An urban farmer who grows mushrooms in shipping containers using coffee grounds is one of three winners of a competition looking for ways that unused Croydon subways could be used differently.
Andrew Dickinson, who owns the Urban Mushroom Farm, won £500 in the Reimagine Croydon Subways Competition and a potential opportunity for his scheme to be developed.
The competition sought to find the public’s best ideas for the renovation of six unused subways in the borough’s town centre – Minster, Old Town roundabout, Park Lane Gyratory, Addiscombe Road, Lansdowne Road and Segas House.
Dickinson’s idea would use waste from coffee shops to grow oyster mushrooms, that would then be sold to local restaurants and cafes.
Dickinson, whose business is currently at Old Town/Reeves Corner said: “I was pleased to be a finalist and I’m delighted to win my category as I really believe this is the best, sustainable, long-term use of the subways. Naturally, the idea is untested, but I feel confident it will work.
“My belief is that the farms can happen all over Croydon district centres as there are a plethora of cafes producing tonnes of waste coffee grounds annually, which is too good to waste but is thrown away.
“In Croydon’s interesting history we have had the production of saffron, woad, poppies, lavender, beer and now I want oyster mushrooms added to the list.”
The other winners were Abigail Watts-Cherry, who proposed Croydon Lives – a pop-up restaurant, street art gallery, running-track, underground cinema and themed market and Gemma who proposed Drone Races – a competitive location for drone races. Watts-Cherry also won £500 and Gemma won £500 for a charity, community fund or their school.
Croydon in the 1960s prioritised vehicle travel, which led to the creation of pedestrian subways in its town centre. Whilst new crossings are replacing subway usage and there is an ongoing demand for space in the borough, the council have been on a mission to find ways to reuse public spaces from the public themselves.
The competition’s runner-up, Wesley Baker, proposed a mural called, Croydon Talents, displaying Croydon’s inspirational figures from the past and present.
Baker told us: “I decided if I had the chance, instead of joining in with the negativity, I’d put those people on walls for the pubic to see. Hopefully young people would see it and being from the same area meant they too could strive to achieve their goals.
“We’re going through a lot of investment to redevelop the town centre but the image of being a concrete jungle plagued by crime remains in the mindset of some people. I hope as well as honouring the achievements of people from Croydon, the mural would serve as a way of creating a positive feeling towards the borough… we are lucky to have fellow residents of the 2023 borough of culture”
Before the judging panel of council officers selected the winners, the submissions of 13 shortlisted entries were initially displayed outside Fairfield Halls and Croydon Clocktower, and the public were asked to comment on the ideas.
See winning ideas as well as the shortlisted submissions here.