What five years of running Purley Breakfast Club has taught me about Croydon

By - Thursday 25th August, 2016

#Croydon #TechCity founder Jonny Rose sings the praises of a local offline community

The very first Purley Breakfast Club, in June 2011.
Photo author’s own.

Purley Breakfast Club is a monthly gathering of Croydon locals that meets on the last Saturday of the month at Café Blue in Purley anytime between 9:30 and 11:30AM.

Anyone can come along and there is no agenda at all. The only rule is “no business cards”. If you want a relaxed space to make new friends and contacts then look no further than this informal gathering.

June of this year marked the fifth anniversary of this social group that started as joke community on Twitter, and has expanded to a group of people that have gone on to do amazing things in Croydon and the surrounding areas.

So, what have I learnt in that time?

Food brings people together

There is a lot to do in Croydon – however, many social events are teeming with complexity or require you to have a specialist knowledge to enjoy them. The great thing about food is that it is a comparatively egalitarian pursuit with a low barrier to entry that transcends class, religion and gender. Purley Breakfast Club is something that everybody can participate in – all you need is a mouth, a stomach, and the ability to hold a conversation.

Which is brilliant for anyone in Croydon that wants to meet other Croydonians because – apart from Purley Breakfast Club – there is a surfeit of other social eating groups: Croydon Eats Out, Croydon Brunch Club, South Croydon Dining Out, to name but a few.

Social media makes everything better

Purley Breakfast Club started as a light-hearted Twitter community of South Croydon and Kenley locals who didn’t know each other, taking pictures of their breakfast and tweeting them with the hashtag #PurleyBreakfastClub. It was from this quirky beginning that eventually it moved from online to offline.

As I’ve noted before, the Croydon social media scene is “deliciously sociopathic”. But, if you’re prudent, it’s very easy to separate the benevolent and interesting people from the hostile oddballs. Social media is brilliant means to maintain and strengthen relationships: often the best and most rewarding discussions, friendships and ideas for the good of Croydon are fermented first online.

Croydon is a diverse place, filled with interesting people

Young, old, black, white, parents, divorcees, lords, Conservative councillors, Corbynistas, magicians, journalists, and retirees. Any and all of the aforementioned can be found at the back of Café Blue on the last Saturday of the month – sometimes all at the same time!

Which is neat because although many people trumpet the merits of ‘diversity’, the truth is that most of us live in insulated monocultures, rarely meeting – let alone befriending – someone from a different class, country or creed. Purley Breakfast Club has been a great way to meet  a range of Croydonians, all of whom are stimulating, personable, and interesting.

People in Croydon are disconnected

Just last month alone, a Hindu couple with a baby had moved to the Cane Hill estate in Coulsdon and spoke about how desperately difficult it was for them to meet anybody. Similarly, another newbie spoke of how she and her new husband had moved to Selhurst and her night shifts at Sainsbury meant that she never saw her family or her neighbours: Purley Breakfast Club was the first time that she’d been able to meet other people from Croydon in months.

These stories emerge time and time again, confirming that there is an epidemic of loneliness in Croydon, but (fortunately!) not one that is irreversible.

Businesses change hands, community is forever

Photo author’s own.

In the five years since Purley Breakfast Club started, the venue has seen three sets of owners come and go. Throughout it all, our group has been a constant – meeting once per month, supporting a local independent business.

In a world where everything changes so quickly, fortunes are made and lost in seconds: the only constant that you have (apart from your family) are the people that you’ve forged friendships with who live in your immediate area.

We all need to regain the lost art of being neighbourly – and, for me, Purley Breakfast Club has been one of the best ways to start doing this in Croydon.

Purley Breakfast Club meets on the last Saturday of the month at Café Blue, Purley, anytime between 9:30 and 11:30AM. The next one takes place this Saturday – 28th August – come along and experience it for yourself!

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 owns a lead generation company. 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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