This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 19/06/2017.
Use it or lose it, Croydon
“Use it or you will lose it”
This was the phrase that struck me as I read Liz Sheppard-Jones’ celebratory review of the London Mozart Players’ recent performance at Croydon’s only rooftop bar and cinema, Lost Format Society.
Croydon has never had anything like this before – a live open-air classical music concert, on a rooftop bar, with an outdoor cinema, showing Charlie Chaplin.
You would have to pay upwards of £100 for the privilege if this was done in the Barbican, and yet here in Croydon, the event cost a mere £10.
I threw all the (admittedly, non-existent) social cachet that comes with being the 37th Most Powerful Person in Croydon™ behind the event by tweeting about it.
Despite all of this, “empty chairs still remained on the roof.”
And this is why, Croydon, we can’t have nice things.
Croydon is amazing right now
Croydon is amazing right now when it comes to places to eat, drink and dance the night away. There is no borough outside of central London that provides the cultural experience on such a scale and with such variety that Croydon can.
We are currently experiencing an arts renaissance. We now host exhibitions from the likes of Banksy and Damien Hirst. Over one hundred public murals have been commissioned around town. New art galleries are opening here every few months.
There is no shortage of hipster coffee shops springing up to fuel the borough’s newcomers and their frenetic laptop lifestyles. Similarly, we do not want for unique eateries, as can be found in Boxpark or the South End Restaurant Quarter. And let’s not forget the gastric delights to found in Surrey Street Market or the open-front markets, butchers and restaurants that line the stretch from West Croydon Station to Broad Green.
Croydon is becoming a cultural capital, too. We have fourteen annual music festivals. Croydon is the birthplace of dubstep, and the home of the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology: this borough has created and nurtured talent including Adele, Leona Lewis, and Kate Nash. We have proven repeatedly that Croydon can deliver top-tier acts such as Eskimo Dance – and there are more independent fringe theatre and film festivals here than you can shake a stick at.
Nothing lasts forever
However, nothing lasts forever (except Jesus’ kingdom, obvs).
None of the above magically appeared ex nihilo. Behind every event, every shop, every act, are scores of people who are working hard to deliver something excellent for Croydonians to enjoy. Many of them do this to the detriment of their bank balances, their personal relationships and their health.
All the above rely on you making the effort to turn off Netflix, leave your home and actually turn up.
This is particularly the case for our local SMEs, where the ‘local multiplier effect’ means that independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses (or locally-owned franchises). In other words, you taking the time to support local ventures creates more local wealth and jobs. The same goes for supporting local arts and culture, too. Yay, capitalism.
Support Croydon’s arts and culture
So, to return to my initial point – use it or you will lose it. The people who put on excellent events for Croydon won’t stick around forever if locals don’t support it with their wallets and their presence.
I once ruminated that Croydon gets the politicians that it deserves. If we don’t start supporting the people who are creating arts in Croydon – we will get the cultural wasteland that we deserve, too.