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.
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!”
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.
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.
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