Croydon reveals a big, bold and cross-cultural programme for its year as London Borough of Culture 2023, and everyone is welcome.
Grassroots talent, unsung cultural heroes, young people and disability led productions take centre stage in Croydon’s change-making year as The Mayor of London’s London Borough of Culture. The schedule includes:
- Oratorio of Hope, a brand-new commission led by London Mozart Players and Grammy nominated and Croydon educated Tarik O’Regan showcasing the very best of Croydon’s young talent through music, spoken word, song, dance, film and visual art
- A range of exciting events including the Music Heritage Trail and exhibition, the first ever play about Croydon’s pioneering Black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and – in the borough that spawned the likes of grime legend Stormzy and Mercury and BRIT nominated star Loyle Carner- Croydon will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop with a range of events
- London’s well-loved Pollock’s Toy Museum popping up in the Whitgift Centre after being forced to close earlier this year
- Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra, returning to the UK for the first time in 20 years for a special concert
- Liberty Festival in September which kicks off a season of cutting-edge events and new work led by and with D/deaf and disabled people including SoDaDa’s cabaret; ZooCo’s The Nightshift; and Savvy Theatre’s Stepping Stones performance
London Borough of Croydon has today (Tuesday 14 March) unveiled highlights of the striking and surprising projects that are going to showcase the very best of Croydon’s diverse and dynamic home-grown talent in its year as The Mayor of London’s London Borough of Culture.
This is Croydon marks a year of celebrations from April 2023 until March 2024 putting Croydon’s unique identity, diverse communities, heritage, culture and creativity front and centre.
Created, directed and presented by the people of the borough through a grassroots up model, This is Croydon hopes to enable positive change and inspire people from all communities to take part in a rich and inclusive programme of events. Reflecting Croydon’s youthful vitality and creative spirit, as one of London’s youngest boroughs, Croydon’s young people will have the chance to take part and lead in new projects, while a rich heritage programme brings stories of Croydon’s communities to the fore.
This is Croydon is being delivered through a unique collaboration between the cultural organisations and people of the borough in partnership with Croydon Council.
The London Borough of Culture programme is a flagship cultural policy from the Mayor of London, and is supported with further funds from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund.
This is Croydon will offer excellence through multiple art forms – from classical music to hip-hop, from dance to spoken word, from original stage productions to street festivals, to which everyone, and every Londoner, is invited.
This is Croydon opens on 1 April 2023 with Oratorio of Hope at Fairfield Halls, a brand-new commission led by world-acclaimed chamber orchestra London Mozart Players. Involving over 250 of the borough’s young singers and instrumentalists, the composition is led by Grammy nominated and Croydon educated Tarik O’Regan, recently commissioned by His Majesty The King to compose new pieces of music for the Coronation.
Croydon’s poet laureate Shaniqua Benjamin takes a lead on the poetry and spoken word to share stories of hope for the future, while the choreography is led by Agudo Dance Company, alongside Subrang Arts and local young people (Fairfield Halls, 1-2 April 2023).
Uncovering hidden histories
This is Croydon invites visitors to discover Croydon as the birthplace of originals and a hotbed of pioneers, revealing hidden histories. April sees the opening of Caribbean Influencers, a new exhibition developed by Museum of Croydon together with National Portrait Gallery, artist Kyam (Camara Pinnock), Poet Laureate Shaniqua Benjamin and local volunteers Citizen Researchers. The free exhibition explores the stories and influence of Croydon residents who have shaped Croydon through their Caribbean roots but are often uncredited or underrepresented, including the Met’s first female Black police officer Sislin Fay Allen, professional boxers and brothers Clinton and Duke McKenzie and composer Ken Burton.
Another historic Croydon resident and the first Black British recipient of an English Heritage Blue Plaque, composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, inspires Black British theatre company Talawa’s new production Recognition, premiering in June. Talawa will also be highlighting unsung heroes of the area with a new initiative, Our Croydon. This collaboration with the Croydon Museum of Croydon, supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund, will amplify stories of historical, recent and current figures of African Caribbean heritage who are either from or have lived in Croydon. Our Croydon will begin with a call out to participants, training on how to research, developing stories in collaboration with artists, and will culminate in local and online exhibitions.
London’s most historic toy museum, Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust, which was forced to close its central London home due to escalating costs this year, will be popping up in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon in 2023. Inspired by the London Borough of Culture, the museum will be bringing highlights from the historic London toy collection to local locations, exploring Croydon’s toy making history, and hosting an exciting programme of events.
