Last month we highlighted a £10 million funding gap between the money required for overdue renovations to Fairfield Halls and what Croydon Council has in its budget for the work. With swingeing cut-backs in funding from central government on all public spending, projects like the Fairfield Halls upgrade could struggle to receive additional cash.
The managing board of Fairfield Halls has already rejected the options of doing nothing or pulling the whole complex down.
Councillor Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the council, had said of the £20-million renovation project, “It has to happen or Fairfield will just close.”
But Simon Funnell, managing director of the London Mozart Players, the Fairfield Halls’ internationally acclaimed resident orchestra, has no doubts that a solution will be found. “Personally, I would be very surprised indeed if anyone was seriously considering closure of Fairfield Halls,” Funnell told Inside Croydon.
“Certainly we should wait until the architects have presented their plans to the council, which I guess is happening soon. The LMP was consulted, along with many other users of the hall, on the refurbishment plans and they seemed both sensible and very interesting.”
Given Fairfield Halls’ strategic importance to the arts for the whole of south London, and not just in Croydon, it may be that the Council, which owns the freehold to the site, will be forced to find a private sector partner to pay the balance of the costs of renovating the 48-year-old centre.
Redevelopment and refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls has been discussed for several years but financing the venue’s arts programme and maintaining the fabric of the main hall, the Ashcroft Theatre and the Arnhem Gallery, has become an increasing struggle.
A meeting of Croydon’s cabinet next Monday will have budget cuts and funding for capital projects such as the Fairfield Halls high on its agenda.
“At a time when many local authorities are using the financial crisis to cut projects – especially those which are not regarded as ‘frontline services’ like culture – I think we should applaud Croydon Council for its enlightened approach to understanding how vital the Hall, and culture, is to the borough,” said Funnell.
“In my view it is absolutely fantastic that the situation is being discussed at such a high level and with such seriousness and I eagerly await more news on the redevelopment.”