Culture / People

21 for 21

21 for 21

1 January 2021

Well it’s 2021 folks, and we wish you all a happy and healthy new year. I imagine everyone is relieved to see the back of 2020 and we have our fingers crossed for better days in 2021. It’s grey and cold outside so what better time to curl up on the sofa and have a read of some Croydon comments on the year ahead. We asked 21 familiar names for their thoughts, resolutions and what they are looking forward to in 2021, with inevitably some reflection on how 2020 has affected their lives.

In no particular order let’s see what they say…

1. Cassie Whittell, writer

If you had said to me at the start of 2020 that walking the streets of our borough would be the best thing that would happen to me all year, I’d have laughed at you. However, with the COVID pandemic in full swing, and with permitted exercise pretty much the only option for leaving the house, I started walking with a vengeance in 2020.

And Croydon has some incredible places to walk to or around. You don’t even have to look that far – South Norwood Country Park, Addington Hills or Ashburton Park A to Z of parks – London Borough of Croydon are all wonderful places to begin – and for more serious walks, we’re spoiled for choice.

Kenley Common is a favourite – high on a hill, overlooking the borough – and not only is it bursting with WW2 history, it’s also home to an actual observatory where – usually – you can go stargazing. As soon as I’m able to, I plan on visiting the Norman Fisher Observatory, owned and managed by Croydon Astronomical Society, and escape the cares of the earth by looking up to the heavens.

Riddlesdown Common is a stunning SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest); Croham Hurst Croham Hurst, an ancient woodland in South Croydon and the astonishingly lovely Farthing Downs are other beautiful places, bursting with nature, to explore on foot. So for 2021, I plan to do a lot more walking through the borough and appreciating the green spaces we’re lucky enough to call our own.

In direct contrast to my muddy feet and dirty knees, I’m desperate to get a manicure. So as soon as things are more like normal, I’ll be heading to new nail bar Atara for cocktails and some glittery polish. It’s the little things that make you smile, I’ve realised, and I am hopeful that Croydon can carry on delivering these in all kinds of unexpected ways in 2021.

2. Lee Townsend, founder of Lenses of Croydon 

I honestly feel that 2021 will be a year of massive significance for the people of Croydon. It’s a time when we will need to hold hands in solidarity, allowing us through collaboration to help promote health and wellbeing across the borough.

Creatively, Lenses of Croydon will continue our now online delivery of the Croydon Photography Forum, every Tuesday evening where we host various local and international photographers who share their journey with the art form. We’re delighted to be launching several online courses that will begin at the end of January, and we’re looking forward to revamping our website.

Fitness and renewed self-belief have been a game-changer that has allowed me to thrive throughout 2020, despite the pandemic. In collaboration with Thomas Scannell, we have launched the organisation Two Local Lads, through which we will be running several community initiatives. Most of these will target men; however, we will continue to run activities for children and families ranging from fitness groups to a one-off free photography workshop for children with autism or the delivery mental health awareness sessions.

The new year will bring with it challenges, but through a positive outlook, consistent hard work and a one Croydon mindset Croydon and her people will continue to do great things.

3. Kate Marsden, illustrator and textile designer

After the year we’ve just had, it’s obviously hard to predict where 2021 will take us. Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the positives I’ve taken from this strange year, and what new things I’d like to continue with. Our online Open Studios presented us with lots of opportunities to share our work with a wider audience (I even taught a workshop with attendees as far afield as Australia and the USA, alongside plenty of local folk!) and I’m planning to find more opportunities to connect with people virtually.

I’ve also been taking part in a lot of online learning this year and using this to develop my practice. I’m now completely hooked on life drawing thanks to London Drawing’s amazing Zoom sessions, and in 2021 I’m planning to work on my lettering as this is currently a weak point of mine.

Below is a pattern called Beatnik which I designed following a Zoom drawing session back in the autumn. 

Kate Marsden

4. Elizabeth Sheppard, writer*

Back in the days when Croydon had a Visitor Centre, a huge 3D model of the future citiscape imagined by its planners sat right in the front window. It was ballsy, bold and optimistic, a crop of shiny towers tilting at the sky. The 2020 Vision, they called it.

