West Croydon festival gets the thin end of Westfield cash

The crass disparity in treatment between those areas of Croydon which were worst-hit by the riots and those which escaped too much damage is exposed yet again, with the announcement of this year’s South End Food Festival next month.

South End Food FestivalWestfield, soon to be starting work on the £1,000,000,000 (count the zeros!) redevelopment of central Croydon, have been persuaded to cough up the grand sum of £500,000 towards community projects, with many of the “usual suspects” – such as the council-dominated Croydon Voluntary Action – at the front of the queue for the hand-outs. There’s some “community” funding for the heritage festival that is run by the Whitgift Foundation, the very body which hired Westfield to redevelop the Whitgift Centre.

Even the Sadvertiser local newspaper gets a slice of the Westfield “community” action, which just might ensure that there’s no meddlesome articles which are too critical of the development. Sweet.

Some of the Westfield cash – a little more than £30,000 – has trickled down to fund a couple of summer fetes in two areas of the borough in the next few weeks.

  • A summer fair being planned for London Road, in part of West Croydon where many traders and residents lost their businesses and homes in the riots, is to benefit from Westfield dosh.
  • A “food festival” planned for somewhere which only public relations people would describe as Croydon’s “Restaurant Quarter” is also getting a Westfield hand-out.

According to a source close to the event organisers, the South Croydon Food Festival is getting around 15 times as much Westfield lolly as the summer fair on riot-hit London Road.

The funding deals, including the massive cash disparity, have been brokered by White Label. Grey Label were the favoured PR spinners of Croydon Council when it was under the control of local Conservatives, and also do much work for the influential Whitgift Foundation. Grey Label is organising the South Croydon Food Festival for the South Croydon Business Association.

Grey Label are the same people who last year handed the sponsorship of the food festival in South Croydon to Tesco for just £2,000, at just the time the supermarket giants had opened one of their Express stores at the Swan and Sugarloaf, to the extreme commercial disadvantage of the majority of small, independent traders in South End.

The 2014 South Croydon Food Festival is to take place on July 20.

Grey Label has been trying to push the bogus idea of Croydon’s various “quarters” for the past three years. Yet in a survey of 100 people arriving at East Croydon Station this week, not one could locate “Croydon’s Restaurant Quarter” on a map of the area. Yet more than 40 per cent of respondents were able to find South End in Inside Croydon’s dog-eared copy of the A to Z.

The survey respondents also knew very well which parts of Croydon were worst-hit by the 2011 riots. While rioters and arsonists on the infamous night of August 8 burned down entire blocks of buildings along London Road, it is fair to say that South Croydon escaped with little damage by comparison. The Richer Sounds TV and hi-fi store on South End and the local cycle shop were both raided by looters. But there were no reports of any of the area’s bars or restaurants being badly damaged in the riots (although their takings took a hit in the trading downturn afterwards).

How the food festival is of significant benefit to the area’s non-food businesses, including Richer Sounds and Cycle King, remains unclear.

“I am delighted to confirm that the South End Food Festival returns next month bigger and better with an extended street closure and running later than before (12-8pm),” writes Linda Arthur, of the South Croydon Business Association.

Arthur also happens to run Bar Txt, which with all-day drinking on July 20 is one of the businesses which seems very likely to profit most from the all-day street closures and the attendance of hundreds of potential customers.

“As you know,” Arthur continues in her letter to members of the SCBA, “this is the third festival in South End and it provides an excellent opportunity for us to showcase our restaurants, bars and businesses here in South Croydon.”

Title sponsorship for the food festival has been granted to Brakes Professional Food Market on Purley Way, though the biggest chunk of cash is understood to come from Westfield, via their “Croydon Partnership” persona.

Our source estimates that South Croydon is getting £30,000 of cash from Westfield, though this is unconfirmed. The London Road fair, meanwhile, gets the thin end of Westfield’s cash, with just £2,000 coming their way.

“The day will feature live music and street entertainment, al fresco dining, food stalls, free food samples, children’s activities and a theatre kitchen with demonstrations by local chefs,” Arthur promises.

Local traders are encouraged to hire stalls for the food festival, with special discounts for members of the South Croydon Business Association. Inside Croydon approached Arthur recently to enquire how a business can join her Association. She has not answered.

Coming to Croydon

Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 72,342 average monthly page views (Jan-Mar 2014)

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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to West Croydon festival gets the thin end of Westfield cash

  1. Rod Davies says:

    I understand that a large proportion of the commercial premises in the area are part of the Whitgift Foundation’s portfolio and that in effect this is money to promote their own tenants. As long as we are all aware of this, and that no tax money gets mixed up with it, then it’s the Whitgift Foundation’s commercial decision. (Hopefully the Charity Commissioners will be ensuring that the profits are used to promote the education of poor boys in the borough.)

    I think this another instance that highlights the need for the majority community to look to its own resources and cease expecting the Whitgift Foundation to act in anything but a self-serving manner. It is perhaps time that the council explicitly recognises that the Whitgift Foundation, regardless of its legal formation, is a commercial operator the same as any other landlord / property developer.

    For the vast majority of people in the borough Whitgift Foundation has no more relevance than Unilever Plc., its a big business that owns a few schools – and that’s all it is.

  2. davidcallam says:

    I agree entirely with Rod’s conclusion. I also see a lesson here for any organisation running a fete, fair or festival in the borough; commission White Label as your PR agency, clearly they know where the money is stashed and how to unearth it.

  3. Pingback: West Croydon festival gets the thin end of Westfield cash | arnorab

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