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.
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.”
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.
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