A year on the land, a day on the Turf: fundraising for the arts in Croydon

By - Friday 4th April, 2014

This wasn’t The Shawshank Redemption– it was Croydon on a Saturday afternoon

Turf team on the dig by East Croydon station. Photograph by Sophie Rose Asquith. Used with permission.

My neck burning in the curiously unseasonal March heat, I suddenly realised I had been digging for an unknown length of time. Everyone around me seemed in a similar trance. This was not, however, a scene from The Shawshank Redemption, but a large group of volunteers in the centre of Croydon on a Saturday afternoon, trying to act as archaeologists for the most recent fundraising campaign by Turf Projects.

Aside from its 1970s punk image and iconic supermodel Kate Moss, Croydon and the world of art have had a relatively unexplored relationship. Creative minds within the town exchange ideas about a suburban craft renaissance, yet despite a multitude of undeveloped plots of land and obsolete concrete facades, artistic freedom has never really taken root here.

But now there is light at the end of the tunnel. With the opening of spaces such as Matthew’s Yard promoting wider cultural engagement and the birth of commentary platforms like CDN zine, the artistic community of Croydon is starting to share its visions. This is allowing the birth of a wide range of ventures.

The young Turf collective seeks to revive the empty spaces of Croydon

‘Trying our best to act like archaeologists’. Photograph by Sophie Rose Asquith. Used with permission.

One of these exciting ventures, and the reason why our group of amateur archaeologists went digging on a wild disused site near East Croydon train station, is Turf Projects. A young collective of artists, graphic designers, film makers, photographers and architects founded by artist and local resident Alice Cretney, Turf Projects seeks to revive the built environment and empty spaces that exist throughout Croydon.

In October 2013, inspired by Croydon’s varying and ever-changing structures, some of the colourful characters who make up the Turf Projects team hosted the fun and engaging Putt-Putt crazy golf course in Exchange Square. An entertaining but also challenging artistic intervention, Putt-Putt set out to seduce those who had previously used the space only as a hasty route between Old Town and Central Croydon. The underlying beauty of Putt-Putt was not only its seven unique and peculiar crazy golf holes, but the simple fact that the activity itself is something anyone of any age can enjoy.

I can feel a widening of local artistic desire

As many residents of Croydon will know, the undeveloped site alongside East Croydon station has lain empty and sad for many years, surrounding by hoardings and functioning as a giant dustbin. Gradually the land has turned from refreshing grass-green to pebble-dash grey. Yet until its planned transformation into a residential and retail development, Turf Projects has been given an amazing window of opportunity to occupy the site and present an array of exhibitions, film screenings, talks, workshops and hopefully much more.

To help begin this adventure, Turf Project will launch a Kickstarter campaign on 6th April in the hope of raising at least £5,000. This money will establish a one year programme of art-based events for the local community to participate in and enjoy. Materials for exhibitions, tools, specialist equipment hire, poster printing and website design will be just some of the areas Turf will use the money it hopes to raise.

That sunny Saturday spent exposed on the derelict site brought us much attention from the passing public, and we felt their curious gazes from the conveniently-placed viewing bridge by East Croydon station for almost the entirety of the film shoot. There is a great artistic curiosity hidden within the Croydon community and when the initiative is taken to revitalise the tired, abandoned spaces they have grown accustomed to, they respond with encouragement. I can feel a widening of local artistic desire.

This desire is what Turf Projects will be trying to expand upon over the coming year. With the much-appreciated help of Kickstarter funding, they will be seeking to provide the town with colourful and provocative art. An amazing opportunity to bring artistic inspiration and encouragement to Croydon is available for Turf Projects to grasp, but as with any grass-roots project, help from a wider audience is essential.

The Kickstarter campaign to fund a year long programme of arts-based events in Croydon by Turf Projects begins on the 6th April 2014 and runs for 31 days.

Tom Winter

Tom Winter

Practicing Architectural Assistant and fabricator of Dirty Croydon Love architecture and urban-design blog, having worked for Fantastic Norway Architekten in Oslo over the summer of 2011 and now recently graduated with a postgraduate in Architecture at London South Bank University. Stimulated in and intoxicated with South London with a keen interest in the potential of Resourceful Design and Urban Social Spaces that can be created through provocative yet sensitive contemporary urban architecture, with a strong belief that architecture can further enhance Croydon’s complex urban community. Also a passionate cricket player, dedicated book reader and enthusiastic CD music collector.

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