Friday, 4 March 2016

Progress at Council

Sometimes Local Government can feel like you are trying to turn the biggest super tanker around ever built. At other times it is agile, fast footed and takes both you and those around you by suprise.

We won the Council elections in June 2014 with a clear mandate to rebuild culture in Croydon. To put it at the heart of everything we do.

It may sound like a lefty love of the arts, it is, but it is also based on the logic that to make Croydon a successfull major town, it really must have a diverse offering of cultural as well as business and education opportunities.

For example the Council has been promising to refurbish the Fairfield Halls for 10 years. Lots of pretty pictures, millions spent on consultants reports, but never anything more than fine words. 

So lots has been taking place behind the scenes to change the direction of the tanker. All at the same time as the Government is directing local government to make huge cuts to public services. A delicate balancing act to protect the future of our town at the same time as dealing with the reality of savage cuts directed at local government.

Its been a wondeful few days as some of our plans are coming to fruition. The appointment of our New Culture Tsar, Paula Murray - borrrowed from our collegaues at Brighton & Hove city Council is one of those impressive appointments done quickly and without fuss by the Council that puts in place someone with enormous experience but also the ability and strategic ability to set in train our work over the next few years on Arts, Culture and Tourism.

To come in to a council which so publicly walked away from culture and the arts only a few years ago (Under the previous conservative administration) is a real challenge, but also an opportunity. Staff who work across the Council and who care passionately about culture, heritage, arts and the like once again have a senior staff member who will begin the process of putting back the strategic plans and making sure that, like Brighton & Hove, Culture in all of its guises is used and supported to help grow Croydon as a borough that is very much at ease with itself and has a wide variety of cultural offers to take advantage of.

Breaking the 10 years of Council broken promises with £30million restoration and refurbishment at the Fairfield Halls. 

One of the key issues that Paula will be leading on will be to ensure that the £30million Fairfield Halls restoration and refurbishment is delivered and meets our ambitions. With 16 years experience at Brighton & Hove, supporting and growing the renowned Brighton Dome & Festival, Paula brings the right mix to ensure we stay on track with our ambitious project.

It's certainly an exciting time for the arts and culture in Croydon. Much more is going on behind the scenes and I look forward to sharing developments as soon as possible with you.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Aldi South Norwood

We went to the new Aldi South Norwood this morning. We have been going there every week since it opened in the old Coop / Somerfield / Safeway, and have been impressed with its fresh food, helpful friendly staff and range.

I was intrigued with how much we save by shopping there so have just 'price compared' using Tesco online. 

Staggeringly we saved £21.55 vs Tesco!

Here are the figuers and how i worked it out: 

  • base price purchased in Aldi South Norwood 20 June 2015
  • compared with standard own brand label 
  • gram for gram (length for length etc) conversion carried out using Aldi as a base price
  • Tesco prices from 20 June 2015
  • only brand used was floor cleaner as Tesco don’t do own brand floor cleaner

item Tesco Aldi

nappies 7.2 6.79
Washing Tabs 2.62 2.29
Washing Tabs 2.62 2.29
Set Honey 1.45 1.35
Premiuim Conserve 1.5 0.99
Premiuim Conserve 1.5 0.99
Pink Salmon 1.44 1.09
Corned Beef 2 1.49
Corned Beef 2 1.49
Peanut Butter 2 1.49
Pink Salmon 1.44 1.09
Red Kidney Beans 0.55 0.23
Red Kidney Beans 0.55 0.23
Premium Baked Beans 1.2 1.15
4 pt Semi Milk 1 0.89
Floor Cleaner 2.3 0.65
Fabric conditioner 1.42 0.99
Cling film 2.25 0.99
Sec Salami 2 1.99
Pancetta 2.32 1.49
Pancetta 2.32 1.49
Chorizo 2.26 1.35
Ground coffee 2.62 1.79
Ground coffee 2.62 1.99
Extra Mature Cheddar 2.18 1.55
Extra Mature Cheddar 2.18 1.55
Italian Mozzarella 0.8 0.49
Greek Feta 1.35 0.95
Greek Feta 1.35 0.95
12 Large Free Range Eggs 2.25 1.75
Olive Spread 1 0.79
Olive Spread 1 0.79
Beef Mince 3.5 2.59
Beef Mince 5% 3.5 2.99
Fish Pie Mix 3.33 2.69
Chicken kieves 2 fresh 2.25 0.99
Smoked Mackerel Fillet 1.79 1.59
Courgettes 1 0.89
Conference Pears 2.21 1.59
vine Tomatoes 1 0.99
vine Tomatoes 1 0.99
Leeks 3 pack 1.8 0.89
Spring onions 0.49 0.39
Aubergine 0.5 0.45
Oranges small 0.98 1.09
Aubergine 0.5 0.45
Bananas 1kg 0.68 0.68
Lemons loose 0.3 0.29
Lemons loose 0.3 0.29
Lemons loose 0.3 0.29
Lemons loose 0.3 0.29
Plums 1 0.65

