Fairfield management ‘reckless’ over sale of O’Donnell tickets

The breakdown in the relationship between Croydon Council and the management of the Fairfield Halls appears almost complete, after the scheduling of a sell-out concert by Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell for a date almost three months after the concert hall is due to be closed for a £30 million refurbishment programme.

Dabiel O'Donnell: Fairfield Halls assured his managers that they will still be open in September

Daniel O’Donnell: Fairfield Halls assured his managers that they will still be open in September

Tickets for the singer’s concert, due to be the last date on his 2016 UK tour, went on sale just before Christmas and have already sold all but a few seats in the stalls and the balcony of the near-1,000 seat venue.

Fairfield Halls could have to refund disappointed customers around £50,000, but they might also face contract penalty clauses over any cancellation from O’Donnell’s management company, who today told Inside Croydon that they received firm assurances that the venue would be available for the easy-listening star.

A council source described Fairfield Halls’ management’s conduct in taking the booking and marketing the O’Donnell concert as “reckless”.

The Fairfield Halls website is still promoting the Daniel O’Donnell concert, on September 23, even though Croydon Council, which owns the arts complex, wants to send in the bulldozers in June or July to begin refurbishing and refitting the half-century-old venue.

The Halls website says: “As seen on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, Daniel O’Donnell returns to Fairfield on Friday 23 September to perform all his timeless hits, plus more from his latest album. Book early to avoid disappointment!”

How the Fairfield Halls is marketing a concert that is scheduled for two months

How the Fairfield Halls is marketing the Daniel O’Donnell concert that is scheduled for more than two months after the venue is expected to close for a £30m refit

O’Donnell, from Donegal, did not do particularly well in the BBC’s celebrity dance show, despite his widespread popularity which has seen him sell more than 10 million records in a 25-year solo career. He’ll probably be sticking to the singing from now on.

Already a multi-millionaire, much of O’Donnell’s wealth comes from lucrative concerts, such as his 10-date UK tour in September. O’Donnell might expect to collect at least 90 per cent of the ticket proceeds for a concert at the Fairfield Halls, judging by agreements with other performers in confidential documents seen by Inside Croydon. Which may explain why the Halls are also promoting the “dining options” of eating at the venue’s restaurant on the night of the O’Donnell gig, as it is the only way that the venue could make any money from the show.

Croydon Council wants to close the Fairfield Halls for two years to conduct extensive building works in and around the tired and ageing venue, which has been in dire need of regeneration for more than a decade. The Halls management, led by £90,000-plus per year chief executive Simon Thomsett, has opposed the council scheme, favouring a phased redevelopment which would allow them to maintain its customer base and continue to stage some shows, such as the 2016 Panto and O’Donnell’s concert.

The nub, though, is that a phased programme of works would be at least £4.8 million more expensive for Croydon Council Tax-payers.

Despite previous, public promises to make a consultants’ report on the proposals public, council leader Tony Newman has as yet failed to release the findings of Mott McDonald.

Elements of the redevelopment, including rebuilding neighbouring Croydon College and building more than 200 new flats, as well as external changes for access to the Fairfield Halls, are expected to be put forward to the council’s planning committee in the next couple of months. No planning permission is required for the building works planned for inside the Fairfield Halls.

But the absence yet of any planning permission was among the assurances given to Daniel O’Donnell’s management by the Fairfield Halls that his planned concert would definitely go ahead. A spokeswoman for O’Donnell’s Dublin-based management company, asked about the proposed closure, told Inside Croydon, “Before we went on sale, we were assured by Fairfield Halls management that that would not be the case.

“They told us that the building scheme does not even have planning permission.”

The spokeswoman declined to identify who at Fairfield Halls had given them such information, and refused to say whether their contract with the venue included any penalty clauses if the concert could not be staged.

A source in the council’s offices at Fisher’s Folly said, “Whatever side of the debate you take over whether or not the Halls need to be closed for two years for the works to take place, it is extremely reckless of the Fairfield management to mislead leading artists, and the paying public, in this manner.

“It smacks of petulance. I hope they don’t think the council will be bailing them out for the refunds for this.”

Fairfield Halls could be creating something of a cash-flow problem for itself by taking this booking, while at the same time one of its regular gigs, that of the Rhema Church, which is understood to generate more than £1,000 per week from its hirings, is under threat while the church is undergoing an investigation by the Charity Commission over its accounting.

