Fairfield Halls

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Fairfield Halls as seen from Queen's Gardens

Fairfield Halls is an arts, entertainment and conference centre in Croydon, London, England that opened in 1962. It contains a Concert Hall (1801 seats), the Ashcroft Theatre (named after local Peggy Ashcroft) (755 seats), and the Arnhem Gallery which is a large flat space (Croydon is twinned with Arnhem) used for standing concerts (up to 400), banquets, parties, meetings and exhibitions.

The large Concert Hall is frequently used for BBC TV, radio and orchestral recordings. Many famous faces have appeared at the Fairfield Halls, including Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Genesis, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, Queen, Morrissey, a-ha, Caravan, Traffic (who recorded a live album in the halls), Family (who recorded the first side of their album, Anyway in the halls), The Nice (who recorded their album, Five Bridges in the halls), Robert Cray, Status Quo, Chuck Berry, Kenny Rogers, Elkie Brooks, Peter Frampton, Wishbone Ash, Daniel O'Donnell, Shakin' Stevens, The Sinceros, Petula Clark, Hall & Oates, Free, James Last, Bucks Fizz, Judith Durham, McFly and Coolio. Delaney & Bonnie & Friends recorded their live album "On Tour with Eric Clapton" in the halls, with a band that also featured Jim Gordon, Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, and George Harrison. Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible of The Damned both worked as toilet cleaners at Fairfield Halls.[1] Captain Sensible remarking that he was inspired to take music more seriously after witnessing a T.Rex concert there.[2] Morecambe and Wise's appearance at the halls in 1973 was filmed, the only time that their live stage act was recorded.[3]

Fairfield Halls was also used for British professional wrestling for many years, with various cards having been featured on ITV's World of Sport in the 70s and 80s. Fairfield has also featured as a location in many films, TV productions and commercials.

Although the venue is still one the major venues for professional music, plays, musicals, stand-up comedy and classical music, a significant proportion of Fairfield's programme is also for community events. It is frequently used by local schools as the venue for their annual choral concerts, as well as being regularly used by local music, opera, amateur dramatic and religious organisations. The Concert Hall also features a cinema with Croydon's largest cinema screen.

The halls are built on the site of Croydon's historic 'Fair Field' (which hosted a well-known fair up until around 1860), and above disused railway cuttings which used to link the main London to Brighton railway to Croydon Central Station in what is now Queen's Gardens. Between 1930 and 1962 the land was home to both a car park and air raid shelters during the war.

The venue was 50 years old in 2012 and an anniversary concert by The London Mozart Players was attended by HRH The Earl of Wessex. A special website was also launched to celebrate both the venue's history and to act as an ongoing archive. It contains 2000 digitised images accessed via text and keyword searches. This makes it one of the largest digitised venue archives in Europe.

The future[edit]

The Arnhem Gallery inside the Fairfield Halls.

Fairfield is run by a self-financing charity with a board of trustees. It was in receipt of an operating grant from Croydon Council of nearly £1m up until 2005 when the grant was removed completely due to financial difficulties at the Council. For around six years thereafter the venue ran without any public funding at all.

The long-term commercial viability of the Fairfield was threatened by the local council's proposed development of an 12,500 seater arena on the Croydon Gateway site next to East Croydon Station. The council-backed scheme included a multi-use arena that would target the same income-generating markets that keep Fairfield alive today. On 30 July 2008 the Arena Public Inquiry finally concluded that an Arena was not financially viable. Planning permission and the compulsory purchase of the land were rejected.

Croydon Council, the freeholder of the land, has had various plans to refurbish Fairfield over the years but none of these plans have ever come to fruition. However, in 2011 more definite plans evolved for Fairfield Halls and some local authority funding returned to Fairfield Halls to help it operate in what became more economically challenging times. It is now anticipated that around £30m will be spent on redeveloping and modernising Fairfield Halls between 2014 and 2017. It is not expected that Fairfield will close during this time.

In cinema[edit]

Fairfield's Concert Hall was used as a brief location for Robert Langdon's speech for The Da Vinci Code film. You can see it in the first ten minutes of the film where Langdon (Tom Hanks) gives a talk to students about symbols. The venue also featured more recently in the films Made in Dagenham and Cuban Fury

References[edit]

  1. ^ Turpin, Adrian (3 March 1995). "Don't mention the 'C' word". The Independent. Retrieved 10 June 2013. Ray Burns, of South Norwood (aka Captain Sensible), "joined The Damned after he met the drummer in the Fairfield Hall, where he worked as a toilet cleaner". 
  2. ^ Savage, Jon (4 August 2010). The England's Dreaming Tapes. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 328–329. ISBN 978-0-8166-7292-9. On Sunday evenings I was an usher, and Marc Bolan came down, and there were all these manic T.Rex fans. It was the policy at the Fairfield Hall not to let anyone get up and have a good time. But I got involved in this rush to the front, swept along with the crowd. I was in with all these sweaty female bodies and looked up at Marc Bolan and thought, that's the job for me. At that point I decided to make an effort, and get practising. 
  3. ^ Sellers, R and Hogg, J (2011), Little Ern: The authorised biography of Ernie Wise, Pan Macmillan, ISBN 9780283071577, p.166

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°22′20″N 0°5′45″W / 51.37222°N 0.09583°W / 51.37222; -0.09583