New chief executive for Fairfield Halls

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Croydon’s art centre, Fairfield Halls, has announced the appointment of Simon Thomsett, as new chief executive. Thomsett was, until August 2009, chief executive of the Hackney Empire.

This is a further step for Fairfield Halls’ redevelopment plans. Early this year, award-winning architects, Keith Williams,  were appointed by the board to upgrade the buildings and Croydon council has promised investments of up to £1 million for the venue this year.

Councillor Steve Hollands, Croydon’s cabinet member for culture and sport said: “We want to restore the reputation of Fairfield Halls as one of the country’s leading performing arts venues.”

Simon Thomsett will replace Derek Barr, who is set to retire in May after contributing 40 years to Fairfield Halls. Thomsett took over the management of the Hackney Empire from Roland Muldoon in 2005 leaving in August 2009. Muldoon had run the theatre since the mid 1980s. The Hackney Empire has recently closed its doors for nine months because of a big funding deficit.

 Thomsett told the Cryodon Advertise: “The Hackney Empire project involved a major rebuild and it involved closing for three years and then working to get the audience back through marketing and promotion, whereas Fairfield is in a different position.”

As a part of a strategy to boost local cultural activities, the venue is to be made more available to Croydon residents. One of the developments suggested by the council concerned a stronger collaboration between the venue and Croydon College or the BRIT School, ‘with the inclusion of practice and rehearsal space alongside the performance areas’.

Fairfield Halls opened in 1962 and have  hosted famous names like The Beatles and The Who. It is therefore a strategic place for ‘a long term improvement of the borough’s cultural offering’ as planned by the council. Future projects also involve attracting current big names in modern music.

Thomsett added: “We have to accept we are never going to be able to rival the O2 or Wembley but we have a world class concert hall and we must have world class work there.”

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