Who is the fairest of the halls?

14 May 2016

Personally I can’t decide between the two main halls at Fairfield: the smaller Ashcroft theatre (perfect for a murder mystery play) or the concert hall itself, where we’ve seen larger shows (Dawn French’s 30 Million Minutes and Avenue Q, to name just a couple in the last year or so). There are two lesser known smaller halls as well: the Arnhem Gallery and the Studio. We’ll be popping along to a gig in the latter next month.

Fairfield Halls, Croydon

The Fairfield Halls is one of our town’s classic sixties buildings. It opened in November 1962 (by none other than the Queen Mother) so has been entertaining Croydon and beyond for nearly 54 years. The architects modelled it on the Southbank’s Royal Festival Hall which opened 11 years before it. Apparently all the acoustic mistakes made there were corrected for our concert hall. No wonder so many concerts have been recorded here.

Fairfield Halls, Croydon

It was named Fairfield because it was built on the field where Croydon held a fair for over 500 years. This history is actually referenced on the safety curtain in the Ashcroft Theatre. I bet you didn’t spot that whilst eating your interval ice-cream.

Ashcroft Theatre, Fairfield Halls, Croydon

A LOT of stars have passed through the Fairfield’s doors, which I’m not going to name drop here (oh ok, just a few: The Beatles; The Who; Pink Floyd; Queen; Stevie Wonder; Morrissey; right I’m stopping…). The Fairfield has a fantastic and huge digitised archive if you fancy digging around to find more.

Ashcroft Theatre, Fairfield Halls, Croydon

But the Fairfield isn’t just about famous acts, or for that matter, touring plays, comedy or pantomimes (don’t forget the pantomimes, oh yes you will, oh no you won’t, especially if you saw ‘Phil Mitchell’ play Captain Hook the other year…). They have a significant community programme too. In fact it was one of my highlights at primary school, dancing with my class on the concert hall stage. (Although I’m not sure my parents were too pleased to sit through two and a half hours of children from various Croydon schools bumping into each other, or should I say country dancing, and, erm, bash sticks, turn a single).

Fairfield Halls, Croydon

I think all the locals amongst us are aware that the Fairfield Halls is closing for two years from mid July. If I’d had a spare 5 million quid lying around I could have kept it open throughout the refurb, but sadly I don’t. Although we are rather devastated about this closure (where will we go to see a film on a huge screen for a fraction of the price of chain cinemas, or settle down for a gripping Agatha Christie on stage 5 minutes from home?) we are expecting exciting things for 2018.

We are promised a thriving arts space that’s open every day of the week, with places to eat and drink built on the site, a newly designed outdoor square between the Fairfield and the College, which will all be better linked up to East Croydon station. And that’s not all, the part I’m most interested in is the plan for a huge underground art gallery beneath the site in the existing car park. Our council’s aim (in their words) is to ‘outdo the Southbank’.

Fairfield Halls, Croydon, carpet

So the only thing left for me to say is: Mirror mirror on the wall what will become of the Fairfield Halls?

Posted by Julia

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