croydon but are instead opting to move to areas like Stockwell / Peckham etc and even live in 2 / 3 bedroom flats to be near events which are advertised professionally by both the local council of that borough and the businesses who own it .

    Croydon has and will always be a suburb of greater London not part of true south London but ‘greater london’ asking a council of a suburb to care about its arts and promote it is banging your head against a brick wall.

    Tickets to events like the open top cinema could be 1p ! But the area just hasn’t have enough of the residents who to be frank are artsy / creative types who would venture out and visit these events.

    And the Westfield hype can’t save Croydon unless the council grow balls and demand from the Mayor of London the same treatment as other boroughs are getting like the (boris bikes) scheme which still is not in croydon!

    But that’s not to say croydon doesn’t have people who want and are trying to make change but again they need help ! The rooftop cinema is a great idea but croydon is a place which you have to stamp on people fore heads when something like this is happening so the local paper / council website etc need to do more.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      “Croydon is a place which you have to stamp on people’s foreheads when something like this is happening” – love this (it’s honesty, rather than the truth of the message).

      You’re absolutely right – people can’t just assume that by promoting stuff people will come. Promoters really have to beg, cajole, guilt-trip local into paying attention to their message/event in a lot of cases. Unfortunately.

      Another thing I’ve learnt through promoting Croydon Tech City, is *repetition is key*, you can’t assume because people have read something once that they’ll retain the info. Gotta repeat yourself until you’re blue in the face :)

      • darran leo king

        shut up go back to your CroydonVsTheWorld with 77 followers as for the hashtag just dead the truth is thanks to your wonderfully Labour support our croydon is boring and dead remember we had 5,2 Billion Private investments in Croydon and we end up talking about how we can make Croydon into a better place for events .

    • darran leo king

      until we stop having Labour Control this will continue remember Croydon had 5 .2 Billion Private investments and take good around Croydon town Centre hald dead boring as shit ,

  • Reena

    Well, in my case I didn’t attend because 1-the event was not a child friendly time (Croydon is not just for the single commuter that works in Central London) and 2-because I gave my opinion to the rooftop cinema on their first year of opening and they banned me. Croydon can have nice things, but residents should also be listened. The fancy rooftop cinema will never have my money (but we saw the LMP at the Central Library a few days after this event and my son was in the newsletter of Croydon Council #proudmum)

  • darran leo king

    Wake up Croydon had 5,2 Billion Private Investments & ends up with ( Support Croydon arts & Culture ) Blame your wonderfully Labour Party as for Croydon Boxpark please just a massive youth club free for and remember boxpark was for a stop Gap now open until 1pm a great place to wait for your next train home without spending a Penny