Town centre business group Croydon BID is spending thousands of pounds on a collection of oddly-decorated, mostly eight-foot-tall fibre glass statues of giraffes, which are due to be distributed among shops and on street corners later this summer, in the latest random “idea” claiming a tenuous connection to the stutteringly delivered “Borough of Culture”.
Whether these statues would ever fulfill William Morris’ ideal of objects being useful or beautiful, but preferably both, is debatable.
Populating the high street with individually decorated plastic beasts is not a new idea. It’s not even original for Croydon, or for the brains trust that runs Croydon Business Improvement District.
The herd of garish giraffes (including some that are less than half size of the eight-footers) is currently hidden away – though not very well – in one of the many vacant retail spaces in the Centrale shopping centre.
The giraffes have their own website already, one which is just one unfortunate letter away from spelling out “Croydon standstill”.
The Croydon Stands Tall website promises that, from August 21, as part of Croydon’s year as London Borough of Culture, “A herd of unique giraffes will be roaming Croydon town centre until Friday October 27, giving you 10 weeks to get involved.”
We are told by Croydon BID that their “mass participation art trail” is “one of the most eagerly awaited mass participation trails seen in south London”. Of course it is…
This “highlight” is being held back while the people of Croydon recover from the outbreak of over-excitement that occurred with the “unveiling” of another half-baked initiative, the music heritage trail. This music trail comprises a mural hidden away in Queen’s Gardens, an app for your phone and 25 pavement plaques scattered about the borough, a bargain at £225,000.
You can step on Kirsty MacColl’s plaque outside the Boxpark, just in front of Poptata , no doubt referencing her hit There’s a Guy Works Down the Loaded Fries Outlet Swears He’s Elvis.
No one is saying exactly how much the giraffe exercise might be costing. But with similarly sized plastic cows coming in at between £800 and £1,700 a piece, it’s unlikely that the giraffe herd was acquired for much less than £20,000. Then there’s the costs of graphic designers, website building and hosting, and of bringing in artists to paint the things in what Croydon BID calls its “artist space” (which to anyone else is a vacant shop in Centrale).
At least there’s some consolation that this particularly futile exercise is being paid for by Croydon BID’s business members acting as “sponsors”.
And when it’s all done and dusted, after the borough’s population takes a deep breath to recover from the excitement of once again being patronised by the people who control their home borough, the giraffes might actually serve some kind of good cause, as they are to be flogged off to raise money for the homelessness charity, Crisis.
This “amusing”, “quirky” or “wacky” (delete to taste) stunt has been tried before. Many times. Croydon BID previously dumped brightly painted cows around their members’ premises and positioned in and around the Whitgift Centre.
It is not clear from BID’s website exactly how the public will be able to “get involved” with the gawdy giraffes once they start roaming in late August, but you can see them in a state of semi-display right now.
If you have already walked the heritage trail (or maybe you were one of the six people seen dancing at the silent disco inauguration of the mural a week ago?) and you are keen for your next fix of Croydon culture, just pop down to Centrale and, opposite the main entrance to House of Fraser, you will spot the giraffes, some wrapped, some unwrapped, their multi-hued surfaces providing the very opposite of camouflage.
It is wonderful to see them, and they are a wonderful and apt representation of our borough and its broad complex cultural heritage. Imagine how you will feel in August when you are able to “get involved”.
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