Boozepark, which was lured to the site alongside East Croydon Station with a £3 million loan from the Labour-run council, is to stage a two-day “Opening Festival” on October 29 and 30 – some four months, at least, later than had been hoped.
The announcement came just in the nick of time before the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was given a whistle-stop tour of the shell of the venue this morning.
But the Croydon “Ambition Festival”, funded with £160,000 of public money that was given to the Boxpark management towards the promotional launch budget, has been airbrushed out of existence in the private firm’s publicity.
And while the council-run Ambition Festival was free last year, Boxpark’s opening day’s festival is charging £17.25 per ticket to attend.
Boozepark published its opening dates after 7pm last night.
Staged jointly with promoter Eskimo Dance and NME music magazine, the impressive line-up includes London-based grime acts booked for the Saturday, headed by “the godfather of grime”, Wiley, plus Novelist, Solo45, Ghetts, Splurgeboys, MistaJam, Dj Maximumbbk, Preditah and other Dub Step, Bass and UK Garage acts.“It’s the best line-ups for a gig in Croydon I’ve ever seen,” was Inside Croydon‘s culture correspondent’s initial assessment.
Only for those aged 18 and over, tickets, after booking fees have been added, cost £17.25 each for Saturday. Fewer than 100 tickets were still available by 11am today. Boxpark’s performance space is supposed to have a 2,000 audience capacity.
Timothy Godfrey, the Labour council’s cabinet member for culture, failed to return calls when contacted by Inside Croydon today and asked why the borough’s contribution to the event had been downplayed so much: Boozepark’s posters give equivalent prominence to a digital radio station that is not even broadcasting any live programmes.
“Croydon’s Council Tax-payers have made a significant contribution to the staging of this event,” another Town Hall figure said this morning. “BP sponsored the British Museum for £150,000 and got worldwide publicity; Croydon gave Boxpark £160,000 to stage our Ambition Festival, and it looks like we’re getting nothing in return.”
Inside Croydon broke the news of the Boxpark loan deal in February last year. Early indicators suggested that Boxpark would open in May 2016 and be similar to the company’s Shoreditch boutiques and fashion outlets. Only at the launch did it emerge that the company’s founder, Roger Wade, wanted Boxpark Croydon to be made up of 40 bars, restaurants and fast food joints.
The sweetheart deal was arranged by a member of Croydon Council staff, on the “Place” team under the then executive director, Jo Negrini. That council official who worked on bringing Boxpark to Croydon has in the meantime been hired to work for… Boxpark.
Previous council-funded music events, such as the Mela in Lloyd Park, offered free entry to residents. Last year, the Ambition Festival was staged over the course of a week in July. This year, with Boxpark given seed funding investment by our council to move into the music promotions business, it looks like the Ambition Festival has ceased to be.
The opening night’s festival provides other complications, too: Crystal Palace are playing at home in the Premier League that day, against Liverpool, with tens of thousands of football fans expected to be travelling through one of London’s busiest railway stations, East Croydon, for the 5.30pm kick-off. Local police and the British Transport Police have been consulted, and they are working on contingency plans for crowd control around the station for that evening.
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