Exit through the Gift shop! Banksy's surprise arrival in Croydon.
The world renowned guerrilla artist Banksy has never done much in the way of announcing his next work or public piece, preferring to just do it and await the interest that inevitably follows. Such is his reputation that any new work is often accompanied by a frisson of excitement. And so it was in Croydon last week when "Gross Domestic Product" didn't open it's doors but exposed itself as Banksy's new enterprise. An explanation from the man himself was as bizarre as some of the work in the windows. The shop which has an online presence is the result of a large card company using Banksy's work for their own ends, and Banky's response is to sell his own work to the public, something he was always reluctant to do. Otherwise he stands the chance to lose his own copyright in a "use it or lose it" clause that exists in British law. Anyway, all that aside, much excitement ensued and crowds flocked. The particular link with Croydon was the exhibiting of Stormzy's Stab vest that he wore at his headline gig at Glastonbury this year.
Living nearby we travelled over to take a look at see what the fuss was all about. By midday significant crowds were in attendance peering in through the windows. Gentle and friendly security in the form of "assistants" in London Porter style overalls were there to ensure that people didn't step back into the road and so on. Chatty and friendly they were, as was the general atmosphere. The works on display were classic Banksy, whose work I have always liked. Ranging from both amusing and silly through to somewhat dark as well. I noticed that the "Porters" were very surreptitiously passing amongst the crowds and quietly giving rolled up prints to the children in the crowd. The previous day some of Banksy's fake £10 Lady Diana notes had fluttered down on the unsuspecting crowds. Worth around £200 a note, I suspect the stuff given to the children is also likely to be the genuine Banksy article, whatever they were?
Gross Domestic Product sits at the north end of Surrey street market in Croydon. The market is incredibly the oldest continuously operating street market in the world, having been chartered in 1276 AD. The market has had a resurgence in recent years, with a mix of classic old school and excellent fruit and veg stalls, butchers and fishmongers, and now also a selection of very good street-food stalls. There are also a selection of excellent drinks venues, namely Art and Craft in the market, a small taproom with an excellent and regularly changing rooster of excellent craft beer.
Mr Fox, again on the market which is a Cocktail Pub with food, shuffleboards, and a good selection of beer. And a little further south The Store, a renovated old Sainsbury's shop which is now a stylish bar.
This part of Croydon seems to be attracting some very good small venues in recent years, and is worth a visit. Be quick though to catch the Banksy shop, as it's unlikely to be there too long!
Art and Craft: www.artandcraft.london
Mr Fox: www.mrfoxcroydon.co.uk