Why I Edit The Croydon Citizen (even though I’m not a Croydon citizen)

By - Wednesday 30th January, 2013

Our second ‘meet the team’ article takes us inside the mind of Quality Assurance extraordinaire Rob Mayo

You know, people often ask me, ‘Why do you write for the Croydon Citizen?’. Most often said people are other members of the editorial team, and the question is phrased in the form, ‘When are you going to write your piece about why you write for the Croydon Citizen?’. It’s not always that way though – in my occasional guest appearances in Croydon, I’ve been grilled by magistrates, computer programmers, and professional poker players on why I’ve joined a team of Bright Young Croydonians to help fashion a web newspaper about the local and cultural goings-on when I, in fact, was born, raised, and still reside in Watford.

As mentioned in the first piece of my previous series on last year’s Cherry Orchard Arts Festival (shameless self-promotion), I used to hold my hometown and Croydon as unfortunate equals – I still like to think that Watford is like a mirror-image of Croydon across London, except even more carpark-y. Both are comparably connected to London – 20 minutes from Watford to Euston, and about the same from Croydon to Victoria – but both are simultaneously detached in various fundamental ways. On each of those train journeys there’s a marked change in scenery from office blocks and power plants to office blocks and power plants interspersed with greenery. In short, they are both pretty much the definition of suburbia: teetering on the fence between the civilisation of London and all of its infuriating trappings, and whatever lies beyond suburbia – something like the settings of Straw Dogs or The Wicker Man, I’d imagine.

Both towns have something of an image problem, though. When I first met James Naylor and we compared our respective hometowns, we started a competition to decide which was the worst, and Watford was the emphatic ‘winner’ in this Pyrrhic battle. A few years later, James was returning to his hometown with a new passion to boost its image – an ambitious task for a town that’s often a national punchline in much the same way as Staines and Slough are.

I have to confess, much as I was already convinced of Croydon’s superiority to Watford (it didn’t take much), and much as I love an underdog, I was a little apprehensive about James’ campaign – improving the town’s image problem is a bit of a herculean feat when the image of Croydon as a depressing concrete jungle is so heavily ingrained. (James would also be the first to admit that much of the image is founded in reality – the proliferation of car parks that so characterise Watford and Croydon for me was allegedly brought about in Croydon’s case by one councillor’s belief that having more car parks than Birmingham was something worth aspiring to.) However, when I accepted James’ invitation to flex my editorial muscle I was pleased to find that I was joining a team of people that genuinely believed in the worth of their cause. Simply put, the purpose of the Citizen as I came to understand it was to bring together those citizens who share the belief that Croydon is, or could be, a great place to live. In my first journalistic visit, to the Cherry Orchard Arts Festival, I was permanently convinced of the latter. It’s difficult for me to subscribe to the former opinion while I live on the opposite side of London, but since my roles as writer and editor have afforded me the chance to join intelligent, ambitious Croydonians at places like Matthews Yard I’m becoming increasingly persuaded.

But the Citizen’s mission is not one of relentlessly positive propaganda. If Croydon’s citizens want to step out of the monstrous shadow of London, they need to address the problems that maintain the negative prejudice against their town. My co-editor Tom addressed one such prejudice against the Citizen itself in his recent post, and while his retort was more than sufficient I’d like to chime in by clarifying what my role is in the team and how I support our politically neutral vision. As well as doing some content editing much like Tom does, I am also the Quality Assurance Editor – in plain English, I am the last person to read a post before it’s published. I make sure that it’s written to an acceptable standard, and hit the publish button only once I’m sure that it reaches our high standards. If anything appears to be descending into hatespeech or a political slagging match instead of adhering to our mission statement, it won’t be published.

Fortunately, my co-editors are all equally devoted to the vision of the Citizen as a politically neutral testament to all that Croydon has to offer and to its potential. We are also blessed with a growing team of contributors that instinctively understand our aim, and need little in the way of journalistic guidance. I believe that the Citizen’s editorial team’s composition is perfect for the role that we play – a mix of inside knowledge and passion for what this town has to offer, and an outsider’s view to ensure that we’re neither tub-thumping and blinkered against the problems we face, nor sinking into the cynicism that (arguably) allowed a small minority to trash their neighbourhood with some misplaced sense of justification back in August 2011.

So, think of me not only as an occasional gonzo journalist for Croydon’s flourishing creative events (although I am certainly looking forward to more of that…), but also as your acid test to see if the tide of public opinion that maintains Croydon’s image problem is changing. So far, you’re doing great…

Rob Mayo

Rob Mayo

The Managing Editor of the Croydon Citizen, and the only co-founder not to have ever lived in Croydon. Rob previously studied at University of Oxford and University of London, and regrets only one of them. Since co-founding the Citizen in 2012 Rob has completed a PhD in English Literature at the University of Bristol, for whatever that's worth... Rob's stereotypically left-leaning views are personal, and not representative of editorial policy.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/liz.sheppardjones Liz Sheppard-Jones

    Really interesting to read about people’s reasons for getting involved :-)

    I’m not sure about Croydon ‘stepping out of the shadow’ of London, or even that we should want to. To me, we Croydonians are south Londoners. (I’m an adoptee-Croydonian which gives me a slightly different and, I like to think, broader perspective on these matters). London itself, however, incorporates many identities – the City, the East End, Hoxton, Primrose Hlll…… saying the names immediately conjures a powerful image of these very distinct places. (It might be an inaccurate image, of course – and I personally have zero interest in Primrose Hill or its denizens). My own vision for Croydon is that we develop a proudly distinct London identity like these.

    As for the riots…………… all THAT justification was propter hoc. They were looters, not protestors. Guardian newspaper – be ashamed.

    Thanks, Rob, for bringing your most interesting perspective to the Citizen :-)

  • Serena Alam

    Hi Rob, Are you the member of the Editorial team that refers to Croydoners as ‘Croydonians’?!