£88.02 £66.47 £21.55

Monday, 13 October 2014

Brenda Kirby

5 July 1945 - 28 September 2014

Brenda Kirby – a fantastic life

Brenda and Bob

Brenda Kirby was born on the 5 JULY 1945 in woking, moving back to Brixton shortly after the war. Brenda met her Husband Bob while working for the overseas telegraph service. They were both working permanent nights and used to spend their break time at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club. As Brenda pointed out to me, it was where the more interesting people worked!

Brenda married Bob on 29 May 1965 and moved to their first house in Upper Norwood. They soon moved to Frimley Close In New Addington, before finally settling in their long term family home on Shaxton Crescent in 1973.

After bringing up her two children, Brenda went to University and obtained a Teaching Degree. Her teaching career took her to Kentwood School where she taught remedial before moving on to be head of Drama at Ravensbourne.

Brenda passed away in the care of Mayday Hospital on Sunday 28th September 2014.
Anyone who has known Brenda in almost any capacity will know that she was definitely not an island. More often than not she would be referred to as ‘Bob and Brenda’ . Two very different people, yet incredibly close and supportive of one another. So the story of Brenda is inextricably linked to her husband Bob. It is this remarkable support that enabled Brenda to achieve so much.

The last four years / The last 24 years

To understand Brenda’s contribution to New Addington and to Croydon, we have to understand that Brenda has had to live with complicated Health issues since 1990 when she was diagnosed with what she named ‘Smudge’ –

Smudge lived in the back of Brenda’s brain as a dark mark on scans. This led to her often being too dizzy to stand, let alone drive. This led to Brenda changing her lifestyle in order to cope, but Brenda being Brenda, and with the care and attention of her Husband, Bob, she managed to work on improving her own health sufficiently to be well enough to continue her community work.  It was typical of Brenda how she turned what could be a devastating medical condition into a warm and friendly sounding being with its own name.

Smudge was an integral part of Brendas personality for many years.

So it would be a common experience to find Brenda Chairing a board meeting of the Warehouse Theatre either sitting on the floor in the corner of the room or lying completely flat on her back on the floor. I must admire her Chairing skills and ability to keep the likes of myself, Eddy Arram, Martin Tiedemann and Ted Craig in order while being completely out of sight. I challenge anybody here to try chairing a meeting in this way!

It was in 2010 that Brenda was diagnosed with Brain and Lung Cancer. Brenda, of course, tackled her new diagnosis in the way that Brenda tackled any issue. Calmly and courageously. It is testament to Brenda that she managed to beat Cancer for over 4 years.

Giving all of us 4 more years to enjoy Brendas company.  
4 more years with her precious husband Bob
4 more years for Brenda to see her grand children grow up as well.
4 more years for Brenda to campaign and fundraise for the Cancer Care Centre

A Strong Family

Bob and Brenda built and supported a strong family unit.

There was nothing Brenda enjoyed more than the whole family being together whether that was at Christmas, a landmark party or simply a lunch together at home. There was always much laughter, and usually a glass or two of red wine. These occasions always promoted Brenda to use her family catchphase which was “I am so lucky”.

It is these memories that will sustain Bob, their children Erika and Clifford, son in law Alan, daughter in law Vicky and grandchildren George, Barney and Ashleigh in the difficult times ahead.

Community of New Addington

Bob and Brenda have lived in New Addington for 45 years. In that time they have taken part in many aspects of community life. Brenda served as a school governor, as manager of Goldcrest Youth Centre and co-founded the New Addington Little League football competition. 

After her diagnosis in 2010 it would have been entirely understandable if Brenda had decided to spend more time with her much loved family or travelled the world, but that isn’t the Brenda we all know and love. And so it was that New Addingtons own Champion Brenda Kirby  realised that New Addington had a gap in service provision and wanted to share the help that she had received from the cancer help centre in Purley to her own community.

Brenda reached out to many people to make the Cancer Care Centre happen, including key New Addington Figures of Ken Sherwood, Tony Rowland and Rowland Brothers, George Ayres, Jacquie, Anne, Chris and many other stakeholders. Using her own name for the centre was a great way to generate interest and exploit good will. Something that on this occasion, Brenda was willing to do to ensure that the centre got off the ground. Thanks to New Addington Baptist Church, that centre became a reality. Brenda was so delighted at the support and assistance that they willing gave to the whole community.