Timothy Godfrey, the council cabinet member for culture, refused to comment.

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
This entry was posted in Art, Fairfield Halls, Music, Timothy Godfrey, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Fairfield management ‘reckless’ over sale of O’Donnell tickets

  1. Peter Rogers says:

    I nearly bought tickets for Jimmy Carr but then thought even in July £30 is a lot of money to possibly sit in a car-park/building site/temporary saffron farm

    • You’ve just exposed yourself as a fan of Jimmy Carr.

      But imagine if that really is the last Fairfield Halls gig before the (temporary) closure? I suppose it won’t be the first place that a Jimmy Carr show has managed to get closed down.

  2. shows are booked up to a year in advance especially shows that tour unless Fairfield was given proper notice as opposed to a random date that is bound to happen, Croydon Council is being a bully

    • Fairfield Halls management has been discussing the refurbishment plans for many years, and the possible closure for most of last year.

      There is a legal term for the offer for sale of goods or services that you suspect you cannot actually deliver. Google it. You may learn something. You might also want to check out directors’ duties and responsibilities.

      To describe spending £12million of public money, after years of neglect and do-little, on a property that the council already owns as “bullying” seems to be perverse in the extreme.

  3. Without planning consent, appointment of a suitable contractor etc there must be a level of uncertainty regarding the Fairfield and wider project, at least as regards timing. I can envisage a scenario of closure of Fairfield (as no Acts have been booked and existing users have moved elsewhere) yet no start on the works as there have been delays somewhere in the design, approvals and procurement process. Just five months remains to the planned start of works and that seems very tight to me.

    • Agree about the tight schedule, David. But our understanding is that Fairfield Halls management has known for some time – nearly a year – about the potential of closure. So for them to offer to sell something which they know there is a risk they cannot fulfill does seem to be a little chancy.

      • rocklad says:

        How far ahead do you expect them to stop booking acts?

        As Elizabeth says, these things are sometimes booked years ahead. Especially the classical stuff if you are a recipient of Fairfield’s yearly Classical Season diary you’d know that.

        It’s no good knowing about a POTENTIAL closure though if you’ve not been given an exact date AND when the negotiations about the best method to proceed are on-going with no agreement yet (Night Tube anyone?). ‘The show must go on!’, plans still need to be made.

        So it seems sensible that they continued to book events in until they had an official date. Even then, the date announced seems not to take into account anything already on sale or booked in at the time of the announcement (not just Daniel O’D plenty of others besides if you look on website). It also falls on a midweek which is no good for a theatre run. Seems to be a date plucked by the council from mid-air to me with no decent reasoning or preparation. Certainly if the council is not ready to get on with works in 5 months from now (VERY tight as David says!) and nothing is booked in to the venue then you’d have a venue pointlessly ‘dark’ (or closed by the council) when it needn’t be.

        Moreover, the council seem to now be bullying (yes bullying) the operator to close on theis senseless date or lose all funding. The council further twisted their arms behind their back by announcing a closure date when they did – making it very difficult for the venue to continue to operate without funding, as is their right if they can do so (presumably with just the commercial stuff and none of the less worthy/arty/community stuff). That does indeed sound like bullying to me, the landlord trying dirty tricks to avoid having to legally evict the tenant which requires a year’s notice – according to comments in the press. Has that official notice been given? Until then I’d expect they are on safe ground legally to continue marketing shows.

        The council are being very vague and cagey about the details of all of this, so it seems very sensible to me to continue with ‘business as usual’ until everything is definite.

        • This is not just about the booking of acts, which may well have been necessary on a provisional basis. But that’s not what the Fairfield Halls management did in this instance.

          They seem to have been less than frank with Daniel O’Donnell’s management, in respect of telling them that there is no planning permission, when no such permission is necessary for the internal work inside the venue.

          The tour managers wanted to release their ticket sales for the whole tour last month. Given the uncertainty over the venue’s status, it would have been fair and reasonable for Fairfield Halls to withdraw at that point, rather than continue the pretence that it will have a venue available. They chose not to do so.

          • rocklad says:

            According to Simon Thomsett’s comments in the press about the lease, one of the clauses that would trigger a year’s notice to quit period would be granting of planning permission. If notice hasn’t been given then presumably they meant that. In which case don’t they have every right to remain open unless an amicable workable agreement is made for an earlier closure?

