Fear and self-loathing in Croydon

By - Friday 17th April, 2015

Jonny Rose exhorts all remotely cheerful Croydonians to ignore the haters and shake it off

Image by Tiago Dinis, used with permission.

A tweet from the editor of the Croydon Advertiser, Glenn Ebrey, revealed what happens when you introduce positive news to the psyche of a particular type of Croydonian.

Comments (which you can see for yourself here) poured in, varying from the grindingly pessimistic (“Croydon is beyond help. All the plans for redeveloping the area are a waste of time. It’s a sinking ship.”) to the faecally tautological (“No matter how much you change the image of Croydon it will still be the s**t hole Croydon”).

There is a community of unappeasable miserabilists, moaners and malcontents in our midst.

I’ll leave you to ‘Facebook stalk’ the commenters on that Advertiser piece: but trust me when I say that none of them seems like the most contented or chemically-balanced people in the postcode. That said, I do want to engage briefly with two issues that were brought up in the comments thread: fear of crime and loathing of Croydon.

Fear in Croydon

Here’s a narrative that you rarely hear in London: our lives are safer.

Indeed, the decline in violent crime in London is one of the most striking trends over the past two decades. Croydon itself has seen the biggest decline in gang crime, falling from 157 cases in January 2013 to 64 cases in January 2015; in the same time frame there has also been a 43 percent drop in robberies according to councillor Mark Watson in the Advertiser earlier this year.

Unfortunately, perception of crime in Croydon has yet to catch up with reality. People are fearful even though they have little reason to be. Indeed, last year, local residents voted Croydon ‘the least safe place to live in the country’.

It’s an unfortunate fact that media reporting on individual crimes yields a relentlessly dismal drumbeat of downbeat news. But even as each reported crime creates a story that is terrifying enough to shape our perceptions, the truth is that none of them tells us much about the broader trends. Far better to ignore the anecdotes and focus instead on the big picture.

Loathing in Croydon

“I’ve often said Croydon doesn’t just suffer a perception problem… it has a morale/self-loathing issue too. Last Tweet illustrates that” – Glenn Ebrey on Twitter

It’s a view I – and many of the writers at the Croydon Citizen – have sympathy with; in the face of continued evidences of good happening things in Croydon, there remains an entrenched miserabilism amongst some (perhaps most?) locals about Croydon’s prospects and potential.

What’s the cause of this parochial gloom?

“The British do not expect happiness,” claimed English writer Quentin Crisp, and it appears he may have been right: many studies indicate that there is a strong genetic component to temperament. So there’s that, I suppose.

Perhaps it’s the weather: Croydon gets on average 1,300 hours less sunshine compared to our transatlantic friends on the east coast of the US. Perhaps this explains the Silicon Valley optimism that Croydon Tech City’s Andrew Easter uncovered when he visited there in 2013.

Or, maybe it’s other external factors such as educational standards, wealth, health, economic progress and job satisfaction. No doubt ‘austerity’ and the ‘cost of living crisis’ will have gone some way to dull the edges of even the most cheerful Croydonian.

But, still, what moves a grown adult to write “No one wants this s**t to happen so why change ur minds !!!” in response to news that Croydon will soon have “a mini South Bank combining a fine cultural offer with an education area and a large open space which can be used for a variety of events, such as Christmas markets”?

Fear and self-loathing in Croydon

The responses evoked by news of Croydon becoming home to a “mini South Bank” reveals an unappeasable community of miserabilists, moaners and malcontents in our midst. Whether this is a case of nature or nurture – I don’t know. However, whatever the answer, people who are happy with their life don’t languish in a feckless malaise; they get out there and do something about the conditions that affect them.

Until I see folk like the ones sounding off in that Facebook comments thread doing that, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that these people don’t hate Croydon – they hate themselves.

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. 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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  • Croydon Oxjam

    Hope lots of people will get out for http://www.ambitionfest.com on 23-26 July to see for themselves just how fun Croydon has the potential to be!! :-) Nearly 200 live acts in 25+ venues over four days with lots of free stuff, food, bars and markets…

    • Anne Giles

      We have booked for Tinariwen.

  • Anne Giles

    I think that the majority of people who put comments in the Advertiser are depressives anyway. The majority of people we interact with in my area are very happy.

    • ArfurTowcrate

      Does that include yourself Anne aka La Fantastica?

      • Anne Giles

        My comments are always positive.

  • David Callam

    How interesting; that you pick reaction to the mini South Bank story as your prime example.
    When I first read that story I thought: why would we want a mini South Bank so close to the real one? Given the choice of a show at Fairfield or one at the Festival Hall, I’m most likely to be hopping on a train at East Croydon. That’s not because I hate Croydon. It’s because the show at South Bank is likely to be infinitely better.
    I suspect the gloom and doom merchants are a small but vociferous minority who, as you say, hate themselves more than they hate the town. I suggest we ignore them. But I think we should ask Croydon Council to think again about its silly idea for a second-rate South Bank.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      You’re right – I could have used another example, but since it was Glenn’s tweet about said ‘mini-South Bank’ that got the thinking cogs whirring, I thought I’d just run with it!

      Unwittingly, I think you’ve just surfaced an excellent idea for a follow-on item: should Croydon be trying to compete with South Bank at all? Time will tell how this new council initiative fares. My own inclination would be to support it however I can (if it’s worth it!). :)

  • ArfurTowcrate

    Jonny Rose’s claim that crime is down in Croydon is way out of line with the Met’s own year-on-year figures to March 2015 – http://www.met.police.uk/crimefigures/boroughs/zd_month%20-%20mps.htm

    These show that overall crime in Croydon was up by over 13% compared to the London wide figure of 3.5%

    Specifically, reported rapes in Croydon were up by 55%, business robberies up by 180%, gun crime up 250%, Racist & Religious Hate Crime up almost 90% and homophobic crime up 100%.

    We won’t build Jerusalem in Croydon’s partially green and pleasant land on erroneous data, Mr Rose.

  • Charles Barber

    What are they actually planning to call the ‘mini South Bank’ that you refer to. I hope this won’t be its proper name, for unless it is beside the Wandle, the word ‘bank’ would seem to have no validity. Indeed I rather like the idea of being somewhat perverse and naming it Croydon’s Northern Esplanade. This would undoubtedly confuse people but then we could explain that it was named after the Great North Wood, that gave Norwood its name and it could then be linked to some attractive European esplanade a bit further south. It would also encourage some people, like myself to rush to their dictionaries and look up the word ‘Esplanade’, surely a far more chic thing to have a coffee on than a bank.