Of course, making the ask of peoples time and money is always difficult, but it would be amiss of me not to use such an opportunity to remind you that that centre needs your support in money and time and I think it is the very best memorial that we can all make is to ensure that the Brenda Kirby Cancer Care Centre keeps going and keeps serving the people of New Addington. 

Politics / Civic Life

Brenda was always a larger than life Character. You could find Brenda in a crowd by her bright red hair and her amazing laugh.  Civic life can often be dull as dishwasher, discussing the need to clean the streets or tackle anti social behaviour. These are vital things to discuss, and vital to get right, but they don’t change peoples lives. They don’t inspire hope. They don’t lift aspiration. 

Brenda like all Councillors would undertake her large caseload with vigour and passion for every single case, but it was the excitement about changing people and places for the better that excited Brenda.

Just like in her teaching career where Brenda worked on Special Needs and Drama, at the Council Brenda was at her very best and most excited by what she could help achieve for people and for New Addington and the borough of Croydon.

At her best when advocating for New Addington.

At her best when making sure that New Addington got its fair share from the Council and from others.

And so when Brenda became Mayor of our borough in 2004 it was both a huge honour for her and so very exciting. The joy that Brenda took from meeting countless voluntary groups, charities and attending events was immense. Every day Bob accompanied Brenda on her official engagements and every day he took a photo of her to try and remember every precious day of that year.

It was also typical of Brenda that she kept her eye on the public purse, and so I joined Brenda on a task group to ensure that the Mayor’s council budget was properly looked after and used for the purpose it was intended.


Brenda was so very proud when she was awarded her MBE in 2010 for services to New Addington. The citation sits proudly in her living room along with photographs from that day.
For Brenda it was an award for New Addington as much as for her self.  

Key to Brenda being awarded this honour was Angela from New Addington. Angela was determined that Brenda would receive an award for her work in helping people in New Addington and so she took it upon herself to write to the Queen, more than once, asking the Queen to recognise Brendas work for New Addington. And so it came to pass, and Brenda collected her award from the Queen.

For Brenda, her greatest achievement in her civic life was representing New Addington.


Brenda was always Ambitious for Culture in Croydon and she was always closely associated with it. From supporting the New Addington Peoples Day to shaping the success of the Croydon Summer festival and World Party. Brenda was involved in a myriad of organisations and activities.

Brenda served as Deputy Cabinet Member for Culture in the first Labour Council between 2002 and 2003 working alongside Raj Chandarana as Cabinet Member – This she was thrilled to do as it drew together her love for Culture, the Arts and Croydon borough.  She loved doing this role because it extended her own knowledge into new areas of the portfolio including Sports and Parks.

It was Brenda that asked me to become a Director of the Warehouse Theatre. The theatre was a passion for Brenda and something that she evangelised for and understood. Brenda, as many of us can testify to could never believe why the borough Council didn’t take the potential that the Warehouse Theatre gave our borough and run with it, to grow it into a significant and exciting powerhouse as a producing theatre, encouraging and growing young people and giving hope and aspiration to our communities. We should all be Ambitious for Culture in Croydon because it strengthens communities and it grows ambition, education and hope in individuals.

Brenda was a regular reader of plays submitted to the Warehouse Theatres International Playwriting Festival. It was a joy to be at this years Playwriting Festival with Brenda at the Fairfield Halls.

Such is Brenda and Bobs love of theatre and culture, their Hall and Stairs are themed with framed Theatre Posters and vintage copies of ‘Plays and Players’. At every opportunity Brenda wished to be surrounded by and reminded of her love of culture.

And so to close I pay tribute to my dear friend Brenda, we will all miss you greatly, but we in turn are grateful that you are now at peace.

Let her work in New Addington and Croydon be an inspiration to participation in Voluntary and Civic Life.

The world would surely be a brighter and more hopeful place if we all could adopt even a small amount of Brenda’s unfaltering optimism and work ethic towards ensuring that all people deserve equal respect and opportunities.



I read the above at Croydon Minster as the Eulogy to Brenda Kirby at her Funeral on Wednesday 8th October 2014. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Time to rebuild cultural wasteland created by Croydon Tories

 Time to rebuild cultural wasteland created by Croydon Tories

 This article was first published on Inside Croydon on May 16th 2014


VOTE 2014: TIMOTHY GODFREY, Croydon Labour’s arts and culture spokesman, says that encouraging culture, instead of axing its funding, is possible and can be done

Part of the publicly owned Riesco Collection which the Tory-run council has flogged off. What has happened to the proceeds?
Part of the publicly owned Riesco Collection which the Tory-run council has flogged off. What has happened to the proceeds?

