Container crates, Croydon and me, by Mr Boxpark

By - Monday 30th November, 2015

Roger Wade, CEO of Boxpark, gives Lauren Furey the lowdown on how, when and above all… why Croydon

Roger Wade at the launch of Boxpark Croydon.
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

Arriving at Boxpark Croydon’s marketing suite was like stepping into a wrapped up Christmas present. You shouldn’t peek, but it’s exciting. It was here I met Boxpark’s mastermind and CEO, Roger Wade, to hear what Croydon can expect from its new Boxpark, set to open in summer 2016.

For those unfamiliar with Boxpark Shoreditch, how would you describe it?

Boxpark Shoreditch is the world’s first pop-up mall. I come from a fashion background and I felt passionately there must somehow be a future for independents. It would be boring if every high street were the same. The concept of Boxpark is shops in shipping containers, giving small outlets a chance to be visible.

Why choose Croydon?

South London’s been neglected. West London is fashionable, north London’s always been strong and now we’ve seen the big developments in east London, but the south got left behind. Now the London Overground has made connections better, 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.

What does your slogan: “We’re not building Boxpark in Croydon, we’re building Boxpark for Croydon” mean to you?

If I were a Croydon citizen my concern would be developers who build then disappear and take the profits. We’re not doing that. Boxpark is a tenant of Croydon and we’re committed for five years. We’ll have 200 free events a year, bring in some of the best independent retailers and become a part of the community.

Croydon is changing rapidly. How does Boxpark fit within it?

There’s the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre in the next five years and a lot happening at Ruskin Square. But what about the interim and whilst Fairfield Halls is being redeveloped? In a small way, we’re here to answer that. We want to bring food, drink and events together under one roof and work with local artists and entertainment projects.

The press is saying “Croydon’s the new Shoreditch” but we don’t want to be the next anything. How can Boxpark Croydon support local culture?

I hear that too. Boxpark Croydon is a bigger and better version of Boxpark Shoreditch and our first ‘food and drink only’ concept. It’s taking everything we’ve learned over the last five years, and putting it all under one roof.

But this is really is about about the people who’ll occupy the new Boxpark. We need to to make people want to come here, and work with the people who are already here to create something new and exciting.

Boxpark Croydon is already 250% oversubscribed in terms of retail space. Did you see that coming? And why is only 10% of space allocated to local retailers? 

We’ve been overwhelmed – 250% oversubscribed within the first six weeks! People are really starting to share our vision for Croydon. We want this to be a great place from a London perspective and having top-end guys like MEATliquor and Voodoo Rays coming here sends out a major statement. At the same time, we want to give the best 10% of operators in Croydon an opportunity.The Cronx brewery is involved and we have a fantastic local Vietnamese option.

How many jobs will be created in Boxpark?

We created over 200 jobs when Boxpark Shoreditch opened. We anticipate the same, maybe more.

In a previous interview, you mentioned develop training programmes for young people, to help them find work. How will that work?

Croydon has tremendous musical influence. It’s the home of Dubstep. You have major worldwide artists like Stormzy coming out of Croydon. We need to celebrate that and create a home for them. We hope to do a monthly BRIT School showcase to give the students a chance to perform to the local community. Street Art is another focus and we’ve been in talks with the RISE Gallery. We hope to work alongside local projects like TURF. We’re looking at a pop-up cinema and having a Boxpark Croydon Festival.

Will Boxpark Croydon harm local independent or small businesses?

To be absolutely frank, no. We can only talk from our experiences at Boxpark Shoreditch. Since we arrived, we saw massive redevelopments of surrounding areas and great footfall for local businesses. If we really want Croydon to compete on a national level then we need to avoid a protectionist environment and raise the bar. Everyone in Croydon should champion that.

There was a problem when the new Boxpark’s advertising images showed no ethnic diversity at all – every person depicted was white. What happened there?

Around 50% of our organisation is made up of ethnic minorities and we’re proud to be so diverse. But like all companies we can make mistakes. We don’t look at colour; we see people. As soon as we became aware of the problem we set about rectifying it.

Do you worry about Croydon’s bad press concerning violence and knife crime?

We need to change perceptions of Croydon. At Boxpark we create an environment in which people do feel safe. It’s not for the elite few. It’s for everybody. Good security is important and we work closely with local police and British Transport Police. We need to build those good relationships.

What is the future for Boxpark?

This new food and drink model is one that we hope to take UK-wide. We want to prove that we can regenerate town centres and that independent retailers have a bright future.

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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  • Mrs_P

    Err… Wade’s response to the question of why Boxpark Croydon’s marketing material only contained white people is a masterclass in evasion. The billboards around East Croydon (and the images on their website) were up for months – I highlighted the issue to the company in September and only got a response once the Evening Standard got hold of the story a couple of weeks ago, so they absolutely did NOT rectify it ‘as soon as they became aware of the problem’. These images must have passed through several layers before they got the OK, so the fact that they made it to printing/ publication is astounding and really demands a fuller explanation. Sadly, it simply proves to me that this is yet another cookie-cutter company that plans to shoehorn itself into our local area without any regard to it’s individuality and existing community, whatever the CEO’s spinning.

  • Roger Wade

    Mrs. P, I’m sorry your facts below are wrong. We actually changed the images online 4 weeks prior to the Evening Standard article. This was just an oversight, nothing sinister. The reality is our company is one of the most racially diversed companies in the Property Development industry. Myself and my Retail Director both come from a Ethnic Minorities backgrounds. Surely we should be judged by how we act as people not by some computer generated imagery.

    Lets focus on the important issues of how we can help regenerate Croydon.


    Roger Wade

    CEO Boxpark

    • Francois Mazoudier

      Before critiquing based on a few wrong pictures, go see the other BoxPark locations, see the mix of people hanging out there, and talk to the small business owners who were given a one-in-a-lifetime chance make good money doing what they love, THEN write about discrimation. We need BoxPark and all other new initiatives to be hugely successful. Well unless you love Croydon as it was… I don’t think many do.

  • Croydon Radio

    Good to see music and events having a strong part to play in the future BoxPark. Croydon Radio with its commitment to new music and strong connections with artists and bands from the local area and further afield reached out some months ago to offer help and ideas for collaboration. Hopefully we’ll hear from BoxPark in due course.