Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Harpers blog - neighbourhood pub restores Croydon's pride

Published:  25 August, 2011

A tale of riots, community spirit and hundreds of yellow post-it notes:

When you tell someone you live in Croydon you usually find yourself following up the statement pretty quickly with: "It only takes 16 minutes to get to London from the train station". In fact, you'll spout just about anything in your eagerness to justify why you chose to live in a place with such a bad reputation for gang crime and ugly architecture.

But as of Monday, August 8, when the devastating riots swept across the borough, I'm a reformed Croydonite - no more will I claim the town's one and only benefit is fast transport links to the capital. Thanks to those very gangs of uneducated yobs that once made me ashamed to live there, I will now proudly stand up for Croydon and everything that it has to offer - green spaces, great amenities, traditional watering holes, cultural diversity and a fierce community spirit.

It has taken a night of violence and a neighbourhood pub to show me the truth about the wonderful place I live in.

For anyone living in Croydon during the looting, riots and arson, it was impossible not to feel threatened by the vandalism and criminality escalating right on their doorstep. From my front door, the deafening sound of circling police helicopters and ominous grey clouds of billowing smoke were stark signs of the civil unrest happening just minutes down the road. And as hooded, rowdy youths harbouring suspicious bulks under their dark clothing trooped past my road in an attempt to escape the boiling point of West Croydon's London Road, the appalling scenes being broadcast on TV news stations suddenly seemed very real.

The next morning brought commuters on the way to East Croydon station face to face with the devastation wreaked across the city with burnt out, charred shells of buildings and pavements strewn with broken glass. Later that day as the brave and radically strengthened police force poured in the town, businesses barred up their doors and Croydon went into lock-down. These were pretty bleak scenes for a place already suffering with an image problem.

But while council leaders predict it will take up to two years to rebuild Croydon, one neighbourhood pub is taking massive strides to mend the hate-filled destruction of the town.

At the high street's Green Dragon, hundreds of yellow post-it notes filled with reasons why people love Croydon completely obscure the pub's three large front windows. Having built up over the past two and a half weeks, the messages are ones of encouragement and optimism, with locals extolling the virtues of Croydon's shops, music scene, nightlife and even the trams. Reading them is cockle-warming stuff.

With local boozers the heart of today's modern society, nowhere is it more appropriate to encourage such camaraderie and community spirit. This is a pub that's proud of its local area and in tune with its punters. Hats off to the Green Dragon and the picture of hope and pride it has painted in these bleak times.

Laura Clark is features editor on Harpers Wine & Spirit