Art and culture have a civilising influence on us all. They bring people together, they help to build stronger communities. They help people understand and belong. When business leaders are asked what attributes they look for when locating offices and jobs, they regularly cite two things: education and culture. When communities fracture, it is through culture and arts that people begin to fix and come to an understanding.

More than ever, Croydon needs a vibrant cultural scene. Yet we now have a cultural offering that has gone backwards maybe as much as 50 years. It was in 1962 that the Fairfield Halls opened and it was 1977 that the Warehouse Theatre opened. It was in 1995 that the Croydon Clocktower complex opened, including the David Lean Cinema, a purpose-built borough exhibition gallery, museum and brand new Riesco Gallery to house the prized Chinese ceramics collection alongside a state-of-the-art Central Library, which would become the busiest and best-used public library in Britain for several years.

The Clocktower developed an award-winning education service and secured a venue development grant of £100,000 a year from the Arts Council.
Croydon was on the road to an improved cultural offering, supported by all sides of politics, as Labour took control of the borough for the first time in May 1994.
It wasn’t until 2006, when the Conservatives took control of our borough council again, that the arts stopped progressing. The past eight years has brought a sustained and prolonged attack on the arts and culture in our town.

In 2005, nearly a decade ago, the then Labour-run council signed a deal with a developer to fully refurbish the Fairfield Halls. Designs were drawn up by renowned architect Richard Rogers.
Croydon's Tories have repeatedly promised to refurbish the Fairfield Halls, but have never delivered on those promises
Croydon’s Tories have repeatedly promised to refurbish the Fairfield Halls, but have never delivered on those promises

Before the 2006 local elections, the Conservatives promised to refurbish the Fairfield Halls. Once elected, they cancelled the scheme.

Before the 2010 local elections, the Conservatives in Croydon made another promise about the Fairfield Halls, this time to £10 million immediately to bring them up to date.
In less than one week’s time, there will be another set of local elections, and the Conservatives in Croydon have this time around pledged to spend £34 million of public money to overhaul the Fairfield Halls building. Over the last eight years, they have spent tens of thousands of pounds of Council Tax-payers’ money to pay the fees of expensive consultants, but very little has been achieved in catching up on a huge backlog of maintenance or making significant improvements to the Fairfield Halls.

Elsewhere, the Conservative-run council decided to close down the Warehouse Theatre in the middle of a production targeting ethnic minority audiences. A decision that marked the end of any pretence of keeping a diverse arts offering in our borough.
The Croydon Clocktower arts complex has also come under sustained attack. Not only did the council walk away from a £100,000 Arts Council grant when it was about to be renewed for a further term, but they also closed down an energetic arts education programme that ran a broad range of activities from “Club Soda” through to masterclasses in film. The Tories have also closed down our purpose-built borough gallery. It had been built to provide up to date security so it could host valuable exhibits of note., such as works by Picasso in the opening exhibition.
The Conservatives closed down the David Lean Cinema. Fortunately, the independent Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign was relentless and finally – just weeks before the local elections – allowed to “hire” the venue to show films once again. In the meantime, with no income from screenings or bar receipts, the Council Tax-payers have been picking up the tab to keep the unused cinema secure for the past three years.

Any enlightened council would have worked with the David Lean campaigners immediately to run the cinema on a permanent footing. The idea of a David Lean Cinema Film Society running that side of the complex is one that should still be taken forward.

The grave stone of Raymond Riesco, in St Mary's churchyard, Addington. Locals have reported hearing a spinning sound coming from the vicinity in recent weeks after the council flogged part of his porcelain collection
The grave stone of Raymond Riesco, in St Mary’s churchyard, Addington. Locals have reported hearing a spinning sound coming from the vicinity in recent weeks after the council flogged part of his porcelain collection

The Conservatives also ended the Croydon Summer Festival, world party and Mela. Events that brought communities together and gave Croydon a high-profile across the London music and culture scene. It is unthinkable that a town of Croydon’s significance doesn’t have a summer festival.
The attack on our cultural heritage has continued, with the sale of a large part of the Riesco Collection. You know an administration is morally bankrupt when it sells its cultural assets that have been left in trust for the people of your borough.

To me, that is why the Conservatives can never be trusted in Croydon ever again.
How would a Labour-run council be different? Three years ago I highlighted that the council spent 44.78 per cent of its culture budget on back office services, such as lawyers, accountants, call centres and payroll. Costs are still out of control at Croydon Council and we will need to tackle them urgently. We can then invest those savings in front line services.
It is clear that if we are to make Croydon a pleasant place to live, work and bring up a family, then we must ensure it has a rich cultural offering. That means we really must use culture to strengthen communities and give pride back to the people of our town.
We must ensure that the future of the Fairfield Halls is properly secured. We must re-establish the Clocktower as a centre of arts and culture. We must support the Warehouse Theatre to keep producing theatre in Croydon as they are doing this weekend.

