In defence of the busy-body


By - Monday 8th July, 2013

Mario Creatura salutes those who actively engage with politics for the right reasons – to make their communities better


There aren’t very many Croydon folk who can call themselves a ‘political activist’. Or at least, there aren’t many that would be happy to be called that. Politics is a tainted word, both nationally and locally, and besmirches any good that could come from getting stuck in the mire. ‘Playing politics’ with community issues or ‘spinning’ a point is seen as, well, dirty. But it’s not. It’s really not.

It’s well known that I’m a Conservative Party member, but in this instance I’m being entirely apolitical. I have immense respect for anyone that is a political activist, but most do not.

So the question I’ve been turning in my head is this: why do we bother?

Not ‘I’, but ‘we’.

Like supporting a football team, I accept that I’ll be loved by my fellow fans or loathed by my rivals. It’s part of the gig

Sceptics of the value of activists in local government fundamentally overlook the importance of their input into our democratic structures. Fixing that lack of trust, explaining the impact that our local councillors or campaigners have on our day-to-day lives will be critical in the run up to next year’s elections, and every election after that.

I’d like to think that people judge my views and me personally based on how I come across. I’ve got a thick enough skin to know that I’m not to everyone’s liking, and fully accept that sometimes I’m wrong. But the second many find out about my party voluntary work I get tainted or bolstered depending on the political tinge of the person in front of me. Like supporting a football team, I accept that I’ll be loved by my fellow fans or loathed by my rivals. It’s part of the gig. But it can be frustrating when you’re trying to help things.

That’s why we all do it of course. To help. In our own, largely amateur and sometimes shambolic way. Why do activists give up weekends playing with their kids to deliver leaflets in the rain? Why do couples cancel time together to host advice surgeries for residents? Why do pensioners who could be enjoying retirement fight for campaigns that they may never live to see the resolution of?

There are hundreds of events like this run across Croydon every year by hundreds of glorious, often under-appreciated, activists

Some might call us masochists. And those people may have a point. But no matter what party you are aligned to, those people spend their time trying to convince others that their ideas might be the silver bullet or the plan that could make our community just that little bit better. They might be wrong, but the view of the activist is not one of sitting idly by and waiting for someone else to make their world better. The clue is in the title: activist. They want to try to help.

It’s in that aspiration, that attempt, in the optimistic hope that they can make a difference that I write in defence of the busy-body.

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen dozens of communities come together for the Big Lunches. Last year we had the incredible Cherry Orchard Arts Festival, and  two weekends ago saw groups of residents loving the Southend Food Festival. There are hundreds of events like this run across Croydon every year by hundreds of glorious, often under-appreciated, activists. They aren’t paid to do it, they are volunteers.

Next time someone knocks on your door on a Sunday morning to talk politics, don’t slam it in their face

Where would we be without them? The popularity of these events demonstrates that we all appreciate their efforts. Someone needs that drive to organise, to go out of their way to do something that may not initially be a success. These community activists are essential to the fabric of our town.

Whether they are the passionate locals who set up The Croydon Citizen, the party activist delivering newsletters, the residents’ associations planning community events, or the volunteers supporting litter picks – all make Croydon a better place to live.

Next time someone knocks on your door on a Sunday morning to talk politics, don’t slam it in their face. When leaflet after leaflet is shoved through your letter box as we near election day 2014, at least glance at it before throwing it in the recycling box. Think about the person doing the knocking or shoving that leaflet. No matter what their reasoning, you can guarantee they’re doing it to try to help us all.


Anyone can get involved in local politics or general community activism. Frankly, the more people that are involved, the better it will be for all concerned. If you fancy it, but you’re not sure how to get started, then I’m happy to neutrally answer any questions you have. Alternatively check out the council’s ‘Team Croydon’ page which has a lot of information about general volunteering.

Mario Creatura

Mario Creatura

Mario is a lifelong Croydon resident. He works for Heineken as their Public Affairs Manager. He has previously worked in Parliament as a researcher for Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central. Mario has been a Conservative Councillor for Coulsdon West on Croydon Council since May 2014.

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  • Anne Giles

    Well said.

  • Sean Creighton

    Well Mario, I find myself in some agreement with you – up to a point. Why that is is to long to explain in a response contribution. So I have posted a reply on my blog site, which you can see by googling History Social Action Blog, on which you will also find postings on such related topics as why people should not disengage from the Council (June), and discussion on what community is and the role of the community and voluntary sector (December).