Prince Charles and Camilla meet riot-affected people in Croydon
12:30 21 September 2012
The Prince of Wales tried micro-brewed beer as he returned to a community badly hit by the riots which swept London.
A smiling Prince Charles raised a glass of 3.8 per cent Cronx Brewery Standard during a visit with the Duchess of Cornwall to Croydon, where they met people affected by the riots.
The mood was a completely different one from when the royal couple visited last year, as the community was left dazed by widespread lawlessness.
During yesterday’s visit the royal couple met Mark Russell, 29, and Simon Dale, 30, of The Cronx Brewery.
After inviting Prince Charles to serve himself up a pint, Mr Russell said: “He was very complimentary about it. He said he couldn’t drink too much but he offered us his best wishes and hoped the pint wouldn’t go to waste.”
The royal couple also met shopkeepers, residents, and faith leaders and mingled with shoppers and stall-holders during a walkabout at the 13th Century Surrey Street market, where Prince Charles took particular interest in stalls selling locally-grown produce, while Camilla accepted a fiery bottle of chilli sauce from the Mad-Ass Chilli Sauce company.
Earlier in the day the royals were greeted by cheers, claps and the harmonious sounds of a local gospel choir at the Croydon Voluntary Action centre.
After shaking hands with local mayor Eddie Arram and council leader Mike Fisher, the royal couple chatted to colourfully dressed participants in this weekend’s Festival of Cultures.
Set up by the West Croydon Community Forum to promote the area following the riots, it will include a stage show, carnival, fairground rides and arts and crafts stalls.
They also met David Knight, a newly appointed business connector from one of Prince Charles’ charities, Business in the Community, who will help small firms and community projects access funding.
Mr Knight will leave his day job as a senior manager with the Lloyds Banking Group for 12 months to take up the new role in the area.
Business connectors were created two years ago when Prince Charles realised that to develop sustained relationships between firms and communities, one person was needed to make things happen.
Inside the community centre the royal couple met some of the local people touched first-hand by the destruction that occurred during the riots, including 31-year-old mother Charlene Munro whose home was gutted by rioters. She and her three-year-old son Cam-Ron managed to escape, but the effects of that night still linger.
Ms Munro, an aspiring model, said: “It has been so hard because I’m a single mum, I’m not getting help from anywhere. I’m not that close with my family so it has been me on my own.
“The little financial help I got was great but it wasn’t enough. It has been so hard.
“I’m in temporary accommodation but I’ve stressed to the council that I do not want to move because it would be too upsetting for Cam-Ron to go through a move again.”
Business owner Mumtaz Hassan, 48, whose launderette was burnt down, said: “After the business went, life changed. Everything just stopped. We initially got a grant to help with the mortgage and bills but living has been very, very hard.
“This has been a good opportunity to put my voice to a higher authority.”
Prince Charles and the Duchess also met retail queen Mary Portas after Croydon’s Old Town was successfully selected as a Portas pilot town in an effort to spur regeneration there, and visited Matthews Yard, a cafe and small business and community hub set up by 32-year-old entrepreneur Saif Bonar in April this year.
Mr Bonar said: “This area of Croydon suffered dreadfully during the riots but a visit like this shows how far it has come in a short space of time.
“Local business organisations and the council must work together to keep the momentum going and show the world that this corner of south London is a great place to do business, not to mention live and work.”
Later, Prince Charles and the Duchess visited Croydon College to mark the opening of University Centre Croydon.