We've had close to 18 months of disruption - particularly for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. Our communities have been placed under the most incredible strain because of the pandemic, and we are now starting to see that reopening coming forward and now more than ever, we need to bring back the energy of our town centre - offering something different to those that live, work and visit Croydon.
We know that people are more likely to remain in this country at least and certainly local across the summer months, so it's vitally important to give people something to do, bring a smile but above all some much needed enjoyment.
With a programme of activity this summer, we’re working with partners to bring the energy back into the town centre. It's about attracting people in, however long they want to stay, to enjoy activities with their family and friends in a safe and secure way. It's about attracting all types of people, whatever their age or background so that they can once again enjoy their time in Croydon.
We know we are not going to revitalise the town centre overnight; this is not a quick fix and we need to be able to put in place a committed approach in terms of making sure the town centre, gradually over time, increases its level of activity and energy so we can begin to put in place the foundations, and slowly grow and thrive.
Everybody loves the sun, the summer, and the sunshine, so we need to have a programme of activity that delivers for all our various different communities across the summer.
It’s incumbent on us to be able to work with the business community, representing their needs, delivering added footfall in a safe way while promoting the offer we have in Croydon town centre. Our aim is simple. We want to see people enjoying our town centre. We want to see smiles as we start to rediscover our places and what we have to offer. That’s all we want.
There is always a note of caution especially in the current environment and the ongoing pandemic. We are rebuilding, recovering and it will be slow arduous process but one whereby we collectively come together, collaborate and begin to see the green shoots we all hope for.
When you look back at some of the things that have been put in place – Treat Out Croydon for one. Over the past few months hospitality has suffered in the most incredible way. Treat Out Croydon gets the message out loud and clear that it’s alright to go out and enjoy the many different local venues we have. What’s more, we have a new seating are on the High Street for people to sit and relax, providing additional capacity for people to go out and enjoy the summer sunshine. Combined with our Treat Out campaign, influencing people to consider venturing back out, we are working hard to support our many businesses.
Another is the Music City art trail, which provides atmosphere into the town centre. It is the start of bringing in a greater vibe and atmosphere to our town centre, offering a launch pad to grow off the rich talent we possess in this borough.
We’ve also had the BRIT School art trail, where students have been able to showcase their talent, and they’ve also helped revitalise and refresh hoardings across the town centre, adding vibrancy and colour to previously drab and dull spaces.
Just as the government has a roadmap to recovery, we have a roadmap in terms of how we can introduce activities and events into the town centre to lift it. We’ve done the simple activities and events and now we’re going to step it up a stage with Brickosaurs and the Summer Staycation – two crafted programmes of events that will hit at different stages throughout summer and into early autumn, mindful of safety and keeping people safe but also bringing in the colour, vibrancy and energy we’re all desperate for.
We have some exciting things planned – Brickosaurs, in partnership with Centrale and Whitgift – 13 life-sized toy brick model dinosaurs. I have two young kids, and they love dinosaurs. The dinosaurs have landed and my family for one are excited about coming into the town centre to take a look, enjoy the workshops, activities and competitions! There are some great prizes.
We're creating a safari around the town centre but predominantly in the two shopping centres and you'll be able to go around and meet those dinosaurs, take photographs of the dinosaurs and also learn about them, including how many thousands, if not millions of toy bricks have been used to create each model. Connected to this are palaeontology workshops and fossil making workshops too. We’re making it as interactive as we can while keeping people safe. Brickosaurs takes place from 30 July to 16 August, and most importantly, it’s free! It’s going to be a great way to kick off the summer and enjoy the town centre. Bring your friends along, bring your family along too – it’s going to be great!
The Summer Staycation starts on 31 July. There are four different weekends of activities – Festival Feels, Dinosaur Roar, Sports Madness and Summer Vibes. We know people will stay local this year and we can’t wait to bring the holiday (and hopefully the summer weather) to residents. My personal highlight is the helter skelter that’s coming as part of the Summer Vibes weekend – where we’ll have you thinking you’re at the beach without getting sand everywhere!
We also have another special thing planned later in the year – the Croydon Monster takeover – a special trail where eight locations, which are being safely guarded, will be taken over by massive inflatable monsters. It’s never been done in Croydon before, but we’re doing our best to put smiles on people’s faces and I can’t wait for these to come to life and for people to look up and laugh and smile when they see them.
I’ve really missed bringing these events into the town centre. The past year has felt very reactionary because of the pandemic, as the situation changes so quickly and we’re all trying to adapt. We’ve not been able to do any of the events or activities we’re used to and we’re not able to see the smiling faces. I'm desperate to bring that back.
We take our role very seriously and we are being responsible with all of our events in making them as safe and secure as possible. It’s really exciting to do events like this again and I hope everyone will enjoy them too – we look forward to seeing you in the next few weeks!
It’s time to revitalise our town centre. Come together, join us, enjoy it and lets start to recover from the past year.