£250 per day fees paid to lead on borough’s Heritage Trail

CROYDON IN CRISIS: One arts company in the borough appears to have won the Lottery for its role in the less-than-inspiring flagship project for the Borough of Culture. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

The project lead working on the Music Heritage Trail, a flagship project in Croydon’s year as London’s Borough of Culture, has been paid £250 per day, while actively seeking volunteers to work for no pay as tour guides, “oral historians” and exhibition assistants.

Inside Croydon has discovered the shocking figures from a Freedom of Information request to the National Lottery.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has provided a £225,000 grant for Croydon’s Music Heritage Trail. That’s on top of the £1.35million from the Mayor of London towards other arts projects during the Borough of Culture year.

According to official bid documents seen by Inside Croydon, the total budget for the Music Heritage Trail is £350,000, which includes some additional money from the Greater London Authority.

And while the Borough of Culture was three months late in starting, the Heritage Music Trail was even later, not being “unveiled” until June.

No trace on the trail: Croydon student Jamie Reid designed one of the best-known album covers of the last 50 years, but doesn’t merit a mention

To be overseen by the Museum of Croydon, the council said, “The Music Heritage Trail will highlight Croydon’s story as the birthplace of many music genres, with the cutting-edge sounds of punk, dubstep, grime and drill all rooted in the borough.”

But what’s been delivered is a mural – cost a cool £20,000, paid by the GLA – that is hidden away in a little-seen, unsignposted corner of what’s left of Queen’s Gardens, 25 paving slabs that look like drain hole covers, and a thrown-together app with content that is poorly written and edited, as well as being contradictory and incomplete.

The Music Heritage Trail has managed to miss out Croydon cultural giants such as Jamie Reid, the designer to the Sex Pistols who studied at Croydon School of Art (Reid died only yesterday, aged 76, so probably never got to see the Heritage Trail, and wouldn’t have given a toss anyway), and former Croydon High pupil Jacqueline du Pre, one of the greatest cellists of all time.

Fortunately, whoever put together the list of music figures for the trail had heard of Stormzy. He gets paving slab No22, in Thornton Heath.

Others who are included, such as composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, has had their paving slabs stuck at a seemingly random location on the pavement outside West Croydon Station. Coleridge-Taylor may have collapsed there, shortly before his death. In any case, as if to underline the derivative nature of the trail, SCT already has a proper blue plaque on the wall of one of his former homes in Croydon.

Proper plaque: Coleridge-Taylor’s former home in South Norwood

Kirsty MacColl, meanwhile, is not deemed worthy of a paving slab of her own at all, but instead is shoe-horned on to one with a record shop. It’s hardly the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Following our FoI request, the National Lottery Heritage Fund released the council’s original grant application (with some redactions to spare the blushes of those who put the bid together), together with the proposed budgets.

“We will create a music heritage trail celebrating venues, artists and events from Croydon,” the council’s pitch said.

“Each location will be identified by our own equivalent to the standard blue plaque with bespoke content including oral/video histories and AV/VR animations at each location.” This, like so much connected with this “flagship project”, still appears to be a “work in progress”.

“All material will be hosted on a microsite and accessed via QR codes on users’ smart phones. Content will include flyers and posters of gigs, archive footage and photographs submitted by local residents, audio clips featuring music and personal accounts of people’s memories.” No mention is made of any considerations of copyright issues, worryingly.

The bid document was submitted on January 31, 2022. The document confirms that the Music Heritage Trail is months late in delivery.

Mural: the Heritage Music Trail’s starting point, painted at a cost of £20,000

With work on the project due to have started on April 1, 2022 – for preparation work, design, drafting of app scripts and so forth – those working on the trail were supposed to have begun what was promised to be “a borough-wide consultation on which artists, events and venues should be included in the trail” in September 2022.

In fact, an appeal from the Mayor of Croydon, part-time Jason Perry, only went out in February this year – six months late.

Mind you, this came a few months after someone working on the Borough of Croydon had called a colleague of Inside Croydon’s to ask for contact details for Desmond Dekker. This was 2022. Dekker had died in 2006.

So there’s late (as in Desmond Dekker) and there’s Croydon Council late.