If we’d been told back then how the real 2020 would pan out, we’d have fallen off our chairs.  It was a vision, alright – but more hellish than hopeful. A year that began under a growing shadow is ending in confusion and uncertainty.

I love Croydon, and real love takes honesty. When I look around, I see neglect and filth and failure. Worst of all is the mismanagement which brought us to this place. The pandemic has thrown into relief so much that was wrong. And that, I think, can be its gift to us.

Perhaps, in our crisis, we have a chance to see how the ‘old normal’ failed, and work for something better. The hope there is – for Croydon, for the world  – resides in people, and our town has many champions. We’ve got the guts, and there’s surely still a chance for glory. Go well in 2021.

*Elizabeth’s second book, ‘Breaking Out,’ will be published by Harper Collins on January 21st.

5. Nick Smith, co-founder of The Ludoquist

On the 10th March, I was in Reno in the US to receive 2 global GAMA awards for being the best games store in the world. The Ludoquist was the only UK shop ever to have won two such awards. Returning from receiving those in the US, Carrie and I felt we had to close the café on the 17th March, a few days before the national lockdown was mandated.

Since then, let’s be honest, 2020 has been awful for pretty much everyone and for Croydon in particular. We’ve done our best, like everyone else, to adapt and innovate, but it has been hard. We have had the support of other local businesses as well as Croydon BID and Council to help us through the minefield of the ever changing tiers and rules and point us in the right direction for grants and funding. It has been amazing to see the Croydon community come together to support one another. Looking into 2021 remains difficult to predict, but sadly the first months do not look likely to be very much better.

We are looking forward beyond those first months. In January we will be launching our Future Fun-der campaign, where we will aim to give all our community some fun to look forward to for when life returns to normal, as it inevitably will. We will be bringing people back together over tables, interacting again as we used to, experiencing the joys of being with others – that’s what The Ludoquist has always done, and will again.

6. Christopher Hope-Fitch, photographer

2020 was supposed to be the year that I took my favourite personal project, Brutalism in Colour, beyond London, I got as far as Brighton before restrictions came in. This has led to it being even more London-centric than I’d hoped, but in summer a friendly rivalry with Michael Shilling of @londinin360 as to who had the most Instagram followers helped keep the project going when I might have slacked off a bit and night time adventures to Crystal Palace with my family have really helped in winter, it’s so much more fun with company.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed in lockdown is the online Lenses of Croydon talks, Lee has done a fantastic job of keeping talks going, but I’m very much looking forward to when we can meet up in person and go to the pub afterwards, also can’t wait to get back to live music and theatre in Croydon, I feel that there’s so much bubbling under the surface it’s going to be great once we’re all allowed out again.

The below image is The National Sports Centre, Crystal Palace Park

Christopher Hope-Fitch

7. Maddy Duxbury, founder of East Croydon Cool

There is no minimising the devastating impact of 2020. Loss of life, earnings, security and freedom has impacted everyone.

But this year has also brought a lot of valuable lessons. It has given many the opportunity to slow down and reflect. It has reminded us that whilst we can have plans (and be incredibly resilient and creative in how we adapt them), we cannot control everything. And it has shown us the value of community – be that friends, family, colleagues or neighbours

It is around these lessons that I plan to make my 2021 Resolutions.

In addition to giving last year’s goal (to swim the Channel as part of a relay team) another bash (!), in 2021 I aim to FINALLY launch the events concept I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of years. I can’t say much more right now but watch this space. Once government regulations allow, I hope it will be a haven for many Croydoners!😉

Our plans with the Croydon Photographer and Johnny Howl Club to resurrect the Cronx Boutique this Christmas were obviously thrown, but we hope to find alternative ways to bring the concept store back to life in 2021.

With the importance of community and local businesses having been recognised at a much wider level this past year, I also hope the potential of East Croydon Cool is seen by sponsors so we can continue to deliver positive content about Croydon that helps keep residents connected.

