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Conservative councillors have complained that our Solstice video was too political. We thought that was a bit rich given their recent political opportunism. But we thought they deserved a response.

In the dawning light of early morning, strange deeds are afoot. A small band of mystics reject the council’s and government’s plans to cut the heart out of Croydon and instead perform their own ceremony of sacrifice so that the sun might rise again on our benighted borough. 

Today Croydon councillors will recommend a “rescue plan” like so many Aztec priests planning mass sacrifice to placate the Gods of neo-liberalism. Our Labour leaders have been largely silent, only speaking to defend the evisceration of the borough. Their Tory opponents have laughed maniacally at the mounting suffering, seeking to obscure their part in its creation.

The thing is, when leaders talk about “sacrifices” it is always someone else who has to be sacrificed; someone else’s job, someone else’s family, someone else’s home. When they tell us they have to make “hard choices” it is always someone else who faces hardship. When they say we have to be “realistic” they make clear that they do not, and have never, understood the reality of our lives. This needs to change. No more will we allow these failing necromancers to balance their magic books on the backs of the dead.

To that end on 21st December South Norwood Tourist Board will be sacrificing Croydon Council to the Gods, so that the sun may once again rise on our benighted borough. Croydon Council will be represented by a Dog Waste bin – the inevitable result of their slavering feeding frenzy. They will be accompanied by rat masked acolytes, representing the only creatures that will benefit from further budget cuts – and the human rats who gnaw on the bones of our citizens, their bodies fat with inflated salaries, while our loved ones starve.

Our message to Croydon Council, our MPs, our Mayor and our Prime Minister is this,

“Enough! We will not be sacrificed as pawns in your political games. Fund the borough properly. Give us the services we are entitled to. This crisis is not of our making. We will not be made to pay for it!”

Chums

South Norwood residents have responded with enthusiasm to news that, thanks to the government’s Kent exclusion zone, we have now become the de facto gateway to Europe.

“With the cancellation of the fireworks this year we were wondering just how we were going to celebrate the New Year,” said excited resident Mary Flagpole, “But now we’ll be leaping across the barbed wire and dodging the spotlights on our way across the country park to get a food parcel to my granny. Do you think David Hasselhoff will perform a benefit gig for us?”

Barry Saltback overcame the challenges of being born in 1969 to become a decorated veteran of both World Wars. He was bullish about South Norwood’s place as the new Checkpoint Charlie. “I’m a bit old for active service now, especially with these feet, but we’ll need to bring back conscription to maintain order. You know what these border towns can be like! But don’t worry, your kids will love it! It’ll be the making of them.”

“D’you want nylons?” enquired local entrepreneur, Joe Walker, sidling up to our intrepid reporter, “I’ve got nylons. Pasta? Paracetamol? Lifesaving drugs? Joe’s your man! Bananas? When did you last see one like that? Bendy, not like them bloody European ones!”

A bright future awaits us all!  

20200823_143043South Norwood Tourist Board are delighted to announce the launch of South Norwood Ramblers by Jason Casey.

In the land of the Great North Wood there now stands a collection of memories; of World Cup heroes and villains; of singers and storytellers; of inventors and innovators; Canals turned into railways. Fields turned into brick works and back into fields again. Reclaimed by nature; reclaimed by community activists; out there making their own history. Right now, in this moment.

South Norwood Ramblers takes the intrepid adventurer around over 11 miles of South Norwood’s finest – along with a few cross border excursions. From the heights of the Norwood Ridge to the old flooded moats of the 13th Century. It is all here. Awaiting your discovery.

We have always said that a book like this is just what South Norwood needs – and thanks to Jason’s hard work we now have one. Great work Jason!

The project was born out of adversity. When the lockdown was first being eased Jason and his collaborator Richard Graham headed off on a 4-hour ramble around the streets of South Norwood, taking pictures of the sights they saw as they went. They were then struck with the idea of turning it into a book so that everyone could share in it.

