CULTURE is vital in driving the regeneration of Croydon,
This was the view expressed by Councillor Timothy Godfrey, the council's cabinet member dedicated to promoting the arts, sports and leisure, when speaking to about 90 representatives from arts and community organisations at a seminar this week.
The meeting, held on Tuesday at Bernard Weatherill House, also gave the groups a chance to put forward ideas for improving cultural activities in Croydon.
These included organising a website to publicise arts events and share expertise and equipment; addressing the problem of a lack of performance and rehearsal space; creating a cultural and arts quarter in the town; increasing the amount of public art and involving schools more in the cultural life of the borough.
Cllr Godfrey promised the ideas would be examined and a report presented to the groups in the near future.
He had earlier told the meeting it was the council's intention to build new alliances with arts and cultural groups to promote the cultural agenda.
Cllr Godfrey said the council also intended to work with the Mayor of London and the Arts Council to look at attracting more funding for the arts into the borough.
He told the meeting: "It is about making changes as quickly as possible.
"We see culture as key to regeneration and investment in this borough.
"We want to work with all of you to realise our ambitions for culture.
"There are an awful lot of people involved in the arts who we need to engage with."
The meeting was a starting point for that and would be repeated in the future, Cllr Godfrey said.
He was also critical of the previous Conservative council's cultural record, drawing attention to its sale of part of the famous Riesco collection of Chinese porcelain.
He said: "When the council sold off the best pieces of the collection it not only damaged that collection, it did huge damage to the reputation of Croydon.
"We will not be selling off any of our remaining collections."
Cllr Godfrey said work was about to start on the first phase of refurbishing the Fairfield Halls, including sprucing up the Arnhem Gallery, installing digital cinema equipment in the concert hall and turning the former Green Room restaurant into a studio performance space.
The major renewal programme for the refurbishment of the complex will be programmed in over the next three to four years.
Cllr Godfrey revealed the council was also looking at the possibility of running a summer arts festival next year based largely around the College Green area off Park Lane.