Hammerson and Westfield are back in town, only this time they’re offering a bit of artwashing in the disused Allders department store building.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Fabien Riggall, the founder of Secret Cinema, today confirmed Inside Croydon’s report earlier this week that he will be bringing his latest enigmatic piece of performance art to central Croydon this autumn.
Called Lost, Riggall says he is “designing a new format of entertainment”.
Inside Croydon reported earlier this week how Riggall had established a new company and had submitted a licensing application to use two of the four floors in the disused Allders building in the town centre, as a venue for dance, music, theatre and cinema.
Today, Riggall revealed that he is working hand-in-hand with the Croydon Partnership, the joint venture formed between Westfield and Hammerson 10 years ago that promised a £1.4billion redevelopment of Croydon’s Whitgift and Centrale shopping malls, but which has so far only delivered only a decade of development blight to Croydon.
Riggall’s licensing application is for a 12-month period, starting in September 2022.
Riggall describes his latest venture as “a turning point for the future of entertainment”.
Riggall says his project is “a new cultural movement looking to regenerate former retail districts into art and entertainment spaces”, with the first “Lost district” being Croydon.
The former film producer prefers to use all capitals when referring to Lost, which does not appear to be anything to do with the US blockbuster sci-fi mystery television series which ultimately disappeared up its own fundament in around season three…
Inevitably, some locals will suggest that Croydon lost its way some time ago. They will take no more confidence in the scheme upon learning that backing the scheme alongside the shopping centre multi-nationals Westfield and Hammerson also the Whitgift Foundation – Croydon’s richest charity and owners of the freehold of the Whitgift Centre – and Croydon Council, in the form of part-time Mayor Jason Perry.
In common with his Secret Cinema concept, Riggall’s Lost plays itself as making some kind of a stand against an increasingly dystopian society where mobile phones, tablets and digital devices dominate everything that we do.
It does this by sending out press releases by email and using an online website featuring a digitally edited end-of-the-world style video – which includes clips of Oscar-winning actor Peter Finch going slightly mad in the classic movie Network, railing against the dominance that screens play in our daily lives.
There is more than a sense of some artwashing going on here on behalf of the Westfield and Hammerson executives who between them, helped by the likes of ex-MP Gavin Barwell, Tony Newman and Jo Negrini, have managed to make such a mess of Croydon town centre.
And whatever else it might turn out to be, the Lost announcement today serves to underline that there will never be the glitzy supermall in Croydon that Westfield, together with Boris Johnson and Barwell, so confidently promised in 2012.
“Lost is a group of artists, thinkers and creators that are looking to take over former retail centres around the world to design new cultural districts that will become ‘Lost City’,” Riggall said today.
“We shall showcase new forms of art and entertainment alongside reinvented retail experiences.”
This appears to where the artwashing kicks in, with a vengeance.
“To be lost is to lose oneself in art, beyond digital culture, where we can connect in the real world, in deeper and more meaningful stories,” Riggall said.
“The future of art is in the high street, in department stores, in shops where we can experience new ideas whilst connecting in real life with real people.”
Yes, he actually said that. Riggall, clearly, is no Banksy.
“We are excited to be working with the local community in developing a richly diverse programme whilst also hosting artists from around the world,” said the man who has so far kept all his plans strictly confidential from everyone apart from a handful of Town Hall habituées.
“We will also be working closely with the Croydon Partnership and Croydon Council as we develop our first Lost district at Allders, the beautiful former department store.”
It’s fair to say that what separates Riggall’s latest announcement from other, previous promises of something being done to transform Croydon’s high street is that he does have a track record, with Secret Cinema, of some success. And Secret Cinema, too, encountered some well-placed scepticism at first, as it sometimes struggled to match the ambitions of its founder.
In the press release accompanying the announcement, it said, “Lost will transform the space into a multidisciplinary venue that celebrates entertainment art, and retail, in an entirely new form. The district marks the beginning of Lost City that will be built together with the lost community.” So Croydon’s a “lost community” now…
“The aim of Lost as a cultural organisation is to reimagine the exhibition and distribution of physical experiences, by designing a new format of entertainment. A disruptive force set to regenerate forgotten high streets and subvert the current system, Lost will build a new sub-culture uniting local and international artists together in a unique community on a global scale.”
This is all, without any hint of sounding in any manner messianic at all, is part of a “masterplan” together with Westfield, Hammerson and the council “to regenerate Croydon with new occupier uses and concepts including entertainment brands”.
Apparently, Lost will be a “hub” (we don’t think that’s a typo) where locals and visitors will “interact in the real world”.
They promise that Lost “will generate thousands of job opportunities within the area across the next five years”. When Barwell and BJ first blew the trumpet for Westfield and Hammerson, they were offering 6,000 jobs that never materialised.
The shift in emphasis over what might, if anything, if ever, gets delivered by way of the long-overdue regeneration is contained within the footnotes provided with the announcement today.
Retail giants Hammerson and Westfield are now looking at “a mixture of new homes, retail, restaurants, workspace, leisure and entertainment concepts…”: housing now comes first. There’s more profit to be had these days from being residential developers than there is in building or managing retail.
And for the record, demonstrating his part in this latest chapter of the “Hammersfield” saga, part-time Mayor Perry said that he’s “excited” by the arrival of Lost. Perry said that he “can’t wait for residents and visitors to discover what’s in store for them at the Allders building”.
Perry said, “The arrival of this project will be the start of the change we want to make and an important boost for the local area, as a strong vote of confidence in the culture, communities, and connectivity that we know our borough has in abundance.”
