Spotlight: Croydon Lives


5 Feb 18

We’ve held a number of incredible exhibitions at Boxpark Croydon; from icons in British music to vibrant, digital cities; fantastical portraits and the skate kids of Ethiopia, to name a few. This month, we’re proud to host a home grown project that gives a glimpse into the daily lives of the (extra)ordinary people of Croydon. We caught up with Lorraine Bridges, from Bare PR, to discuss how Croydon Lives came to be.

Tell us who you are and what you do.

I’m Lorraine Bridges the Director and Founder of Bare PR, a PR and marketing agency in Croydon. I’ve worked in the industry all my career and don’t think I could ever get bored by the creativity it offers. We work with clients all over the UK but mainly in London and the South/South East on everything from media relations, design, brand, video, social media and whatever people need for powerful PR.

How did the idea for the Croydon Lives exhibition come about?

It was a mixture of a few things – I’m going to try and not be too political here! The Grenfell Tower fire and then the General Election in 2017 had a big impact on me. They were two very different events, clearly, and one of unimaginable pain and loss. But the thing that struck me was the strength of voice, the voice of ordinary people who needed, and demanded, to be heard. It was a strong message, but a basic human message too. It’s a reminder that people don’t want to be passive recipients of big decisions that affect their lives, and their children and family’s future. If things are just ‘done to’ people they fight back, and rightly so. It was this ‘mood’ at that time that inspired me, and my own experiences in business.

Bare PR practices PR for social change, working within health, education, public bodies, arts, heritage, and so on. We’re lucky to meet people who give so much to their community all the time, they don’t see it as separate to their lives, it IS their life, it’s part of their being. It was this voice and these people we wanted to give a platform to.

We went about researching the community in more detail, looking at the census, demographical information and social and political research to see who we might include to represent the community.

How did photographer Yolande De Vries get involved in the project? 

We put a call out for local photographers telling them about the project and inviting people to come forward. We then shortlisted and spoke to photographers that got in touch. We picked Yolande not only for her obvious talent but because she showed sensitivity towards the project and a gentle charm which I really liked.

Why do you think it's so important to champion the ordinary people of Croydon in a time of change?

Croydon is undergoing real and rapid change, I’m not a historian but I would hazard a guess that this is a hugely significant period in its history. Progress is exciting, and necessary, but it’s important we don’t leave people behind, forget those who sowed the seeds and make up Croydon’s DNA. These people hold a very important a stake in its future.

How were the portraits selected for the final exhibition?

We took several shots of each individual and selected those that were true to the spirit of that person. The environment also played an important part, it had to be somewhere the individual went every day or frequently, so it was both representative of their life and a place where they could feel at ease. We also had to think of the portraits as a set so using complementary backgrounds in terms of subject, tone and colour.

What do you hope for the future of Croydon and its residents?

I would love Croydon to lead the way in innovative, healthy, urban planning and design. That’s a lot of words but essentially people of all ages and physical/mental health need living in shared housing with crèches, day centres, libraries/learning hubs at their centre. Anything that promotes wellbeing and reduces social isolation or segregation has got my vote and would nurture that great sense of togetherness Croydon does so well. More selfishly, would also like a more walking/ cycle friendly town centre with segregated cycle lanes – just come back from Barcelona and they’ve cracked it out there.

Finally, what is your favourite thing about Croydon?

I love the arts; dance, literature, film, visual arts, the works, and would have say the library is probably one of my favourite places – the David Lean Cinema, Museum of Croydon, art exhibitions, so much going on and we’re lucky to have that here.

That and the people getting on and making the community a better place at grass roots level - a labour of love that doesn’t go unnoticed.

Croydon Lives is a free exhibition running throughout February at Boxpark Croydon.