Is discrimination harming Croydon’s night-time economy?

By - Tuesday 8th March, 2016

Amy Pollard hears disturbing allegations at a meeting to discuss the future of Croydon’s after dark

Illustration by Lis Watkins for the Croydon Citizen.

Fears for the future of Croydon’s night-time economy have been expressed over the closure of the nightclub Tiger Tiger, which prompted a public meeting. I was among concerned residents and business owners who gathered at Matthews Yard to hash out the challenges that face Croydon’s diminishing nightlife.

While it was to be expected that ideas, concerns and options would be shared, we were shocked to hear from business owners that a systematic blocking of events was taking place against genres of music with Afro-Caribbean roots. More concerning still was that the censorship via administrative process being described at the meeting was happening with the knowledge of the police.

We spoke at length about what Croydon has going for it and what it is lacking. Business owners expressed the view that diversity is both Croydon’s greatest strength and its biggest wasted opportunity; they were afraid to hold their head above the parapet by holding events which were more diverse because of what they might lose. Yet a varied and diverse nightlife is exactly what their customers and the young people of Croydon are crying out for.

Licenses for hip-hop, basement, dubstep and grime are routinely declined

One anguished business owner described the administrative process involved in setting up a night-time event. He explained that when applying for the licence to host an event, the type of music must be declared. The form also requires hosts to state the ‘target audience’ of their events. A previous incarnation of the form (scrapped in 2008) even asked for the details of ‘ethnic groups likely to attend the performance’.

In this owner’s experience, applications for a licence for events featuring hip hop, bashment, dub step or grime music were systematically declined. I was stunned to hear this, even more so when it was echoed by the response of other business owners at the meeting, who appeared to share similar experiences. The feeling was that hosting an event with these genres of music was likely to negatively influence the future success of venues, leading to further rejected licence requests and triggering a disproportionately heavy and off-putting police presence.

In an international climate, in which so much positive work is being done to build communities and celebrate culture, this kind of discrimination must be challenged. As someone who works in education, I am acutely aware of the focused work that is going on in the UK to prevent vulnerable people becoming radicalised, as part of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act. The focus of this is promoting tolerance and celebrating diversity. The discrimination flagged up at the meeting not only contradicts these national strategies but, critically, is completely at odds with the spirit of Croydon and its richly diverse communities.

If the discrimination described by these business owners is truly representative, then tackling it is a key step to revitalising Croydon’s nightlife. What is happening can at best be called discrimination and at worst, institutionalised racism. This issue certainly warrants thorough consideration in the mission to improve Croydon’s night-time economy.

Amy Pollard

Amy Pollard

Life long Croydon resident - and proud! Art and Design graduate, working in education, Conservative supporter, passionate about caring for our town.

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  • Robert Ward

    Thanks Amy,
    My understanding from the meeting is that the promoter and the police are required to do a risk assessment. Taking into account the size and characteristics of the likely audience is part of that because different audiences create different risks.

    Second step is to decide what can be done to mitigate the risks. Level of police presence is one such.

    Last step is to weigh the risks and the benefits/costs of the mitigation measures to decide whether to accept or refuse the licence. Experience of previous such events in Croydon and elsewhere would be part of that. The question of who pays if extra measures are required is another aspect.

    Taken all together I would not support a blanket ban on any particular genre of music, but nor would I be surprised if certain types of event are more likely to be refused than others. Making the criteria visible would certainly help to allay suspicion that lazy prejudices are involved in the decision.

  • Jonny Rose

    Hi Amy,

    Small correction: I think you mean ‘bashment’, instead of “basement” music :)

    • Amy Pollard

      I do! Outsmarted by autocorrect…