          • Is that the same Simon Thomsett who could lose his £90,000 per year job if the Halls close for refurbishment?

            For a CEO to be so ill-informed is troubling: no planning permission is necessary for the major works within the building. The owners, with millions of pounds of public money, will always be entitled to carry out repair and refurbishment work on their property.

          • rocklad says:

            Yes the same Mr. Thomsett. I doubt he’ll have too much trouble getting an even higher paid job once he moves on from Fairfield. I doubt that salary is really the going rate for CEO of a commercial organisation running a large multi-venue entertainment complex in London.

            Indeed, as you say, no planning permission is needed for internal works. But a responsible landlord can’t just enter a property and start work without agreement with or eviction of a tenant. However, according to those remarks in the press, planning permission IS required as an automatic trigger for notice to quit the lease, I believe that was his point when you read the article Or a year’s notice by agreement. So presumably if no agreement is reached then they don’t have to get out? That would by my understanding of those comments. I may be wrong but then again I don’t have knowledge of all the lease clauses and am no legal property expert, so I bow to your inside knowledge on such matters.

          • We don’t deal in fortune-telling (much), just reporting what happens. So if Thomsett does get another job after his performance over this, we’ll be sure to let you know.

            We have not seen the contract between the property owners – who are the council, supposedly on behalf of the people of Croydon – and the Fairfield Halls board, an organisation which owes its existence to… the council, and the people of Croydon.

            A responsible owner can’t allow their property just to rot. Although Croydon Tories – who are backing the petition with all the political expediency you might expect – did a fair impersonation of that for eight years from 2006. Something needs to be done, and now, otherwise the spiral of decline, in the fabric of the building and the artist offer, will only worsen.

            You seem to be suggesting that Thomsett and the Fairfield board exercise some kind of of arty squatting rights, to block the regeneration works taking place. Because that’s the logical conclusion of your argument. Oh, the irony.

            But there is one small matter which the consideration of Croydon Council contracts does raise, and that’s the council’s legal department, a group of people who are to the protection of the public interest what Winston McKenzie is to feminism.

            So we’ll just have to wait and see, though the patience and goodwill of many Croydon residents towards the clique behind the petition, with their strong sense of entitlement, may be beginning to wear thin.

  4. Peter Rogers says:

    Another reason, amongst the many reasons, to keep the venue open during the work.

  5. farmersboy says:

    £90,000 is below the going rate? That’s a lot of bums on seats just to pay him, and I suspect more than a lot of the act’s earn – no wonder A list acts are few and far between down Fairfield way

    • It’s more than £90,000 per year. One member of staff receives more than £90,000, according to the Fairfield accounts

      • farmersboy says:

        That would go some way to explaining why I can see headline comedians for a lot less in the West End than in Croydon. Unless it’s because Croydon is zone 5 – but Gav B is going to sort that out for us…

  6. farmersboy says:

    Fairfield can’t be closing as I’ve just had an email promoting their new terrace restaurant and no one would spend all that money just before bulldozing the place…

  7. Can I ask if anyone can write misleading articles and have them published? I’m sure I can think up some amazing pieces.

    As anyone who is keeping up with the truly negligent handling of the Fairfield refurbishment will know, the date of closure was only given on the 11th December, well after the tickets went on sale.

    Daniel O’Donnells shows always sell out quickly and so the recklessness lies firmly with the council.

    If you want to write something interesting and with some truth, maybe find out why the council and pushing ahead with the closure with no plans, no planning permission and no clue.

    • As anyone who is not entirely naive will realise, Fairfield Halls management had been discussing the plans, and a closure, for nearly a year before the formal date was announced.

      Was it not reckless to mislead the performer and his management into believing that they would have a venue in which he could perform?
      Was it not reckless to mislead Daniel O’Donnell’s thousands of fans, who have gone ahead and paid for tickets for a show they may never get to see?

      And as for the lack of planning permission: no planning permission is required for the works which need doing inside the Fairfield Halls. The Halls management know that very well, but opted to dissemble on that fact to Daniel O’Donnell, his management, his fans and, evidently, you, too.

      Shame that you are so easily misled by those with vested interests.


Leave a Reply