Croydon has its flaws, but we love it anyway
No, we’re not the second worst place to live in the UK
Have you ever typed “Croydon” into a search engine? I did, and I prepared myself for the wave of trolling with a can of Red Bull and my favourite finger salute.
The result was as expected: my town had been voted the “second worst place to live in the UK”. I didn’t wag my finger at the screen because the article was right – Croydon has some serious problems: our shopping centre is full of boarded-up shops and someone asked me the other day if I could show them my stab wounds (they assumed everyone in Croydon had some).
But I’ve had enough time to accept that my town has flaws – despite all this, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Here’s why…
We will have our own Westfield soon
We answer all the haters with “Yeah, well Westfield is coming soon”. A few years ago we were promised a new Westfield-style centre to replace the tired Centrale (some shops still have Black Friday sales on). Flyers were sent to every house and we were invited to see what the project would look like when finished. Construction was supposed to begin in 2015 but due to a few hiccups along the way (protestors and the general election) very little work has actually happened.
At the moment, Croydon really is a ghost town – all our favourite shops have closed down already (I pray it will not be Primark next). But we don’t care if the only shop left open is Poundland because Croydon will soon have better shops than most of you. We’re just using this time (2015-2020) to come to terms with our future fame: we understand that Croydon is about to become the Bicester Village of South London. We know everyone will start posting tweets like “OMG I’ve always loved Croydon” when a few pages down they were cussing the hell out of it. That is the price of fame I guess.
Plus the new centre will create 5,000 jobs which will be especially prioritised for the locals. So I probably won’t be unemployed after I graduate. Lucky me!
You’re never too far away from art
It’s true: there is nothing to do in Croydon – even less now that youth centres have all closed down. We have a reasonable sized cinema, a library and a small museum, but that’s it. But I guess this is a blessing in disguise – without boredom, Croydon would not have such beautiful art everywhere. Where some see vandalism, we see culture and art.
Croydon is the town of the people: there may not any Mona Lisas or beautiful Hogarth paintings sprayed on the walls, but we take pride in our street art. It’s a physical representation of social history. So when people in the year 3000 want to study what society was like “back in the day” they will look through books and newspaper clippings (which all towns have). But how many places can provide murals of self-expression to the future generation. Not many, but Croydon certainly can (because your council saw it as vandalism and had it cleaned).
If you want to know what people thought of the weather just check these murals and there you will find sprayed “too cold”. Yeah dude, me too.
People from all over the world come to visit our Home Office
There’s Buckingham Palace, the Blackpool Tower and Nando’s – Croydon settled for the Home Office. My own parents visited this landmark back in the nineties – they were so fascinated by its architecture that they decided to stay (of course their version of events is slightly different). But having a Home Office is better than any cheeky Nando’s – in fact it has given Croydon the one thing that so many towns lack: diversity.
You can find everyone and everything here, from Reggae to Bhangra to Dabke, and it is for this reason alone I wouldn’t live anywhere else. As a first generation immigrant and a Muslim, Croydon is a safe haven and a (titanium) bubble for me. So you can understand that I was very nervous venturing out of my bubble to go to university (in Central London). I never feel as safe as I do in Croydon – the side-glances and occasional “trying to peek inside my bag” can be too much even for a tough Croydon gal.
Maybe I’m just being paranoid? But that doesn’t change the fact that Croydon is an exceptionally progressive and multicultural town in ways which other places fail to recognise as a positive.
The world is at your doorstep
But let’s admit it, the best import of diversity is the food. There is so much to choose from: Chinese noodles, Jamaican jerk chicken, Indian kebabs or Polish cake mix. The great thing is that they’re all on one road in Croydon. We are truly spoilt for choice.
We have a park next to a dual carriageway and a museum
Ever heard the phrase playing in traffic? Well that is what you would do in Katherine Street because the park is next to a dual carriageway. I don’t know whether this was down to a lack of strategic planning or whether people felt that the most sensible thing to do was build a carriageway next to a park – either way it’s beautiful. This stupid (intentional) mistake brightens up Croydon when the weather fails to.
It might come as a shock to learn that Croydon has some historical buildings (which survived the 2011 riots). Our Town Hall was first built in 1566 but rebuilt in 1895 and was opened to the public by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Essentially our Town Hall is better than those three-for-one Boots deals because it’s a cinema, library, museum and, of course, a hall all-in-one. So I guess we save a lot on travel cost having everything in one building.
So Croydon isn’t all council flats, abandoned parks and gang wars: we have some historical and green places too.
Confronting the crappy side of Croydon is very cathartic. The very things that makes Croydon stand out for the wrong reasons are the same reasons we love it. We love the fact that we can gossip about our hospital (a topic for another time) and hear a million languages at the bus stop.
Let’s face it, I probably have just confirmed some of the things you have read in the Daily Mail about Croydon. Right now it is a dump, there is not much to do and we have to travel to the next town for better healthcare. But what makes a town great? A sense of community, great food, diversity. The rest – decent shops, something more than a cinema and good press – will come after.
After all, all good things come to those who wait. Croydon has waited for years and finally our wait has been rewarded with a £1.5 billion investment for redevelopment.
In a few years we will be the Oxford Street of South London – so we’ll see all you haters then.