Recently, my step father shared with me an opportunity to win a retail space on Portland Road South Norwood, SE25. This happens to be the road I grew up on, from 3 weeks to 21 years old.
The competition hosted by Croydon Council is part of the regeneration of Croydon with the aim of attracting new business into the area to breathing life back into the once vibrant community of South Norwood SE25.
The deadline was 19th August 2016. Prior to the deadline I was able to go an visit the space and see what has changed since I relocated back in 2003.
I was excited to go and see how it had changed, especially after the Croydon riots on that fateful night of August 8, 2011. Croydon's reputation took a severe battering, and people have been trying to rebuild their lives and businesses ever since as fires, criminal damage and looting destroyed businesses and left livelihoods in tatters.
It was so sad to see Portland Road in the shape it is. It's has changed yet in some aspects it was the same. The way the sun hit the beams under the bridge on Portland Road gave me a sense of being home again, nostalgic and sentimental. Emerging the other side of the bridge was sad, the state of the shops, lots of them in desperate need of love and unused. The opticians I went to as a child was gone, O'Reilly's looks like a tornado hit it and my fav shop Andrews the Bakery is closed down; they made the best apple turnovers and current buns I have ever had!
I grew up above the shop at No 21 and saw businesses come and go all the time, the shops on that road were the backdrop to my childhood. Many moons ago my father owned a motor spares shop near Socca-Cheeta social club, so I have really deep roots here.
With only a few days to spare I put together a proposal and PowerPoint presentation of my plan submitted it and took a deep breath. My idea was shortlisted and have now been informed I have won one of the three retail spaces on offer, almost directly opposite my old front door!
So now my team and I hit the ground running, We want to create a gallery space the community can be part of and proud of. We will have guest artists showcasing the young talented artists Croydon has to offer at regular Private Views. Primary and secondary schools can come for visits and workshops and much more!
It is a very exciting time and I am so pleased to be able to contribute to the regeneration of Croydon and give something back to the community that helped shape and raise me and finally put Elizabeth James Art Ltd on the map, literally!