The management of Stanley Halls has been formally transferred from Croydon Council to local residents’ group, The Stanley People’s Initiative, which has signed a 35-year management lease for the cherished venue.
No sooner had the transfer to the community group been confirmed than it emerged that two senior Labour councillors, Kathy Bee and Paul Scott, have stepped in as chair and vice-chair of the community group…
The transfer of the grand Edwardian public halls in South Norwood is the culmination of years of hard work by many volunteers, and sees the venue opening for theatre and music performances, hosting a rapidly growing film club, staging arts festivals, and available for hire for community events, education and enterprise.
In a press release issued on Friday, the Stanley People’s Initiative announced: “SPI remains grateful to Croydon Council for taking this chance. Letting volunteers run the building proved how SPI could face the challenge of the full responsibility of the lease. With the signing of the lease, SPI can now offer the Halls for hire for a full range of activities.”
The press release also included a quote from SPI’s chair, Councillor Bee: “This is a fantastic moment the people of South Norwood have working hard to achieve. Stanley Halls is finally back in management of this local community and now we have to get the place fully used and able to fund itself. We do not under-estimate how hard this will be, especially as we also need to get in the region of £3 million to make this wonderful building accessible to all of our community and to protect its heritage features.”
Bee is a councillor for South Norwood ward, and a member of the Labour-run council cabinet, while the new vice-chair Scott, an architect and chair of the council planning committee, is a councillor for Woodside ward whose other councillors include the council leader, Tony Newman.
Carol Clapperton was the original chair of SPI, before being replaced by Councillor Bee. Councillor Scott continues as vice-chair.
The press release also quoted the former chair/non-councillor: “I am delighted that we, our local community, got this far,” Clapperton said.
“I can’t recall how many meetings I would attend where professionals would tell me that it would take us very many years to achieve, if ever. They just didn’t know the tenacity of the South Norwood community, especially the steering group who built this project from scratch and the very many Friends of SPI who have scrubbed 30 years of grime from Stanley Halls to bring it to this position.”
Commissioned and designed by local inventor and businessman, William Ford Stanley, in 1903, the Halls were initially funded by public subscription and run by a local management committee.
The Halls has a full-size stage and concert hall, an art gallery and two public halls, alongside numerous other rooms, most of which are now available for public hire. It is a Grade II-listed building with a number of quirky features and Stanley’s own inventions, including an air conditioning system to the concert hall.
The Halls’ unique period look has brought it to the attention of television location managers: it was recently used for the filming of the BBC’s Agatha Christie adaptation, Partners in Crime.
The Halls first passed into council ownership in 1934. It continued to be a place of entertainment, learning and community gathering, but over the decades the Halls fell into decline due to council disinvestment.
In 2012 Croydon Council announced its intention to offer a long lease via Community Asset Transfer as it was unable to continue to fund the extensive costs associated with the management of the Halls.
SPI is a registered charity and now has a 35-year managing lease on the Halls. SPI’s board consists of nine people with connections to South Norwood and SE25.
Early regular hires at Stanley Halls include Coffee Craft café, Aelfa school for dramatic arts and South London Theatre, who will use the Halls as a base whilst their building in West Norwood undergoes refurbishment works. Stanley Halls is also the home to new group, Stanley’s Film Club.
The Halls has also recently appointed a centre manager, David Somner, who can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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