I heart Croydon

By - Friday 16th November, 2012

The riots seemed to confirm what everyone thought of Croydon. How far we’ve come since has proved them completely wrong

A few years ago, as a Croydon girl, I went through a stage of denial. When asked where I was from by people I had met on holiday for instance, I would say I was from South London or Surrey fearing the brush I would be tarred with if I had told them that I was from Croydon.

You only have to look at the headlines and articles that have followed Kate Moss over the years to see the stigma surrounding coming from Croydon:

“Articles about her always mentioned her Croydon roots, although the suspicion in hindsight is that this was probably to sneer, as if her origins made her beauty all the more extraordinary.” (1)

These days I wear my heritage like a workman’s dayglo jacket – loud, proud and slightly slipping off one shoulder.  And I’ll tell you why. Pre the 2011 riots, Croydon had been in a slump for many years, the press has attacked the borough with vigor, slating us for everything from our outdated architecture to our hairdos (the famous Croydon facelift).

Charity performance on Little Britain with Kate Moss (2)

Working nights in a late night venue from 2002 to 2008 I saw the night time economy decline and the number of visitors to Croydon drop massively.  The word was out: Croydon was a dangerous place to visit, lacking in culture and manners.

In 2011, things changed, Croydon found a positive collective consciousness.  After the riots swept the centre of town, the people of Croydon banded together to brush away the carnage and reclaimed the streets.  From the rubble came a grant from the Mayor, community work,  festivals, blogs, articles and post it notes about why people love Croydon in pub windows.   During this time I set up my own business and discovered a whole host of like-minded people on Twitter determined to change Croydon for the better.

Landlady Esther Sutton outside the Green Dragon, Croydon (3)

Now, eighteen months on, something exciting is happening to Croydon. There is passion in the town again brought about by hard working people.  Croydon feels exciting, like we’re on the brink of something spectacular, with small businesses popping up left right and centre such as Matthews Yard - a great new arts venue meets co-working space.  We also have our own tour guide company, Croydon Tours. There is talk of Croydon becoming a ‘tech City’ – the UK’s own Silicon Valley  (4) and the mighty Westfield wants to come to Croydon (although I’m not entirely convinced that we actually need ANOTHER shopping centre).

Also, Croydon’s Old Town will see some regeneration as it has been selected by the Queen of shops, Mary Portas, as an ideal place for the Portas Pilots scheme (5) and even Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London himself is jumping on the Croydon bandwagon, citing Croydon’s future as the third city of London:

“Croydon could be the third city of London. Crime is coming down, there is a young, dynamic, increasingly skilled population in the borough and the town is seeing the benefits of long overdue investment in its public transport system.

If we can continue to invest in housing, shopping and transport infrastructure and if we can get it right, other companies will want to invest in Croydon.” (6) 

Boris Johnson hearts Croydon too (7)

I have moved away from Croydon on several occasions as far as Edinburgh and the States.  But it seems this old place has some kind of gravitational pull, it’s like Croydon and I are attached by a giant elastic band, I can run away but the band eventually pulls me back.

Today I stand up in my dayglo workman’s jacket with my hand on my heart and say “Croydon. My Croydon.” Loud and proud.


1. Tom Geoghegan, BBC News Magazine, 21 September 2005) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4265676.stm

2.The English Blog http://www.englishblog.com/2008/10/chambers-slang-dictionary-and-the-croydon-facelift.html#.UKYA_Icj52A

3. www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk

4. Croydon as a ‘tech city’ http://www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk/Tech-city-plan-Croydon-revive-borough-say/story-17149256-detail/story.html

5. Portas Pilots  http://www.maryportas.com/portaspilots/croydon/

6. http://www.developcroydon.com/

7. Pic of Boris Johnson from www.thisiscroydontoday.co.uk

8. Derek Bentley case http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Bentley_case

Stephanie Darkes

Stephanie Darkes

Croydon Girl, Loves all things music and getting nerdy about Croydon's rich music scene past and present. In the past she has run music venues, managed bands and had her own fanzine. Now she is mostly a Social Media Superstar. A Founder & Partner at Dot Social, she also writes and blogs for other Croydon publications, has a show on Croydon Radio (Croydon Rocks) and heads up the weekend organisation of Purley Festival.

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  • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

    Croydon really is pretty amazing at the moment.

  • http://twitter.com/greencroydon Andrew Dickinson

    “Croydon, my Croydon” Loud and proud. I like that Stephanie. Those words could have come from me. Especially, with the pain and frustration of it’s recent decline. But, it’s on the up. I really believe so. I look forward to your next blog.

  • http://twitter.com/MarioCreatura Mario Creatura

    Great article Stephanie! We need to talk up our town whenever we can – it may have a bad reputation, that’s why articles like this are a perfect example of the sort of thing we need to help change that.