It won’t be easy, but the Labour Party in Croydon is determined to rebuild our cultural offering and we will start that process with an open conference to draw together the talent and expertise we already have in our town. We are ambitious for arts and culture in Croydon. This is why electing a Labour Council is so important for Croydon on May 22.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Let’s make our libraries the cornerstones of our communities

This article was first published on Inside Croydon on May 13th 2014


VOTE 2014: TIMOTHY GODFREY, spokesman on arts and culture for the local Labour group, outlines his party’s policy for the borough’s marginalised and privatised public library service

Something has gone terribly wrong at Croydon libraries.

Shuttered up: the "welcoming" site at Central Library, run by Carillion
Shuttered up: the “welcoming” site at Central Library, run by Carillion

When the then Labour Council opened Central Library in Katharine Street, it was an integral part of the Clocktower arts complex. Work was completed to convert the old Borough Courts into the “Lifetimes” Museum and work was nearing completion on the purpose-built, secure art gallery, alongside the Riesco Gallery.
The concept of the Clocktower was a bright vibrant “street” that connected the cafĂ© at one end via the library, gift shop, arts education rooms, exhibition and arts galleries, the David Lean Cinema and Braithwaite Hall.
Since 2006, the Conservative-run council has systematically wrecked this arts and culture complex. They have ripped out the arts education facilities and replaced them with adult education classrooms. Nothing wrong with the functional use, but they have been placed in what should be the middle of an arts building. It is not a school building. It is an attempt to make the re-building of the Clocktower as an arts complex difficult, to say the least.

I visited the Central Library last week, and found the main entrance shuttered up. Entry is now via the exit.
The new private contractor for Croydon’s public libraries (Carillion) finds it “easier” (for them) to manage the library through one entrance/exit. In our four-storey library, I found two escalators out of order, the place dimly lit, fairly grubby and with new restrictions on when and where students may or may not study – and with restrictions on the number of desks spaces, hardly helpful for students as we enter the annual exam period.
An entire floor had no staff on it. The children’s library had no librarian on duty either. Carillion, the private company that now runs the libraries, has purposefully “de-skilled” the borough’s libraries, employing as few professional librarians as possible.
A flagship Central Library that any major town or city could be proud of? It was once, but not any more. When I read about how other towns and cities are re-inventing their libraries with recording studios, film-editing suites and meeting rooms, it makes Croydon Central Library look tired and sad.

The Tory-run council chose to privatise our public libraries because they couldn’t control their own back office costs. These back-office costs amounted to 44.78 per cent of the entire budget. Costs are still out of control at the council’s headquarters, where they spend more than £1,100 per employee on “Human Resources”, rack up huge legal bills and pay top dollar for “Facilities Management”.
If we are elected on May 22 to run Croydon Council, Labour is committed to seek the end of this Carillion contract as soon as possible.
We want a library service that builds on them as cornerstones of their local communities. Staff would be employed by the council and work with local people to develop their service to suit local needs. This model has worked really well at Upper Norwood Library for many years.
Back office costs cast a heavy shadow on all council services in Croydon. The Conservatives have added to the burden by spending £140 million on building a headquarters offices, signing up to expensive contracts for IT, and they still spend £10 million a year on consultants.
If the Tories running our council can find a slow, bureaucratic and expensive way to do something, they do. We will have a programme to put frontline services first. The library service will become a model for how we can run public services more efficiently and more effectively.
Libraries are an essential public service and we will protect and develop them, just as the last Labour council did when it built new libraries in Broad Green, Ashburton, Selsdon and commissioned the Thornton Heath Library project. Libraries will be back up the political agenda with a Labour council.
Unlike Croydon’s Tories, who closed down the mobile library and shut the New Addington Library, moving its books and staff into the entrance lobby of another council building, we certainly won’t be closing any libraries.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

An election debate...

On the way to the 2014 local elections here in Croydon we have the Tory Council creating a gimmick that they hope will be an election winner... Handing back £25 to council tax payers after cynically putting it up last year.

Thankfully Labour in Croydon is proposing to freeze the boroughs council tax and restore some basic calm to the council finances.

Here is my speech to the special council meeting that the Tories called to congratulate themselves on this cynical ploy:

Madam Mayor,

Thank you for the opportunity to address this electioneering motion by the Conservative Party.

