Even long-standing council staff have been outspoken about the proposals to change the Arnhem Gallery’s name. “Who comes up with this twaddle?” they said, as our arts correspondent, BELLA BARTOCK, reports
Nine out of 10 responders to an Inside Croydon poll which has been running since the weekend say that Croydon Council should not allow the Arnhem Gallery’s name to be changed when the Fairfield Halls reopen, some time next year.
The Arnhem Gallery has been so named since the Fairfield Halls opened in 1962, providing a permanent reminder of the ties between Croydon and the Dutch city, which began shortly after the end of World War II and continue today.
But as Inside Croydon revealed last week, the Halls’ new operators, BHLive, want to rename the rebuilt Arnhem Gallery as “the Croydon Rec”, as they turn it into a roller skating rink and live music venue, and with the potential to sell the naming rights to a blue-chip brand, such as O2.
Even as recently as January this year, Neil Chandler, BHLive’s venue manager, was still referring to the Arnhem Gallery by name, as part of the live music offer for the Fairfield Halls after the completion of the council-funded £30million refurbishment. It would, Chandler suggested, offer competition for the musical tastes currently served by council-subsidised Boozepark.
Chandler made no mention of the “Croydon Rec” at that time.
Nor has the council made any public announcement of this change of name for the Arnhem Gallery, which only came to light during private tours of the Halls arranged for a group of businesses.
According to some recent visitors to the Halls, BHLive wants to maintain some connection with the borough’s heritage and the links with Arnhem by naming the Fairfield’s lobby as “the Arnhem Lobby”.
“They might as well call the public lavatories ‘The Arnhem Toilets’,” one unimpressed resident said.
One council employee described it by saying: “The operator is prepared to airbrush the heritage away with no resistance from the council.”
The move to rename the Arnhem Gallery has also been described by Inside Croydon’s loyal reader as “terrible”, “elitist” and “divisive”.
By 4pm today, after the (entirely unscientific) opinion poll had been running on this website for five days, 92 per cent of respondents said that Croydon Council should not allow the Arnhem Gallery name to be changed.
A senior council figure, who asked not to be named, called the move “crass cultural vandalism”.
And even long-standing council staff have been so dismayed by the suggestion that they have been openly very critical of the proposal.
“How can the new space [in the] former Arnhem Gallery be renamed The Croydon Recreation?” Andrew Dickinson, a middle manager working at Fisher’s Folly, tweeted from his personal account. “What an awful name. Makes me think of a park. “Who comes up with this twaddle? I hope we haven’t paid consultants for that suggestion.”
“It’s just an unimaginative and bad choice for this prestigious venue,” the council employee wrote, somewhat bravely.
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