Dance, art, music, drama and more: Croydonites returns with its biggest ever programme

“Trollied” Pic: Lukasz Izdebski 

Innovative theatre festival Croydonites returns for the 6th year in a row with its biggest ever programme of experimental drama, performance, dance, art and music.

This year’s edition also marks Croydon being selected as the 2023 London Borough of Culture, which empowers local arts and is one of the financiers of Croydonites, together with Croydon Council, the Arts Council of England, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Starting last week, Croydonites runs until November 18 and features 22 artists, over half of which are from Croydon, five local commissions and four seed commissions, designed to help emerging artists with a financial contribution of £300.

The festival’s first night opened at Fairfield Halls with “Hope Hunt” a solo performance choreographed by Oona Doherty and performed by Sati Veyrunes and “Trollied” by In Bed with My Brother, a provocative DJ set about the cost of living crisis.

“Hope Hunt” Pic: Lukasz Izdebski 

Croydonites founder, Anna Arthur, 53, who works as a contemporary dance producer, said that the idea for the festival came to her in 2014 after some local theatre projects in the area had collapsed.

“We have so much amazing theatre in London and none of it was coming to Croydon, so I thought maybe I should start something,” said Arthur.

“I feel like [Croydonites] should be the LIFT of South London.”

The audience at a Croydonites event Pic: Lukasz Izdebski 

Arthur told ELL that she would like Croydon residents and artists to see Croydonites as a “friendly face and an open door”.

Croydon-born Katie Hurley, 35, who joined Arthur in the planning of Croydonites in 2021, said that the main focus of the festival is to bring “high quality at our doorstep”.

“Every town should have its own experimental theatre festival,” said Hurley.

Hurley said that Croydon notoriously has a “bad reputation”, but Croydonites has helped build the local arts ecology.

Anna Arthur and Katie Hurley during the first night of Croydonites Pic: Ilenia Reale

Croydonites will continue its programme featuring dance performances like SLiDE’s “Unexpected Item” on November 9 and Aaron Baksh’s “Exodus” on Novemebr 10, as well as short works by emerging local artists as part of a project called Croydonbites on November 11. The festival will also showcase absurdist cabaret show “Patching things up” by Catherine Hoffman on November 17 and an improvised musical comedy experience by Abandoman on November 18.

Twenty four-year-old Katia KH Del Rio Smith, who is perfoming in Croydonites for the second year in a row, told ELL that they got many opportunities from Croydonites that helped their acting performance “Descent” take off.

“I think [Croydonites] is showcasing what’s here,” said KH Del Rio Smith, “Croydon is such a bright, vibrant, creative place, but not a lot of people know about it.

“Croydonites really is an opportunity to see all of these things, to put them on a platform, to give voices to people who don’t really have them.”

Sam van leer, 35, and Luke Rose, 25, came to attend the first night of the festival, not just as audience members but also as founders of Sessami, a ticketing platform created to support local events such as Croydonites.

“It’s a fantastic cause to support local theatre and up-and-coming artists,” said Rose.

“The whole reason we do what we do for ticketing is that events like this will disappear if we don’t support them and push people towards them,” said van leer, “Some people don’t realise how great stuff can be on their doorstep.”

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