Fairfield Halls is an arts, entertainment and conference centre located in Croydon, London. It opened in 1962 and contains a concert hall, theatre and gallery. The large concert hall is frequently used for BBC television, radio and orchestral recordings.
Although the venue is still a major venue 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 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.
As a venue
The building's concert hall has 1801 seats, the Ashcroft Theatre has 755, and the Arnhem Gallery is used for standing concerts of up to 400.
Many famous acts have performed 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, Captain Sensible remarking that he was inspired to take music more seriously after witnessing a T.Rex concert there. Morecambe and Wise's appearance at the halls in 1973 was filmed, the only time that their live stage act was recorded.
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 1970s and 1980s. Fairfield has featured as a location in many films, TV productions and commercials.
Fairfield is run by a self-financing charity with a board of trustees. It is in receipt of an operating grant from Croydon Council.
Croydon Council, the freeholder of the land, has had various plans to refurbish Fairfield over the years but none of these plans has ever come to fruition. It is now anticipated that around £12m will be spent on redeveloping and modernising Fairfield Halls in the period between 2015 and 2017. It is still under discussion whether the Fairfield Halls will close during this time.
In the summer of 2014 the council paid for the refurbishment of the Arnhem Gallery, the conversion of the former 'Green Room' into the New Studio and the installation of the latest digital projection equipment with Dolby Surround 7.1 in the Concert Hall.
In the spring of 2015 a new set of consultants led by Croydon firm Mott MacDonald was appointed by Croydon Council to deliver a £12m programme on the Fairfield Halls and a separate programme for the remainder of the 'College Green' site.
Fairfield's concert hall was used as a brief location for Robert Langdon's speech for the film The Da Vinci Code. 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
- 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".
- 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.
- Sellers, R and Hogg, J (2011), Little Ern: The authorised biography of Ernie Wise, Pan Macmillan, ISBN 9780283071577, p.166