A musical protest with over 200 people against the two-year closure of South London’s largest music and theatre venue took place on Saturday.
The crowd at Fairfield Halls was accompanied by Croydon Symphony Orchestra and sang Fairfield, Heart of Croydon, a protest song adapted from Land of Hope and Glory.
The demonstration, organised by Save Our Fairfield, asks that Croydon Council’s £30 million refurbishment plan of the venue be done in phases, rather than closing the venue entirely for at least two years.
Andy Hylton, campaign leader and Fairfield Halls technician, said that closure of Fairfield Halls will “severely hit the community.” He fears that “audiences will drift away” and “the skills, talent, and knowledge of existing staff will be lost to Fairfield and Croydon.”
Hylton said that the council has ignored opposition to the closure and he hopes the “campaign will raise awareness amongst the community about what they could lose if Fairfield Halls shuts.”
Campaigners are asking that Fairfield Halls remains partially open during construction but Croydon Council argues this would be too expensive and time consuming.
Councillor Allison Butler said: “A faster redevelopment programme and the £4.8m saving achieved represents the best deal for Croydon residents.” Butler also said the council’s choice to close Fairfield Halls “was not a decision we took lightly.”
Save Our Fairfield’s petition currently has over 6,000 signatures out of the 7,000 that are needed for their proposal to be discussed by the council. Hylton emphasised that the campaign fully supports the refurbishment plan but worries that the construction will take longer than two years and the community will lose an essential part of its culture.
Campaigners and current staff at Fairfield Halls believe it will be very difficult to get their audience back upon re-opening and fear the proposal causes risk that the venue may be closed permanently.
The council plans to fund the construction largely by selling flats on another part of the site. Campaigners fear the construction will take longer than two years with funding dependent on the housing market.
Fairfield Halls is currently the largest venue of its kind in South London and supports many theatrical and musical groups such as Surrey Opera and Generation Theatre Company.