This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 11/06/2018.
A newcomer’s first impressions of Croydon
Identity has always been crucial to people and places. Formal identification is needed for individuals to travel, pay for goods and even to rent a library book. Places like airports and docks have names or codes that distinguish their locations from others. These are all very practical, mechanical aspects of the word.
But in a much more personal sense, an identity is a definition, a means of communicating one’s sense of self. This can be one’s personality, values, passions and goals, physical features, history, or whatever personal traits one feels defined by. These aspects are what make a person or place unique amongst the billions of people and places on the globe.
When I came to Croydon, one of my goals was to discover what this borough’s identity is. How has its past shaped its character and appearance today? What defining characteristics stand out visually and on a deeper level?
What does the future hold for this vibrant and intricate borough?
I arrived in East Croydon at the National Rail station, where I promptly got lost after following other passengers down a deserted staircase into a courtyard, missing the main entrance entirely. In my small escapade trying to find the main road, I had a chance to get an initial impression of Croydon’s physical attributes. My eyes were met with tall, imposing buildings both old and new, rows of stores and restaurants that seemed a mix of locally owned and chain companies, and once I found my way to the front of the station I was confronted with the stylish-yet-domineering Boxpark.
The people whom I passed were an eclectic mix as well. Some were dressed in professional wear, while other people wore casual street clothes while pushing pushchairs with their partners. I passed individuals of all ages and occupations walking around on a late Friday morning. I saw several homeless men and women sleeping near the train station.
Visually, Croydon was an intriguing, controversial enigma. There wasn’t a single ‘type’ of person or construction that I saw. I think that this says something for the diversity of life in the borough, a region that is geographically large and populous. This also speaks volumes about the culture of Croydon. Its history tells a story of struggle and poverty, while its present seems to demonstrate modern change and development. This makes me wonder, what does the future hold for this vibrant and intricate borough?
I felt a strong sense of pride and grit in the community members whom I spoke with
While the Croydon community has numerous physical differences, its personality and values form a common bond on a deeper level that seems to unite people. After visiting an area for the Thornton Heath Youth Open Day, I felt a strong sense of pride and grit in the community members whom I spoke with. Citizens of this borough are proud to call Croydon home. They care about their neighbours and their community with open hearts and determined minds.
It is this sense of home within the community that I believe rings true as Croydon’s identity. Physical descriptions provide a framework, but it is the people of Croydon who define the heart of the community’s character. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work in Croydon this summer and connect with the people who make this place their home.