Michael Jackson to play at Fairfield Halls. Not (of course)

On to the door mat here at Inside Croydon Towers arrives the latest brochure for the Fairfield Halls. Dr Who‘s Tardis cannot be as effective as a time machine: it is as if the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s had never happened.

We like what the Fairfield Halls stand for, and believe that it ought to receive some form of grant aid from the Arts Council or central government to maintain it as a landmark performing arts venue for south London, Surrey and Kent (importantly, though, not at the expense of other, Croydon arts venues with which it is effectively in competition for customers).

However, such an argument becomes unsustainable with a programme such as the Fairfield proposes for December 2011, January and February 2012. Consider:

  • That’ll Be The Day (a “rocking Christmas show”, apparently, with music drawn from the 1950s)
  • The Rat Pack’s Swinging Christmas Show: which features none of the original Rat Pack (all passed on to meet their makers or swim wid da fishes). But it does have Kenny Lynch. Kenny bloody Lynch?!
  • The World’s Greatest Michael Jackson Concert: again, without the eponymous “star” of the show, who is dead.
  • Halfway to Paradise: apparently the Billy Fury Story. He’s dead, too.
  • Voice of the Heart – Karen Carpenter. Dead.

Get the picture?

The music programme does include Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen and Acker Bilk & His Paramount Jazz Band who, we are happy to report, are still blowing their own trumpets (and in Bilk’s case, clarinet). Both are in their 80s.

Indeed, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore being No1 in what was then called “The Hit Parade”. So not exactly down wiv the kids, innit?

The Ashcroft Theatre offers slim pickings if you are seeking drama performances in the three-month period (there are six stagings of To Kill A Mockingbird which the publicity bumpf claims includes “a Scout”. A Scout? Who writes and proofs this stuff?), though of course there is the seasonal pantomime, which this year is Aladdin, with the obligatory TV soap star. Croydon has drawn Larry Lamb. Eastenders! And Gavin! And Stacey! We may be wrong, but isn’t Larry Lamb’s Eastenders character dead, too?

There’s a bit of stand-up comedy, which always packs ’em in. But these are one-off, one-night stands. Oh, and in another nod to the one-eyed monster, there’s a Strictly Come Dancing night in January with Anton and Erin, “Britain’s favourite dance couple”, the Fairfield claims.

The Fairfield’s classical music and ballet programme is, as might be expected, peppered with some outstanding offerings. But nothing that might not be predicted. One of the inhabitants of Inside Croydon Towers has recently entered their sixth decade on the planet, and when they attended one of the concerts in the summer, they reckoned that they might be the youngest in the audience.

It has long been thought that one of the reasons that the Daily Mail is winning the mid-market newspaper battle is because every day the Daily Express loses another load of readers, when they die. The latter newspaper title, with its regular diet of house prices and Princess Diana front pages, has failed to win new, young readers for decades. The Fairfield Halls, with its stultifyingly staid and safe programme, seems to be in a similar rut.

The Fairfield’s audiences are loyal and repeat customers. But what is the venue doing to bring in new, younger patrons? It was packed out at lunchtime of Saturday – but that was for a witchcraft fare. Zumba Fitness and Ceroc Classes are hardly aimed at the under-30s.

As for the “David Lean at the Fairfields” scheme which Sara “Book Token” Bashford reckons is such a great success (having closed the Real David Lean Cinema). The Fairfield’s brochure offers no programme details at all – a new brochure is promised “soon”. Hardly the signature of a dynamic and vital part of the overall offering, we would submit.

When other council-funded arts projects, such as the cinema and the annual music festival in Lloyd Park, have had their cash cut entirely, the Fairfield Halls has recently received a couple of seven-figure hand-outs out of public funds from Croydon Council. Looking at the performance schedule for the next three months, you fear that they will be back at the Town Hall with the begging bowl again, possibly very soon.

  • What do you think of the Fairfield Halls? Have you had a look at its latest programme? Will you be going to any of their shows? Post your comments and views below.
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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5 Responses to Michael Jackson to play at Fairfield Halls. Not (of course)

  1. Arfur Towcrate says:

    The Fairfield Halls is trapped in the mediocre mindset that made Croydon town centre what it is today – a soulless concrete wilderness.

    It is isolated from the town centre by an urban motorway, accessible by a subway and car-park that smells like an ill-maintained public lavatory.

    The entertainment available is, on the whole, appealing to a declining market. I had hoped that after “Chief Executive – Derek Barr” finally moved on, things might improve, but sadly they haven’t. The Warehouse Theatre and indeed Croydon Minster offer much more excitement.

  2. mraemiller says:

    I believe Shakespeare is dead but that doesn’t stop anyone recycling his material.

    Mike Fox promotes a regular stand up gig there
    and there’s also
    and a lot of people doing tour shows
    and irregular comedy promotions in the Ashcroft
    by bigger promoters…

    So there is original stuff there it’s just not in the Ashcroft…
    Problem with the Ashcroft has always been it’s too big to be intimate
    but too small to take large productions…

    Anyway when they had Jerry Springer the Opera they were picketed and Mr Lee lost lots of money so if you want to know why people dont test highly original productions in the suburbs any more… well, the public dont want original or thought provoking and even if they do the killjoy lobby will picket it. They’d rather have Roy Chubby Brown.

    • Performing a dead writer’s material is one thing. Trying to pretend he’s in the room performing it, with an unconvincing impersonator, is another matter entirely.

      But as with Arfur above, some excellent points. Keep ’em coming.

    • Arfur Towcrate says:

      You may be right – apparently size does matter.

      I can remember seeing the likes of Sean Hughes and (many years before that) Frank Sidebottom in a barely occupied Ashcroft Theatre

      Perhaps the problem isn’t the Fairfield Halls – maybe it is Croydon’s population that is to blame.

  3. Tracie Parry says:

    My biggest gripe with Fairfields at the moment is the fact that some of their timings for their shows are not very family-friendly! We have to wait until February to see Swan Lake for a Saturday matinee as the ballets coming up aren’t on over the weekend or if a matinee then midweek (no good as we have school!) or in the evening (bedtime for the children!) We shall be going to the “new” David Lean in December for Mr Popper’s Penguins which was originally scheduled for 2pm but on booking I found it had been changed to 4.30pm. A ridiculous time even if it is during the Christmas holidays! However I must thoroughly recommend Mr Stink which we saw this afternoon – amazing performances from all the cast and really brought the David Walliams book to life.

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