There’s no doubt the Borough has got a tough year ahead for multiple reasons, so platforms like the Croydonist and East Croydon Cool are vital in terms of showing people all the great things that are happening (that too often, go under radar). Not that I’m biased or anything 😉

8. Anna Arthur, Director of Croydonites Festival of New Theatre

I have to be honest, I’m not going into 2021 with quite the enthusiasm and excitement of last year. Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until it gets taken away and for anyone involved or interested in theatre then this year has been trying to say the least. Thankfully we humans are endlessly creative and in the beginning of the first lockdown there was an avalanche of amazing shows and live streams available from big and small players alike. Unfortunately an army of backstage crew, technicians, sound engineers and lampies have not fared so well – I only hope there’ll still be there when we all get back in the theatre – we are going to need them. Performance on screen does the job for a while, but I for one cannot wait to get back to the live experience. So my resolution for 2021 is simple, let’s get back to work

9. Lis Watkins, illustrator

I’ve always found Croydon to be a great place to find inspiration but the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has made me realise that I could do more to support and amplify the voices of black Croydon creatives. Here are three fabulous creatives, all based at the ASC Art House studios at Grafton Quarter in Croydon, to follow on Instagram – Textile and performance artist Enam Gbewonyo, artist and writer Georgina Johnson and Shelby Marie Fuller – the designer behind the ‘Elizabeth An’Marie’ knitwear brand.

The sketchbook drawing below is from the February meeting of the Croydon Culture Network (before COVID)

Lis Watkins

10. Shaniqua Benjamin, spoken word artist and Croydon Poet Laureate

I have no idea what 2021 will bring, but I’m excited about bringing more love and creativity to the world through my God-given gifts.

2021 will finally see my first residency as Croydon Poet Laureate, which will be with the Museum of Croydon, and I can’t wait to see what it brings! To have the voices of young people from diverse backgrounds represented in the Museum will be amazing.

I’m also looking forward to revamping and working on my spoken word show, ‘Love Warrior’ again, which is needed more than ever, and another special project centred on young men. Watch this space.

11. Josi Kiss, Made in Croydon CIC Director, Co-Chair Park Hill Park

What can anyone say about 2020 other than a nightmare we’d all like to forget, but amongst the ashes of Croydon’s 2020 cultural plans the mother of invention has inspired some to create new ways of working that’ll carry on into 2021.

Here’s a few; Beeja’s online dance classes, Slide’s interactive disco, Stanley Hall’s online Panto, Eric Hand’s amazing portraits of South Croydon, now adorning shop windows in the high street, Catherine Graham brought real people together with Park Hill Park’s Covid safe therapeutic gardening and today I’ve seen that Esther’s set up a radio station at The Oval.

On a personal level I’ve had to take a back seat with Made in Croydon due to my health, but I have managed a little with the Friends of Park Hill Park’s Walled Garden project. Together volunteers have started to deliver the 2019 crowd funder and part one is now complete. We can’t wait to bring part 2, the Peace Garden performance space, to life in Spring 2021, it’ll create an opportunity to hold Covid safe, outdoor community meetings and small scale ticketed performances in Park Hill Park, Croydon’s Central Park.  I’ve already been talking to a few groups about what kind of events we can create together but I’m happy to hear anyone’s ideas. It’s positive things like that that have kept me going as I sit shielding waiting for my jab of freedom

12. Glenn Foster, photographer

I’m looking forward to an exciting new chapter in 2021. Art and photography have always been something I’ve done alongside full-time employment, after being made redundant at the end of 2020 I am now doing what I love full-time, which is a breath of fresh air, my only regret was not taking the leap of faith into the art world years ago!

I’ve already received an incredible commission to produce a huge piece of artwork in Battersea (over 5 meters long by 2.5 meters tall) which will be an awesome start to the new year!

I’ve also been working on some Croydon inspired clothing designs which I’m hoping will be ready to release at the end of spring, they’ll be available from my online shop alongside some new pieces of brutalist art and new Croydon prints also on the horizon.

