A Croydon council cabinet member has hit out at what has been described as deliberate scaremongering and “opposition for opposition’s sake” from a Conservative councillor, who last night announced to a community association annual meeting that the Fairfield Halls was within 12 months of closure.
Michael Neal is a Tory councillor for Croham ward.
He was attending the South Croydon Community Association annual meeting last night, where he startled the residents when he told them that because of serious health and safety issues, the 50-year-old arts complex, which includes one of London’s major concert halls as well as the Ashcroft Theatre and Arnhem Gallery, was under an immediate threat of closure.
This unsubstantiated report was eagerly repeated across social media by various members of an astroturfing website, employees of business promotion groups, PRs and the usual Glee Club suspects.
But according Timothy Godfrey, the Labour-run council’s new spokesman on culture and arts, Neal’s claims are without merit, nor any basis in fact.
“The Fairfield Halls has just had £400,000 spent on it, and is about to have a major refurbishment,” Godfrey told Inside Croydon.
There has been refurbishment plans for the Fairfield Halls since before Mike “#WadGate” Fisher and the Conservatives took charge of the Town Hall in 2006, but none of the scheduled work ever took place, allowing the Halls to appear evermore down-at-heel.
Under the Conservatives, there was talk of a £33 million project, which would have seen the venue closed for at least a year. The Tories even sacrificed another part of Croydon’s heritage – 24 pieces of the Riesco collection of fine Chinese porcelain – auctioned off in Hong Kong last year.
But that sale achieved only half of the £13 million target, and the proceeds were subsumed into general council funds, rather than being ear-marked for the Fairfield Halls restoration as had been promised by Tim Pollard, now the leader of the Tories at the Town Hall.
Today, in a piece written exclusively for Inside Croydon, Godfrey has re-affirmed previous undertakings to guarantee the future of the Fairfield Halls.
“We are going to get on and catch-up with 50 years of a building naturally ageing and undertake some improvements for the customer and cultural offer,” writes Godfrey, who also sits on the board of the Fairfield Halls as one of the council’s nominated trustees.
“The key thing for us is not to shout about big bucks being spent at some mythical point in the future; rather, we get on and modernise the Fairfield Halls. We want the people of Croydon to see and benefit from change.
“The Fairfield Halls is an integral part of the borough’s cultural offer. We must move on as a borough from cheap gesture politics to a mature debate that recognises the importance of the Fairfield Halls as our large-scale venue, and then seek to widen the cultural offer right across our borough.”
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- SNATH free film festival, Scratchley Hall, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- SNATH free film festival, Lord Napier, Oct 29
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- SNATH free film festival, Norbury Park tennis club, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- SNATH free film festival Halloween event, Stanley Halls, Oct 31
- World War I centenary concert, Ruskin House, Nov 2
- MOPAC policing meeting, Surrey Street, Nov 4
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 4
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Grange Park bulb-planting event, Nov 8
- Brook recording studio open day and party, Nov 9
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Nov 14
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 17
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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