Portland Road is to get a new art gallery, offering works for sale, exhibitions and workshops for the next 12 months, all run by a woman who grew up locally and who says she wants to try to help “breathe life back into the once vibrant community of South Norwood”.
Elizabeth James is a photographer and artist whose work has been exhibited at the Barcelona International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, been on show at Aston Martin’s Mayfair show rooms, and was on display for six months in Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in Battersea Square.
The Elizabeth James Gallery, at 10 Portland Road, was due to open to the public on November 1, one of three retail properties which Croydon Council is letting free of charge over the next 12 months to try to help regenerate the area.
James grew up on Portland Road, living above the shops on the other side of the street from where her gallery is to open.
It was her step-father who alerted her to the council competition.
Before she made her pitch to the council’s panel of judges, James paid a visit to the area where she grew up.
“I was excited to go and see how it had changed,” James said.
“It was so sad to see Portland Road in the shape it is. It’s has changed yet in some aspects it was the same. The way the sun hit the beams under the bridge on Portland Road gave me a sense of being home again, nostalgic and sentimental.
“Emerging the other side of the bridge was sad, the state of the shops, lots of them unused and in desperate need of love. The opticians I went to as a child was gone, O’Reilly’s looks like a tornado hit it and my fav shop Andrews the Bakery is closed down. They made the best apple turnovers and currant buns I have ever had.
“I grew up above the shop at No 21 and saw businesses come and go all the time, the shops on that road were the backdrop to my childhood. Many moons ago, my father owned a motor spares shop near Socca-Cheeta social club, so I have really deep roots here.”
James says, “It is a very exciting time and I am so pleased to be able to contribute to the regeneration of Croydon and give something back to the community that helped shape and raise me.”
Oct 14 UPDATE: The official opening of the gallery has been delayed by unforeseen problems with the shop’s refitting. It is hoped that the event will now take place in December. “I can only apologise for the inconvenience and will be informing all that have signed up for the launch workshops once I can offer an alternative date,” Elizabeth James said.
For details of how to sign up for the special private viewing to mark the opening of the Elizabeth James Gallery, visit this Facebook page.
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