Having a giraffe! Business group spends thousands on statues

Suitable symbol of Croydon: the giraffes, unfinished, unready, neither use nor ornament

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”.

Croydon standstill: they’ve got logos and websites and all sorts of stuff

Given the parlous state of the badly run-down town centre, and the Croydon BID area, after a decade of development blight courtesy of Westfield, many might consider to be much more appropriate.

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”.

Exciting: giraffes. In Croydon

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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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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13 Responses to Having a giraffe! Business group spends thousands on statues

  1. Mark Samuel says:

    Wonder if Perry “voted” for this stupendous array of culture? After all he sits on the board. (Or should that be bored?)

  2. Daniel Kelly says:

    Does matron know they’ve escaped?

  3. It would be great if these colourful giraffes brought in more people to our borough. Croydon Stands Tall isn’t quite up there with Glasgow’s Miles Better, but at least some people are lighting a candle or two instead of cursing the darkness.

    Trouble is, part-time Perry and his Cabinet have had over a year to lay on something special for our Borough of Culture showcase opportunity. They’ve blown it through sheer indifference and indolence. The few events that are taking place would have happened anyway, e.g. Pride and the Mela.

    Back in the early noughties, Councillor Raj Chandarana was successful in bringing outdoor artistic events to the borough’s district centres as part of a cultural strategy. There was a fantastic “son et lumière” display on the Purley Way playing fields in Waddon, and a highly entertaining outdoor theatre show in Ashburton Park

    Croydon Tories don’t care about culture, which is why they let the Warehouse Theatre be demolished and did nothing to help the company behind it find new premises.

  4. sarah Bird says:

    And this is the Council that is 1.6 billion in debt? For my part, I would rather see what efforts have been made by the Leader and council to chase the money .

  5. derek thrower says:

    Is this the Tub of Lards masterplan for the Whitgift Centre. He is going to turn it into a Safari Park at some unspecified unknown time in the future?

  6. Annette Carter says:

    Croydon Council have removed bus shelters so that old people have to stand for 20 minutes or more in the pouring rain or scorching sun yet they can waste our money on meaningless statues.

  7. Phil Ross says:

    Er guys – it’s not supposed to be the kind of culture you scrape off furry cheese. It’s the artistically creative kind. You know, that “wow” stuff ?

    • Yes. And this is that highly derivative, zero imagination, artwashing stuff intended to “increase footfall” in a shopping mall. It has all the artistic credentials of Les Dennis.
      The only “wow” about it is that there are still people out there who fall for this bollocks.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      With respects Phil your comment has more culture than the Giraffe. Do keep them coming.

  8. Graham Lack says:

    Is this the best the company White Label can do? A project sans art!

  9. chris myers says:

    A giraffe walks into a bar and asks the barmaid for a pint of beer. The barmaid says: “That will be ten pounds.” The giraffe pays her and the barmaid says: “We don’t get many giraffes in here.” The giraffe nods his head indignantly. “At your prices, I’m not surprised.”

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