With Blur and Stormzy on their CVs, Lewisham and Croydon bid for Borough of Culture

Street art in Croydon. Pic: Jordan Lane

The race is on! Lewisham and Croydon are competing to win their bids for London Borough of Culture for 2021 and 2023, respectively.

The Title Award, worth up to £1.35 million, “is intended to shine a light on the character and diversity of London’s boroughs and reinforce the message that culture is for everyone.”

The funding is to be spent on a programme of events across the year, celebrating local musicians, artists, actors, and more.

There are also three ‘Cultural Impact Awards‘ “given to boroughs for exemplary individual projects highlighted in their applications.” For 2018 and 2019, these awards ranged from £40,000 to £233,000.

‘The Green Man’ statue in Deptford. Pic: Jordan Lane

Lewisham faces two competitors for 2021; the boroughs of Hounslow and Royal Greenwich both submitted bids ahead of the October deadline.

Lewisham councillor André Bourne, cabinet member for culture, jobs and skills, said: “From Buster Mantis and the Albany in the north of the borough, the Model Market in central Lewisham, the new Catford Mews cinema in the centre, to the restored Fellowship and Star in the south, every single area in our borough has a unique pocket that has something for everyone.”

“Lewisham is such a diverse borough and that diversity is our strength. There is a community spirit here that is authentic and not found anywhere else in London. We deserve to win this bid and showcase our talent across London and beyond. Now is our time.”

The competing bid from Royal Greenwich drew media attention when it was hand-delivered to City Hall by more than 120 people from the borough.

But, in Lewisham’s favour is a cultural scene with a particularly rich history. Well-known cultural figures with links to the borough include Jude Law, Alexander McQueen, Spike Milligan, Gary Oldman, Ginger Baker, Sid Vicious, Candice Carty-Williams, Martin Rowson, and even Jimi Hendrix, who lived in Hither Green for a stint in 1966.

Damon Albarn played the Rivoli Ballroom in 2014.

Lewisham is also home to Goldsmiths, University of London, famous as the birthplace of the Brit Art movement and where artists such as Anthony Gormley and Damien Hirst studied; other alumni include punk pioneer Malcolm McLaren, Bridget Riley, Mary Quant and Lucian Freud. In recent years it has sponsored the annual Goldsmiths Prize for literature and also developed a reputation for music, with alumni such as Damon Albarn, who formed Blur at the college, and chart stars Katy B and James Blake.

Even the New York Times have called the area “hip”.

A mural in Croydon with the Ashcroft Theatre behind. Pic: Jordan Lane

For the 2023 competition, Sutton is the only borough challenging Croydon’s bid.

Croydon Councillor Oliver Lewis, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, told the Sutton and Croydon Guardian: “We have been working with a huge range of artists, organisations and venues, locally and nationally, to create new performance spaces and partnerships across our borough.”

Croydon’s cultural scene has also been bolstered by icons including Stormzy, Kate Moss, Krept and Konan, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler and Loyle Carner.

Loyle Carner performing in Germany. Pic: Nicolas Völcker

When asked for comment on the strength of the pools, the Mayor of London’s press office declined as they are currently considering the bids.  

Sadiq Khan will announce the winners of both 2021 and 2023 competitions in January 2020.

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