As we have heard this evening, the core claim by the Conservative Party is that they are financially competent and have temporarily reduced the Council Tax.

Let us look behind their claims.

Last year they raised the Council Tax by 1.85%

This may have brought more money into the council, but it lost a permanent increase in the grant from the government of over £1 million a year for Croydon.

All to enable a cheap political ploy in election year.

For five years now, the Labour Party in Croydon has voted for a Council Tax Freeze.

The Tories in Croydon have voted for Council tax rises in that period.

The other big claim is that Labour put up Council Tax by 108%. In the same period, Tory Flagship Westminster put their tax up by 169% !!!

The Truth is that every single year the Conservative Party in Croydon has endorsed that rise. Every single year the Conservative Party could have opted to reduce Council Tax.

The Truth is far worse: The Conservative Party in Croydon has ADDED 15.59% since being elected in 2006. The Other Tory flagship Wandsworth has over the last 8 years also managed to cap their increase at 7%

So we see a clear picture:

The Conservatives Claim to want a Council Tax that is lower, but when push comes to shove they increase your Council Tax bills by over 15% and turn down Conservative Government Grants designed to keep bills down in Croydon. This Tory Council is no flagship.

Only Labour has a track record of consistently voting to Freeze Council Tax in this borough.

The Conservative Party under Mike Fisher in Croydon is the Yo Yo Council. Putting Tax up a year ago and handing some of it back in election year.

Let us look at what Council Tax provides: the money to deliver public services.

In Culture we have seen the Conservative Party in Croydon slash Culture. The Cabinet Member for Culture was so bad, you abolished the role and abolished the department!

In your years in office you have worked hard to destroy the cultural attractiveness of this borough. The list of cultural vandalism is long, but worth recapping.

You closed the Warehouse Theatre in the middle of a project funded to target BME communities in Croydon.

You closed the purpose built Gallery in Croydon Clocktower.

You closed the David Lean Cinema.

You closed the Arts Education Service.

You closed the Mobile Library.

You sold off our prized Riesco Collection.

You cancelled the redevelopment of the Fairfield Halls – only now in election year you spend £1million on new plans instead of getting on with the job.

From Council Tax to Service Delivery, Labour will work harder to keep Council Tax down and make the Council work harder and deliver more cost effectively for the residents of this Town.

We oppose this Yo Yo budget, and this electioneering motion.

Croydon Deserves so much better. Croydon Deserves a Labour Council.

Council Tax Rises:


% Rise


Thursday, 25 July 2013


CNHSS is the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society - founded way back in 1870. This is a serious organisation that does much to celebrate the rich wealth of our Borough and has been a constant help in showing that the borough has depth and character, beyond its image as a shopping town dominated by concrete architecture.

Below I reproduce their excellent, well thought out submission to Croydon Council about the Riesco Collection and its importance to our borough.

Please continue to sign the petition at 


CONTACT: Paul W. SOWAN / 020-8688-3593

Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society Ltd

Established in 1870 / Company registered in England 922278 / Charity 260739




[These words ‘Seize the day / night is coming’ seem very apt in relation to the Clocktower Arts & Heritage Centre.  They appear halfway up the west face of the Croydon Town Hall clock-tower]

[They appear to be a local variation on a quotation from the poet Horace 65 – 8 BC]

[The proposed sale concerns the 24 most valuable pieces of the 230 still in the Borough’s ownership, following previous sales in 1970 and 1984/85 (and possibly also at other times), which raised in the latter case more than £ 250,000.  How many pieces were sold in 1970, how much was realised at that sale, and what was done with the proceeds, has yet to be discovered.  The proceeds of the 1984 / 85 sales apparently funded the creation of a secure display space (the Riesco Room) at Croydon Clocktower, and other as yet un-identified work.

The Riesco Collection was stated by the donor, the late Raymond Francis Alfred Riesco, to consist of ‘some 670 pieces’ when it was first offered as a gift (it was not a bequest) to the County Borough of Croydon in 1958, with the exception of five pieces donated to the British Museum and ‘a few little pieces for my son’ (Michael Raymond Riesco).  So far as is known the remaining pieces, transferred to corporation ownership according to an agreement dated 1 December 1959, numbered therefore something like 660 pieces, of which 230 are still in the possession of the London Borough of Croydon.  The codicil to the donor’s will (he died in 1964) confirms that the five pieces selected by him had by 1961 been transferred to the British Museum.  It appears that the Collection remained at Heathfield House until the donor’s death in 1964.  How many pieces the late Michael Riesco (who was both an executor and a beneficiary of R.F.A. Riesco’s will) retained for himself has not to date been ascertained.  Exactly how many pieces, but we assume of the order of 660, came into public ownership we have yet to discover.  We have asked, but have yet to receive an answer.

