So just what do we get for the £220,000 of Lottery cash splurged on Croydon’s Music Heritage Trail? We sent LOUISA GAUTREY along to road-test the trail and its accompanying app
As a teenager who listens to a wide range of music, I was intrigued when I heard about the Croydon Music Heritage Trail, and hoped that it might give me some insight into the area’s musical history.
I set out for Queen’s Gardens, because according to the map in the trail’s app, that’s where it is all supposed to start. I walked past the mural in the gardens. I didn’t know what it was, nor that it is in any way connected with the trail. I thought it was just well-drawn graffiti.
I couldn’t find anything about it on the app, beyond that it is called “Croydon Symphony”. So I Googled it. According to something on the Croydon Council website, it was designed to represent the “diverse musical culture” in the artists’ hometown.
Of the nine artists featured on the mural, I could only recognise one: grime rapper Stormzy. Of all points on the Heritage Trail map, it is probably the easiest to find. But I didn’t see anything in the Gardens or on the app to explain what the mural is there for, or to tell me who the various people in the mural might be.
I turned back to the app to move on to the first stop on the trail, the Fairfield Halls.
The Fairfield Halls is just a two-minute walk, across a very busy road, from the starting point. When I arrived, I did not know what I was looking for. Was it a sign? Was it a poster? The app was unhelpful, again.
In the end, I had to ask a nice lady from the Fairfield Halls. She directed me to what I was supposed to be looking for.
When I found it, I was quite disappointed.
It is a plaque that has been placed in the pavement, but unlike the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where the idea has been copied from, the Croydon plaque blends in with the pathway. It is unpolished and does not look finished. It could have been a drain.
If I were just passing by, I probably wouldn’t even notice it.
Now I knew what I was looking for, it did make the rest of the plaques on the trail easier to find.
But some were easier to locate than others. The Fairfield Halls and the plaque for the Greyhound and the Blue Orchid were in obvious places, directly outside the buildings.
The Croydon College plaque was much harder to find. In fact, I couldn’t find it. I moved on to the next one.
The choice of locations for some of the plaques might seem odd, too. The plaque for Kirsty MacColl, for example, is outside Boxpark, because she worked for a while in the Bonaparte’s record shop that used to be on the site.
The plaque tells me that “Elvis Costello was on the building”. The app explains how that is not actually true.
At least this plaque, unlike its Fairfield Halls equivalent, looks as if it has been given a polish.
I was getting used to how the app operated by now. When you neared the plaque area, the place popped up on your screen with the information to tell you that you have arrived. The location tracker follows you.
It is not the most accurate, but that happens with most apps trying to track your every step. It was not a massive concern, but it did make it harder to find the plaques.
The app does include lots of history about the buildings on the trail. For instance, it includes a long list of the famous acts that have performed at the Fairfield Halls. “The heart of cultural Croydon for six decades”, it tells me. “Fairfield Halls has reverberated with the sounds of musical pioneers throughout the years.”
I would recommend the trail if you are interested in finding out more about the music culture of Croydon. However, before you start, you need to know what you are looking for. So following the trail is hardly a journey of discovery…
The app does supply lots of information on each of the subject points, but it is not always easy to follow and, to be honest, it doesn’t tell you anything you can’t find with a simple internet search. So you do not need to take the trail to discover these things.
The trail really needs to be much better signposted, with signs, to give more information to passers-by. More people would feel more involved.
Overall, it was interesting to indulge in a bit of Croydon’s musical history, seeing where some of the well-known artists once performed or found their inspiration.
And at least I know who Kirsty MacColl was now…
- Louisa Gautrey is 17 years old and has just finished the first year of her A level course
- Inside Croydon – as seen on TV! – has been delivering local community news since 2010. 3million page views per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
- If you want real journalism, actually based in the borough, you should consider paying for it. Please sign up today. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- As featured on Google News Showcase
- We offer FREE ads to community groups when they have members who are paid subscribers to Inside Croydon
- Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine