By damekor, Aug 8 2014 10:22AM
ART & CULTURE - DAME K CHECKS OUT CROYDON'S TREASURES
By OFH, Apr 27 2014 01:11PM Published on Off The Hook Magazine
This week I've been mooching about the streets of Croydon. But there's some confusion here, some say it's still part of the Borough of Surrey, which it was, until a boundary shift in 1965 from Surrey to Greater London. And it seems the boundary battle continues to this day. So with a CR0 postcode, is Croydon South London or Surrey? Well, in the Old Town area of Croydon there is 'Surrey Street Market', one of the oldest markets in the country dating back the the 13th Century (and without the Surrey prices). At one stall I purchased 4 limes for 50p, who can argue at that?! Especially as I'm used to paying 30p+ for one at a supermarket whose name I'm not giving any promotion to here. The other great thing about this lively market is the atmosphere, it has the feel of them proper old school markets, with traders v ying for attention, shouting about the produce and the cost, enticing punters, giving it 'four for 50p', all that! People know people here. I noticed stall holders addressing punters by name, on top of that the Old Town is home to over a hundred independent shops, and that can't be a bad thing. Croydon is incredibly built up, very much a concrete jungle with a mixture of architecture, including post-war and high rises from the sixties,
Talking of architecture, only last year The Architecture Foundation had a Croydon Urban Pioneers Programme, bringing local students together to engage in workshops with artists, writers, urbanists, to explore and examine the built up area.
"We bring together the public and professionals to cultivate new ideas and talent, stimulate discussion, and improve the quality of the built environment." (http://www.architecturefoundation.org.uk)
Now the other side of town, the new town is equally hustly and bustly with all the usual retail suspects lining the high street. Croydon has a very diverse population and there's a sense of pride in the air. Which brings me to the Museum of Croydon. It is really is for the people. You get a real sense that matters here.
The staff were very friendly, helpful and only to happy to demonstrate how to use the interactive touch screen monitors that accompanied all the displays and talk about the exhibition, and that most of the items on display have been donated on permanent loan to the museum from people of Croydon for their Then (1800-1899) & Now (1980-Today) Exhibition.
Now Surrey is home to many a rich n famous star, to name but a few, there are musicians, Ringo Star resides in Cranleigh, footballers, John Terry in Oxshott, tennis players, Andy Murray in Oxshott, and thesp after thesp of stage n screen, Michael Caine in Leatherhead, Judith Dench in Outwood and the wonderful Celia Imrie was born in Guildford. But lets take a look at Croydon, what they got? Who they boasting?
Kate Moss and the Academy Award winning legend Dame Peggy Ashcroft were both born in Croydon. But you won't find that out here. What you will find out is that Sislin Fay Allen came to England in 1962 from Jamaica, and changed the game by being the first black woman to join the metropolitan police. And on one of the screens you will hear her talk about her "first day on the beat in Croydon".
Croydon also had a theatre called the Grand with its own Theatre Company. Upon further investigation I found out this theatre was a massive deal, opened by the actor manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree in 1896, bringing with him the likes of Sarah Bernhardt and Henry Irving to grace the stage.
It also had a fair which took place on the Fair Field, were talking back in the 1800's, it was a three day affair and apparently the best attended of all the London Fairs.
I just have to tell you about my favourite piece in the exhibition. An incredible oil painting entitled 'Croydon Courageous' by Norman Partridge. It is a depiction of the aftermath of bombings in the Second World War, reminding us that war was also fought at home, with over 100 characters in this painting it captivated my attention for ages.
Also in this building is a research library where you can look at their massive archive database and trace roots of people of Croydon. For me the bonus of my visit is a little gallery space at the entrance to the research library with a very interesting display of a collection of brilliant work that up until a few days ago was just sitting in storage. Again like the museum I was informed that most of the art work had been donated. Artists on display include fantastic work in pencil and black crayon by John Harris Valda. At 21 years old Valda opened an art school and boasted to be the first school in Britain to teach magazine illustration.
It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area. Museum of Croydon is on Katharine Street 5mins from the High Street. www.museumofcroydon.com
Well, for now, whether Croydon is Surrey or South London...give it six years, what with the regeneration plan 'Croydon Vision 2020', people will have other things to talk about. Croydon's aspirations are getting bigger and bigger aiming to be "London's Third City".
Image 1:Grand Theatre
image 2:Croydon Courageous
Image 3:Clock Tower Museum of Croyden
Image 4:John Harris Valda
Image 5:Sislin Fay Allen.