South London is getting a brand new music festival this spring as Cro Cro Land takes over Croydon for the very first time. The festival will be a celebration of indie music, with the likes of The Lovely Eggs, Blood Red Shoes and Sisteray on the bill. We spoke to the organisers, Julia Woollams and Angela Martin to find out how it’s all come together.
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
Julia: We live together in Croydon, about 5 minutes walk from East Croydon Station. We run the Croydonist – a cultural blog about the area promoting all the cool and quirky stuff there is on offer, so I could obviously go on and on about what we like about the area. The short version is that it’s great to live somewhere that’s so diverse – people, activities, environment – you walk one way and you’re in the middle of modernist skyscrapers and urban art, you walk the other and you’re in green spaces, with rolling hills and wild deer. It’s never boring.
Why did you decide that now was the time for Cro Cro Land?
Angela: Croydon is one of those places that’s forever evolving – think back to the 60s and 70s when there was a huge amount of architecture going up in the town. Jamie Reid (of Sex Pistols fame) campaigned against the regeneration then with his political paper the Suburban Press. Fast forward fifty years and Croydon’s in a huge time of change again with many new buildings joining our skyline. We had been talking about the festival idea with some of our collaborators for a while, and now seemed like a perfect time to bring about a musical change too – to bring guitar bands back to the birthplace of punk. Back in the day, the famous Greyhound Club used to be on every band’s tour schedule so we’ve made it our mission to put Croydon back on the map for touring bands. Diversifying the current local music scene is important, especially when more people are moving to the borough.
Putting on a festival is no mean feat – how have you found the experience so far? Has there been any big surprises?
Julia: We are pretty used to wearing various different hats – designer, marketing consultant, musician, blogger – but it feels like we’ve now opened our own milliners to keep all our ‘festival organiser’ hats in order! Just today I went from a meeting to discuss our youth mentoring scheme with our charity partner Lives Not Knives to the festival venue to help measure up for our stage backdrops!
Biggest surprise (and it’s really rather a nice one) is getting funding from the Arts Council and Croydon Council. We’d filled in our application over Christmas thinking we didn’t stand a chance, so when Paul from the culture team at the Council phoned with the news we were rather speechless (not usually the case for us).
We love that you’ve made gender equality a key part of the festival, do you think the industry as a whole is doing enough to address the imbalance on line-ups?
Angela: I think it’s gradually changing, helped tremendously by the PRS Foundation’s Keychange initiative, who are aiming for gender balance in festival bills by 2022. It’s an incredibly ambitious target, being their stats show that just two years ago in the UK, women made up a mere 26% of the line-up in a sample of large music festivals. However there are well over 100 festivals both in the UK and overseas now signed up to create a 50:50 bill, so perhaps it can be done. More of the mega festivals still need to get involved and set an example to truly make it the norm. It’s not just PRS pushing things forward. Women are joining together across the UK to make some pretty amazing things happen, from music events to teaching the young how to play the drums. It’s a really inspirational time to live, that’s for sure and so we just really wanted to stand up and try to make a difference too.
Describe your perfect day in London.
Julia: It would have to start with brunch at home – Angela does the best poached eggs and avocado. Then we’d ease into the day with a stroll round one of our local green spaces. Now our daughter can toddle we could try a walk back at one of our favourite pre-parent haunts – Addington Hills. The woodland has fantastic views of the London skyline (as well as the Croydon one), with beautiful yellow gorse and heather. Plus Lilly the dog loves to trundle through the leaves. It always feels rather magical when we visit.
Afterwards we’d probably grab a quick bite to eat at Boxpark (Oatopia is my current go-to for their veggie bagels) before heading into zone 1 to catch an exhibition (Hayward, Tate Modern or Wellcome Collection perhaps). If we can persuade one of our best mates to head home with our daughter to babysit, maybe we’d stay central for a glass (or two) of wine in Gordons, and if we’re there it would be rude not to partake in some olives and their cheese board, before a walk back over a moonlit Thames to Waterloo station, to head back home.