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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

next stop, croydon



NLA tower recently completed - 1972  (uploaded to flickr by Ian-S)

Sue Perkins recently returned to her home town for BBC R4's The Seven Car Parks Of Croydon and managed to celebrate this "inferno of concrete" that's been the butt of jokes by so many that even Basil Brush, according to fellow Croydonite Steve Punt, had made jokes about it. Croydon came across like a real mini-Manhattan, an ex-village attempting to be a futuristic city. It was, as Punt put it, ambitious in a very British, Tony Hancock, Reggie Perrin way, but Croydon also came across experimental and imaginative, and not just in its planning of hexagonal towers and flyovers.

Clocktower Arts new festival Are We Here? A Festival Of Place, which the programme was pegged to, toots the horn of Croydon's brutalist/modernist legacy and the idea of place as a source of arts inspiration throughout November, led by the instant eyecatching appeal of a retrospective of Jonathan Meades documentaries, and screenings of St Etienne's loving filmic odes This Is Tomorrow (November 4), Finisterre and What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? (November 11).

I have the same fascination with Croydon that I do with lots of new towns. Like plenty (ok, some*) of my generation, probably turned on by a mixture watching Gregory's Girl (Cumbernauld), Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (Stevenage) and even A Clockwork Orange (Thamesmead & Brunel University, London) plus a big dose of idealising the youthful forward-looking vision of the 50s to early 70s, and that ever-hardy kinship with dismissed or forgotten gems. But though I've passed that NLA tower (pictured, from a great flickr set of 60s/70s pictures of Croydon) dozens of times on the train to or from Brighton, I've only had a chance to wander around a couple of times, so I'll spend more time there next month than I have in the past 10 years. Time to go back to the future properly.

(* as I realised, again, when I went on the Open House weekend tour of Brunel University with my friend Christina - we both thought the tours might be sold out but no, just us and about half a dozen others)

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