Supporters of two of the borough’s neglected arts venues, the David Lean Cinema and the Warehouse Theatre, are expected to be very concerned that management at Fairfield Halls have been holding meetings with cinema operators over the possible use of a studio theatre for arthouse movies.
Sources have told Inside Croydon that a meeting was held in the borough last month. At a preliminary stage at this point, the discussions are understood to have centred on an as-yet-to-be-built studio theatre at the borough’s 50-year-old privately run arts complex.
Having managed to shut its own David Lean Cinema and having forced the closure of the independent Warehouse Theatre in the past two years, Croydon’s Tory-run council may ultimately become involved in helping to pay for a studio theatre-cum-cinema that is planned to be built with Council Tax-payers’ cash at … the Fairfield Halls.
Were such a studio theatre to open with cinema capabilities, it is unlikely that a restored David Lean Cinema could operate in a viable manner. Thus we have a situation in which millions of pounds of public money is being used effectively to keep a public-owned cinema dark.
A Fairfield studio theatre would also make it very unlikely that the Warehouse Theatre could be revived successfully.
Thus, Croydon Council together with the Fairfield Halls, would manage to kill two arts birds with a single, publicly subsidised stone.
As Inside Croydon first reported last year, when withdrawing the Warehouse’s modest annual grant, the council also deviously finessed from the theatre management’s deeds a £3 million development “gift” that was promised from the developers Stanhope towards the re-building of a Warehouse Theatre on the Ruskin Square site next to East Croydon station. That £3 million was ear-marked for a scheme to revamp … the Fairfield Halls.
And when the council closed the David Lean Cinema in 2011, it handed the Clocktower’s cinema’s branding to the Fairfield Halls for use – although cinema presentations in the vast concert hall have been less than a massive successful. Despite promises made more than 12 months ago to discuss ways of re-opening the cinema through community trusts and commercial cinema groups, the council has dragged its feet, stalling any progress.
A source close to the management at Fairfield Halls said that any discussions about cinema capability in a studio theatre would probably only be at a technical stage.
“Currently the only discussion of a studio has been about could a replacement facility be located on the Fairfield site,” the source said.
“It is felt that while it could, it would need to be funded properly, the £3 million from the Stanhope money would not be enough.”
The board at the Fairfield Halls had agreed to work with and support the Warehouse Theatre before the company went into administration last year.
Croydon Council’s budget for the coming year includes more than £25 million towards capital works at Fairfield Halls, which is not publicly owned and operates as a privately run venue. On the board at the Fairfield Halls are deputy leader of the local Conservatives, Dudley Mead, and his wife, Councillor Margaret Mead, as well as Labour arts spokesman Timothy Godfrey.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 142,300 unique page views, Nov 2012-Jan 2013
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