We know how to throw a good party

Memories of festivals and parties in South Norwood, including the South Norwood Community Festival, arts festivals and the 1977 Silver Jubilee.

In this audio you can hear Richard and John.

This audio is 6 minutes and 35 seconds long.

Audio Transcript:  

Richard: Lots went on. There was some good times, 1977 when we had the Jubilee year, that was phenomenal. Somewhere along the lines, there’s a lady in Dixon Road who has photographs of the event from ‘77, and I was sent 2 or 3 photos taken out of a book by one of my customers who lives in Elm Park Road and, you know it blew me away because I remember it like it was yesterday. You know, that’s when community was mega strong.  They had a party in the street, they had a stage, Len Chatterton was a clown. He actually was a clown, he was called Koko the Clown and he went out and he did a little performance up there. Fancy dress, hats, music in the street. Then in the evening, they had a big party in which is the Baptist church on the corner of Oliver Avenue and Holmesdale Road, there used to be a church hall there. I remember a massive, massive, massive party. Everybody went, it was good, it was fun, it was exciting. And it’s really funny now that I have memories of kids being pushed down the road, sad to say, who are no longer with us now, you know.

John: There’s a road called Love Lane and there’s a green next to it and it was about 5 to 10 acres. That was our local park at the bottom of the street and we all used to, have events there and congregate there on nice days and stuff. There used to be an annual fair there where the police would turn up with some horses and do some displays, there’d be police dogs who jump through hoops and it was just a lovely sort of community fair.

Stan (Interviewer): What is it used for now?

John: It was compulsory purchased by the transport when the tram system was put in. So the tram runs straight through the middle of it to connect with a main train line that goes to Birkbeck station. They built a fence along the side of that to keep people off the railway but there is a small slip of grass along the side of it that people still use to grow plants and children play sometimes.

Richard: I was involved in the South Norwood Community Festival at the outset, the very first one in Station Road with John and a mob. South Norwood Arts Festival, (SNAF), which was something to do with People for Portland Road and I don’t know what’s happened to that organisation. But because they had a big event going on Woodside Green and they couldn’t afford to pay for the liability insurance and they were going to have to cancel it, I paid for it, you know.  So, at the end of the day, it was about community.

John: Nowadays I tend to organise more events than I play in. About 10, 12 years ago, I started the South Norwood Festival, and we blocked off Station Road and I booked some bands that were friend’s bands, and they’d come along and played for free. I think we organised the first South Norwood festival on a budget of £150. We borrowed, we ran extension leads to the shops, a lot of the restaurants we were allowed to use their toilets and the pubs on that on the road, one at each end were selling beer to people. There was a little building site next door and we took 100 crates, pallets and we built a makeshift stage, put a couple of gazebos on it and we borrowed my drum kit and some friend’s instruments and stuff and we had a lovely day. You know, about ten bands played there and they’d come along and they played for free and it was really good. 

John: We thought, you know, what can we do from here? After the second one on the street, after the second time we blocked off Station Road, we moved it to the South Norwood Recreation Ground, which is just across the road from here behind Samuel Coleridge-Taylor building and the church. That’s a lovely 15-acre park with grass and it was great. It’s so much better because on Station Road, everyone was sitting down on the road, on the tarmac. So, we thought, why don’t we move this to the park and we did. Nowadays I’ve got about ten other people, local, who help put the South Norwood Festival together with me.

Stan (Interviewer): And has that become an annual event?

John: It has yeah, yeah, it’s now an annual event and it’s the biggest event in Croydon. It’s grown and grown and grown and I think, July just gone we probably had 9,000, 10,000 people in the park over the road, over the day, yeah, it’s good. We have a nice big stage now, there’s about eight really good bands that play. Some of them are really well known in the local area. There were some really good rock bands, some really good reggae bands. One that goes down a storm every year is called ‘Reminisce’ reggae band. They’re really popular, everyone in Croydon loves that band. They do draw a quite a big crowd. I find about 4,000 or 5,000 people come along just to see Reminisce reggae band. 

South Norwood High Street Stories is funded by Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme delivered by Croydon Council. For more information visit www.croydon.gov.uk/southnorwood


Image Credit: Courtesy of ©South Norwood Community Festival

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