Please join us in the fight to save Croydon’s arts and heritage

charlotte DaviesCHARLOTTE DAVIES, pictured right, has started legal proceedings to stop Croydon Council selling the most valuable pieces of the publicly owned Riesco Collection of Chinese procelain. The case has the support of the Museums Association, the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society and the Arts Council. But now she needs your help

On Friday, Jono, who is four years old, said, “Bye bye Daddy” and went into the kitchen of his home and said “Daddy gone”. It was the first time that Jono has spoken to his parents. They were absolutely thrilled.

I met Jono a few months ago. His parents were desperate and did not know where to turn or what to do to sort out his developmental delay. I know that if we keep working diligently, he will be fine and that it is just a matter of working away to open those pathways to the brain.

But when I have finished, Jono needs a rich arts culture to go on developing and maintaining his mental and physical health for life.

I spent the whole of yesterday talking to people about Croydon arts: about arts generally across Croydon and the Riesco Judicial Review.

Last week, lawyers working on behalf of a group of residents served papers on Croydon Council to call formally for a judge to look into the matter of the sale of 24 of the most valuable pieces of the Riesco Collection of Chinese porcelain which had been gifted to the borough by Raymond Riesco half a century ago. Croydon Council wants to auction these items in Hong Kong later this month.

At the end of the day, I came home exhausted, reading the Evening Standard on the train in which I happened upon two interesting articles:

Marr: Drawing gave me back my life, so why don’t we still teach it? and

£20m for SOAS to “transform” Asian arts study

Drawing of what is left of the Riesco Collection at Croydon's soon to be unaccredited museum by Lis Watkins, from her site

Drawing of what is left of the Riesco Collection at Croydon’s soon to be unaccredited museum by Lis Watkins, from her site

Arts in Croydon have been vandalised in last few years by the council. Damage is on a par with the 2011 riots, but it has been done by people in offices, often behind closed doors; and in the case of the Riesco Collection against the express advice of their lawyers and experts.

Decisions have been taken that do not carefully manage our resources to balance budgets, or try to maintain social welfare and maximise social cohesion – alas it has been more like a fire sale and at each transaction the key question to ask is: “Who is actually benefiting from this?”

It is certainly not the people of Croydon. We are now in a mess in Croydon.

We need a strong independent umbrella organisation to establish a charity for Croydon arts which is there to grow and encourage arts across Croydon, not compete with them, or play one off against another. It has to be an excellent organisation working to national standards and expectations to ensure that all Croydon people can have opportunities to participate in the best of all art forms and express themselves fully. Civilisation is at its highest when we come together to share our arts and our culture – in Croydon we have so much to share. At grassroots much already exists, we need to encourage it.

Croydon arts needs skilled people from all our diverse groups to ensure that our arts are properly funded and networked to national organisations – so for example, when we do gain control of what is left of the Riesco Collection, we can make links outside the borough – links to organisations such as the School of Oriental Arts and Asian Studies to enhance their work and to provide links that will further enrich our broader community. We need an arts organisation that thinks strategically to maximise social welfare.

The Riesco Collection Judicial Review, why do it?

A group of residents, some of whom wish to remain anonymous, has got together some funds to challenge the council’s sale, and they asked me to front the legal challenge as they saw me as an apolitical community leader – so I agreed.

The challenge came about because people who have followed this debate have been shocked by our Council’s attitude towards:
a. The arts;
b. Local democracy;
c. Compliance with public ethics.

We have to stop Croydon Council believing that they can operate with no public accountability.

This is a neat open and shut case: documents have been seen which show clearly that councillors and the officers of the council understood the full implications of their actions, that they were breaking the council’s own policies, before making the decision to go ahead with the sale. The Museums Association has publicly made complaints about Croydon Council’s behaviour and the breach of the Museum Association’s code of ethics. The Arts Council funding agreement has clearly been breached.

Urgently, I need more resources to ensure that we can see this challenge through to the end – please can you make a contribution to the fund?

It is a fund that is basically about ethics and accountability – about opposing anarchy: whether it is people in offices, or rioting on the streets, it is no different if it deprives our people of opportunities for development and social cohesion. The fund is being managed by South Croydon Community Association and contributions can be made to:

South Croydon Community Association (Riesco Fund)
Account no: 11490948
Sort code: 23-05-80

Alternatively drop off contributions at my house 17 Temple Road, Croydon, Surrey CR0 1HU.

Let’s come together to build Croydon into the community that the vast majority of residents desire: one with high aspirations; empowered and informed citizens; and respect for all.

And if you are interested in finding out more about our campaign for arts in Croydon, we have our next meeting on Wednesday, November 13 at St Gertrude’s Church Hall, Wyche Road. Or you can email me at

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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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