Boxpark from the inside out

By - Monday 30th January, 2017

When we said that we were here for Croydon, we meant it

Photo by Boxpark Croydon, used with permission.

The decision to place Boxpark 2.0 in Croydon was met with celebration, controversy and criticism. Some were excited and positive. Others were more wary.

From the outside looking in, Boxpark probably looks like the creation of corporate giants, swarming into developing areas and marking their territory with dining and retail spaces. The truth is that the team I am part of, which makes Boxpark possible and that opened and operates it, is very small.

There are no departments or sections or offices dotted around the UK. When you step in and ask to speak to our ‘sales team,’ you’re really asking to speak to just one person. When you want to discuss a future project with our ‘events team’, that’s just one person too. Team Boxpark is tiny, but that means we have to work exceedingly hard to do what we do

We’re really proud of Boxpark for a good reason. We do what we do for you. That might sound extremely corny and those of you that have a gripe with Boxpark probably just went “ha!” at my statement. But it’s true.

“People are starting to believe in South London”

From a personal perspective, I only ever wanted anything to do with Boxpark because I’m born and raised in Croydon and, like a lot of people in this town, I care deeply about what happens here. For me, Boxpark was just another example of change and I backed it; I wanted it to succeed. As a regular contributor to the Croydon Citizen, when the news broke I wrote a piece entitled Boxpark is coming: don’t panic! Then, when I interviewed Boxpark’s founder and CEO, Roger Wade, it was clear throughout our conversation that we both shared the same vision for Croydon.

“People are starting to believe in South London. So, for me, coming to Croydon was a no-brainer. It’s a fantastic borough and its poor reputation is undeserved” – Roger Wade (November 2015)

A development like Boxpark is a social hub. It’s a place to take the family, meet with friends, share a meal, sink some drinks and have a dance. Croydon desperately needs more of that. We have a handful of fantastic pubs, creative spaces and homegrown projects that are flying the flag for Croydon. But why can’t we have more? Why can’t Croydon be bold and think big?
Croydon Visitor Centre was offered a home in Boxpark but its operator chose to close it

The land where Boxpark stands has also been a hot topic of debate and it’s fair to see why. Both the Croydon Visitor Centre and the Warehouse Theatre were much loved and respected establishments. I, for one, genuinely miss the Warehouse. But, for some reason, there seems to be a misconception that both businesses were lost to make way for Boxpark, which simply isn’t true. The Warehouse theatre closed its doors back in 2013, long before Boxpark was even a murmur in Croydon. The Visitor Centre was offered a new home at Boxpark but the operator ultimately took the decision to close up.

Boxpark was intended to be a development that worked with Croydon. Opinion pieces have recently surfaced in the Citizen asking why Boxpark isn’t doing more to work with the local community. We’ve barely been open three months and, in that time, we’ve worked with a variety of local artists and projects. On two occasions it has welcomed the Made In Croydon popular craft market at which local creatives set up shop and sold their work.

We’ve also been asked why we only seem to hold a certain type of event. Well, there’s no denying the cultural weight of the grime scene and south London, Croydon in particular, is playing a big part in that movement right now. But to say that all of our events are the same is a little unfair considering the programme to date. It overlooks the fact that we’ve collaborated with Croydon’s Beats & Eats and Love Cronx, and the boys behind the hugely successful, sell-out, Funk Me event are the very same people that bring you the Lost Format Society rooftop cinema. We also have the great fortune of working with Acoustic Live every Sunday to bring Croydon an afternoon of free live music.

Boxpark is fully compliant with sound limits set by Environmental Health

We’re proud to support local talent and our events programme is entirely constructed by people that want to work with Boxpark. More than anything, we love working with people that have a vision. So, if you’ve ever stopped to question why we don’t have a night of live jazz or a battle of the bands, it’s simply because we’ve yet to hear from people wanting to do just that.

It’s been reported that the noise levels from Boxpark have been excessive. Boxpark is licensed the same as any other public venue in Croydon and we have to ensure that we are fully compliant with the conditions of that license. We had a sound limiter fitted by the Environmental Health Office (EHO) to ensure we aren’t in breach of sound limits set by the noise pollution team. An exception to the rule is made for twelve events each year when we’re permitted to bring in a specialist sound system to provide a high-quality music experience. Each requires a detailed Noise Management Plan.

But the mobile number of the sound team is made available to the public during large scale events so that we can be made aware of any disturbances, and all complaints received by Boxpark have been addressed and acted upon. We do our absolute best to work alongside everyone in the vicinity.

The accessibility of Boxpark has also been a staple of comment but the venue is very much designed to include everybody. An example of this would be the Baby Loves Disco event we held last month, an afternoon of dancing and face painting. It was made possible by the lift at the East Croydon end of the site and a team of friendly and efficient staff (a number of them also being Croydon residents and all paid the London Living Wage) on hand to assist customers of all ages and abilities.

Boxpark does not censor, block or ignore comments on social media (unless you’re deliberately and relentlessly trolling us). We engage with the online community and respond to general enquiries, queries and complaints.
We’re passionate about what we do, but we’re not perfect

Our security team are first rate and I really mean that. Like any public space, Boxpark won’t be without its fair share of troublemakers but I’ve never seen potential issues dealt with as swiftly and professionally as I have at Boxpark. In a town that’s frequently reminded of its ‘bad reputation’, having a team on hand to deal with scenarios before they even become a problem is key to demonstrating that we just won’t tolerate it anymore. Like the rubbish trucks say around town: don’t mess with Croydon.

Overall, Boxpark has received a lot of positive feedback online and that really means something to us. Still, we know we’re not everyone’s cup of tea. We also know that our events schedule may not currently cater for everybody but we’re constantly learning and we’re always trying to improve. These last three months have been a huge learning curve for all involved. There are further projects in the pipeline with local groups and we’re excited about delivering an ambitious events calendar for 2017.

Boxpark is not perfect but it’s not trying to be perfect either. Perfect is shiny, pristine and soulless. We’re not that. We’re extremely passionate about what we do and we work extremely hard to do it. Perhaps 2016 was a little trial and error in places, but that only means that valuable lessons have been learned. We’re committed to doing what is right for Croydon. And you have to admit, things have gotten a lot more interesting around here since Boxpark arrived.

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

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  • Steve Thompson

    A robust and well-written defence of Boxpark. Presumably the excessive noise on the opening night and on the night of the Christmas lights switch-on were prior to the installation of the noise limiter? Certainly, at least in Addiscombe, there was no noise problem on New Year’s Eve. Lauren, please can you advise where the mobile number of the sound team is made available so that I can share with our residents’ association should it ever be needed. It would also be useful to know in advance the dates of the 12 ‘excluded’ events.

    I am surprised to note that no rock promoters have shown an interest so far – are you actively promoting the venue to those who put on this genre? This would be a good venue for medium-sized bands during the closure of the Fairfield Halls.

    A quick win regarding the choice of music would be to vastly widen the variety of recorded music to encompass other genres rather than just generic dance music. This would cost nothing apart from any licensing/PRS fees and the only work involved would be to create some some new playlists and add them to your music player.