Verena and Lynn, The Brutalist Library SE25 Group (South Drawood exhibition)
- Year Invented: 2018
In November 2020, Croydon Council announced that they intended to close South Norwood Library, a locally listed building within the South Norwood Conservation Area. The nature of the conservation area is to protect special architectural and historical interests, including the brutalist library. Built in 1968, the library is unlike any other building in the locality. The architecture is familiar to any followers of the popular 1950s brutalist style. The pavement in front of the building was also made into a large mosaic in 2006, with workshops run by Mosaic Art for local school children and community members, showing how the library was once a centre point for the community. The council proposed to move the library to a smaller unit near Norwood Junction Station operating on a reduced service. Now as the future of the library is uncertain, and Verena and Lynn are fighting to keep the library alive.
Their action includes protesting, consultation meetings and petitioning to keep the library funded and sustainable. Libraries are fundamental parts of community life and the re-occurring theme of this exhibition is how the local residents do not want any more empty buildings and space going to waste. Verena believes maintaining the library is critical to the regeneration of South Norwood and making the area better for future residents.
Words by Elizabeth Walters
Interview with Verena, April 2022
Brutalist Library SE25
This project was part of the South Drawood exhibition in 2022 by artist Jonny Kemp. A community art project celebrating the people of South Norwood, SE25.
From autumn of 2021 to summer 2022, Jonny drew 40 portraits of independent business owners, volunteers, and other movers and shakers from South Norwood, his local area. His partner Lizzie interviewed them.
South Norwood is regenerating yet doesn’t want to gentrify: it wants to keep its character and support people who already live in the area to prosper. This was Jonny and Lizzie’s way of ‘giving South Norwood a hug’: by representing the diverse people of SE25 through portraits in fine liner pen, and their own stories.
The portraits were displayed in Stanley Arts, a beautiful Edwardian arts venue on South Norwood Hill. Over 150 people attended the opening night: Friday 29th July 2022.