Croydon needs to keep a proper grasp of its history

Croydon's local studies centre was essential for research into Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the eminent Edwardian composer

Croydon’s local studies centre was essential for research into Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the eminent Edwardian composer

Norbury resident SEAN CREIGHTON expresses concern over Croydon’s proposed cuts to the local studies centre, as first reported by Inside Croydon

Croydon Council plans to disengage from cultural intervention as part of the next phase of its spending cuts. This includes reducing spending on the local archives service to “the statutory minimum”.

It is deeply worrying when any local authority reduces its support for the wide range of cultural activities. We have already seen the damage done by the closure of the David Lean Cinema in the Clocktower and the shafting of the Warehouse Theatre. The rich heritage and history of Croydon is an important part of cultural activity. Now the council proposes to reduce the role of the local archives service.

Local archives services linked to local studies are vital to the preservation of the records of the council and other public bodies operating locally, such as courts and hospitals. Having access to the historic background is of key importance to council officers carrying out duties, for example in relation to land development and planning. The preservation of its own continually produced records should be governed by an information strategy policy which should be developed with the involvement of archive staff.

The existence of local archive services encourages individuals and organisations to deposit their records and personal papers making them available for local, regional, national and even international historical research. The Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Collection has proved an important resource in the lead up to and during the last year of the composer who died in 1912.

The growing public thirst for all things historical, especially family and local, helps the development of community identification, increases the vigilance to preserve the best of the built environment and the protection of open spaces, helps people understand their roots and the way their local communities are continually being re-shaped. It fosters education. It can be used as part of youth and age reminiscence work. It can support the teaching of the requirements of the National Curriculum.

Disengagement from cultural intervention and a reduction in the accessibility of the archive and local studies services will damage the council’s chances of seeking funding from organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund, as Croydon was successful in 2005 with a near-£1 million towards the development of the museum at the Clocktower.

If it is not careful the council will find it cannot meet the emerging new archives accreditation framework. If it cannot this raises the question of whether the other local public bodies and depositers will continue to want their records held with Croydon. Is that really what Councillors want to happen?

While the sum of money involved in the proposed cut is small, the potential ramifications justify the scrutiny and oversight committee to review the matter.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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