Croydon – the UK’s next City of Culture. Unthinkable? Actually, it’s not as outrageous a proposition as many who don’t know our borough might have you believe.
Over the past few weeks, it has been my pleasure to visit Croydon’s brilliant award-winning Rise Gallery; see fine productions in The Spreadeagle Theatre; and attend several packed events in Matthew’s Yard in the centre of Croydon.
As well as some great bands at the renovated and now community-run Stanley Halls in South Norwood, and at Croydon’s fastest-growing music venue, The Oval Tavern,
I’ve seen the town’s first Craft Beer Festival at the Braithwaite Hall attracting a crowd aged 18 to 80. And, as the leader of the council, I had the privilege of announcing a major £30m renovation of the Fairfield Halls, to restore the building to its former iconic status.
The good news continues with the announcement that our partner Boxpark will, next summer, be opening London’s coolest new location at East Croydon; and we are enjoying seeing the much-loved David Lean Cinema flourish.
Those achievements stand alongside an exceptional summer programme that included the excellent Ambition, Purley, Thornton Heath, London Road and South Norwood festivals.
Congratulations must be extended to Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation on 50 years of fantastic work in the community, giving young people access to drama and theatre activities to increase their confidence and life skills.
And now we end a year that started with Ben Haenow winning The X Factor, to see Croydon wiping the floor at the globally recognised Mobo music awards. Thornton Heath’s Krept and Konan led the Mobo charge with two awards, accompanied by fellow Croydon winners Stormzy, Faith Child and Section Boyz.
That City of Culture honour, I’m sure you’ll agree, seems quite attainable.
Of course, the headline-grabbing news around Croydon’s many new artists and venues will come as no surprise to local residents. We have all long been aware of the talent that exists across Croydon’s district centres and in our vibrant and multi-cultural communities.
The difference now is that, as Croydon’s recovery continues and our reputation goes from strength to strength, more of our performers and their achievements are getting the recognition they deserve.
The remaining challenge for us as a council is to ensure that all of these talented people have a venue to perform in that will do them proud. That is why we are determined to see through the planned transformation of the Fairfield Halls, Croydon College and surrounding area into one of the capital’s leading cultural and educational hotspots.
Season’s greetings and best wishes for a peaceful new year.