Fairfield in discussions over cinema use of new studio threatre

Fairfield Halls: £25m of public cash for rebuilding work - and the final nail in the coffins of the Warehouse Theatre and David Lean Cinemas?

Fairfield Halls: £25m of public cash for rebuilding work – and a final nail in the coffins of the Warehouse Theatre and David Lean Cinema?

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.

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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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6 Responses to Fairfield in discussions over cinema use of new studio threatre

  1. “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”
    ― Martin Luther King, Jr.

  2. For goodness sake!

    Croydon Council controls two arts venues in central Croydon: the Fairfield and the Clocktower.

    In the first it has a concert hall, a theatre (Ashcroft); an assembly room (Arnhem Gallery); and a series of function rooms.

    In the second it has an art gallery; a performance space (Braithwaite Hall); an art-house cinema (David Lean); and a series of exhibition rooms.

    The theatre is of limited use in today’s market, as is the assembly room – so those two spaces could be converted into something else.

    Bournemouth has a space, similar in size to the Ashcroft that can be used as an open area for commercial exhibitions; as a theatre of workshop proportions; or as a theatre-in-the- round for such things as tennis or snooker matches.

    Is the council planning to sell The Clocktower? Hardly, since it is inextricably linked with the Town Hall.

    Therefore, leave the David Lean Cinema where it is – or where it was before some short-sighted person closed it – and replace the Ashcroft with a Bournemouth-style performance space.

    I suspect the problem here is separate entities: a trust and a council department; never the twain shall meet; don’t tell them what we’re doing; that kind of childish nonsense.

    So give the Clocktower to the trust, or bring the Fairfield back in house, but in either case initiate a single management structure for the two venues.

  3. catswiskas says:

    A theatre inside Fairfield Halls will never replace the David Lean Cinema, the Warehouse Theatre and the Braithwaite Hall. Why? Because these venues all had an individuality, warmth and local character whilst the Fairfield Halls has a soulless, corporate feel.

    Another thing: whatever happened to our ‘Cultural Quarter’ in South End? Right now, it seems to be moving Eastwards.

    I would prefer that we had little ‘pockets’ of culture, scattered throughout the town which would give us choice and encourage people to explore the town rather than empty out of a train, bus or (prohibitively expensive) car park into some sort of cultural ‘multiplex’ where they will only use the in-house bar and cafe. Instead, they would be venturing further into town and perhaps supporting our local businesses.

    Right now, the only people brave enought to venture into the town centre at night are those sufficiently anaesthetised by the copious amounts of alcohol they are consuming in the night clubs and bars that currently dominate central Croydon’s night “life” (I use the term loosely).

    This is why I support those behind the project in Matthew’s Yard; they have found a quirky venue, located in a currently underplayed part of Croydon (Old Town) that is steeped in local history and character.

    Already, many local and diverse community groups that might otherwise be homeless, are beginning to inhabit the premises. It is fast becoming a local ‘hub’ where different groups can meet, mix and network.

    Call me an old hippy if you like, but I can feel an ancient energy surging around this area, where so many of our local characters have worked or passed through over the years. Surrey Street is also home to the Dog and Bull Pub, an ancient hostelry that rivals many similar establishments in smart, central London.

    The Green Dragon, too, is a pub that supports local community in a big way and also has much character.

    Surrey Street is also home to a larger-than-life Croydon resident: the talking parrot in the pet shop which has been there since the year dot.

    When most people think of Croydon, they think: flyover; car park; underpass; offices; shopping centre. There is so much more to Croydon than that, but if they all flock to Fairfield, (with its scenic views of the roundabout and underpass), how will anyone ever find out?

  4. It sounds to me like a fairly sensible plan to give the Warehouse Theatre a new home in a new studio theatre at Fairfield Halls. On the council’s Fair Field Masterplan (FF20 ‘Service Yard’) you can see that they envisage a new studio theatre facing a rejuvenated College Green built over the top of the existing loading bay of the Ashcroft Theatre. I don’t see what would stop the Warehouse Theatre Company producing new work by working with Fairfield Halls at present either, using exisiting facilities and spaces until their new home (whether at Fairfield or not) is completed…

    As for the David Lean, the council seem set on not having to pay for it to be at the Clocktower. I presume that by funding an charitable trust to show David Lean films, they don’t have to worry about staff costs, pensions etc of staff the council would otherwise have to employ. So again, if the council view it that way and a new small cinema space can be built in Fairfield, why not?

    It is probably more efficient to pool resources by having a lot of arts venues in one location anyway…it would be Croydon’s answer to the Southbank! Just like the Arhhem Gallery, used for live band standing gigs, could be Croydon’s answer to the Underworld in Camden or the Highbury Garage – with the right bands – as there are very few venues of a similar capacity south of the river…

    • Except that none of that is the “plan”, Rob.

      The council strangled the Warehouse Theatre by cutting off its grant. It has redirected the Stanhope cash towards the Warehouse’s “rival” commercial venue, the Fairfield Halls.

      Thus it has reduced the diversity of the arts offer by killing off a globally renowned, award-winning studio theatre, all to boost its subsidy to the “Favoured Halls”. With no mandate, no consultation nor any commercial justification.

      The David Lean was costing the borough less when it was open than it has in the past two years with the Clocktower closed through maintenance and security charges. Another triumph for political dogma over serving local residents.

      The council’s stubborn refusal to discuss handing over the cinema to a community trust might just suggest another hidden agenda for the benefit of the failing Laing CURV scheme: the listed Town Hall and Clocktower thrown in to the property portfolio.

      • catswiskas says:

        Aha! I was wondering why the Town Hall and Clocktower are currently being ‘tarted up’…

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