Princess Diana stares down from the window of the Tower like a princess in a fairy tale, unable to escape, while paparazzi with long-lense cameras watch her from the doorway below. Nearby cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Dick Dastardly, Muttley and Popeye keep an eye on things. This is Exchange Square, one of the centres of Street Art in Croydon, with the princess painted on a boarded-up window of the tower of the 19th century Croydon waterworks. In the street nearby, Winston Churchill gazes down on the passers by and two men kiss above Don’s Cafe and Restaurant; it seems that round every corner you will find something unexpected. Croydon has become a centre for Street Art, probably overtaking Brick Lane and Spitalfields for the variety and quality of the work.
Where an urban area is in flux and transition, there will be street art. Here in Croydon it is encouraged as part of a cultural strategy for the town and a way of enlivening empty and derelict buildings awaiting redevelopment such as the waterworks and the huge 1970′s St George’s Walk. Plans for redevelopment have come to nothing, the huge office block above it (once occupied by Nestle) sits empty and, while there are a few small retailers on short lets, including the RISE Gallery, the majority of the shops in the old shopping arcade and the surrounding streets are closed and shuttered – a rich canvas for street artists.