The terms on which the Riesco Collection was given to Croydon, agreed by Croydon Council in 1959, included clauses to the effect that (to comply with Estate Duty exemption requirements) ‘the collection will be kept permanently in the United Kingdom and will not leave it temporarily except for a purpose and a period approved by the Treasury; and reasonable steps shall be taken for the preservation of the Collection [implying presumable the collection as a whole]; and [the collection] shall be displayed at Heathfield House …  or suitably re-housed in another building used for the same purpose either on the Heathfield Estate or elsewhere in Croydon.

Subsequently R.F.A. Riesco offered also to Croydon, as a gift, prints and other works of art.  What became of these we have not yet ascertained.  They may or may not have come into the ownership of the people of Croydon, as represented by the elected members of Croydon Council.  We have asked, but have yet to receive a reply.

We have yet to trace documentation for the 1970 sale, the only mention of which located to date is in the LB Croydon printed and published Council Minutes for 1984.  How many pieces were sold in 1970 is not yet known.

In February 1984 Croydon Council had the collection valued.  At this time the collection was divided into what was referred to as the ‘Permanent Collection’ (displayed in specially made secure show-cases at the Fairfield Halls) and the ‘Reserve Collection’.  The Council’s adviser, Roger Bluett, examined the Reserve Collection and recommended that eight pieces should be retained as part of the Permanent Collection.  As these eight pieces were stated to represent 5% of the entire Reserve Collection at that date, that part of the entire collection presumably numbered 160 pieces.  If the collection as received by Croydon in 1959 was 660 pieces, and 152 pieces of the then ‘Reserve Collection’ were sold in 1984 / 85, it would seem that disposals in 1970 and possibly at other dates amounted to 288 pieces, leaving the 230 which reportedly now remain in public ownership in the town. Croydon Council has proposed reducing this ‘Permanent Collection’ by a further sale of 24 pieces, leaving 206 objects, of the order of one third of the original, over 450 having seemingly been sold since the collection was received.

We have found no record yet concerning how or why the donor’s wishes were ignored in 1970.  But in 1984 a further massive sale was agreed by Croydon Council, Sotheby’s being recommended as vendors on the Council’s behalf.  Consequent sales in 1984 and 1985 reportedly realised a little more than £ 250,000.

Relevant questions put to the responsible Cabinet Members have, despite the Freedom of Information Act, not yet been answered adequately or, indeed, at all.

There are further unknowns, which Croydon Council has vet to explain.  In 1972 a Riesco Charitable Trust was registered with the Charity Commission.  Who established this, who the Trustees were, what the objects of the Trust might have been, and how any assets were disposed of are all currently unknown.  That Trust was removed from the Register in 1995 as it had ‘ceased to exist’ for reasons currently unknown to us.  In 1992 Croydon Council itself resolved to submit a Trust deed (the wording of which had been the subject of legal advice) to the Charity Commission, although in fact no such Charity was ever established: why not is not at all clear!  And it appears that another such attempt was made in the mid 1990s, with a similarly nil result.]

We DISAGREE with the proposed sale on the following grounds

[1]        The proposal has been described by the Museums Association [the professional body for museum curators] as a ‘financially-motivated disposal’ which does not meet the Association’s Code of Ethics on disposals.  It is unacceptable that apparently the relevant professional body has not been consulted.

[2]        The primary motivations for the proposed sale appear to be (1) reduction of expenditure on secure accommodation and insurance for the Collection, and (2) subsidisation of the intended refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls.  It is common practice for major museums and art galleries not to insure large, valuable, and essentially irreplaceable collections (especially those, received as gifts, which they did not have to pay for) and it had been our impression that this was the case also with the Riesco Collection (in which case the ‘saving’ would be nil).

[3]        Disposal of a cultural and capital asset to meet what might be considered to be the revenue costs of keeping the Halls in good condition and repair is unacceptable.  A financially responsible local authority would have budgeted for constant renovation and upgrading of the Fairfield Halls ever since they opened in 1962.  The Borough Council has a very poor record of keeping its buildings in good repair and decoration, and the apparently suddenly discovered need for such work at the Fairfield Halls has the appearance of bad property management (as was also the case at the Stanley Halls for example)

[4]        The proposed expenditure on the Fairfield Halls has been described as ‘investment’ implying a profit on money laid out.  It may be doubted that this expenditure will result in the £ 27m being recouped with, additionally, a profit.

