Fairfield Halls director quits less than six months after opening

EXCLUSIVE: A £42.6m white elephant without its mahout? Our arts correspondent, BELLA BARTOCK, reports on the most dramatic of exits from the Fairfield Halls

Enthusiastic: Neil Chandler, playing the role of Bob The Builder in one of the Fairfield’s less-seen productions last year

Neil Chandler has left the building.

The Fairfield Halls’ venue and artistic director has left his job, less than six months since the Croydon Council-owned arts centre re-opened after lengthy delays and multi-million-pound costs over-runs.

Chandler’s departure also comes within a week of London Mayor Sadiq Khan naming Croydon as his “Borough of Culture” for 2023.

Indeed, it was only last week when Chandler, the former cruise ship entertainments manager, was explaining to a Town Hall committee of councillors how having to manage five cancelled re-opening dates – including one royal gala performance – and still get the venue ready for the public following the £42.6million refurbishment had been “challenging”, and that a “lack of trust” with the public had seen initial ticket sales at a troubling 26 per cent.

Chandler gave no indication at that council scrutiny meeting of any intention to leave the on-going task at the Fairfield Halls, a job he was hired for by the council’s venue operators, BH Live, in November 2017. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Ashcroft Theatre, BH Live, Croydon BID, Fairfield Halls, London Mozart Players, Neil Chandler, Talawa Theatre Company, Theatre | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Decision time for Labour comes too late for Davis or Cummings

Our political editor WALTER CRONXITE, on how a drawn-out selection process has hampered any prospects of electoral success for Labour in Croydon and Sutton in May’s elections to City Hall

Croydon and Sutton seem likely to elect another Tory Assembly Member in May, assisted by Labour’s delays

In a primary contest that has lasted longer than that needed to elect the President in America, the 3,500 Labour Party members in Croydon and Sutton who are allowed to vote see polls close at noon tomorrow to select a candidate for their Assembly seat in May’s London elections.

Back in 2018, when aspiring candidates began their selection campaigns, there were reasonable hopes that they might be picked for a south London super-constituency that could, for the first time in history, be a Labour gain from the Tories.

But a change in Labour’s fortunes since then means that this is now looking like just a contest for the privilege of coming second to the Conservative candidate, Neil “Father Jack” Garratt. Continue reading

Posted in 2020 London elections, Elliot Colburn, London Assembly, London-wide issues, Neil Garratt, Patsy Cummings, Rowenna Davis, Tom Brake MP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Mar 29-Apr 5

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The Sixteen perform Allegri’s Miserere, Croydon Minster, Sep 9

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‘Lack of trust’ sees arts venue selling just 26% of tickets

With the Fairfield Halls refurbishment costs now confirmed as £42.6m, and still rising, the venue is struggling to win back its audiences, as KEN LEE reports

The costs of refurbishing the Fairfield Halls rose by another £1.6million in just five months since it re-opened last September – and there could be many millions more to add to the price tag of the council-owned arts venue.

The Fairfield Halls: re-opened, but unfinished

That was some of the detail which was prised out of the somewhat reluctant Colm Lacey, the managing director of the council-owned, loss-making house-builder Brick by Brick at last week’s scrutiny meeting in the Town Hall chamber, where councillors were also informed that the Halls had only managed to sell 26 per cent of available tickets since the “grand” re-opening conducted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan and national treasure Dame Judi Dench.

The management company, BH Live, appointed by the council to run the venue, say that their business plan calls for 45 per cent occupancy. Neil Chandler, the former cruise ship entertainments officer who manages the venue for BH Live, suggested at the shortfall was, at least in part, due to the lack of an available car park.

The 200-space underground car park is due to re-open later this year – another Brick by Brick project which has failed to be delivered on time or on budget, and for which the costs will be lumped on to the £42.6million spent so far, the figure Lacey was prepared to admit to at the council committee last week. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Ashcroft Theatre, BH Live, Brick by Brick, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Jerry Fitzpatrick, Jo Negrini, Neil Chandler, Sean Fitzsimons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Philharmonic Choir are Orff to the Fairfield Halls once more

The Croydon Philharmonic Choir is to perform one of the most exciting and popular 20th-century choral works at the Fairfield Halls next month.

The choir is singing Carl Orff’s thrilling Carmina Burana, with its dramatic rhythms and harmonies and its tales of medieval life and love.

The Croydon Philharmonic Choir will be joined by Basingstoke Choral Society and the choir of St Mary’s Church of England school, Oxted, making a combined choir of more than 250 voices. They will be backed by the Docklands Sinfonia, along with some exciting young soloists and conductor David Gibson, the CPC’s music director. The concert will take place on Saturday March 28. 

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After four years of closure, Blackhorse Lane bridge to re-open

Finally, Blackhorse Lane bridge will open in full a week tomorrow, Tuesday February 25.

The closure to Blackhorse Lane bridge since 2016 has seen local firms go out of business

Transport for London made the announcement just before the weekend. The 120-year-old bridge has been closed to traffic since 2016 as it was deemed to be unsafe for heavier vehicles. The closure has caused severe disruption to traffic, with some small businesses in the area claiming that a loss of trade had forced them to close.

Engineering work to strengthen the bridge began in 2018, though only after an intervention to the Mayor of London by local MP Sarah Jones. Continue reading

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