September 16 2019: That’s now the date when the venue managers are telling anyone who is still listening that the Fairfield Halls will re-open.
By our reckoning, that’ll will be the fifth re-opening date announced since the Halls, which include the Ashcroft Theatre and Arnhem Gallery, went dark in June 2016 for what was supposed to be a £30million, two-year refurb.
Now, industry experts estimate that the over-runs with the building works – which are being “managed” by the council’s house builders, Brick by Brick (Number of houses completed since 2015: 0) – could run to at least £40million.
Originally, Fairfield Halls, was to have re-opened in July this year.
Within a few months of its closure, as building works failed to make the progress anticipated, or required, a vague “autumn 2018” was promised in the Town Hall chamber by Tony Newman, the council cabinet member for hair dye.
This solemn undertaking was soon followed by a new prediction of sometime “early in 2019”.
Somewhat more embarrassingly, some performance groups then let slip that the Earl of Wessex would be attending a gala re-opening concert on June 12, 2019.
But then last month, Inside Croydon revealed exclusively that this royal appointment has been cancelled due to further construction delays. There’s been no news whether Prince Eddie wants to return to Croydon any time soon.
The latest announcement of a re-opening date was not made to the Croydon public – who, after all, are footing the bills for the multi-million-pound refurbishment.
With the contempt and disdain which the council’s leadership and venue managers, BHLive, have shown for residents and our elected representatives, this September 16 date was not announced to a meeting at the Town Hall chamber but instead was confirmed to a small and select audience last night at the annual meeting of Croydon BID, the business group.
Newman and the council CEO, Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini, were in attendance as Neil Chandler, the Fairfield Halls venue manager, revealed the plans. Chandler was recently appointed as chair of Croydon BID.
As with so much about the Fairfield Halls, and Croydon Council, even the initial offering will appear somewhat dated by the time the venue opens its doors. You could even say that Croydon, and the Fairfield Halls, have missed the boat…
Chandler told the town centre’s business leaders that he’s planning on marking the Fairfield’s re-opening with a Windrush exhibition – which he’ll be staging more than a year after the 70th anniversary celebrations of the ship’s arrival from the Caribbean in June 1948.
This September 16 announcement should also be taken with a pinch of scepticism: a static exhibition indicates a lack of confidence in the likely opening date. After all, it is a great deal easier to defer and postpone a few pictures and exhibition cabinets in the case of further building snags and delays, than it would be to re-organise hundreds of musicians and performers, as well as the 10th in line to the throne.
And it will be so much cheaper, too. For all the time and energy which BHLive must have invested in Fairfield Halls since being handed the venue management by Croydon Council, they will have generated no income for themselves for 15 months longer than anticipated. Booking acts and productions for a venue for which there is no confirmed availability has also been “somewhat challenging” is the euphemism being bandied about.
There has been no announcement as yet what the first live performances will be in the Concert Hall, or in what Chandler insists on bawdlerising as the “Ashcroft Playhouse“.
Katharine Street sources maintain that there is a strong possibility that work will not have been completed on all component parts of the Fairfield Halls by the time of the re-opening, and that a phased re-opening is now being considered. This will not come as any consolation to the 100-plus employees who were made redundant by the Labour-run council in 2016 on the grounds that a phased refurbishment – which they preferred, because it would keep them in work – would take longer and cost more than closing the venue for two years.
But hey, September 16 2019… Fairfield Halls could still be opening five years sooner than Croydon Westfield.
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