At the centre of the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund is Apsara Arts, a private company based at a residential address in Broad Green. Apsara Arts have been closely connected to the staging of the Croydon Mela in the past.

Malti Patel is Apsara Arts’ “artistic lead”, who in cosy interview conducted for one of the trail’s “media partners”, admitted that, “I was a banker and kathak dance was a hobby. Disenchanted with my regular job, I drifted into the art world thinking I will do this for a while and then get a ‘proper job’.

“I am still looking for that ‘proper’ job!” Hmmm.

According to the Lottery grant application from the council, Apsara would recruit “15 young people… through a network of partners”, which is vague enough to be pretty meaningless, “to capture stories, life experiences and memories”.

Drain on resources: the first plaque on the trail is easy to miss, and resembles a drainhole cover

The bid said, “Training will include interview techniques, podcasting and oral history creation. The material will be used for a podcast series developed with local radio stations and be will be edited into a short video created for the exhibition.”

This is intriguing on a number of levels. It marks a departure from Apsara Arts’ usual area of expertise, which has tended to be based in South Asian dance performances.

And the notion of working with “local radio stations” seems odd, too.

The borough’s one established local radio station, Croydon FM, has been excluded from the Borough of Culture festivities, after being told that they are “too ghetto”.

So what could the application writer have meant? And did the Heritage Lottery Fund actually check any of the claims made in the submission?

“The trail will open in April 2023 as one of the flagship projects for Croydon’s London Borough of Culture programme,” the bidder wrote. As well as the mural, there was also to be “promotional campaigns by Boxpark, Fairfield Halls and other music venues”.

The application goes on, “An exhibition featuring anecdotes, reviews and memorabilia of the venues, artists and events will be developed by Apsara Arts working with 15 volunteers. The volunteers will be trained in curation, presentation skills and heritage learning. The exhibition will be run for six weeks in the foyer of Fairfield Halls in September/October 2023.”

It is mid-August. There has, as yet, been no public mention of any such exhibition, no promotion, no publicity.

“A further 15 volunteers will be trained as Trail Guides with free guided tours of sections of the trail offered to the public during the six weeks of the exhibition.”

Crap app: the Heritage Trail app’s content is poorly written and badly edited

The bid bullshit continued: “Croydon has and still is experiencing huge physical change in a very short time period with the landscape in the town centre almost unrecognisable from just 10 years ago. So many venues have not just closed but their locations have also disappeared with large scale re-modelling developments re-shaping the town centre.

“The heritage trail will give local people the chance to hold on to their shared musical history in a time of great change…

“… The heritage trail will support community cohesion through greater recognition of the role of black and global majority artists and communities in our shared heritage and through the celebration of artists from those communities during the London Borough of Culture programme…

“… The geography of the trail including Stormzy and Mad Professor in Thornton Heath, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in South Norwood and Kirsty MacCaoll [sic] in New Addington…”, no matter than MacColl grew up on the Monks Hill Estate, “…will foster greater knowledge and more communication between neighbourhoods and the trail as a whole will foster greater local pride.” In the end, looks like New Addington, like Monks Hill, got dumped from the scheme.

The 11-page document then gets to the nitty-gritty: the money, and how it is to be used.

“The day-to-day management of the project will be undertaken by a full-time project manager who will be in post for 18 months from July 2022 to December 2023.” The council staffer’s salary, for 18 months, is covered by the grant, to the tune of £67,000.

“They will be supported by a part-time (three days/week) Learning & Volunteer Co-ordinator who will be in post for 12 months from October 2022 to October 2023.” So a job creation scheme, can’t be so bad.

Cheap labour: no one mentions the £7 per day expenses or the amounts that ‘team leads’ will be paid, as people’s goodwill is exploited

And external consultants were to be appointed to “evaluate” the project. Which will be nice for them. Though at a budgeted £5,000, it’s fair to assume that they won’t be delving very deep, or for very long.

“A network of youth partnership organisations will be established by Apsara Arts to support recruitment of young people who will produce the oral and video histories. Apsara will lead the training of the young people in oral and video histories, the recording of the histories and a series of podcasts.

