Fairfield Halls will be working more closely together with Croydon Council in the future management of the venue. This comes after 27 million pounds has been earmarked by the council for modernisation and refurbishment.
A restoration plan for the venue, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012, has been on the drawing board for years, but not until now has the decision been finally implemented.
Fairfield Halls performs a key role in showcasing local amateur societies and up and coming artists. The hall has hosted many famous musicians, including a performance from the Beatles in 1963.
On top of the recent renovation funding, the halls will also receive their yearly one million pound grant as well as a further economic commitment to the musicians in residence, the London Mozart Players.
The council will be represented through membership of the Fairfield Halls which makes them able to exercise their “member’s rights” and step in should their investment be considered poorly managed.
Both Simon Thomsett, chief executive of Fairfield Halls and Simon Funnell, chief executive of the London Mozart Players have expressed their excitement about working more closely with the council in the future.
Local community groups, on the other hand, are concerned about the council having a greater role in the management of the venue.
Charlotte Davies, chair of South Croydon Community Association, said her members did not share the optimism being expressed about the future: “If anything they feel it is going to reinforce poor quality management and lack of vision”.
Councillor Tim Pollard defends the move saying that it is only in very unlikely circumstances that the council would exercise any kind of control over the running of Fairfield Halls.
The presence of the council, he says, is meant to ensure that the investment is “not spent unwisely.”
He said that the council would step in if there were financial problems, but he did not think it would come to that as “the Fairfield board are much better at running an event’s programme than the council could ever be.”
Charlotte Davies, of The South Croydon Community Association, is concerned about the lack of a buffer between the funding authority and the institution.
She fears this might have an effect on other investors in the future who may “see [Fairfield Halls and LMP] as effectively Croydon Council and therefore charities won’t fund them.”
Other concerns include affordability for local amateur societies to use, and differences of opinion about the nature of the building’s refurbishment.
Croydon Council and local residents hope the Halls can regain the reputation they had when first built in the early 1960s.
Visitors to the Halls, Frank Edwoods (67) and Trevor Baker (61) said that were a number of opportunities for improvements, such as updating the toilets and film facilities.
Councillor Pollard says the council wants the venue to be up to date for the audience and performers of today with better management and accessibility:
The modernisation would be completed faster and at a lower cost through a complete shut-down but a decision has been taken to keep two thirds of the Halls open.
“Local organisations and schools in particular use it for a lot of performance works, so it really is in the heart of the community,” the councillor says.
Reporter: Dea Cisar