A project by Historic England – The Future of the High Street – has released a short film made in Croydon.
If anyone needed any further reinforcement of the notion that Croydon town centre had become run-down and neglected after a decade of development blight, then About Us/Without Us, which has been shot in the middle of a covid-19 lockdown, provides four minutes and 24 seconds of bleak confirmation.
The film has been made by youth group Art Press working with charity group Turf Projects.
“We’ve been working with local filmmaker Araba Aduah to discuss what we don’t like about the town centre, what we do, and what we want to see in the future,” Turf Projects say.
“We’ve discussed our experiences and memories of the high street, and experimented with filming, audio work, and illustration to make our final film.”
As one of the voices in the wistful film says, “We’ve been talking about what we want the future of the high street to look like. We want more green space and community space, and less decisions made about us, without us.”
Welcome to Croydon.
It’s all pretty down-beat stuff, grime and grim in equal measure. The buckets in the Whitgift Centre to collect the rain coming in through the leaky roof, a high street dominated by shops, many of which are shuttered, some never to trade again.
The technique of using historic black and white images of buildings and inter-cutting them with shots from today only seems to emphasise how run-down things are now compared to decades ago.
The future of the high street? Maybe not here.
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Excellent ! Good to hear what the young people in the video said about Croydon. It was amusing to hear one speaker say that Croydonians have a reputation for talking loudly on the train ! (I am perhaps guilty of this commuting calumny!)
Several of the speakers mentioned greenery, and drew a picture of the town centre with bikes and trees.
What is very clear to anyone who remembers Croydon town centre in the 60’s and 70’s was the immensely busy streets of the town then–and the ghostly emptiness of the same streets now (and the car parks and the shoppping centres).
The young people probably had no clue about the busy-ness of Croydon in those days. Would they like it back ? …. the busy-ness , that is. Busy-ness that went back to the war, the 20’s, the Great War, Edwardian and Victorian times too. Streets crammed with people and buses and carts–and horses. Standing room only in Surrey Street. Mind yer backs!
I blame it on colour TV myself. It killed off the cinemas. I don’t go to the cinema , as these have been boring, anodyne places for decades.
Of course, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
One of the photos gave me pause for thought– the sunlit , open air St George’s walk , before they roofed it over. Just like they did to the Whitgift centre.
There was something much happier about these places when they were open to sun, as well as wind and rain. It was real . The indoor shoping centre world is essentially lifeless.
So…. my hope is that the new Whitgift Centre will feature significant areas of open air in the form of open spaces with cafes and some greenery. Not too much greenery, to make them dark, but enough to bring sunlight and life.
Whether this will happen in my own lifetime, the jury is out. Let’s hope that the young people in the vieo voiceovers will not be much older before they are proud of– and pleased to be in– good old Croydon. Well, good new Croydon.