We at SNTB have always said that this is just what South Norwood needs – indeed we had been planning to do something ourselves – but seeing as Jason had actually got up and done it we were happy to help him bring his idea to fruition. For an added bit of fun (or maybe just tired eyes), we have left in a few typos. There’s no prize for spotting them but if you’re the sort of person who gets a warm sense of superiority from spotting these things, please feel free to look.

The book costs £2 with any profits going to South Norwood Community Kitchen. It is available from Jason at Croydon FC. Others have been deposited around the area for you to peruse. An online copy will be available later in the year.

Jason can be contacted at jcaseyenterprises@yahoo.co.uk

SNCK1Since the arrival of Covid we’ve seen the number of Mutual Aid groups across the UK expand rapidly to over four thousand! The groups work day in day out to support the communities with food, PPE, and a variety of social care. South Norwood is one such operation that has seen a regular Community Kitchen blossom into a full blown mutual aid operation. I spoke with Laura Whittall about how they’ve had to adapt.

1. As we’re fast approaching 3 months of lockdown, how has the South Norwood Community Kitchen had to adjust and adapt to the needs of the regular kitchen users and other vulnerable members of the community?
“There has been a lot of listening to and learning from our regular kitchen community about their needs and how their circumstances have changed; but also through our networks we have done a lot of work finding where the hidden members of our communities are who may have become vulnerable, or are more vulnerable than ever, and what they need.
A lot of our regular visitors’ support systems have come apart so we’ve had to learn fast about other ways they can access support be it around mental health, housing, benefits etc. and what the new channels for this are. Hardly any of them have phones or some of our friends stuck at home are unable to use technology so we’ve had to find ways of helping them through this. We’ve noticed our friends who don’t have access to public funds have been doubly disadvantaged by this lockdown as they are unable to access official support so we have had to support them more than ever
Deliveries have also become an important part of what we do now. A reliable service for those who can’t get out the house or find it
.difficult accessing food and basic things. It’s helped to bring a bit of community to their doors when they have never felt more isolated.”

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2. Do you feel the principles of Mutual Aid have worked well for you?
“Yes absolutely, it has helped to just make things happen, get resources shared and information across quickly. Even though we have had to put together new processes and ways of doing things they are not weighed down by hefty structure or admin which means we can be nimble and flexible when we need to adapt what we do. Also it means people can just get involved and crack on with what needs to be done. It makes the whole environment around what we are doing more inclusive and everyone feeling involved.
We’ve had scenarios where some people were accessing support and are now helping to support others so it creates a culture of reciprocity and mutuality where no one is treated as a victim.
There does however at times need to be decisions made somewhere and people need direction or knowledge but this doesn’t mean that it should work through hierarchical means but through supporting people to get the knowledge they need and share it on.”

3.Do you feel that Council involvement would have helped or hindered your Mutual Aid non hierarchical way of all working and supporting one another on an equal basis?
“Council structures are paternalistic and deeply bureaucratic and they can only ever think in this way. When resources are scarce like they are now, there are resources they can share such as funding but it needs to be done in a way that is not onerous or tries to control mutual aid efforts in communities. Creating competitive environments has not helped organisations with some winning and some losing in the funding roulette.
Thankfully we have always made the council aware that we are independent from them and that the terms of our relationship needs to be on a footing where they see us as having better understandings of the needs and aspirations of our community rather than prioritising their own internal agendas. Its still a work in progress but any council involvement should be around giving and supporting resources led by mutual aid efforts rather than them leading activities”.

4. What has worked really well for you in keeping the kitchen surviving and expanding during lockdown, and what have the obstacles (if any ) been?
“Having a great community like we do in South Norwood is the best survival kit you could ever need and from this has come a committed crew who trust and respect each other. Having honesty, no egos or power merchants has been really important with regards to having to change things if they aren’t working. We made some mistakes at the beginning (and are still sometimes making mistakes!) and it was pretty stressful but we came together, reflected and shared ideas then got on with it.
Also our relationships with the wider community. If we need something quickly, it happens; like people dropping stuff off, referring people who need support or just championing the cause.
One of the key obstacles has been some of the competition that can arise between different organisations, groups etc who are each trying to support the vulnerable in our communities. Often there is competition for funding and resources whereas we should be collaborating and supporting each other – by not working more together it stretches resources thinner and thinner.”

