Even the owners of the Whitgift Centre appear to have got fed up waiting for Westfield to get their long-promised £1.4billion redevelopment of the centre of Croydon underway.
The Whitgift Foundation has this week confirmed that it has dropped its annual Croydon Heritage Festival.
The Festival was initially a three-week rag-tag collection of only vaguely connected events, some with more to offer than others.
The Whitgift Foundation, which runs the three big fee-paying schools in the borough and some old people’s homes, is Croydon’s biggest landowner, and so it has a keen vested interested in promoting the stores and businesses operating in the town centre, many of which are its own tenants.
The first Croydon Heritage Festival was staged in June 2013, when the promise of the shiny new supermall, to be delivered by Westfield working together with Hammerson, was still fresh and exciting, and when all the building work and development was expected to be finished by… 2017.
“With Croydon currently going through an exciting period of change and redevelopment in its centre, we felt that there was no better time to celebrate and explore our town’s rich and vibrant past,” the Foundation gushed in those early days of the Heritage Festival, describing it as a “celebration of the borough’s past, present and future” and claiming “an overwhelming response from the local community”.
The reality was somewhat different. The Heritage Festival ended up becoming a typically Glee Club-style event, ostensibly bigging up what Croydon has to offer, but in reality just a bit of marketing schtick thrown together in an vain effort to boost footfall in the increasingly neglected shopping mall.
The Festival included all-too-brief opportunities to access the Tudor architecture of Old Palace School, or to visit the Croydon Almshouses, or watch the peacocks on a stroll through Whitgift School’s gardens.
There were Latin lessons with independent school teachers, concerts by world-famous choirs, and even an exhibition of street art, long before Croydon Council started doling out tens of thousands of pounds to the owner of an art gallery to commission often second-rate work.
But perhaps the last straw for the Whitgift Foundation, which promoted the Festival each year largely from their own resources, must have been when they learned that Croydon Council was contributing public cash towards a £50,000 fund last summer for a performance arts festival that included on-stage butt pluggery and, literally, a shit show.
Given that the Foundation established the Croydon Heritage Festival in the reasonable expectation that Westfield would have been up and running by 2018, the decision to drop it really ought not have come as a surprise.
This week, a spokesperson for the Foundation told Inside Croydon: “After six fantastic years of running the Croydon Heritage Festival, we wanted to create a programme of events that celebrate Croydon’s rich heritage throughout the year, rather than in just one week.
“We have lots of exciting initiatives in the pipeline that we’ll be announcing throughout the year, and will continue to engage people in Croydon with its history in 2019.”
Which is good to know, because that is exactly what was suggested by our wise and much missed columnist, the late David Callam, when he previewed that first Croydon Heritage Festival nearly six years ago.
Seems just a shame that they didn’t take the hint a little sooner.
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