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#21: West Croydon – 07/09/2018

Other than a fleeting visit to East Croydon during a recent visit to Wimbledon, I’d not been to Croydon before, so my only awareness of the area has been influenced by media reports and personal accounts of friends and work colleagues. But as with other places I’ve been to, by keeping an open mind and a willingness to talk, it’s surprising what can be seen and learnt. Croydon was no different; in fact there was an unexpected surprise that made this visit so memorable – read on…

The Station

West Croydon sits as one of the four terminal stations of services out from HIghbury & Islington and shares its location with Southern rail with onward destinations to Surrey, and adjacent to West Croydon Tramlink.

This is a fairly typical functional commuter station with passengers seen rushing to and from trains eager to look at their mobile phones rather than their surrounds. But a glance up and around will reveal how The Energy Garden project, through its friends at West Croydon are brightening up the station.

It’s fair to say the long hot summer has taken its toll slightly on some of the floral displays, but when I met Helen and Grace, two enthusiastic volunteers just finishing off their watering for the morning, their passion, enjoyment and commitment in what they were doing just shone through as we chatted about their work and how else they could further improve the displays. It was lovely to meet you two ladies, and this meeting helped set my journey into Croydon up with a smile.

Rise Festival

Getting into the heart of Croydon, I was struck by the number of, and quality of street art on display. Why do I call it ‘street art’ and not graffiti? The populist understanding and legal distinction is that of ‘permission’ being given for street art, but a quick Google search reveals a multitude of interpretations. Nevertheless, I knew what I liked and I was in awe of the scale of artistry on display. It turns out I arrived in Croydon in the middle of London’s largest urban arts festival and artists could be seen throughout the town. As the festival moves on, the artist’s work is displayed on the festival’s Instagram account

What made this special was that the scale of the art being crafted was no barrier: the size of the murals already painted and outlined ready to be painted were on a massive scale. Artists using spray paints, brushes of all sizes, and even rollers with the artists poised on ladders, scaffolding and even cherry pickers. Once realising what was happening, I became consumed by the colours and creativity and felt compelled to talk to the artists, all of whom were more than happy to share their thoughts and the history of their work. There is a risk I could flood this blog with just this item and pictures, but in the interest of balance here’s a sample of the pictures that caught my eye, and the artists I met:

  • Morgan Davy who could be found painting on the entrance doors of a disused 60’s high rise building opposite the Town Hall. Morgan explained this creation was a re-interpretation of an earlier piece painted on the original entrance but now boarded up to prevent rough sleepers from using the sheltered space. Check out his Facebook and Instagram pages
  • Saroj Patel who I found painting in Matthews Yard and was just outlining her creation, later entitled ‘Shakti’. I felt her work has a particular uniqueness blending light colours with fine art drawing. See the finished Shakti and more of Saroj’s work on her Instagram page
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I also got chatting with Tom, a professional photographer who had been commissioned by the festival to take photos of the various works, as he was taking a time lapse sequence of a work being created alongside the steps leading down from the Arcade into Surrey Street Market…and curiously, he said he had just finished working for a company called the EndoftheLine – how bizarre

Let me indulge you with some of my other collections from the festival I felt compelled to capture.

Social Commentary

By contrast, here are some examples of graffiti, and some interesting wall plaques I found in Station Road, tucked away in a quiet corner of West Croydon used to promote social gatherings.

Buildings

Croydon is sometimes portrayed as a bit of a concrete jungle with high rise towers, and in the northern part I would agree, with modern apartment developments, Government and multinational companies occupying architecturally un-interesting buildings blotting out the skyline and creating wind tunnels. However the deeper into the heart of Croydon I walked, the more I saw of the town’s commercial history, its historic Victorian architecture and its retained facades. The following shots represent an eclectic mix of the town’s delights through its historic facade:

…and its more modern facade:

Places to gather

…and finally, the heart of Croydon, it’s people and where they interact, and there’s no better place than to find the best examples in shared spaces. By that I mean shopping spaces and entertainment spaces. The High Street is Croydon’s main artery and at its northern end, you have the Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres. The High Street is awash with market and food stalls with local workers queuing up for a taste of the myriad of flavours on offer.

Continue south through the entertainment centre, and further into Croydon’s self styled Restaurant Quarter where you’re spoilt for choice by the food on offer; a gastronomic delight I’m sure.

My journey’s end was at Boxpark Croydon, adjacent to Croydon East station. This was an unexpected find as the inside, a shared eating/drinking/entertainment space, was full of folk sharing their end of the week stories whilst listening to the DJ mixing his decks. An exciting place to end the week; or start the weekend…

…and so the weary travels meanders homewards…

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Picture of the Day

This is one of the many wonderful public art on display throughout Croydon as part of the 2018 Rise Festival. A wonderful innovation bringing art to the masses on a grand scale, which really made my day. Not only for the diversity of art on display, but also for the opportunity to meet and talk to several artists who were preparing their own murals.

