Martin Corney is the CEO of the John Whitgift Foundation and has led the education and charity for 10 years, spearheading the opening of a Carers Support Centre, 1596 Club day care service for the elderly and most recently the launch of our pioneering children’s photography competition, Capturing Croydon.

With the first year of the competition in 2019 exceeding expectations, Martin shares his thoughts on why we are continuing the initiative and the importance of inspiring younger generations across the Borough.

Why are you launching a second year of Capturing Croydon?

Put simply, we were taken aback by the success of the competition. We had approached Year One as a pilot, however the appetite from schools to take part, the fantastic feedback from teachers and students alike, the media coverage secured and the outstanding photography from the children told us this was the start of something new and exciting for Croydon with longevity.

In 2019, 165 children from six primary schools took part, many of whom were seeing and using a digital camera for the first time. That in itself felt poignant and reinforced to us how Capturing Croydon was enriching the lives of children taking part.

Building on the considerable effort from staff at the Foundation and teachers, we decided to grow the competition in Year Two to ten schools, expecting almost 300 children to take part this year.

What was your standout moment from last year’s campaign? 

I think I speak for myself and colleagues in saying, giving children the opportunity to see and hold a camera for the first time was quite a moving moment to make happen. Many of the children who took part had never been invited to explore key architectural landmarks and historical sites around the town until attending tours with our award winning Geographer and Photographer. It was brilliant to be able to give many of those children cameras as their prizes, and we hope it has inspired many to take up a new hobby, or maybe even a career in later life. Who knows, the next Rankin could come from Croydon!

Why is the competition important? 

Beyond giving children an opportunity to leave the classroom, Capturing Croydon is linked to the Key Stage 3 Curriculum for Geography.

Photography provides an outstanding and easily available tool to help children better understand and engage with the urban development and regeneration schemes. Croydon is undergoing the most significant period of change in its history, and it is important that younger generations feel they are able to understand and observe the change happening around them.

How important is it for you to work with students in the local area? 

Working with schools across the Borough is of paramount importance to the Foundation. We grant one of the largest bursary schemes in the country and our mission is to ensure as many families as possible are aware of what we can offer and the ease at which they can apply for a bursary at our three schools: Old Palace of John Whitgift, Trinity and Whitgift.

We know that an outstanding secondary education at one of our schools can be life changing, and we want to ensure as many children from a wide variety of backgrounds as possible are aware, apply and hopefully can be supported by us.

Capturing Croydon helped us increase awareness by engaging with teachers, pupils and their families and we hope it will continue to serve this dual role in the future.

How significant is it for children to see and acknowledge the changes and growth in Croydon?

It can be easy to assume that change is always seen positively, and this is particularly true for younger generations. Croydon’s landscape has changed considerably over the past decade, and the best is yet to come. It is essential that children across Croydon understand and are excited by the opportunities unfolding and that this change will have a benefit for them. It is crucial younger people are encouraged to stay in Croydon to live and work and ultimately have a strong sense of pride.

What is your favourite visual in Croydon?

I’m of course tempted to say one of the Foundation’s historic buildings, however I am in awe of the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls just a stone’s throw from our office. We held our schools’ concert there in October last year, and it was brilliant to see so many families engaging with the newly transformed space, and the acoustics are just outstanding. I also like the Town Hall building which really stands out to me and the Croydon Minster.