Fairfield Halls CEO was paid in full prior to administration

How the redeveloped Fairfield Halls and College Green are suppoed to look

How the redeveloped Fairfield Halls and College Green are supposed to look

The financial collapse of the charitable body which managed the Fairfield Halls did not prevent its chief executive, Simon Thomsett, receiving his salary payments in full right up to last Friday.

Thomsett, who had worked at Fairfield Halls for six years, was the Halls’ highest paid employee, on a salary of around £90,000.

The council had provided a £750,000 cash injection just six months ago, after the amount had been agreed with the Halls’ management, to ensure that all redundancy obligations would be met for the venue’s staff.

Instead, Fairfield staff will now receive their redundancy payments through the government scheme.

Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd called in the administrators just three days after the venue’s closure for a two-year, £30 million refurbishment which is being funded by Croydon Council, with £12 million up front and the remaining £18 million from anticipated  development profits.

This final episode raises further questions about the capabilities of the management of the Fairfield Halls, and of Thomsett, who was actively involved in the Croydon Tories-backed “Save Our Fairfield” campaign which sought to derail the refurbishment scheme in favour of a longer, and costlier, phased redevelopment.

Paid in full: Simon Thomsett

Paid in full: Simon Thomsett

Even to the last, the Fairfield management was running a survey among those on its mailing list, using a set of blatantly loaded questions, to create a set of responses which might have been used to suggest that the Halls had public support for continuing to be operated by the charity when it re-opens in 2018.

“While it’s true that Fairfield Halls venues were used by some children’s and community groups, it’s wholly misleading to imply, as they sought to do with their survey, that this was the bulk of what was going on there,” a Town Hall source said. “The commercial offerings were clearly not successful enough, the management had failed, for various reasons, to secure significant sponsors or Arts Council grants, and many local arts groups and am-drams felt that they were priced out of using the Fairfield Halls by the management.

“That’s how we get to a situation where, even after being handed a chunk of cash for the purpose, they can’t manage to pay their own staff.”

With Paula Murray, the Town Hall’s “culture czarina”, now installed full-time, the council has been actively seeking a partnership with a theatre operator with a more successful track record. An appointment is expected to be announced before the end of this year.

Chris Herron, joint administrator at Herron Fisher, said that Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd’s insolvency marked “the end of the road” for the organisation, which had been set-up with charitable status. Herron told The Stage: “There isn’t enough money to pay everyone in full straight away, so Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd is insolvent, and we’re dealing with that process.”

That “process” seems likely to strip the Halls of some of its assets.

Herron also said the insolvency is unlikely to affect the centre’s planned reopening. “In terms of holding up the refurbishment, I don’t think it should – they [the council] presumably will just carry on,” he said.

An example of the self-serving, loaded questions which the Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd management used in its "questionnaire", just weeks before they were forced to call in the administrators

An example of the self-serving, loaded questions which the Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd management used in its “questionnaire”, just weeks before they were forced to call in the administrators

“We are deeply saddened to hear that the Fairfield trust has gone into administration,” Croydon Council said in a statement.

“We made a payment of £750,000 to the trust earlier this year on the understanding this would cover all the necessary costs of closure, including the staff, and it is very disappointing to learn this is not the case.”

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4 Responses to Fairfield Halls CEO was paid in full prior to administration

  1. My fury over Fairfield is that the plans do not include increasing the amount of seats. Adding extra seats means bigger acts can be drawn to Croydon. I’m not sure having a roof terrace and moving the doors to the side will attract the bigger names.
    I just cannot see how the £30,000,000 will give us any different experience than that we have been used to. I’m very sad to say but I think its been a terribly thought out plan.

  2. croydonres says:

    The closure of any landmark enterprise and the laying-off of staff is an unhappy thing.

    The challenge for the Fairfield after re-opening will be exactly the same as it always has been – to fill its spaces with concerts, plays and events that make money.

    It can’t be easy to do this, with the mixed nature of Croydon’s population, and its varied cultural tastes, from no-brow to high brow, Beethoven to Bangra, tea drinker to champagne guzzler to Stella swiller, and so on. Funnily enough, years ago, the Fairfield attracted big name performers, with all-Star wrestling as well as International symphony orchestras. Let’s hope it can do again.

    I do hope that the newly-restored hall will have some more intimate space for events that have a smaller following. To attend some concerts , with a small audience in a huge hall, is a truly depressing experience, akin to dining in an empty restaurant, or visiting a pub on a Friday where there re no other drinkers No buzz.

    Will the roof terrace will be a pleasant roof garden, or just another bleak roof?

    Croydon is trying hard to get more people living right in the town centre. This has to be good – if they have the money to spend in Croydon, and the cultural interest to want to attend the Fairfield and above all, the desire not to just sleep in Croydon and live up in London. The latter is the key issue for the new Fairflield.

    If the re-vamped park next to the Fairfield (College Green) is an attractive and lively spot, the Fairfeild will no longer feel isolated. But the crowds will only come if they have a cause to do so. If only they would relocate the Brit School right into Croydon! If only the river Thames flowed through Croydon town centre! If only Glastonbury would move to the Queen’s Gardens!

    Architects’ “artist impressions” of projects always have hundreds of people walking through the project and sitting enjoying the vibe. One hopes that the reality for Fairfield will not depart too far from this ideal vision.

  3. I totally agree with David. The main area that really needs working on is the Ashcroft Theatre, not the butchering of the Concert Hall. This plan is flawed and going to cause another 60 years of suffering through an inadequate building.

  4. maybe I am really cynical, but I highly doubt the Fairfield Halls will ever reopen.

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