By Steven Downes, Editor, Inside Croydon
The bunting’s all out across the borough, as local residents prepare for one of the biggest celebrations for years. Yes, it’s the second anniversary of the launch of Inside Croydon.
We thank you all, in very many instances for your support and encouragement, and in a few other cases (we know who you are) for your antagonistic opposition, including your failed threats of legal action. It serves as an inspiration.
Two years ago today, we took our tentative first steps into the blogosphere, and to demonstrate the political bias of which we have been accused by our critics (more fool them), we began by quoting the maiden speech of Croydon Central’s new Conservative MP.
Gavin Barwell (for it was he), and others, whether at the Town Hall, in Taberner House, or the Redhill offices of a diminishing organ, often chide this site for “talking down” Croydon. After nearly 1,000 posts since the launch, we prefer to see that as addressing in a proper manner the very many serious issues that face an outer London borough in the early 21st century, rather than trying to brush problems under the carpet. For many, that’s the closest that Croydon Council comes these days to anything like a road sweeping service.
Now might be a good time to remind Inside Croydon’s loyal reader of what it was that Our Gav, as he is fondly known, said of the constituency when he made that first speech as a Westminster MP.
“There is no getting away from the fact,” Barwell told Parliament, “that Croydon has an image problem – a reputation for rather unwelcoming 1960s architecture, and for crime and antisocial behaviour.”
That, of course, was not “talking down” Croydon.
Two years on. How things haven’t changed.
Last week, in separate incidents in the area, there were two fatal stabbings, one of a teenager.
Yesterday, on the first day of the four-day Jubilee weekend, Croydon made headlines for crime again as five men had a dust-up in a butcher’s shop in Thornton Heath, using knives and what one report described as a machete. All five were treated for stab wounds, and four remained in hospital this morning, under police supervision.
The scene was witnessed and photographed by Inside Croydon reader Wayne Shadrake, who promptly distributed pictures of the scene via ours and other local Twitter feeds. Increasingly, Twitter is the speediest outlet for breaking local news, albeit in 140-character bullet points (our address is @InsideCroydon: we recommend you give us a “follow” now, joining more than 1,700 other followers of our updates; accept no cheap imitations).
“A great start to the weekend in #thorntonheath,” Shadrake noted as he posted the pics from his phone.
All this was going on as hundreds, if not thousands, of families were going about their typical Saturday business, maybe shopping or queuing at one of the town’s multiplexes to see the newly released Prometheus, or taking advantage of a briefly sunny afternoon to attend the first of the weekend’s outdoor Jubilee parties.
Croydon, then, remains a place of vast contradictions. Certainly, its underlying problems have not gone away in the past two years. Given the blistering destruction of last August’s riots and the grinding destruction of our mismanaged economy, there’s a considerable case to be made to say that life in Croydon in 2012 is worse than in 2010.
So Inside Croydon won’t be trying to take any false credit for “turning things around” in that regard.
But what we would like to do is repeat some of the ideas that we had when we launched this site, as a means of flagging them up to the many newcomers in our daily growing audience – now averaging 1,000 readers each day.
Because this site is a co-operative venture, of sorts. We will try to cover what you tell us you want to be covered.
We welcome submissions from all – we are proud to have published articles from the local Green party, LibDems and UKIP. And we have even greater pride in the small part we have managed to play in local campaigns or breaking stories such as:
- the successful fight against the council’s Draconian residents’ parking proposals
- helping to launch the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign with the help of leading celebrities such as Ronnie Corbett and Lord Fellowes
- shaming the Sadvertiser to stop carrying exploitative ads for prostitutes that encouraged human trafficking
- highlighting the council’s flawed library consultations that has seen our coverage referred to by Private Eye and ultimately led to the sacking of the senior councillor responsible
- helping residents in Kenley oppose planning applications for an unsuitable hospital on their residential street
- our groundbreaking and detailed coverage of the 8/8 riots and its aftermath
- first with the news locally that the borough’s biggest private sector employer, Nestle, was to quit Croydon
- opposing the unnecessary and unwanted £1 billion incinerator scheme going ahead at Beddington
- highlighting the scandalous waste of public money that continues at Taberner House while cherished public services are being cut.
Our regular correspondents, Walker Dunelm and Bella Bartock, have trod the footpaths and the boards with their local walks and arts reviews. Five-Year Plan fanzine has recently joined in to add more coverage of Crystal Palace. And Andrew Pelling, our contributing editor, has a grasp of the local political scene, from the Town Hall to Westminster, via City Hall, which is not matched elsewhere.
And yes, we have and will continue to rail at cant and hypocrisy, nonsense and dissembling among Croydon’s public figures wherever we find it.
Although there is a line drawn which we will not cross, we are keen to continue to try to present first-hand articles from a range of political standpoints. We were recently promised an article by a prominent Tory activist, the husband of a Croydon Councillor. Oddly, this Conservative has failed to deliver on a promise.
Politics, and politicians, have clearly disillusioned the vast majority of the population, not just in Croydon, but across the country. Their disinterest has turned into deep distrust, even some loathing. That, in some part, is why Inside Croydon exists, to try to give voice to that anti-establishment undercurrent.
The political discourse is an essential part of how even “non-political” groups function in Croydon today, and so we will also try to report the work and efforts of local residents’ associations and community groups, as we have done recently with the admirable Lives Not Knives and Tabula Rosa.
Indeed, we are seeking more volunteer help so that over the coming months we can provide a platform for some click-through ads on Inside Croydon, free of charge (at least for a limited period), for local independent traders and community groups.
If you are interested in taking us up on this offer of a free ad for your business, or to help with the design and build of the ads, please contact us at the email address below.
In short, let Croydon know what matters to you and how we can help you, Inside Croydon.
And as a special birthday present to Croydon, we recommend you view this video, trying to replace the word “Chicken” with a two-syllable place name, perhaps a south London borough that starts with C and ends in N:
- You can comment on any of the stories already posted on this site, or you can write your own article, or suggest a subject for an article, or contact us about our local groups’ advertising scheme, by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Brunswick Park, bloggers and the lessons of the Barnet Spring (insidecroydon.com)
- Retired judge handed £35,000 for chairing riots panel (insidecroydon.com)
- Council to spend £1m to furnish its new headquarters (insidecroydon.com)
- “Book Token” takes one in the Eye on library closures (insidecroydon.com)
- Police called out for “racist” incident with Barwell’s work gang (insidecroydon.com)
- Use your loaf, Gav: Barwell’s “Let Them Eat Cake” moment (insidecroydon.com)