Council admits Fairfield Halls refurb is at least six months late

Croydon Council today admitted that its £30million refurbishment project at the Fairfield Halls is running at least six months over schedule. It means that any further delays could jeopardise the flagship venue’s part in plans for Croydon to be London’s “Borough of Culture” in 2019.

The wrecking crew has been let loose on the Arnhem Gallery this week – but the £30m Fairfield refurbishment is already six months behind schedule

Croydon’s internationally renowned arts centre and sometime home to Kent Walton, Mick McManus and professional wrestling, has been closed since July last year for the first significant modernisation since it was opened by the Queen Mother in 1962.

When announcing the closure, Croydon Council was adamant that by not phasing the project, it could all be completed more speedily, and re-open within two years.

But today the council described the Fairfield Halls re-opening date as “in almost exactly a year”, wallowing in the oxymoronic quality of “almost exactly“.

If so delayed, at least until December 2018, it risks ruling out the profitable Christmas season and annual pantomime at the Fairfield Halls, Ashcroft Theatre and Arnhem Gallery venues for a third year.

Highly visible works began this week to remove the side wall and roof of the Arnhem Gallery, among the first tangible signs of any progress with the works.

In a press release today, Croydon Council, which owns the venue, states that, “One of the biggest changes will be the remodelled Arnhem Gallery, which is gaining a second floor to provide extra performance spaces along with a brand-new roof top terrace bar and event space.”

The council inadvertently underlines the six-month delay in re-opening by adding, “Plans are already being made for Fairfield Halls’ first year back in action – and it is centre stage in the council’s 2019 London Borough of Culture bid.”

Note to Cllr Godfrey: here’s a map. You’ll  see that Croydon is on it

Timothy Godfrey, the Labour council’s cabinet member for culcha and stuff, appears to have bought in to the council spin that a six-month-plus delay in re-opening and missing deadlines for the whole 2018 Christmas season is in some way a “good” thing.

And he has also adopted one of those dreadfully hackneyed clichés, so popular with third-rate politicians such as Tony Newman, of “putting Croydon on the map”. Croydon has been on maps for centuries…

The press release quotes Godfrey as saying, “The timing of Fairfield’s completion makes us an incredibly strong contender for the London Borough of Culture title as the aim of the award is to help places put themselves on the cultural map.

“With the transformation Croydon is already looking forward to, the Mayor’s support would make a huge difference. More than £1million of investment in events and exhibitions comes with the title and with that, and the support of our many partners, we’ll be able to stage some amazing shows for everyone to enjoy.”

Councillor Godfrey does not state what happens to those cultural plans if the bid fails, the £1million is not forthcoming, or if there are further delays in the Fairfield refurb.

Other work that has been going on recently at Fairfield Halls includes the removal of the concrete arch which used to link the college and the multi-story car park. The rear section of College Green has also been removed to expose the former underground section of the car park.

  • Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
  • Inside Croydon is the borough’s only independent news source, and still based in the heart of Croydon
  • 1 MILLION PAGE VIEWS IN 2017 (January to September)
  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at

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

12 Responses to Council admits Fairfield Halls refurb is at least six months late

  1. Not surprising really, for a long time after the closure it didn’t appear that any work at all was happening.

  2. That comment under the map picture – bahahaa! Nice one.

  3. On Feb 16, 2017 I wrote making reference to my previous post querying their very optimistic programme which had by Feb 2017 already slipped to late 2017. Perhaps I should be submitting a consultancy fee as the situation appears to be getting worse. A golden rule in construction is to be cautious on programme and deliver early or on time. Being consistently late costs money and invites derision. Given that staff were made redundant, on the basis that a short full closure was said to be more economic that a longer phased programme, someone should be considering their position.

    • Nick Davies says:

      Even so it could well be back open again before the first shovel is wielded at the Whitgift Centre.

    • Timothy Godfrey says:

      Come off it DAVID, it’s not a London Bus, this is a £30m project. Hand over will be in 2018 to BH Live and they will have their opening programme.

      Closure of the former operator was, as you well know, because the costs of phasing in build costs was around £4m and the costs of revenue support would have also been around £4m – with hindsight Fairfield (Croydon) ltd should have merged with a bigger charity like BH Live a long time ago in order to secure the back office support that it needed.

      It’s easy to be against everything in the town, harder to be supportive but a critical friend.

      2019 will be an amazing year. Quite confident we will get borough of culture or one of the run up prizes of a significant project – our significant project is a huge youth festival.

