150% rent hike forces Croydon Radio to stop programming

Croydon Radio has gone off-air, the community-run digital station having decided to leave its studio in Matthew’s Yard, off Surrey Street, after a demand for a 150 per cent rent increase.

croydon radioThere has been no new or live programming from the station since Friday, as instead they pump out auto-generated music selections – a sort of Tragic FM – presumably with the hope of resuming its normal schedule once new premises are located.

The latest financial crunch at the hipster “arts, cultural and creative hub” (Matthew’s Yard’s chosen descriptor, not ours), offering “a shabby industrial aesthetic” (please refer to our previous parenthetical remarks), and where you’re lucky to get change out of a tenner if you’re buying coffees for yourself and a couple of friends, has forced the rent hike for Croydon Radio, which was among the first partner organisations to move into the former warehouse when it opened in 2012.

Founded by Tim Longhurst and Tracey Rabbetts, the internet-based Croydon Radio had a roster of around 50 volunteer presenters, producers and wannabe DJs, generating an output which was both eclectic and eccentric, and attracted what can only be described as a niche audience, of fewer than 40,000 listeners in its first year.

Hoped for commercial sponsors and advertisers never seemed to materialise in any significant amounts, leaving the station without any income to pay towards the cost of its upkeep or to invest in equipment – notoriously, presenters in the early days had to shuffle the studio’s single spare microphone from guest to guest if they had more than one interviewee in the studio at the same time.

Some less-inspired programmes were quietly dropped from the schedules: a Saturday sports show that appeared to consist entirely of the presenter reading the match reports that had appeared in the previous day’s Sadvertiser somehow never caught on.

The station enjoyed audience success when the then Tory-run council effectively handed Croydon Radio the broadcast rights to Town Hall meetings, apparently without the matter ever being put out to tender. Entirely coincidentally, we are sure, and with no impact on the station’s editorial positioning, around the same time, Croydon Radio won the “Voluntary Group of the Year” category at the council-run civic awards.

Croydon Radio’s access to this valuable content came to an end in 2014 when the new council introduced its own webcasting service.

And there have been outages before – such as when “internet café” Matthew’s Yard lost its internet access.

But there’s a sense that this time, the shutdown of programmes could be permanent, unless a new venue can be found urgently.

Croydon Radio

A notice on the station’s website states, “Sorry, there are no live shows today.” The same message is displayed for every day this week.

Inside Croydon contacted Rabbetts of Croydon Radio for comment, but she failed to respond.

According to Saif Bonar, the founder of Matthew’s Yard, the radio station had been paying less than £2,500 per year in rent since it opened.

Station founder Tim Longhurst (pink shirt) at the controls for an early Croydon Radio show

Station founder Tim Longhurst (pink shirt) at the controls for an early Croydon Radio show

“The people behind Croydon Radio, its presenters and volunteers, worked tirelessly and passionately to do something good for Croydon without financial rewards,” Bonar told Inside Croydon. “It’s regrettable it has had to come to an end and will be a net loss for Croydon.”

Bonar said that his business had incurred “a high volume of one-off costs in the last financial year”.

“This meant that we had to review the fees they paid. As an unfunded community initiative, Croydon Radio were unable to meet the requests for the higher monthly fee and, sadly and reluctantly for both sides, they chose to vacate the space.

“The fees charged have been the same since Croydon Radio first opened and we could not absorb increased operating costs any longer.”

Bonar described the rent hike, to £500 per month, “still represents excellent value for money compared to the rocketing prices of property around Croydon town centre”,  adding, “I had no choice but to do everything possible to ensure Matthew’s Yard’s finances get back on track.”

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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13 Responses to 150% rent hike forces Croydon Radio to stop programming

  1. Jane E Ray says:

    Philistines. How can the council inflict such monsterous charges on a small group providing such a great service. Croydon has lost a great asset just for money.

    • It’s nothing to do with the council, Jane. It’s the landlord – ie. Matthew’s Yard founder Saif Bonar, quoted in the piece extensively – who has raised his rent.

      • janieray says:

        OK Thanks for pointing that out. Let’s find a new home for Croydon Radio. Something they can afford and poke 2 fingers in the air at Saif Bonar. I hope someone lets him know how this feels. Bonar -work it out yourself, Sleaz*b$g.

        • Jane – you seem to know little about this subject, as you initially thought Croydon Council was responsible for Croydon Radio’s rent rise. In the circumstances this insult to Saif Bonar is out of order. I don’t know whether the rent rise is justified or not, but Saif and Matthews Yard have provided a fantastic resource for Croydon and I hope they are able to carry on doing so.
          I also hope the excellent Croydon Radio is able to relocate satisfactorily and resume broadcasting.

          • “Fantastic resource”, David? Really?

            It was set up as a business, just like Starbucks or Boot’s, with the aim of making profit from the people of Croydon. The whole post-riots PR schtick was a calculated and cynical attempt to win sympathy and support, while genuine Croydon businesses affected by the arson and looting were trying to put their lives and livelihoods together.

            In its first couple of years, Matthew’s Yard also received considerable backing from the council, including tens of thousands of pounds of subsidy, directly or indirectly.

            That secret subsidy having evaporated, financial realities have kicked in.

            Spare us the hearts and flowers, please.

  2. I see Bonar has got his begging bowl out again trying to get the gullible to cough up some dosh (aka crowdfunding) to keep his business solvent.