Music runs deep in the DNA of Croydon and This is Croydon celebrates the music legacy of the borough, which birthed the cutting-edge sounds of punk, dubstep, grime and drill. This is Croydon will be marking the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop as well as embracing its wider music heritage through a new trail app, plaques, gigs and exhibitions. Highlighting the importance of Croydon to music and music to Croydon, Music Heritage Trail celebrates the rich history of music making in the borough , which spawned the likes of grime legend Stormzy, dubstep pioneers Skream and Benga, punk legends The Damned, and Mercury Prize Album of the Year nominee Loyle Carner.
Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra also returns to the UK for the first time in 20 years for a special concert as part of Fairfield’s International Symphony Concert Series.
Croydon’s extraordinary diversity – of ages, races, cultures and religions – has given rise to a creative scene defined by its variety, from world-famous names to the grassroots. Bringing communities together will be a number of festivals – from large-scale events such as Croydon Pride, Croydon Mela, and the London Road Carnival, through to community and on street festivals, such as the Surrey Street Festival of music and food, Croydon Food Festival, and Purley Community Festival.
Showcasing dance is for everyone, inclusivity champions Stanley Arts host Commons: A Dance Festival, spanning across two joyful weeks of workshops, parties and dance, all celebrating the glorious diversity of dance with performances by BirdGang, Akademi, Thick and Tight and Juicy Couture. Stanley Arts joins forces with Bold Mellon Collective to bring the community together around dance with Queer Joy, an exciting and accessible showcase of multidisciplinary art work and live performances by emerging and early career LGBTQIA+ artists and community members exploring stories of underrepresented queer voices and their personal journeys.
Hip Hop dance company BirdGang immerse viewers in Multiverse, a new metaverse inspired performance, mixing dance, film, music and digital design, created with local people and produced and presented by Dance Umbrella.
Empowering young people
Croydon’s young people will have the chance to take part and lead in new projects. A new Climate Musical – Why on Earth? – inspires young people in the fight for climate justice and is a newly devised piece by students from The BRIT School, which we will be touring to schools across the borough encouraging environmental responsibility and creative engagement.
The original musical is a new production by current students of Croydon’s talent hothouse The BRIT School, whose alumni include Adele, Amy Winehouse, Cush Jumbo, FKA twigs, Gemma Cairney, Jessie J, Kae Tempest and Tom Holland.
Croydon’s homegrown and entirely artist- run art space Turf presents Desire Paths, participatory projects working with artists and young people to design community-driven solutions to town planning and the visual identity of Croydon.
A new Reuse Recycle Fashion Show created by apprentice designers led by Fashion Meets Music, will see workshop and pop-ups across central Croydon, while over 30 decorated giraffe sculptures hit the streets in Croydon as part of the Wild in Art Croydon Stands Tall mass participation arts programme, culminating with sculptures auctioned to support the charity CRISIS.
Disabled artist-led work
Liberty Festival comes to Croydon bringing a D/deaf and disabled artist-led programme of ground-breaking art and performance, interactive installations, workshops and debates for all, including SoDaDa’s cabaret; ZooCo’s The Nightshift; and Savvy Theatre’s Stepping Stones performance.
Savvy Theatre brings together eleven local community groups in a shared celebration of journey and transformation through a new show Stepping Stones, whose cast includes people who are disabled or have experienced homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues.
Architecture and urban environment
Croydon’s history of innovation and modernity will be brought to life by The Festival of Invention in South Norwood and through opening up heritage sites and iconic buildings, like Croydon Airport and Old Palace, as part of Open House and Heritage Open Days.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:
“Croydon has a rich history of creativity, diversity and talent, and I’m delighted that this will be reflected through a huge range of inspiring art and performances in their year-long programme as my London Borough of Culture. This is Croydon will be a spectacular celebration of the borough’s unique identity, heritage and character, bringing together communities and giving grassroots creativity the chance to shine. It will be a fantastic example of how culture can inspire and unleash the potential of the next generation as we build a better London for everyone.”
Jason Perry, Executive Mayor of Croydon, said:
“Croydon is home to so many fantastic communities and our year as London Borough of Culture is a chance to celebrate and showcase what makes our borough so special – our people. This is Croydon is unique in that it is truly community-led, developed by our amazing local cultural organisations working in partnership with the council, creating opportunities for residents of all ages, from our borough and beyond. We look forward to welcoming you to Croydon.”
Caterina Loriggio, Creative Consultant, Croydon London Borough of Culture, said:
“This is Croydon is going to be a year we can all be proud of. We hope the year of culture will not just inspire, excite, and engage, but also enable change. Croydon has always had our eye on the future and the London Borough of Culture is just the start of the next leg of that journey. Come with us. You are welcome.”