      • Fiona Satiro says:

        Yes and another sad thing is we wanted to stay open for another 6 months until Jan 16 to have a panto…charity would probably have survived as well.

        But council insisted on July closure… all so predictable i.e. we predicted it and they blamed us for it!

        Godfrey isn’t even going to see it through, he’s standing down in May! Tim you were on the board until all the council lemmings left just before you announced the closure, don’t recall you ever suggesting a merger with BH Live or similar at any board meeting, oh no that’s because you sprang the closure on us wouldn’t agree to a phased refurb and wanted us to fail… Tell that to everyone who lost their jobs…

      • Thank you for your comment, councillor.

        When the closure of the Fairfield Halls was first presented by the council, and yourself, it was promised to be a two-year project.

        Now, as you have confirmed, it is to be a project lasting at least 30 months – a 25 per cent over-run, which has occurred in a year.

        Care to explain why?

      • Tim, you make the mistake of thinking that size matters.

        Properly planned and resourced construction projects should be delivered on time whatever their size. £30 million is not that large in terms of building and civil engineering.

        The mistake was that you were too optimistic on programme from the start and I identified that at the time.

        • Timothy Godfrey says:


          As you know, Fairfield’s finances were always challenging and lacked key staff. Fairfield could only survive by the council underwriting revenue support. The purpose of this project is to achieve a venue that doesn’t rely on revenue grant and thus is sustainable in long term.

          Hindsight is wonderful, and having met and worked with BH Live, I can confidently say they are a successful version of what the old Fairfield was. They have strong senior staff team, they have very strong and experienced Finance Director (not a part time consultant) they have cash in the bank, they have an executive chef (food really does matter!) they have a programme team – all things the Fairfield tried to do on a shoe string. Simon Thomsett had an impossible job to do.

          The new Director, Neil Chandler, has all that back office support to make his job possible. If Simon had had that level of support the old Fairfield might have been very different!

          Always sad that staff are made redundant, but the council has lost hundreds over recent years and continues to do so.

          On the plus side the new staff at Fairfield will all be paid the London Living Wage. That will mark a big change to the old Fairfield who paid staff well below.

          Full closure became the only logical option – spending up to £7/8m more to phase over three or four years was never a logical nor fair use of council tax payers money.

        • Timothy Godfrey says:


          Congratulations. A few months more than the 24 since the council took possession of the building it will be handed over to BH Live.

          Opening programme was always down to the eventual operator.

          We were never going to throw money at it or risk quality. Doing it right has always been the driving force. It’s a heritage refurbishment after all.

          The project team has been amazing and is delivering a lot for £30m – I know you will like it when it’s finished!

      • rocklad says:

        Hi Tim. That’s an interesting swerve around the opening date – ‘hand over to BH Live in 2018’ is very different to a grand opening with panto in 2018 as previously promised.

        Will, for example, the venue be physically ready to host full productions on handover? EG will all the technical infrastructure (patch panels, control positions, dimmers etc, wiring for theatrical lighting, sound, show comms, AV, CCTV, IT etc, flying/motor systems) be installed and ready? Or will BH Live be having to spec and install this themselves – whilst also creating operating procedures, populating the venue with equipment/furnishings and training all the new staff? Not to mention planning the artistic programme.

        You could potentially be talking months after handover before full opening, depending how full production ‘show ready’ it is at that point.

  4. When this project was first publicised, and the propaganda from Tony’s Ministry of Magic got to work on the marketing of this project, the vast majority of people thought it was a very ambitious timeframe for delivery. You only have to look at the skyline, count the cranes, and see how many people who live in this Borough work on large projects within Construction and Development, not only in Croydon but throughout London, they saw the propaganda and thought the plan was unlikely to be delivered on time and on budget. Those people now appear to be right but were told at the time they were wrong.
    I wonder how long in to the new administration, when they review this project, they will have to look at revising the size of the proposal to bring it in closer to the original budget and avoid further delay. The projections of revenue will have to be downgraded to reflect the reduced revenue the smaller scheme will be able to produce.
    This is the trend on projects within this Borough. It has happened on proposals for new Town Halls, schools, Leisure Centres, Council Houses, Affordable homes, shopping malls etc. That if you were to follow form the outcome is a predictable one.
    I would like to be here in May 2020 with you telling me I was wrong Mr Godfrey, but I wouldn’t bet on it if I were you.

Leave a Reply