As soon as I saw this piece, I was in awe of its scale, message and simplicity which is the trademark of its creator – David Hollier; a Wolverhampton born fine artist who now works out of New York.

I stood for quite a while reading the passage, which comes from Sir Winston Churchill’s famous ‘We’ll fight them on the beaches’ speech given to the House of Commons on the 18th June 1940. Quite moving, despite standing on the corner of street in Croydon in 2018. The words make up the final two paragraphs of the peroration.

The only adjustment I’ve made to the shot is to apply a Vogue black and white filter to help contextualise the piece back into the 1940’s era.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ10; Shutter Speed – 1/500; Focal Length – 30mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – Vogue

Social Media
YouTube, Instagram, Google PhotosTriptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story

For more info, look up West Croydon Station on Wikipedia

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Waterloo & City

#06: Waterloo – 10/05/2018

Unsurprisingly, Waterloo is at the southern end of the ‘Waterloo & City’ line or more commonly known as ‘The Drain’. The line was opened late in the 19th century to ferry commuters travelling from the Southern counties directly into The City. Waterloo also serves three other lines: the Bakerloo, Jubilee and the Northen line (Charing Cross branch), and collectively Waterloo is reportedly the busiest in the UK and when combined with the nearby Waterloo East station, which is just a short stroll away and linked directly with Waterloo, it is the busiest complex in Europe.

Having worked in the vicinity for several years when at DirectGov in Lambeth, I have some familiarity with the surrounds and knew it to be a vibrant and colourful area, so I set off through the station exiting into Lower Marsh in a clockwise direction around the station. You can’t ignore the colour or the vibrancy of afternoon diners who buy from the myriad of street traders. Some notable landmarks are Cubana and Vaulty Towers.

Lower Marsh runs in a westerly direction towards Lambeth, but a detour through Leake Street reveals a hidden gem inspired by Bansky and now an authorised graffiti area where each day you’ll find new works of art often being created by the artists as you walk through, but be warned, the fumes can get quite intoxicating. This ‘street’ runs under the platforms of Waterloo station and also houses The Vaults, London’s home for immersive theatre and alternative arts.

Turning right into York Road, you are a stone’s throw away from the South Bank and all it’s entertainment in full view of the Thames and the London Eye. Continuing clockwise into Waterloo Road and pass the BFI IMAX and I’m led into the side streets past the Union Jack Club, which was founded by Ethel McCaul a Red Cross nurse over a 100 years ago ‘…to provide non-commissioned services and former members of the Armed Forces and their families a comfortable and friendly base for their visits to London…’. Onto Waterloo East station, which  offers a vista of London’t continuing development looking west and north where an attractively clad student accommodation building, in Paris Gardens  looks as if it has a tower: it is in fact the top of 1 Blackfriars development, one of many multi-purpose high rise complexes shaping London’s skyline of the 21st Century.

I walk into the main Waterloo station from Waterloo East platform to explore the underground, and whilst taking a series of photos to best showcase the Jubilee line walkways, I’m invited by a couple of Manchester United fans (I think on their way to the mid-week West Ham game) to take their pictures. As a hardened Liverpool supporter, we had some good-natured banter, but I’m fulfilling a promise to give them a ‘shout out’ in return for posting their picture – nice to meet you Vik!

The experience though highlighted how modern travelling and photography has made the digital age so accessible as within minutes of taking the picture, I was able to upload the picture to my phone (built in wifi on the camera) and email the picture using one of the underground’s several wi-fi service providers. I appreciate this advancement may not be for everyone, but the expectation of ‘always on internet access’ continues to grow. Emerging out of the underground to complete my journey, I’m reminded of the Elephant at Waterloo sculpture and now decide to research why it’s there. I leave you to follow the link above and to its sculptor – Kendra Haste.

Emerging back out into Waterloo Road to complete the clockwise route around the station, I pass the redeveloped LCC Fire Brigade Station Waterloo and cross the road to Emma Cons Gardens and complete my tour by chatting with the proprietor of a roadside coffee stall, and the stall manager for The Garden Shack plant stall opposite The Old Vic.

For more info, look up Waterloo on Wikipedia

Picture of the Day

This is one of many graffiti/artworks on display in Leake Street, also known as the Graffiti Tunnel or the Banksy Tunnel. For those unfamiliar with the area, don’t feel intimidated, but take a walk through the cavernous underground space under Waterloo Station. The street runs from Lower Marsh Street through to York Road where the smell of spray paint lingers in the air and is one of the homes of legal street art in London.

I can guarantee the images change frequently. I’ve chosen this as my picture of the day as a representation of what’s on view here. It’s vibrancy and scale draws me in, but to be honest I could have chosen any of the images I’d captured. If it inspires you to go take a look, then that’s good.

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ4; Shutter Speed – 1/60; Focal Length – 25mm; Film Speed – ISO3200; Google Photo Filter – Palma

Social Media

YouTube, Instagram, Google Photos, Triptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story