The ‘cool kids’ are taking a shine to Croydon again

By - Tuesday 6th September, 2016

The Citizen’s Editor-in-Chief and founder of Croydon Tours takes a sceptical look at Croydon’s newfound trendiness

Artwork by Lis Watkins for the Croydon Citizen.

There actually being a Croydon National Trust guidebook, it is safe to say, would be a dream come true for me. One of the things that I enjoy boring my friends, media pundits, fellow editors, writers, and just about anyone that will listen with is that Croydon is a lot more historically and architecturally interesting than most people realise. When I set up Croydon Tours in 2012, I chose the slogan “Britain’s most interesting town” to try to convey it. A lot of people, it won’t surprise you, were somewhat incredulous at that. Though I was careful to claim town, not city. After all, Croydon is part of London. And while I am enthusiastic about my town, I am not insane.

Sadly there isn’t such a guidebook, though if there was, I hope that they’d choose Lis Watkins fantastic design pictured here, something that looks brilliant on our new improved 52gsm paper (now available for free at a Croydon venue near you) and might one day – who knows? – look even better on a National Trust hardback. This summer, though, the National Trust really did give Croydon a stamp of approval of sorts, with a series of tours (for which they notably did not contact yours truly about) entitled Croydon Edge City, during which they officially celebrated Croydon’s often divisive modernist architecture.

Croydon is becoming culturally acceptable to the taste-making elite

A cynic might observe, of course, that local enthusiasts have been celebrating it for years. Honourable mentions must include the particularly dedicated, passionate and tenacious Sarah Wickens, the Subtopian twitter account and Croydon-born author John Grindrod, who was so inspired that he literally wrote a book, Concretopia, about it. Indeed, just recently this group has even been setting up a modernist society to protect Croydon’s post war legacy (something which you should definitely support).

But as realists, we must recognise that this treatment from the custodians of the nation’s heritage is something of a game changer for Croydon. It likely means something wider: Croydon is becoming culturally acceptable to a taste-making elite that decides what is in and out and that means that the town is finally being recognised for what it’s done well.

Leaving cultural elitism aside (it is extremely debatable if such an elite existing is a good thing), the irony is that just as they are finally waking up to Croydon’s post war charms, that very same architecture is under threat. While many of the residential conversions and demolitions so far have not been the town’s greatest buildings, some striking examples like the Nestlé building look like they could be changed out of all recognition. The word on the street is that several of the council’s most senior civil servants would still love to see the rest torn down. The Home Office’s bases at Apollo and Lunar houses are particular examples. That’s not true of many of the planners themselves, but to be brutally honest it’s not they who have the real power here – that’s developers and the council top brass. At the massive risk of repeating one of my tropes, its awfully like the 1960s again…

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James Naylor

James Naylor

James grew up in Coulsdon. After a brief spell in Somerset he returned to central Croydon as a useful London base. Since then however, his enthusiasm for Croydon has slowly grown into obsession – leading him to set up Croydon Tours and eventually the Croydon Citizen. James is particularly interested in the power of local media to foster new ways of thinking about communities and how to empower them. He is most interested in putting Croydon in a wider context within London, the economy and across time. During the week, he works for an advertising technology company hailing from Silicon Valley. When he’s not working on Croydon-related projects, he enjoys desperately nerdy but hugely enjoyable boardgames. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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