When a passion project dies: The Croydon Citizen

When a passion project dies: The Croydon Citizen

It’s not like losing a person. But when something you’ve spent ages working on has to go, it can be pretty rough. Apologies to everyone that my blogging has been so spotty lately as a result.

Most people reading this blog won’t know much about a project that dominated my life for 6 years. The world of Naylor Games and the The Croydon Citizen, a local web and print news magazine I founded, have been deliberately kept separate. While it’s nice to know about other people’s projects that have nothing to do with games, I personally find it confusing messaging to keep talking about them. As much as Croydon is a totally awesome part of London (and I won’t hear otherwise btw), I bet a lot of my boardgame folk would get bored of me repeating that to them endlessly: even when backed-up by written and photographic evidence. And then there was the fact that I had, a couple of years before, started taking baby steps away from the Citizen to allow others to make their mark on it. Myself and the team behind it wanted to build something truly sustainable; a world where I was actually redundant as far as the magazine went.

But messaging is one thing and reality is another. The truth is, in the last few months, I’ve been fighting – behind the scenes of everything – to save it. That has occupied a lot of time; time I would otherwise have been putting into this blog. The specific reasons it was so very worth the rescue effort are the same reasons I founded it: the rest of local journalism is going to pot, someone needs to positively rep our much-maligned town and I wanted to empower the voices of its citizens to share how they saw the town’s problems on the ground, where it really matters. The more general reason, which I hope everyone can share, is that when you believe in something, you want to do everything to keep it going, even if it can’t anymore.

The full story behind it’s end, and the reasons why it can’t continue, are covered in my farewell editorial, which acted as the leader of our last printed edition. I won’t reproduce that here, but I would encourage you to read it if that sounds interesting.

Personally, its been one the the biggest emotional rollercoasters of my life. There is the sense of powerlessness to stop it. This itself is very uncomfortable and difficult for someone for whom, I must admit, control is important. There is the fear of disappointing people and – more specifically for me – the guilt that they will be denied the ongoing pleasure and opportunities that came from what you created. With this, there is a sizeable sense of failure.

Then suddenly something entirely different. The huge outpouring of affection in email, conversations and across social media for the Citizen in response to the news of its end provokes another emotion. I still feel guilty that it’s come to an end, but alongside it I am uplifted by all the stories about how we informed, entertained and inspired people. Even better, they tell me about all the times we helped fulfil a dream for them; helping them on their journey becoming writers, artists photographers or journalists. And then I am humbled and flattered at the same time; to the point of being overwhelmed. It becomes difficult to even respond to all the messages of support, both practically in terms of time and personally because of the emotional energy involved.

Then comes the big one underlying all of it: grief. Or rather the emotion I am uncomfortable calling grief.

“Grief” makes me think about what it was like losing my mum; and everything that entailed. That was grief with a capital G. What I will accept, that this feeling is is certainly it’s cousin, and for the Arrested Development fans out there, it’s “light grief” at least. There is a shallower version of that same deep sadness, the lingering constant depression and the coming to terms with the fact that the world where the Citizen had a bright future is never, ever coming back.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere in the midst of all of this is the strangest sense of elation. Of knowing I don’t have to carry this burden anymore. Of knowing I can tell everyone about it and there are no commercial reasons to keep quiet about it. Of having my Sundays and Fridays and so many evenings back; wondering what I will do with that time. Right before the guilt hits again.


I am so lucky that I have a great support network around me. My dad, my friends and all the readers of the paper who rightly say that what matters is what we did, not what we didn’t do. With their support I am actually doing pretty ok, considering. I hope – and can realistically predict, infact – that because of them I will be able to get back on form with my blog: posting something interesting every Thursday, just like I promised you.

But I wonder sometimes about people who don’t have that; the thought of not having that support is what makes me really sad in another way. So if that’s you at any point in the future, maybe years from when this post was written, I am sorry I can’t be there for you, right now. What else I am about to say is never a replacement be for someone being there. But just in case it helps, I’ll say this:

First, ending something like this is never as bad as you think it will be. People will care, but that’s a wonderful thing; they will be happy for everything you’ve done. They will also almost certainly understand the huge cost to you involved. Second, take pride in what you created, whatever it’s final destiny. You deserve it, no matter what a voice in your head will say: you tried to do something wonderful – perhaps for many years it did exactly what you intended, spreading joy and helping people. Third, you are in for a tough time. There will be lots of ups and lots of downs. It will be bad. But, as I am led to understand, you will emerge the other side, and you will be all the stronger for it. Indeed, I am already just starting to feel better. I am sure you will too.

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