STEVEN DOWNES on the tragic news of a stalwart of the local press, the borough, and of Inside Croydon
We were going to run a self-indulgent feature at the weekend about the fifth anniversary of Inside Croydon. But then we got news of the death of David Callam.
From very early on after this website was started, David had been one of our keenest readers and supporters. And critic.
Always among the first to post a comment, sometimes barely minutes after an article had been published, his remarks were usually insightful, often caustic, and always hugely helpful.
For sure, David may have had something of the Grumpy Old Men demeanour about his outlook of late, but as an antidote to so much of the saccharine sentimentality which is peddled about Croydon, and which is often used to disguise the failings of the local authority and the political hacks who inhabit the Town Hall, his interventions were a very welcome balance.
We even devised a formula to give David a platform for his trenchant views, the Croydon Commentary, an archive of his columns which can be found here. Pretty much all of them stand the test of time.
A journalist to the ink that flowed in his veins, David Callam’s copy was always delivered before deadline and never needed any editing work. Though he never admitted it explicitly, there was a sense that David relished the opportunity to fire both barrels at those in charge, whether at the Town Hall, the NHS or Fairfield Halls.
“Hi David,” the call would go out, “Have you seen this? Fancy doing a few words on it for us?”
The final time I was able to make that request was for David to repeat an exercise he had undertaken a couple of years ago, for the first “Croydon Heritage Festival”. The response I got was typically David: robust disinterest in cant and nonsense.
“Not enthusiastic about the Whitgift Centre PR Festival. Same old, same old. More bloody walking tours and talks about arcane aspects of borough history. Beyond a few swats, I can’t imagine many people being interested. And it certainly won’t bring the tourists in. Another wasted opportunity. Next!”
David Callam’s final piece for this website, as it turns out, was just over a week ago, when he returned to one of his favoured themes, that of local businesses and the high street.
David Callam had been a long-time journalist on local newspapers, including the Croydon Advertiser, in the days when the paper was still based in the borough and had a staff of some more experienced journalists, adequate enough to cover the broad patch in such a way that they were able to have a designated Business Correspondent, which was the role he filled.
“He was a great deal of fun to work with and had a clear understanding of the workings and needs of the business community in Croydon,” his former Advertiser colleague, the recently retired Ian Austen, told Inside Croydon.
“He was well-respected and built up a good relationship with businesses, something which made it easier for me when I took over the coverage.”
After he left the Advertiser, Callam did some work in public relations, including for the council and other local authorities, but more recently he seemed to be enjoying the quieter life at his home in Croham.
Throughout his Commentaries and comments and his other social media activity, there was a common theme in David Callam’s more recent writing, seeking to “protect our public services and stand for people over big business”. It is a noble objective.
I know I will miss David’s acerbic comments and wise counsel. I’m sure Croydon will too.
David died after a short illness last Friday morning. He was 65.
We send condolences to Julia, David’s wife, his sons James and Andrew, and the rest of his family and friends at this very sad time.
- The funeral for David Callam will be held at Beckenham Crematorium at Elmers End at 2.15pm on Monday, June 29, and afterwards for coffee at Coombe Lodge. The family requests no flowers, but donations can be made to the British Heart Foundation, paid by cheque and sent to the Cooperative Funeral Purley or brought to the crematorium.
- James and Andrew ask that David’s friends should attend the ceremony wearing bow ties – “the brighter, the better” – to help remember their father.