Croydon Council locks its doors to Open House London

Croydon Council has scored another spectacular own-goal by becoming the only borough to withdraw from this year’s Open House London, a weekend which encourages visitors to take a peak inside some of the city’s finest examples of architecture and historic monuments, all for free.

Croydon has made its kill-joy decision all for the lack of a mere £4,000.

The Open House scheme is sponsored by BBC London and the Architect’s Journal, and has been described by Time Out as “a strong contender for the capital’s most exciting annual event”.

It is reckoned to attract 250,000 extra visitors to London over the weekend, which this year is being staged in September. At least 750 buildings, including government offices and private gardens, as well as some of London’s hidden gems, will be involved. But in 2012, it appears that none will be in Croydon.

Every other London borough, plus the City of London, is taking part in Open House 2012, with the exception of Kingston, which has never participated in the scheme.

Even though there were buildings in the borough keen to participate, sullen Croydon has pulled out of the project, refusing to stump up a relatively modest sum, a further step in our council’s endeavour to turn the borough into a cultural desert.

This is despite the rich positive PR and promotional possibilities, with the scheme enjoying local radio and television coverage and in the past benefiting from an ad campaign on the Tube network. In all, 140,000 event programmes are being distributed across London.

The borough’s £4,000 (plus VAT) subscription fee for Open House London is the same amount spent by Croydon to send CEO Jon Rouse and another council official to the South of France for a weekend jolly an “important business fair” earlier this year. The extra visitors prompted by the advertising of Open House would be likely bring in more than that in takings for local shops.

30 St Mary Axe, The Gherkin: open to visitors during Open House weekend. Unlike Croydon

Londoners and tourists from around the world will be able to visit the landmark Gherkin tower in The City on September 22-23, but the gates to Croydon’s new and historic buildings will remain locked.

While people have been encouraged to visit City Hall at previous stagings of Open House, Croydon Town Hall will have the metaphorical unwelcome “No entry” signs up.

It all seems like a missed opportunity, when Croydon has both an Old Palace of archbishops and a new palace for its council staff which could have been put on show to the London public, allowing Croydon residents to see what they are getting for the £145 million of their money.

The decision by the council means that Croydon residents miss out in another way, too: the Open House guide can be ordered for £6.50, or be collected free of charge from public libraries in the participating boroughs. Croydon’s residents, if they are interested more broadly in their city, will have to fork out for the guide when the people of Bromley, Sutton and Lambeth will not.

Post-riots, and while Croydon’s Establishment continues to bellyache about the borough’s “poor image” deterring multi-billion pound property developers, the withdrawal from Open House seems to be a particularly short-sighted decision, ignoring a chance to bring people to the borough, promoting its businesses, while getting visitors to spend money in local shops, bars and cafes.

Open House, after much effort to resolve the boycott, has decided reluctantly that Croydon will have to be omitted from this year’s programme. In a formal letter this week, seen by Inside Croydon, Open House wrote:

“I write to officially confirm some bad news regarding Open House London this year, which is that LB Croydon have declined to fund their subscription to the event which is £4000 plus vat.

“The local authority subscriptions allow us to deliver the programme for that borough including everything from the programme development and production itself, the volunteer programme to support the openings where required, the fringe activities we develop and deliver and the marketing outputs and distribution which are many including the Guide which are free for the borough’s residents and stimulating all the visitor activity that it does.

“Plus of course being a part of a capital-wide programme in itself. Without their support, we have to advise each of the building partners that there will be no event in that borough – which is frustrating as we appreciate everything each building does in terms of opening. But basically without their support there is no funding for the event to take place.”

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5 Responses to Croydon Council locks its doors to Open House London

  1. This seems particularly regrettable as – according to the wording of the letter quoted – it prevents the participation of people in the borough who were opening buildings with no connection to the council.

  2. I’m gobsmacked.

    This is one of the easiest ways of presenting the better side of Croydon. With London-wide promotion the council doesn’t have to spend a disproportionate amount of time on this, just allow it to happen.

  3. The problem is not the £4,000. It’s the fact that this is a London-wide event – another opportunity for the myopic borough establishment to cover its eyes and ears and pretend it’s not part of the capital.
    A city in all but name? Don’t make me laugh.

  4. Very upset and disappointed not a great advert for Croydon. Just for the sake of £4000 they have given the National Press another opportunity to knock Croydon.
    It will be interesting to see how they defend this decision.

  5. Pingback: Open houses and a closing lido | The Charlton Champion

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