Regaining the lost art of being neighbourly in Croydon

By - Monday 15th June, 2015

Jonny Rose has some suggestions for you and your nearest

Do you like your neighbours? Do you even know your neighbours?

I do – but then, I’ve had the luxury (and lack of imagination) to live in the same street for over twenty years. Others haven’t been so lucky.

The breakdown of neighbourliness

The scale of isolation in many of Britain’s streets was revealed by a YouGov poll last year, which showed that fewer than a quarter of people in the UK feel a sense of belonging in the community and 1 in 10 have no interaction with neighbours.

The reasons for this are myriad. In particular, decades of increased mobility, longer life expectancy, the breakdown of the extended family and an increasingly diverse and rapidly changing population have changed the way that we live, and the extent to which we feel connected to our neighbourhoods. The institutions that would have binded us to those in our locale – places of worship, sports clubs, pubs, etc. – are to varying degrees being rendered obsolete, or at best deprioritised, in a busy modern world that offers us all manner of distractions and pleasures that do not require the company of others.

Recently, I looked at the epidemic of loneliness in Croydon. Much of this is because of the breakdown of neighbourliness in our communities. It’s impossible to ‘love thy neighbour’ if we don’t even know or care who they are.

“The art of neighbouring” movement

In 2010, a group of twenty Christian leaders from Denver met to brainstorm ways that they could better serve their communities. The mayor of Arvada (one of the cities within the greater Denver area), joined them, and the group asked him a simple question: how can we best work together to serve our city?

The ensuing discussion revealed a litany of social problems similar to what many cities in the UK face: ‘at risk’ children, areas with dilapidated housing, child hunger, drug and alcohol abuse, elderly shut-ins with no one to look in on them. The list went on and on, until the mayor concluded that:

“The majority of issues that our community is facing would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just figure out a way to become a community of great neighbours.”

The result was the ‘art of neighbouring’ movement: a city-wide movement that would eventually spread across the USA. Whatever your worldview, I strongly encourage you to buy the book or to at least visit the site, for a practical guide to fostering good relationships with your neighbours in a busy urban or suburban context.

A brief guide to being neighbourly

The first step to being neighbourly is to take ownership of your neighbourhood. We need to understand that Croydon isn’t just a place where you just happen to lay your head at night – it’s a place that you can influence. It’s up to you to make things better.

Secondly, be proactively friendly. It means initiating a positive interaction with those you come in contact with. The simplest way to do that is to smile, wave, and learn your neighbours’ names, or saying ‘Good morning’ to people where appropriate.

Thirdly, treat others as you wish to be treated. When it comes to living in close proximity to other people, any number of relational issues can arise. Despite my saccharine outlook, even I have to admit that Croydon is by no means perfect: it takes tact, timing, wisdom, forgiveness, boundaries, and at times courage to live alongside other Croydonians.

Neighbouring relationships are more effective than local government or charity agency initiatives because they are organic and ongoing. When neighbours are in relationship with one another, for instance, the elderly shut-ins get cared for by the person next door, the at-risk child gets mentored by a dad who lives on the same street, and so on.

The solutions to the problems in Croydon aren’t ultimately found in the government, police, or schools. The solutions lie with us: we need to become better neighbours – to care for the people around us, and to be cared for by the people around us.

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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  • Anne Giles

    Well – we certainly don’t have that problem in Selsdon Vale.


    Yes indeed. Changing what I see as the “English reserve” could help. Coming from another country where we spoke to everyone and had more local involvement (churches, pubs, sports events etc as you mentioned) it’s taken me over 20 years to convince my English husband that when I chat to the neighbours or help out, that I am not actually “interfering”!

  • Peter Ball

    It’s certainly not like that in my street 10 mins walk from Central Croydon, when we moved in just over a year ago someone gave us a cake, about 10 or more households gave us welcome to the street cards. As I walked down the street people I didn’t know asked me how the move was going. At Christmas one household gave a party for everyone in the street. I don’t think its anything to do with religion to my knowledge my friendly and helpfull neighbours include people with many religions and none.

  • Stephen Giles

    The photograph above looks unreal. I would suggest that the houses have been lifted from a photo taken in San Francisco, and layered on to the background which is somewhere else!