A Croydon hip hop artist is heading up a campaign which will see urban spaces like the Ambassador House forecourt transformed in to green community hubs.
Loyle Carner a former Whitgift and Brit School pupil, whose real name is Ben Coyle-Larner, will kick off American outdoor shoe and clothing brand Timberland ’s largest ever global campaign, Nature Needs Heroes.
The project which is being run in conjunction with the National Park City Foundation (NPCF), will overhaul three urban spaces in Croydon and turn them into green community hubs including a new community square in Thornton Heath, The BRIT School garden and urban city flats.
Loyle, who first moved to Croydon from West Norwood when he was 14, after securing a scholarship to go to the independent school in South Croydon, grew up near Purley Tesco. The 24-year-old who grew up with ADHD, is set to become an ambassador for the Nature Needs Heroes campaign which supports Timberland’s commitment to plant 50 million trees over the next five years.
The urban greening project will launch with an open community event on October 17 on the Ambassador House forecourt, with entertainment by local artists, food stalls and a glimpse of the transformation concepts.
Loyle who will be at the launch put out this appeal to his 92,000 Twitter followers in July: “Yo I’ve been looking into this thing called urban greening lol. Where you take a space that’s run down, kinda concrete jungle and turn it into a green space for the community. Can anyone think of a spot that needs it? Preferably in south London.”
A self confessed foodie Loyle was a judge on The Great British Menu and set up his own cookery school, Chilli Con Carner, which is open to teenagers aged 14-16 who have ADHD.
He was Mercury Prize-nominated for his debut album Yesterday’s Gone including songs ‘Loose Ends’ and ‘Florence’ and in April released its follow-up, Not Waving, But Drowning which he is currently touring with. He appeared on Celebrity Gogglebox alongside his mum Jean and got a shoutout from fellow Croydonian, Stormzy at his Glastonbury appearance.
He told The Chronicle about the urban greening campaign: “As someone who grew up deep in south London, I know how little love particular spots have been given. At the same time, I know how much potential these areas have.
“I feel pretty lucky to be part of a movement trying to bring the community together through ‘urban greening’. I’d been thinking about a project like this for a while, so was over the moon when Timberland reached out. It was clear they shared a lot of my values and didn’t want to take from the community but solely give back to it. A lot of the reading I’ve done recently shows there’s a strong connection between greenery, creativity and mental wellbeing.”
The project enhances the work done by Croydon Council’s regeneration team and the Thornton Heath community, ensuring the area is developed in a way that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
These proposals will build on the ideas of the architects collective Tomos Design, Compendium and Studio Yu who won a £15,000 council run competition to transform the Thornton Heath forecourt in to CR7 Square opposite the station. The initial budget of £75,000 for the project has so far resulted in an unfinished tiered bus stop garden and a mural designed by local artist Van Dang in conjunction with local young people.
Ideas for the square were formulated at a series of listening stations in Thornton Heath which the architects turned in to a design to transform the redundant space with art work, planting, new lighting and storage space for future events. The project was meant to have been completed in time to reactivate the forecourt for summer but has been delayed because the front wall was damaged during construction. The original budget meant that there wasn’t enough funds to fulfil the complete redesign proposed.
Councillor Paul Scott, Croydon Council’s cabinet lead for planning and regeneration, said: “This collaboration will boost our plans to transform the public space outside Ambassador House and we’re pleased Loyle, Timberland and NPCF have chosen our borough to launch this fantastic campaign”.
Loyle is also involved in creating a tranquil place at The BRIT School, his old stomping ground. Having approached his previous head teacher, Stuart Worden, this project will develop a tranquil garden for students and staff to enjoy, reflect and unwind.
Giorgio D’Aprile, Senior Director Marketing Timberland EMEA said about the partnership: “Loyle is a sincere and conscious artist with a humble yet active attitude for a better social and sustainable environment. His values are strongly aligned to Timberland and the Nature Needs Heroes campaign.
“We look forward to kicking off the UK campaign at Thornton Health and greening urban areas in London with NPCF and Loyle to help make London greener, wilder and healthier.”
Ben Smith, Trustee for NPCF said: “We’re excited by the potential of this partnership and delighted that we have been able to help connect Timberland and Loyle Carner to the London Borough of Croydon. We’re looking forward to seeing how the local community engage with the urban greening projects”