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Festival to celebrate Croydon's rich heritage

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Plans for a heritage festival have been unveiled by Croydon's most historic organisation. Rachel Millard reports... THE market town of Croydon that Archbishop Whitgift came to know on his way between Lambeth and Canterbury has long since made way for the urban jungle of today.

The 400-plus years since his day have seen the town transform into a commuter and retail centre, its population swelling by hundreds of thousands, with newcomers arriving from across the world.

But now, the powerful charity the Archbishop started here wants to recall those and previous years, even as it works on reshaping the borough's future.

With plans taking shape under the £1billion pound deal to redevelop the Whitgift shopping centre and chunks of Old Town, the Whitgift Foundation is organising a wide-ranging heritage festival.

The first Croydon Heritage Festival will take place this June, featuring tours of Whitgift's historical buildings, plus as many exhibitions, shows and talks as people care to host.

Martin Corney, clerk to the foundation, says the event, which will run from June 3 to 23, is a chance to take stock of the borough's past ahead of the long-awaited major redevelopment.

He said: "I am very excited that something is happening, and I think in terms of developments for Croydon, lots of things are going to start to emerge.

"And one of the things that I have been talking to them [developers] about is repositioning Croydon and the image of the town and celebrating what it has. And we have such a diverse community here."

Croydon-based public relations company White Label Consultants is organising the festival for Whitgift and wants people to get in touch if they want to host festival events.

White Label representative Rosanna Farrar says projects should be accepted as long as they are "safe and heritage-themed", and organisers hope to see events across the borough.

"It is a platform for anybody," Ms Farrar said. "So we are looking at things like historical tours, talks from experts, film, photography, music, dance, the arts – you name it.

"We are very keen to give local authors a platform during the festival to read excerpts, and we are inviting local actors to come along and give recitals."

Hosting an event under the festival's remit means promotion in its publicity materials and use of its official logo, as well as other support.

"What we have found is there are ways in which we can provide support by introducing people," added Ms Farrar.

"For example, somebody is looking to move an exhibition into the Croydon area in time for the festival and she is worried about paying someone to do that.

"But actually, with the contacts we are making, I am sure that everyone will work together to make those possible."

Local history group The Bourne Society, which covers southern parts of the borough including Purley, Sanderstead and Coulsdon, is one of the groups hoping to take part.

Its chairman Paul Sandford said: "We have put everybody on alert for the opportunities available and we are certainly keen to take part in it."

Organisers are also talking with other history groups, such as the Friends of Shirley Windmil and community groups outside the town centre, so the diversity of the borough is reflected.

The centrepiece of the festival will be a public event in North End on June 8, while Whitgift's assets, such as Old Palace School and the Almshouses in central Croydon will, of course, feature heavily.

To take part in the festival, e-mail rose@whitelabelconsultants .org.uk. or call 020 8726 7968.

Festival to celebrate Croydon's rich heritage


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