Sutton shows its neighbours the power of volunteering

With Croydon Council failing to back any local summer fairs or concerts, ANDREW PELLING joined thousands of other residents from the borough at yesterday’s environmental fair in Carshalton

There was no shortage of people willing to sign the Sutton LibDems’ petition against their own government’s policy to close A&E and maternity units at St Helier at yesterday’s Carshalton fair

Croydon used to be blessed with large community events in its parks, such as the World Day in Lloyd Park followed by the Mela the next day. The Selsdon Country Fair used to attract 20,000 visitors until it was cancelled in 2004; it has returned only as a very modest Friends of Selsdon Woods event, which last year had just eight stalls.

There will be another such Selsdon Woods event this coming Sunday from 12 till 4pm, based in the car park off Fairleigh Road, which is to include two guided, one-hour walks around the woods (starting at 12.30pm and 2.45pm), the usual summer fare of tombola, white elephant and used book stalls, local crafts, and representation of local wildlife groups, plus  some children’s competitions and a story time session from 2pm.

Let’s hope that there’s enough going on to engage Selsdon councillor Sara Bashford for longer than 20 minutes this year.

The council’s efforts for local residents and Scouts in Croydon is paltry when compared with what Sutton residents receive from their local authority.

While Croydon Council concentrates its resources on building an unwanted and unnecessary new crystal palace of a headquarters building that is so crushingly expensive that the Mike Fisher-Jon Rouse-led authority will not release the costs of the scheme to the public, Sutton Council instead opted to back the hugely successful Carshalton Environmental Fair on August Bank Holiday.

People were queuing before the fair opened and it was clear that Ecolocal, which runs the fair of more than 130 stalls, was easily going to break its target of 10,000 visitors.

The attendees included a large number of Croydon residents and the fair also comprised many Croydon-based organisations and associations among the stallholders, showing the interest in such events that remains unfulfilled for Croydon people.

“I enjoyed going to the events in Lloyd Park and I was really sad when the Selsdon Country Fair got stopped,” said Ingrid Smith, a pensioner from Selsdon Vale who was at the Sutton event. “I have come here with the whole of the family. I am not sure where they are though… there’s lots of things to do.”

Ecology was a central theme of many of the stalls at the Carshalton fair

Stallholders included Croydon Outdoor Pursuits and Social Events, the 61st Croydon Scout Group, Croydon Vegetarian Group, Selsdon Ceramics, New Addington’s Lodge Lane community garden project and a Coulsdon potter helping children throw pots for Cancer Research UK.

Ecolocal is supported by Sutton Council, the NHS, Transport for London and Lottery funding. It shows what a council can achieve if it gets its act together working with the voluntary sector. An estimated 4,000 hours of effort towards organising the fair get leveraged from volunteers, but it needed to be pump-primed by public funding.

Sutton’s Mayor, Sean Brennan, the former council leader, toured the stalls in the morning. It was notable that Sutton’s Liberal Democrat politicians were out in force supporting the event. Both Tom Brake and Paul Burstow were there. You would struggle to ever see a 100 per cent turn-out at a similar event from Croydon MPs, with the semi-detached Lord Bletchingly of Croydon South the most likely absentee.

Many of the stallholders at the Sutton fair were from organisations based in Croydon

With Carshalton lavender sweetening the air, 16 children’s activities, 40 musical acts on three different stages, including at least one Elvis act, a myriad of stalls for arts, crafts, healthy foods and progressive causes it was no wonder that the nine-hour event was so popular.

There were unusual juxtapositions – the much frequented pub tent was close by the Ahmadiyyan Muslim stall explaining Islam; the Green Party stall with its extensive array of tempting cakes and prim ladies in smart pinnies who could have passed for a Women’s Institute stand, although the vegan cake stall’s was called “Ms Cupcake” and not Miss Cupcake; and there was a huge Liberal Democrat stall with a petition against their own government’s proposals to axe St Helier’s A&E and maternity units.

Getting more signatures though was the “No to the Incinerator” campaign, something that’s of interest to both Croydon and Sutton residents.

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4 Responses to Sutton shows its neighbours the power of volunteering

  1. Is Andrew advocating we should all vote Liberal Democrat at the next election?
    Seriously; this is the latest of a number of articles published by Inside Croydon extolling the virtues of long-established LibDem Sutton Council.
    I’m not attacking the sentiment – yesterday’s (Monday’s) community bash sounds exactly like the kind of event we are sorely in need of in Croydon.
    But it does beg the question: Must we change our voting habits before we can revive this kind of activity in our own borough? And do we specifically need to vote Liberal Democrat rather than Labour, which was no better than the Tories when it ran Croydon Council?
    I’m slightly confused because I thought Andrew Pelling’s political sympathies were drifting towards the Labour Party. Or have I misunderstood?

    • The Editor writes: Outside the elections earlier this year and our views on the electoral system referendum, we’ve avoided advocating voting for any particular party.

      But we do seek to offer contrasts between the way the people of neighbouring boroughs are treated by their councils compared to Croydon.

      Unfortunately, Jon Rouse and his senior executives who really run Croydon Council never stand for election.

  2. I was at the fair helping the “No to the Incinerator” campaign. I am neither a Green nor Liberal party member and could not help noticing that both parties were well represented.

    It was a fact that no other political party was present.

  3. The Labour Party had a stall, too. They usually do and I’ve been attending the fair in various roles (often musically related, never political) for most of its history.

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