CRYSTAL Palace features heavily in author Tom Brown’s second novel Strange Air, which was released at the end of last year.
Vibe asked Tom to write about his relationship with the park.
2014 could be a decisive year in the history of Crystal Palace Park. The Chinese plans to rebuild Joseph Paxton’s great ‘people’s Palace’ seem to have the wind in their sails.
With Boris’s backing, it’s easy to imagine that, this time next year, a once-crazy dream will be on the brink of becoming reality.
As a local writer whose latest novel, Strange Air, was inspired by the magical ambience of the park – and in particular the Victorian skeletons rumoured to lurk beneath it, trapped in an abandoned railway carriage – I’m both intrigued and worried by the plans.
Practically, I recognise that bits of the park are in severe need of attention. The concert bowl has fallen into disrepair, the areas around the sports complex feel neglected, and something must be done about the out-of-bounds top level, where the Palace used to stand.
The trouble is, a lot of the park’s greatest value is more abstract. It’s in the sense of absent history: the staircases leading nowhere, the armless and headless statues, and the slowly fading footprint of all the brilliant events that the park has hosted over the years – whether motor racing, rock concerts, or FA Cup Finals.
For me, the greatest challenge is in helping developers to achieve practical benefits while making sure they respect the atmosphere of the park as it stands.
I’m all for rebuilding the Crystal Palace as it was – but instead of eclipsing what’s gone before, we need to make sure it takes its place as just another stage in the park’s long and fascinating history.
On January 25 at 2.30pm, Tom will be giving a talk at Upper Norwood Joint Library about self-publishing. Visit the library website for more details.