5. The Kitchen working so successfully has certainly been taken on board by the local community, and the phrase “mutual aid” is now becoming a daily description of what has been happening in the area. Do you think after lockdown is over people will hold on to this belief that it is possible for people to work co-operatively rather than competitively and without a hierarchy?
“I think the foundations for this have been laid and people realise that they can take action and are not afraid to do so. I think before all this a lot of people wanted to act but did not know how or did not have the confidence to do so. However extreme times call for extreme behaviours and people have stepped beyond their comfort zones (or didn’t even have a choice) and I think that to go back to their normal realities would never feel the same again.
It has burst a lot of bubbles about how we cannot rely on our individualistic efforts and that other people are sources of support
and resilience. There is a collective consciousness there now that cannot be broken very easily.
There is still work to be done though. As soon as the world’s cogs start to turn again and lives become increasingly focused back onto working and capitalist means of survival, there is a fear that many people will turn inwards.
Our communities therefore need to find fresh and renewed ways for voices to be shared and heard, and clear understandings of how they make change happen; however small or big. That their smalls acts will still really make a difference.
We have got to keep that energy going but it cannot become trapped and suffocated by hierarchical and routine community meetings and consultations that are usually led by people in authority but through meaningful acts of community expression and action where everyone is invited.”

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It’s a strange time for our community. We either seem to be stuck at home bored, or worked off our feet on the front line, trying to keep our community running. Either way we might need something constructive we can do to take our minds off of the current crisis for a few minutes. We might also be able to raise a few bob for our friends at South Norwood Community Kitchen who still continue to work hard to keep the community fed during the current crisis.

Some of our friends organise community learning projects, and one such project can offer FREE English, maths and ICT courses up to Level 2. All of these courses can be done remotely from your home. Neal Colpitts explains more.

Contact Neal via neal.colpitts@sigmaukgroup.com or on 07527 965604

The courses are completely free – but if you are able to make a small donation to the Community Kitchen that would be greatly appreciated. Click here to make a donation. Thank you.

Stay well everybody x

Our community is everyone who has made South Norwood their home.

Everyone is welcome. Everyone has something to contribute.

The General Election has once again shown South Norwood to be a beacon of diversity, tolerance and hope in the dystopian dark-ages of the 21st Century. As much of Britain, and indeed the world, harks back to an imagined past, we unashamedly look towards a glorious future that can only be built by us all working together.

These are undoubtedly dark times. Our first imperative has to be to pull together as a community to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable are supported. A decade of austerity means that South Norwood already has a great many such initiatives, quietly working away without fuss or fanfare. We need to support them in whatever way we can. We are happy to use the communications of the South Norwood Tourist Board to help these initiatives organise and fund-raise. It is a sad and cold-hearted country that forces its most vulnerable citizens to rely on charity – but that is where we are right now. The path towards a brighter future starts from where we are now. We will not see our friends left behind.

Being home to a community of innovators, inventors and instigators, South Norwood cannot help but stand in opposition to the dead hand of conservatism. Culture is not a dead fly, sealed in amber, but an ongoing process of us communicating and relating to each other. It is an engine of evolution, that since pre-historic times, has seen people moving around the world, sharing and stimulating the ideas that built our civilisation. We are lucky to live and love on one of the world’s great crossroads which makes South Norwood a melting pot for imagination and creativity. When your neighbours are the whole world, popping next door to borrow a cup of sugar is an adventure of friendship and discovery.

The Empire is as dead as the Latin that vomits forth from our newly anointed leader. The neo-liberal European dream is likewise extinguished. But in South Norwood the laboratory of future lifestyles is all around us. The future is in each and every one of us.

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