  3. farmersboy says:

    So no rent is better than a little rent? Who wrote his business plan?

  4. Hello We are Hoodoos music venue based at Matthews Yard Croydon , we also pay rent to Saif and have no influence over rent pricing . We tried very hard to keep Croydon Radio at Matthews Yard as they know and we are sad to see them leave . We would also like to say HOODOOS is a self funding company who just wants to keep live music alive in Croydon and have no need for crowd funding , loans etc etc , we are nothing to do with any of this or the Matthews yard franchise we just rent space at 1 Matthews Yard no more no less . We wish Croydon Radio the very best and hope to work with you again in the future .
    much love keep live music alive in Croydon from all at Hoodoos

    ps Croydon is not a crap town

  5. Saif Bonar says:

    Steven, if only we had received these miraculous thousands in subsidies, we wouldn´t be in the current position. If you have some evidence of them directly or indirectly, I would be very keen to see and even more keen to know exactly where the money went, as it certainly wasn´t to MY.
    Once again, a relatively balanced article (for IC, at least) is let down by lies and spurious allegations made by you in your comments section.

    We have probably had in the region of 1,500 in booking fees from Croydon Council for various events held over the past 4 years. Nothing more and nothing less.

    We are not begging for money, we are asking for interest bearing loans, as many individuals and business do, very often. BoxPark for example has just received a 4m pound subsidy package from the local authority. Tmrw hub, a 1m support package. Neither is a homegrown business. While I agree with you that many local businesses have been let down, I do not believe this is in any way because of MY, or my own actions and far more because of mismanagement of the recovery funds and misplaced priorities, which are endemic in local government, nationwide.

    We are not a landlord nor do we charge rent to concessions. We charge a monthly fee which includes rent, rates, utilities, cleaning, waste management, licensing, marketing support and a range of other support services. 500GBP per month for 380 square foot of space occupied by Croydon Radio works out at less than 16GBP per square foot per year. This is considerably less than the cost of commercial rents alone in Croydon Town Centre and the only reason the jump in fees is so high is because we sustained losses for 4 years by doing our best to support Croydon Radio, which has in turn put us in a more difficult financial position.

    Thankyou nonetheless for posting this piece, I am aware that we will not please all the people all the time, but am confident our business model now works and that our recovery will be swift and strong.

    Best wishes

    • Evidence? It was what you told us, and the figures which you provided, from the Portas Pilot, Saif: according to you, the bulk of that £100,000 was spent in and around Matthew’s Yard, with next to none of it spent – as had been the pitch – on Surrey Street.

      • A large chunk of the £100,000 went on 2 bake-offs, didn’t it? A terrible waste of money, but nothing to do with Matthews Yard.

        • I don’t know who you think might have benefited from staging a crumby cake competition next to a coffee shop, David, but many others observed a clear connection between those bake-offs and Matthew’s Yard.

          According to FoIs and Saif Bonar’s own version of events to us – which naturally, he has tried to revise since then – more than £8,500 of Portas money was spent on equipping the bake-offs with ovens and tents. If you honestly believe that this stunt was ever any benefit to traders on Surrey Street, do let us know how.

          Another £7,200 was spent on “improvements” (unspecified) to the privately owned Exchange Square, which just so happens to be right next to… Matthew’s Yard. Obviously, this is mere coincidence, and was never intended to benefit Matthew’s Yard whatsoever. Of course. Again, if you can outline how this spending helped Surrey Street or Church Street traders, we’d be fascinated to hear. As would they.

          As well as being next door to the site of the baking competition, the privately owned Matthew’s Yard was the registered address for “Croydon Old Town Portas Team CIC” when it was incorporated on March 25 2013.

          According to Croydon Council, £2,000 was allocated from the Portas money for renting office space over two years.

          In April 2013, the CIC advertised for a “co-ordinator”, offering up to £13,104 per year for working a 24-hour week on a one-year contract. Having the co-ordinator based in Matthew’s Yard office space would have benefited… who else, David?

          Even this cosy set-up was less than had originally been planned. In September 2012, we reported the original spending plan for the Portas Project in Croydon, which budgeted £30,000 from the total grant on “administration and the hire of office space”. Cushty. Our source for this information was none other than Saif Bonar, who had sat on the Town Team committee from its formation, withdrawing – as he is keen to make clear – before any money was spent.

          After Inside Croydon’s report on that spending plan, the Town Team reduced the budgeted amount for administration to a “mere” £17,732 (according to the council’s FoI response).

          So if we set aside the indirect benefits of Portas Pilot having its paid administrator working from office space in Matthew’s Yard, even from those early and incomplete figures, it seems that one-fifth of all the Portas Pilot funding for Surrey Street was spent in or around one, new business.


  6. Ernie Sutton says:

    Awful. Why hike it so much? I enjoyed appearing with Steve and Dave from time to time for wonderful Beatles shows and much more. A real pity. So many empty buildings now in Croydon, St Georges Walk, the bulk of the Allders store apart from the ground floor. The council should have a hard look at these areas where THEY are losing business rates and rent. It’s no wonder they hire the rent so much on these smaller industries. Also what is happening at Fairfield who were apparently told to close both Fairfield and Ashcroft or their funding would be removed? Such a move takes them off the entertainment circuit until renovations are complete. I’m now having to go to Wimbledon and tge fear is I might like it so much I may not come back to Fairfield. I really feel for businesses in Croydon having to face these increases due to so many other premises being empty and generating no income for the council.


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