2020 has brought a lot of us creatives together to support each other and I’ve really enjoyed doing collaborative competitions/giveaways and working with other locals. I’d love to see more of this throughout 2021 and look forward to getting to know and work with more croydon creatives.

Glenn Foster

13. Charlie Henson, founder of First Floor Space

2020 was full of the most unexpected things, I’m at a complete loss for words when it comes to trying to sum up the year; experiencing incredible joy within such heartbreaking grief has certainly made for a whirlwind of a year!

Lockdown has meant we’ve not been able to get together in our community studio but we’ve tried to keep our creativity going at home with online sessions and support. We are so keen to get our creative community together again in 2021; the space is a home from home for many and that wonderful feeling is down to all the people that share it. Being together has definitely been the thing we miss the most!

Who knows how long we will have to continue this way so our New Years plan will be to get ready to do something outdoors in the summer. We’ve got lots of ideas to test and we’ll be consulting our creative community to see what people would like to do most!

My personal New Years plan is to spend lots of time enjoying Croydon’s green spaces far and wide with our new little guy 🙂

14. Mari Lane, co-founder/Managing Editor of Get In Her Ears 

Looking back at what I wrote for this feature last year, I described 2019 as ‘horrific’… I evidently had no idea of the nightmare 2020 was about to bring! Although my resolution was to “spend more time in the Cronx”, I don’t think I intended to spend this much time here, confined mostly to my very local vicinity in the midst of a pandemic. However, although it has been the most awful of years, there have been a few positives to come out of not being able to leave my home in Croydon for the last nine months.

It’s fair to say I would not have got through either lockdown without weekly beer deliveries from our favourite Croydon bar, Art & Craft CR0: pretty much every Friday since the end of March, they’ve dropped off a great supply of craft beer to see us through the weekend – it has given us a treat to look forward to each week, and their friendly and reliable service has been amazing.

It was also during the first lockdown that I discovered we lived round the corner from the best bakery in the world: Coughlans. As well as providing us with regular vegan sweet treats and veggie sausage rolls throughout the year, they saved our Christmas: like many, having to cancel a trip to see family at the last minute, I needed to sort some food for the big day fairly quickly, and was able to order an incredible vegan wellington and delicious Stollen, as well as a big fresh veg box, from them. They also do a lot for the local community; throughout the year, they’ve been selling masks to raise money for the NHS/Croydon University Hospital, and launched a ‘Post It Campaign’ to gift free food to local people who may be struggling.

As well as sitting at home eating and drinking, I have been trying to get out for a ‘daily walk’… And, without wanting to use public transport or go to any other areas, I have been lucky enough to discover I actually live near some quite nice local landmarks: Mitcham Common’s vast space has provided some peaceful respite, whilst South Norwood Lake and Selsdon Woods are beautiful spots to take in some Croydon wildlife and breathe some fresh air. Even our local cemetery, with its tranquil ponds and friendly fox population, has been a source of comfort for a quick lunchtime stroll.

So, if I continue to remain confined to Croydon throughout 2021, I feel grateful that these local businesses and spaces will certainly help to make things seem a little less awful.

15. Samantha Warren, Designer and founder of Samantha Warren, Scene in Croydon and Croydon Shared.

Throughout 2020, I have witnessed the power of creativity to help people cope with difficulties and inspire positive change in their lives.

The whole world has been impacted by Covid, and at a local level, we’ve been dealing with Brexit and Croydon Council’s financial troubles. Despite all of this, the Croydon community has come together to keep spirits up and provide support.

As I reflect on a year we will never forget, I am surprised by the number of positive changes, some of which probably would not have happened if not for the major reset caused by the pandemic. At the beginning of lockdown, I launched Colour Croydon, a creative campaign in collaboration with The Museum of Croydon. The project invited residents to download and colour in an illustration of Croydon and every entry was uploaded onto the museum’s online gallery. I also launched the Croydon Shared initiative, (in collaboration with local artist PiNS) a platform for residents to share their experience of lockdown which is exhibited on our Instagram page. It’s incredible how many creative hobbies have surfaced, some developing into businesses. These submissions come together to form a valuable and wide-ranging catalogue of photographs, paintings, drawings that document our collective experience of the pandemic.

