Matthews Yard owner, Saif Bonar, meets King Charles one year after the Croydon riots

Croydon café owner shares memories of meeting King Charles III a year after 2011 summer riots

A café owner from Croydon, was offered the opportunity to meet then Prince Charles, a year on from the summer riots in August 2011.

King Charles and Queen Camilla visited Croydon on September 20, 2012, the second visit to Croydon for the royal couple in just over a year, following a visit made two weeks after the riots that devastated the town on 8 August, 2011.

Saif Bonar, co-owner of Matthews Yard Café, welcomed them into his establishment which co-exists as a café and workspace, the first of its kind to open in Croydon.

Bonar said: “I left with a better impression of him than I’d previously had.”

The King also met with young entrepreneurs who were gathered at the venue to showcase their small businesses, which had received start-up funding from The Prince’s Trust.

Bonar spent around 10 minutes in total chatting with King Charles, during which time the King asked various questions about his business, and he also wanted to know how the Croydon community was managing to rebuild itself a year on from the riots.

At the time of the visit, Bonar explained that the café had only been open for five months and was very much a workspace, with rental space also being granted to a community radio station and the first brewery in Croydon.

Speaking about the work that King Charles has done throughout the years with The Prince’s Trust, the environment and with Duchy Organics, Bonar said: “It seems that a lot of his work had a real impact.

“He’s been a pioneer without people even crediting him with being a pioneer.”

Bonar stressed that while he would describe himself as being neither a royalist nor a republican, he did find his meeting with King Charles to be a rather interesting and pleasant encounter.

He described the King and Queen as being very friendly and not particularly standing on royal protocol when it came their interactions with the public on the day.

This was in stark contrast to the impression that Bonar claimed he received, based on the strict formalities of the six month selection process.

This included being approached initially by senior officials at Croydon Council, being asked if he would like to be a part of the event and was then followed by the official protocol training provided to members of the public who were due to officially meet with the royals that day.

Bonar recalled even being shown a demonstration of how to correctly shake the King’s hand.

Matthews Yard celebrated its 11th anniversary on 21 April and Mr Bonar confirmed that due to current financial constraints and not being a royalist, he has no plans to hold any formal events at the business for people to celebrate the Coronation.

Featured image credit: Andrew Matthews via Alamy

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