“The exhibition will be managed and curated by Apsara Arts who have significant experience in community heritage projects. Apsara and the Learning and Volunteer co-ordinator will recruit and train volunteers to curate and develop the exhibition and act as hosts/guides for the exhibition and trail.” It’s all looking like a lot of work being pushed Apsara Arts’ way…

According to the council documents, “£82,475 of the budget has been assigned to them” – almost one-quarter of the entire Music Heritage Trail budget.

Included in the budgets submitted to the National Lottery is a line that shows the project lead from Apsara Arts is to be funded for 8.5 days per month for 10 months to a total of £21,250 – and paid at a rate of £250 per day.

A second person from Apsara Arts is also charging professional fees, but at the more modest rate of £120 per day, and for only 7.5 days per month over a 10-month period, amounting to £9,000.

Nice work if you can get it: the Lottery bid application budgets, including details of the daily fees paid to ‘project leads’ at Apsara Arts

Then there’s the three lots of £1,050 budgeted for “training for volunteers” – £350 per day for a brief three days of “training”, across three “cohorts” of volunteers.

When it comes to staging the exhibition, whenever that may be, there’s another 60 days in the budget at £250 per day for the Apsara Arts project lead – that’s another £15,000. Cushty.

This is all considerably more than the money budgeted for technical aspects of the project, such as the “microsite” and app.

But compare the amounts being paid to the project lead to the small change set aside for anyone who volunteers to help the events and exhibition: they have been allocated a less-than-generous £7 per day for “expenses”, and £6 per day for their travel costs.

Let’s hope that anyone volunteering will think their time has been well-spent.

  • Coming soon: We take a look at schemes that got turned down by the council for Borough of Culture funding, and compare them with those that were successful. And we look into who has been making the decisions on who gets what

Read more: It’s hard to find signs of the borough’s musical heritage trail
Read more:
GLA has few checks on how £1.3m Culture grant is being spent
Read more: £1.5m being spent on our Borough of not-very-much Culture

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  • 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

About insidecroydon

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
This entry was posted in Art, Borough of Culture 2023, Business, Croydon Council, Education, Museum of Croydon, Music, Queens Gardens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to £250 per day fees paid to lead on borough’s Heritage Trail

  1. David Simons says:

    The anger I feel at more expensive projects being led by inexperienced, ineffective people cannot be expressed in words.

    Croydon has utterly wasted opportunity after opportunity.

    It could’ve been a flagship Cultural Borough (city even if local politicians played the game correctly) for all of us to be proud of. We have so much talent to offer yet unless you’re in “the club”, you aren’t recognised.

    Not even local elections will change this disaster given the fact the totally inept administration is being run by Whitehall.

  2. Laurence Fisher says:

    There has to be, in any country, a council who are below in level at even the lower silt layer in a large shit bucket. The imagination therefore brings forth how bad things could be.

    Then there’s Croydon. A level even the darkest thoughts would have difficulty in processing.

    Just remember one thing – the ONE thing – that makes this area run as badly as it could possibly be: this is REAL money. And it’s our money. Today, tomorrow, next week, next generation. What the fuck is going on? Is there such a thing as legal fraud? What better example than the list already recorded.

    And I’ll take this opportunity to thank, with a very warm clap, Inside Croydon.

    Would we know all this without it? I think not. Thank you IC.

    You are the only rock left on the shitty beach.

  3. JohnG says:

    I can agree that IC brings to public knowledge much of which would otherwise go unnoticed. The real problem is that money is being claimed and spent bordering on fraud on projects seemingly without any professional administration and control time and time again by our Council.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Lets face it – just like developers’ flowery prose used in planning appplications the words sound nice but the reality may not be what was envisaged.

      However fundamentally someone at the Lottery Heritage fund read this bid, evaluated it, checked the veracity, and the organisations ability to deliver and agreed to fund them.

      Misguided or not – that was their decision. This was gamblers money not taxpayers and an issue for the fund to address. Perhaps they thought takng on the behaviors of their punters was the in thing with a ”It could be you” 14 million plus to one chance.

      But Khans contribution and Perry’s added wedge are taxpayers money and that should be audited and the cost benefit open to scrutiny – especially with many charities losing critical funding of a tenth of that – so where iare those checks and balances ?