2020 has taught the importance of community to my personal and creative well-being, and I hope that in 2021 I can continue to support local people in using creativity as a positive force.

I feel optimistic about what’s to come for Croydon in 2021. We have such a vibrant and creative community which I believe will be a major influence in making Croydon a successful borough of Culture.

Croydon Shared

16. Tania Rahman, local historian and Croydonist guest writer

I’m trying to write a memoir as they are popular these days, focusing on not just my writing about Croydon history but my time at Old Palace School and work at the British Museum.

Of course I’d love to see live community events back in Croydon,  I held a solo exhibition at LOFT, in March 2019, but online might have to do for now.  I also like taking part in charity fundraising events. A community one like Race For Life would be great, again it might have to be a solo event.

17. Devaki and Thomas, Stunflower

Thank you Croydonist for bringing us artists of Croydon together in positive uplifting pieces! 2020 has challenged us in most unexpected ways…lows were separation from family, friends, band-mates, clients…..highs were connecting/sharing music via live-streaming to people all over the world, slowing down to soak in what’s really important and unexpected connections as people reached out. With all the pain and loss this pandemic has stirred up the positive changes are in balance, though it can be hard to remember this some days. What are we looking forward to for 2021?

1) Our 10+ track album, ‘Dub Side of the Tracks’ will be released on ‘From All Corners’ record label, 23 January 2021. The songs are written by Thomas Thomas with input from Devaki Thomas and feature Thomas (guitars, keys, vocals, bass, drums, percussion), Devaki  (drums, vocals, percussion) Naz Khan (tablas)  & Miguan Ascanio-Green (bass/backing vocals) and international guest artists collaborations. The album started back in Feb 2020 when invited to record tracks by noteable producer Mark Brocklesby of Point Blank Music School at famed Lynchmob Studio in North London whose clients include the likes of Mumford and Sons, Manic Street Preachers & Mark Ronson. As the lockdown hit we only recorded 2 tracks with Mark; the remaining songs are composed, recorded, produced, mixed/mastered by Thomas at his & Devaki’s garden studio (Growroom Studio, South Norwood). An album release party via Zoom at 8pm GMT will feature live performances, interactive sessions and a dance party 🙂  This is our 2nd album following up our debut record, Turnaround released in 2018. These tracks came together over this year and inspired by interactions with thousands of viewers we were blessed to host on our Saturdays with Stunflower, lockdown live-stream sessions.

2) Releasing more songs with Jon Anderson, the iconic rock-n-roll hall-of-fame inductee and lead-singer of YES. Thomas, our bands’ guitarist/song-writer/vocalist has been co-writing with him for the past few years and Jon released their song 1st track ‘Let Go, Let God’ on Solstice 2020 to rave reviews. It’s an incredible feeling to work with a musical/spiritual mentor and someone of such talent!

3) Devaki, Stunflowers’ drummer/vocalist graduated this year with an MA in Dance Movement Psychotherapy and has launched online movement and sound courses under her new project, ‘Sound & Movement Sanctuary’. Participants for her 2020 sessions expressed high levels of relaxation, connection, learnings and a sense of growing community. 2021 sessions start 11 January and include Therapeutic Hatha Yoga with Sound Meditation, Introduction to Healing Odissi Dance, Rhythm & Voice, Spur-of-the-moment Movement Session & Bharatanatyam Dance Basics.

4) Continuing to host our monthly live-stream music sessions to connect with music-lovers around the world in a growing community of like-minded souls who feel moved by our music. As the lockdown rules prevent us from playing with our band-mates, Naz & Miguan we play this as a duo (Thomas & Devaki) and use loops to build our sound. This gives us an opportunity to hone our skills as a duo, work on many new songs and deepen our harmonies.

