Time out with the Chief Executive – May 2023

It is so important for us too all take a step back, take a deep breath, and reflect on what has been accomplished thus far, what obstacles remain, and what opportunities exist as we approach the summer.
Many of you that read this will immediately revert naturally to the challenges, of which there are many. That is human nature. Having said that, we are beginning to see some minor signs of recovery.

Furthermore, we are beginning to overcome the obstacles that have long hindered the renovation of the town core. Nothing is certain, yet there is an air of optimism in the air.

The difficulty is knowing where to start!

First and foremost, we would like to welcome Joanne Bailey as the new Chair of Croydon BID, succeeding Darren Hockaday. The board of directors is a reflection of the membership, drawing experience, skills, and knowledge from company leaders and owners who are passionate about improving our town centre. Jo is not only a successful business leader, but she also lives and breathes Croydon. She has worked at Allders, House of Fraser, the Home Office, and now Centrale Shopping Centre, and she is determined to see Croydon thrive once more.

Every town and city is has its challenges. That we are all aware of. The challenge we have all been set is to recreate, reimagine and to some degree, reposition our ailing destinations into spaces that will offer a fulfilled experience. Our town centre is building. Spaces are regenerating. While the process is tough, the effects, particularly around East Croydon train station, are visible to all.

What we’re all secretly hoping for is that the recent announcement by Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) of the purchase of Hammerson shares in the Croydon Partnership will pave the way for the renovation of the Whitgift Shopping Centre. It is undeniably a significant step forward for the town centre. After meeting with URW lately, I am quietly optimistic about the future. Change takes time and requires collective engagement from us all to make sure our future is secured.

Meanwhile, we must consider how we may work together to generate the right type of energy and offer throughout our town centre that supports its recovery.

We are starting to work closer with businesses to promote their offerings. We have started to develop a catalogue of guides and a series of promotional reels, the first of which promoted World Cocktail Day in collaboration with Mr Fox, Fern Croydon, Basil and Grape, Turtle Bay, Memory Box and Boxpark Croydon. To support a greater emphasis on digital marketing, we have recruited a new apprentice and have started to construct a new website, all of which will be revealed soon.

The green shoots are there – you just have to look for them.  There is no big bang effect, only the arrival of a better offer in the town centre. I’m excited to see Chopstix open soon at Centrale Shopping Centre; the re-purposing of the Tiger Tiger upstairs club section into Tokia, a new food hall restaurant model that will bring an eclectic mix of Asian food offerings to the senses of Croydon High Street; the arrival of Amazon Fresh near East Croydon train station; and the re-emergence of The Spread Eagle pub led by Whelan’s following a £300k refit.

This is in tandem with other business looking to invest both in the retail, hospitality, leisure and commercial spaces.  We must, however, better grasp  where we are as a destination and space so that we have a greater understanding of where we want to get to, curating our town centre so that our economy is not only sustainable but has all that it needs to grow.

The arrival of the London Borough of Culture should be celebrated.

We have the potential to represent who we are through our art and cultural roots, which reflect our rich tradition and diversity. The London Borough of Culture has the capacity to promote economic growth, which we desperately need right now.

The summer will welcome back Croydon Mela, Croydon Pride, South End Food Festival, Queer Compass, Caribbean Influencers, Music Heritage Trail and our very own Croydon Stands Tall.

Croydon Stands Tall will, I can assure you, transform the town centre over night with a glittering array of colour and subjective art with 30 large 8ft giraffe sculptures. The official dates have been released with the trail, sponsored by Superdrug and bought to you by Wild In Art going live on Monday 21st August 2023. Croydon Stands Tall will take up its residency for 10 weeks, closing on Friday 27th October 2023.

I have had the pleasure in visiting schools who are playing their part in Croydon Stands Tall. A secondary trail of baby giraffe sculptures born out of the designs created by school children will create a mega trail of 60 giraffes in total.

Our selected artists are hard at work in our newly created artist space in the heart of Croydon at Centrale Shopping Centre (Unit 72). To see the giraffes transformed is something to behold. I certainly recommend taking time out to visit the artist space.

Projects, initiatives, and services, particularly Croydon Stands Tall, need businesses to come together to bring it to life and to make it all worthwhile. A huge personal thank you to all of our many sponsors with a special mention to our presenting partner Superdrug and Learning Programme sponsors HSBC and London Southbank University. Get ready Croydon, this summer is going to be something. Just make sure you put the dates in your diary!

I am optimistic for Croydon. I make no bones about it. We are south London and proud and should stand tall no matter what.