      Did any Councillor have queries as to how this could be delivered by Aspara?
      Some of what has been published sounds over egged and frankly should be undeliverable without 15 already quite skilled volunteers already in place and pre hired -so ngating those pesky training costs – but still a pinch in such a short time frame. so interesting that the delivery logistic’s have not been detailed. Where is the actual outline business project plan and methodology?

      Still lets wait for the outcome and see then if it has matched the hype.
      So definitely a follow up in September with pictures

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Hey this Council and the Lottery fund decided the bid was of value and whatever reputational impact those decisions have, they should own them with pride.
    After all there is mileage in being perceived to behave like Natioal Lottery customers and using a crossing of fingers (and legs) thinking it could be us, in place of due diligence. We all know how that went for Fisher and Newman!

    Perhaps we should visit the Fairfield and takes lots of pictures for IC to celebrate how they are meeting the high goals they set out along with high salaries for a short term project – clearly public mindedness was not the driving force at £60k

    But I am sure IC and the people of Croydon will be grateful for such a project that will be inclusive and involve volunteers from all ethnic backgrounds and identities and will deliver a mutli culteral exhibition celebrating all culteral backgrounds. Sadly that high goal will be ephemeral and last as long as a mayfly ourely as there will no nowhere to house it afterwards and there is no legacy apparant.
    But hey lets not let that get in the way of a good whazz.

    It is laudable that the Lottery Fund believes the Volunteers, will in the short time frame, be exquisitly trained in the quite difficult skill of curation. I am sure many curators with a minimum of an honours degree and a postgraduate degree will leap at the chance of being so skilled in such a short few weeks!

    Perhaps I should apply – happy to forgo travel expenses and only require water and light snacks of the healthy kind and a chair – happy to supply all those myself. And do not require £60k to do so –

    Afer all I do not require much training in assisting, facilitating, managing, curating, co-ordinating, recruitment people management and do have a couple of quite decent qualifications in a few of those fields along with business and financial management, also as retired have tons of time to spare and lots of Vounteering experience all totally free gratis to the organisations.

    Anyone know where one can do that? Has there been any adverts for Volunteers?
    Aspara? Council? Lottery?
    I know many who may like to volunteer.
    Hmmm well at least the Lottery resopnded to the FOI!

  5. Dave Miller says:

    Are the “drain hole cover” plaques intended to work as QR codes? Has this been tested?

  6. Dave Miller says:

    Is there a map for the Heritage Trail? Or rely on people finding the QR codes by chance?

  7. Dave Miller says:

    Have downloaded the app and will try out the tour and the QR codes. I assume there’s an online map in the app, but I would like a paper copy (call me old fashioned). First impressions on the app I’m not impressed by the visual design, which is really dull for an app supposedly celebrating culture.

    Before the app can open it asks me if I want to download 54Mb of “something”, not sure if I do. Doesnt seem very professional.

    Also … didn’t Bowie and Bolan have connections with Croydon? Are they mentioned in the app?

    An alternative cultural map of croydon is a good idea!

    • Bowie, like Reid, was at Croydon School of Art. Very briefly. Hated the place.

      They’ve also missed off the geezer with the electric didgeridoo who plays some weeks at The Oval Tavern.

  8. Annabel Smith says:

    Jacqueline du Pre…what an oversight 🤦🏻‍♀️

  9. Dave Miller says:

    Have a few questions about the app …

    Do you have any info on the budget for the app? Where could we see this? Is it publicly available info?

    At the end of the project, will the app be evaluated? Is feedback collected from users? How do they measure if has been it a success, or value for money?

    How do people find the app? How would you know about it? I haven’t seen it advertised anywhere

    How long will the app be available? Just this year (year of culture)?

  10. Kevin Croucher says:

    If nothing else they know how to write a bid application that ticks all the right boxes.
    Whether that means anything in reality is another matter

    • Dave Miller says:

      Yes they must be good at writing funding applications – or they are well connected. It really upsets me to see so much money going to this project, when I suspect the heritage trail app would likely have cost £20k max – it’s from a company called situate, it’s all template driven, so it’s not a bespoke solution. I dont believe the rest of the project (plaques, community involvement etc) costs £200k. And a project manager for £67,000! They’re having a laugh.

      Artists in Croydon really struggle to survive, there’s so little funding around, it’s so hard to get, and this is so unjust. This money should be spent on them.

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