We send out warm wishes for strength, courage, connection, safety and love for our fellow artists and local communities during what appears to be a continuing challenge of mass proportions! May we find ways to keep our souls vibrant and connected, bless, Thomas, Devaki, Naz & Miguan.

18. Michael Shilling, photographer

2020 prompted many pivots in my business so I really want to push forward with ideas I’ve been developing over the past few months. Hopefully the Memory Gate Photography studio will be open again soon and I can get back to photographing Croydon families again. The Photo Cafe will be shortly launching a new online element to our business but we’ll still be serving great coffee in the meantime.

I’m moving into my second year of capturing London In 360 which has developed nicely so far. I’ve already published my first 360 Street Photography zine with more in development. Photographing Croydon’s street art and architecture provided a launchpad for some of my favourite themes. There’ll certainly be many more 360 images and videos of Croydon appearing on my feed soon.

My real focus is not necessarily to get back to normal but to carve out a new and exciting path for my personal and professional photography.

Michael Shilling

19. Saif Bonar and Leoni Descartes, founders of Matthews Yard

While 2020 was a bit of a wipeout for most creatives and cultural spaces, we had a lot to be thankful for at Matthews Yard. While watching our original premises being demolished we were feverishly working through the first lockdown to get our new home in West Croydon ready to open.

In 2021 we are looking forward to returning to a new normal in our new home. It would be great to make loads of grand plans, but, after the year we have all had, we are focused on survival until Covid is behind us. We will be using the extra down time at the start of the year to rejuvenate our creative workspace in Exchange Square and for the small businesses hit hard by the pandemic together with planning and launching our new community events space, Platform 2, in the second half of 2021. This year will see MY return to its roots – hosting theatre, comedy, live music and other creative work by local people and giving them a platform to shine.

20. Mark Sarfo-Kantanka, co-founder of Cellar Door, Lost Format Society, Coffee Shotter and Nexus

Looking back on how we entered 2020, there was optimism and positivity. The year has been challenging for many. What I take away from 2020 and into 2021 is the resilience and strength of the community displayed when things have been tough. There have been too many instances to mention. From front line workers in the NHS, key workers keeping things moving, restaurant owners (notable mention to Mr Fox), workspace providers supporting their members digitally and also to the everyday person in the street checking in on those more vulnerable. Where leadership has been absent from those in power, it is the coming together of neighbourhoods and communities that provides optimism for the years ahead. For me it’s not about getting back to normal, but instead taking the fortitude we’ve shown collectively, to shape a better future where we continue to work and grow together.

The initial months of 2021 will require us to remain resilient as uncertainties remain. But we look forward to being back out amongst one another, enjoying creativity and culture up front and personal. There is a longing for human interaction so I look ahead to being able to enjoy music festivals in Lloyd Park, theatre via Croydonites and a drink without social distancing in my local!

21. Tina Crawford, artist

I think things have been simplified for 2021, let’s face it, it’s the smaller things we took for granted that we’re looking forward to. My New Year’s wish is to see friends for a coffee!

As grim as 2020 has been, everyone of us has learnt something about ourselves.

I had a bit of an epiphany, my Tobyboo work has pretty much come to an end – I create products for museum & heritage shops – with no tourism – no sales , no sales means no orders for me. I was forced to put everything into my own art – which I love but it’s not a regular income. I’ve been quite reserved on my own work and this year I feel set free. I’m excited but scared. My son is 13 now, he teaches himself maths – he has a real thirst for it, he took his GCSE in year 4 and last year took his A level (aged 12) and got an A. His passion, determination and love for learning has taught me so much. He’s inspired me to just go for it, just do what I feel I need to. So in 2021 I plan to do just that! I think we can all take a leaf out of Toby’s book.

Tina Crawford

Thank you to all 21 who shared their thoughts. Keep reading the Croydonist as we showcase some of these exciting things (and more) over the coming year.

Art supplied by contributors. Header by the Croydonist using contributors’ art.

Posted by Julia

One Comment

steven nash

your article was interesting & would like to receive more things about Croydon.

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