[5]        Both the cultural and the financial value of any coherent collection exceeds the sum of the values of its constituent parts.  Regrettably, the collection is already scattered.  Five pieces were willed to the British Museum at Riesco’s death.  Of those transferred to the ownership of Croydon Council in 1959, an un-ascertained number were sold in 1984/85 (possibly to a multiplicity of British and / or foreign owners) and possibly others at other times.

[6]        The wording of the draft Trust Deed put forward by the Council in 1992 to establish a charitable Riesco Trust to oversee the use of the proceeds of the 1985 sale were very firmly for the Council’s cultural provision within the London Borough of Croydon.  Throughout, the emphasis was forward-looking and positive, embracing inter alia the maintenance and indeed augmentation of the collection (by new purchases) and by the making of grants for allied purposes.   Although it has been suggested that no such charitable trust was in fact established (for reasons not clear to us) the draft Deed put forward in 1992 was worded appropriately and culturally responsibly.

[7]        The Council’s cultural provisions have been drastically reduced and narrowed in recent years.  Applying the proceeds of such a sale as is contemplated by the Council, whilst supporting refurbishment (modernisation, painting, decorating and repairs?) of Fairfield Halls and thereby indirectly supporting music and drama, &c., diminishes provision for other cultural services where there ought to be diversity.  The David Lean Cinema might have been re-opened.  The Borough Art Collection might have been properly displayed instead of taking much-needed space from a re-located Local Studies Library & Archives Service as currently proposed.  Such a policy would be akin to the Borough developing, say, swimming pools while selling off football pitches and tennis courts.  In its wildlife conservation policies the Council favours biodiversity, and the care of a range of habitats from grasslands, heathlands, woodlands to wetlands.  Diversity of cultural provision for the arts is similarly important.

[8]        Refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls is not a cultural end in itself.

[9]        The 1984/85 sale set an unfortunate precedent in the disposal of valuable objects of high cultural value, although at least so far as is at present known the proceeds were devoted to closely related ends.  A second sale will dangerously cement and extend that precedent, for the sale of valuable objects to meet un-related short-term financial needs.

[10]      There is in our opinion a clear and unacceptable risk that the Borough Council will see the financially-motivated sale of further parts of the Riesco Collection, followed by valuable artefacts from the Borough’s Museum collection, paintings from the Borough Art Collection, and valuable books and manuscripts from the Local Studies Library and Archives Service to solve its financial problems.

[11]      In the event that £ 13m or the like is found, by whatever means, for the Arts, Cultural and Heritage Services in Croydon, it should be devoted to making good the losses of cultural diversity and professional staffing over the last three years or so.  The diversity of cultural provision in Croydon should be restored and maintained, not narrowed as proposed and further reduced.

This response has been agreed on behalf of the Society by a working group comprising C.E. Bailey, Dr. J.B. Greig, J.I. Hickman, B.L. Lancaster, I.G. Payne, P.W. Sowan, and C.J.W. Taylor, all being Directors of the Company and Trustees of the Charity.
Company Secretary

Additional observations

The ‘response template’ for this consultation is entirely unsatisfactory, allowing only a single very small space in which to explain objections, and further spaces for responses to be made on the assumption that the proposed sale will go ahead.

We note that items have already been removed from display in the Riesco Room, and that these are understood to have left the Borough.  This, reprehensibly, pre-supposes that the sale is already decided, whether opposed or not [We have subsequently been assured that items removed from the central show-case were pieces on loan from the British Museum]

We have enquired whether or not the Riesco Collection has in fact been insured continuously since it came into the possession of the Borough, what any current insurance costs per annum, and what this cost is expected to be in the event of the collection being depleted as proposed [we have as yet had no response to out enquiry]

We note that it has been stated in the press that ‘the Riesco family’ (suggesting a plurality of persons) has been consulted and is in agreement with the sale.  However, at least one of R.F.A. Riesco’s descendents has publicly disagreed with the sale.  How many of his children (one of the three survives) and grand-children have been consulted is not clear [Croydon Council have informed us that three members of the family have been consulted].

We wish to ascertain whether or not the charitable Riesco Trust proposed by Croydon Council in 1992 was in fact formed as intended, or established in some modified form, or not set up at all, and the reasons why [Mr. Pollard has stated that ‘it is not known’ why this Croydon Council resolution was not carried into effect.  Whether this means ‘not known to him personally’ or not the subjects of records surviving in the Council’s legal department is not clear.  It would be quite extraordinary if the legal department’s records did not explain this mystery]

We are surprised not to have found a publicly accessible comprehensive file documenting the Council’s dealings with the late R.F.A. Riesco, which date from at least as far back as 1945, and are at some trouble now compiling such a file.

19 July 2013
Company Secretary