‘This is the season of delivery for culture in Croydon’

Timothy Godfrey with beardCouncillor TIMOTHY GODFREY, the council cabinet member for culture, responds publicly to concerns regarding the immediate future, and safety, of the Fairfield Halls

Five months into the newly elected Labour council in Croydon and you begin to see the rewriting of history by the Tories now they are in opposition.

They wasted eight years in power, doing more harm than good when it came to the arts and culture in Croydon. Under the leadership of Mike Fisher, they gave the culture portfolio to two people who couldn’t give a damn about our town’s cultural offer.

First Sara Bashford held the post, and despite being good friends with Fisher, he acknowledged how bad she had been on a range of issues, from flogging off our libraries to closing down the Clocktower, that he abolished the culture portfolio altogether. The remaining scraps were handed to Tim Pollard, who proceeded to decommission the Braithwaite Hall, moved adult education service into the arts education service offices and workshops, and moved the local studies library into the purpose-built borough gallery.

Of course, he also sold off much of the precious Riesco Chinese pottery collection.

Meanwhile, over eight long years, Tim Pollard and Sara Bashford sat on the Fairfield Halls refurbishment plans, preventing the place being updated. Just like Boris Johnson and the tram extension announcement, they talked about ever-ambitious and expensive works to transform the Fairfield Halls. The only problem was those works never materialised, just like Boris’s tram extension.

I am proud to say that the Labour group in Croydon used our eight years in opposition to listen. We heard the call that politics in Croydon had to change. We needed to be more positive and get on with things. Politics in Croydon are said to be poisoned, and the latest outburst last night sort of proves this right.

There is no threat to the future of the Fairfield Halls, according to council cabinet member Timothy Godfrey

There is no threat to the future of the Fairfield Halls, according to council cabinet member Timothy Godfrey

According to Twitter, the Tory opposition is claiming that a “Health and Safety” crisis at the Fairfield Halls will see it close within 12 months.

This from the group of councillors who dismantled much of our arts in Croydon and closed the Clocktower, the David Lean Cinema and the Warehouse Theatre!

We won the local elections in May on a positive manifesto of “Ambitious for Croydon”. We are definitely Ambitious for Culture. That is why we have a dedicated cabinet post for arts and culture for the first time in several years. That is why we have held real consultation events with residents. That is why we pushed ahead and over the summer funded the Fairfield Halls to carry out Stage 1 of refurbishing the Arnhem Gallery, installing digital cinema and live broadcast equipment in the Concert Hall, and created a 120-seat Studio space in the former Green Room.

We took a paper to the council cabinet to empower the excellent director of regeneration, Jo Negrini, to get on and start the Fairfield Halls refurbishment works as part of the College Green redevelopment board. For the first time that paper to cabinet empowered council officers to get on with it. That means that this autumn we will see time lines agreed for works to Fairfield Halls. That is a breakthrough for a council that spent the last eight years procrastinating.

At this point I must say that we remain frustrated by the pace of local government. We want to get things done quickly. However, it is still only five months since we changed how this council does business and, as I’ve said in the Town Hall chamber, “this is the season of delivery”. 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.

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.

So, to be crystal clear: the Fairfield Halls is well looked after by the Fairfield Halls itself and by the council as landlord. It has no health and safety issues. This was a simple case of opposition for opposition sake.

The election marked the end of divide and rule over our town’s cultural offerings. It’s time for all of us to be Ambitious for Croydon and Ambitious for Culture.

  • Timothy Godfrey is a Labour councillor for Selhurst ward. He is also a council-nominated director and trustee of the Fairfield Halls

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2 Responses to ‘This is the season of delivery for culture in Croydon’

  1. Oh for goodness sake: more party political clap-trap!
    This condemnation of the Tories does no more to advance the cause of the arts in Croydon than the scare-mongering from Councillor Neal about the imminent closure of the Fairfield.
    Firstly let me address this ‘Ambitious for Croydon’ nonsense, which relies on extra money coming from a Labour-run Westminster government. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has made it clear that any incoming Labour government will be as frugal as the coalition, blowing a large hole in your anticipated finances.
    Now, to the specifics of your Fairfield argument: I’m pleased to note you do not mention a particular sum you intend to spend. That’s an improvement on your previous suggestions of £25m plus.
    Let me declare an interest. I believe the entire Fairfield concept has been overtaken by the market. I have explained my reasons elsewhere on Inside Croydon.
    Before you spend what director of regeneration (there’s posh!) Jo Negrini might call ‘another brass razoo’ on Fairfield you should commission an independent, professional review of the arts market in south London. We need to know whether there is still a demand for a large arts facility in central Croydon; by which I mean a demand that will put bums on seats, leading to full houses, day-in, day-out, 12 months a year.
    There are all kinds of reasons for proceeding or not proceeding with a multi-million pound refurbishment of Fairfield for which the long-suffering Croydon tax-payer will need to find the money.
    But none of those reasons has anything to do with allowing yourself to be goaded by a newly turned-out-of-power, Tory councillor.

    • Actually David, you are wrong in at least one respect.

      Your views on the future, or lack of it, for the Fairfield Halls is well-known, and is a point of view which, unless the Halls management can indeed demonstrate through more successful programming a real demand, may have some merit.

      But what Michael Neal did on Sunday night, as a borough councillor to address a meeting of local residents and willfully mislead them with such bare-faced lies, is the height of irresponsibility. Or stupidity. Take your pick, Councillor Neal.

      We are happy to put the record straight.

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