The suburban, South London area of Thornton Heath lays nestled within the district of Croydon. To get there, a southern service train runs regularly from London Victoria, connecting commuters to the city. The centre is made up of a quirky high street of convenience stores and little boutiques. On a typical day, school children run up and down the high street, past the locals who are trying to get their shopping done. But last Thursday, the atmosphere was slightly different.

Before stepping out of Thornton Heath train station, music spilled into the ticket office and onto the platforms. While we thought we would have trouble finding the event, we followed the music like a firefighter to a siren, and just a few steps out the station we found myself in the heart of the Timberland Nature Needs Heroes event.

Nature Needs Heroes is movement run by Timberland to bring communities together through ‘urban greening'- regeneration of dilapidated areas into greenspaces. While many areas in London are in dire need of urban greening, it’s clear why the brand chose to launch the campaign in the Croydon region. Thornton Heath has been responsible for nurturing its fair share of music artists and performers within its diverse community setting for many years. For NME award- winning musician and face of the campaign, Loyle Carner, this project holds a special place in his heart. Having grown up in Thornton Heath, he is eager to give back to the town that continues to inspire his work.

Ahead of our interview with Loyle Carner, we explored the newly revived Ambassador’s House forecourt on Thornton Heath high street. A usually-overlooked space with derelict shops, paved with grey slabs, was given a new lease of life in the best way possible- greenery, community space, and local trading. A temporary marquee had been erected to house a stage for the local artists and Carner’s performance in the evening. See Our 7, a hip-hop group scouted by Loyle himself soundtracked kids chatting as they excitedly potted plants outside. Around the edge of the outside space, local organisations set up stands to spread awareness to the cause, and next to them the sound of soul music hummed as a sizzle came from plant-based burgers slapped on a hot plate by a local vegan food vendor.

As buses rolled past the space on the main road, school kids squashed their faces against the glass excitedly trying to catch a peep at all the new space. People swayed in and out the event, from local workers to little toddlers and their grandparents. A man came on his lunch break from a nearby Tesco and said with surprise, “This is amazing; there is music and food here too". An overwhelming sense of happiness came with the new space, locals were grateful have something exciting happening in their area.

Across the road from the activities, Loyle Carner sat patiently to be interviewed. He spoke with great passion as he expressed the need for communal spaces where younger artists can spend their free time and grow their talents around likeminded people. These green spaces remind Loyle, and those of us who grew up in a pre-social media era, of playing in parks in our childhood. He hopes this initiative will bring greener environments back for the youth and benefit mental as well as physical health.

Post-interview, the marquee was closed off in preparation for the evening event. But we sneaked in for a glimpse of the local artists who were sound checking. It was clear to see they were devoted to delivering a knock out performance this evening as they sang proudly on stage. And, as the sun went down, we went outside to find a queue heaving with guestlist-only attendees.

The marquee filled up quickly with people to get a glance at the evening’s entertainment. The tent sparkled with lights wrapped around the bars of the roof amongst the plants, it looked like the most inspiring place to be on a Thursday night in London. After a couple of speeches, Loyle Carner hit the stage with his chosen local artists who were raring to go. Welcomed with a full tent and warm reception, they gave a spectacular performance.
By the end of the night, the stage was occupied by Loyle and a few of his close friends. As they were singing away, the crowd cheered them on laughing into the night. There was something about this event that felt special. The cause felt like it was truly giving back to a community who deserved it, it seemed like there is something to scream about for everyone involved.

Stay tuned for the full interview with Loyle Carner, coming soon.