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When the Roman Empire was in bad state, declining and decadent, the masses were kept amused and compliant with “Bread and Circusses”.
Plus the regular slaughtering of prisoners, barbarians, gladiators, Christians, lions etc.
I hope we don’t sink that low, but remain happy with unlimited mobile calls, and electronic devices and the like.
On the other hand, a colliseum on the site of Allders might bring in crowds of Sunday shoppers, enough to save the remaining shops in the Whitgift and Drummond.
Yeah, they ain’t got that dahn Bluewater or West London Westfield.
10 years for Westfield already. In China or Dubai they would have built several hundred malls in 10 years LOL. Too many ppls lives have been affected by empty promises whilst those in power at CC have been creaming off the profits for themselves. It’s crazy , it’s like Croydon is just as bad a South America or an African country. You look at Boxpark , it basically taken out all business from the town centre and crime runs rampant there and in Broad Green. Such a pity,
Stop voting Labour and Tory then.
Are they showing the Groundhog day sequel at Allders? Where a fat middle age man with a blue rosette replaces a fat middle aged man with a red rosette and wakes up everyday seeing Croydon in a blighted state and a hollowed out mess.
Development Concept for Whitgift Centre……. the working title is “Future to the Back”
1- Knock down Whitgift Centre
2- Rip out concrete and replace with earth and grass. lay out cricket, football and rounders fields . and tennis courts with tree avenues for summer shade, and a lake.
3- Build new school on part of site– in a complex, high Victorian Gothic style with steeply pitched roofs, several towers, and real stone gargoyles of a range of figures from Croydon’s political and arts past
4- Bring back Trinity School from Shirley and re-dub it “Middle Whitgift School (Open to all)
5- Knock down Trinity School at Shirley
6- Develop a Garden village on site with lots of attractive houses and flats for all ages, plus a lake and range of sporting facilities, gyms, pool etc etc.
Problems of over- provision of shops, and need for new family housing and social cohesion, sports for all ages to target the obesity explosion …… solved ! Job done !
You have some really good ideas actually. An Eden Project style idea would be an even better idea instead of the Whitgift Centre. However, the problem is Westfield and Hammerson are solely profit focused and would never allow it.
apologies for a glitch……. the new /old school would obviously be called “The Whitgift Central School- open to all”.
Grand opening by Mayor Perry, with Lord Barwell, Croydon MP’s, plus guest celebrity appearances by Stormzy, Sue Perkins, Kate Moss, Captain Sensible and a celebrity disappearance by Derren Brown.
I’d love to see a jazz club open up in Croydon. I’d bring my jazz band there!
There is, Ralph, in St George’s Walk every Thursday lunchtime.
Check out https://insidecroydon.com/inside-croydon-events/ for full listings.
Oh wow! That’s great. I hope they have a grand piano! Thanks.
Sorry Ralph. Grand pianos have a habit of going missing in central Croydon… https://insidecroydon.com/2022/04/03/the-grand-scandal-at-the-centre-of-fairfields-absurd-saga/
Oh dear! Perhaps I should hire out mine! Yamaha G5.
I’m sure Gavin told me when I asked why the Allders building needed to be completely demolished rather than adapted that “the space is too old fashioned for anyone to use” etc
It’s dead crooked to CPO large sections of the town, then back out of your responsibility to do anything with them. Indeed, it would probably be fraud if the Council were bright enough to have signed an actual contract…
Anthony raises a very good point a point or question about retention of existing buildings.
A case could be made for demolition and a perfect photographic recording of ANY no longer wanted building. In a few years time, perhaps we could have hologrammatic / 3d film preservation where, for example, one could even experience the day-to-day of somewhere –captured by a drone flying through a building or area, capturing not only an image of the building and its interior, but the life within it. A coin in the slot (sorry, a 21st C equivalent) would pay for 30 minutes of historic experience.
I would love to revisit Surrey Street in its 1960’s and 70’s hey day , when crowds of shoppers would throng the street, looking for astounding ftruit and veg bargains, just as people do now, but sadly, far fewer of them.
Or the Purley Way open air Pool, crowded with preening girls and show-off boys….. or Croydon Airport, or the new, open air Whitgift Centre, also full of crowds….. or…….or….. so many sunlit memories. Full of people, unlike current Ghost-town central Croydon, where takeaway wrappers blow like tumbleweed down the streets of a now-deserted Wild West town.
But, in real life, should we not be striving to keep decent buildings from the past (and that means the recent past too) or, at very least, keep facades and the other ‘best bits’ ?.
Look for example, at the wonderful restoration of St Pancras station, with the addition of the modern stanless steel and glass architecture of the shops of the lower floor mall, grafted skillfully into this cathedral of Victorian railway architecture. As with many of the best churches, the buiding has been added to and altered, over centuries. The results can be excellent–a combination of old and new of the best quality. A building with depth, history preserved,renewed and in many cases, re-purposed.
What about good old Allders ? Could it be converted to fats, or new shops? Or what? .
Well, maybe a facade retention could be the right course here. Two– on George Street and The High Street sides. Or maybe demolition and replacement by something much better ?
But pray, in all cases, may the architects and Urban designers be skilled, historically aware, and talented. Who will have the developer vision ? Well, that is another very good question.
Looking at Fabien Riggal’s financial successes/failures this doesnt bode well. Not even Secret Cinema is profitable.
Does anyone else smell bulls**t around here or has someone been driving cattle through the area?
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