Fairfield Halls needs to be more London, and less Bournemouth

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Could Brit Awards-winner Stormzy help to save the Fairfield Halls? Following Inside Croydon’s exclusive news report yesterday that Neil  Chandler, the venue’s artistic director, had quit amid growing concerns about poor audiences in the first six months since the £42.6million makeover of the venue, PHIL WORSFOLD, right, offers some sound advice

Honestly, it is not rocket science.

If the Fairfield Halls, after its three-year, multi-million-pound refurbishment wants to attract large audiences, they need to put on well-marketed, quality acts, by relevant artists, groups and events. Then people will come.

‘It’s not rocket science’ to get the audiences back to the Fairfield Halls

If people want to go to an event, parking is totally irrelevant.

So far, since the Fairfield Halls’ reopening last September, there has not been one show that we would want to pay money to see which, quite frankly, is absurd.

We have money to spend, but the offer to date has been terrible. Who is in charge of bookings?

The guy who has just left does not sound like a cutting-edge London venue manager. Didn’t he work on cruise ships? Enough said (apologies if you enjoy cruise holidays).

Croydon Council and BHLive, who operate the venue on behalf of the council, need to understand what people want, and it is not what has been served up to date.

Neil Chandler: quit as artistic director

Have we had one major current recording artist or group perform at the Halls since it reopened? I think the answer to this is no, and where are the up-and-coming breakthrough artists? Croydon has some cutting-edge artists making an impact on the world – Stormzy was going down a storm, again, at the Brits last night – so why hasn’t one of them been convinced to perform at the Fairfield Halls?

Croydon council have in the past, proclaimed a vision that they want Croydon to be like Nashville, a real “music town”. I literally laughed out loud when I read this. Has anybody from the council actually been to Nashville?

If this is truly their ambition, then for goodness sake get the Halls sorted out and make them relevant. Maybe look at the Brighton Dome, The Hideaway, The Jazz Cafe, Indigo at the O2 , The Brixton Academy, Omeara, The Hackney Empire… there are so many others for inspiration.

There are a group of local creatives that, if given the chance, could make the Fairfield Halls a happening and relevant venue. At the moment the offer literally feels like it is one that you might expect at an out-of-season seaside town venue. Croydon deserves better. I am sure BHLive are trying their best but the Fairfield Halls needs to be competing with London, not Bournemouth. The lack of ticket sales is not down to a lack of trust, that is a ridiculous suggestion: it is about a poor, out-of-touch offer.

Stormzy is the kind of relevant music act that the Fairfield Halls needs to book

Somebody needs to get the creative brains in Croydon to steer this amazing opportunity in the right direction, and sooner rather than later. BHLive, Croydon Council… are you listening? So far you have screwed up and unless you take action now, the boost that we have just received from being selected to be the Borough of Culture in 2023 could turn into a fiasco.

Just to add icing to the cake, there is an access issue at the Halls that makes it difficult for acts’ equipment to be unloaded. If this is true, then sack the person responsible and get someone to sort it out. This is a farcical situation. Who has ever heard over a major music venue that makes it impossible for acts to access it easily, especially when the venue has just been refurbished? It is madness and totally irresponsible.

Back to the Brits, and Stormzy’s just won best male artist… Book him Dano! (a joke wasted on anybody under 35, I know…).

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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Art, BH Live, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Music, Neil Chandler, Theatre and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Fairfield Halls needs to be more London, and less Bournemouth

  1. If you look at the BHLive portfolio, they don’t exactly scream cutting edge. Even so, a booking schedule mirroring the Bournemouth International Centre would be a huge improvement; at present Fairfield is barely on par with Portsmouth Pyramids…which at least attracts mid-tier rock bands from 20 years ago.

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  2. Mike Buckley says:

    Somebody said this would happen some years ago – now they are proved right! Car Parking is still not open, the fountains, bless them, are still not in placed, which was the egiven reason for the car park still being closed – and those dreadful seats that Mrs Resco paid to be replaced, and wernt?

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  3. Colin Cooper says:

    Remind me, was it not said long ago that to attract more current artists/groups/bands then access to the rear areas of the Halls needed to be improved dramatically? How odd then that the ‘excellent’ Project Management by Brick by Bricking it completely ignored these thoughts/comments (along with actually upgrading ALL the seating, of course!) Hands up who’s really that surprised Toxic Tony’s Goon Show got it wrong?

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  4. rocklad says:

    You ask ‘who is in charge of bookings’? Well that wasn’t Neil C. I believe one of the main programmers is Ninon Jerome, who returned after previously working as the programmer at Fairfield before it shut.
    To be fair to Neil, he started his career as an entertainments manager on a cruise ship many years ago – everyone starts small and works their way up don’t they? Many of us in the entertainments industry start out either on cruise ships or holiday parks. If anything, you learn more starting at the bottom than you would if you went straight in at a large venue.
    I doubt he wanted to be in charge of tribute shows, but if that’s what BHLive think will sell tickets…I’ve heard that Stormzy wanted £10k to play Fairfield. Which doesn’t seem like a lot for him, but I can’t imagine it working well in the seated Concert Hall!

    When it comes to the ‘access issue’ that is the same issue that used to exist before the refurb – namely a narrow shutter to the Ashcroft, a long corridor and smallish goods lift in the Concert Hall, all accessed from a congested service yard. Because the technical/backstage improvements originally planned were mostly ‘de-scoped’ from the refurb by the council to save money, essentially there is reportedly very little change when it comes to the production aspects behind the scenes.

    Staff who worked there prior to the refurb warned of this danger but were ignored. This of course was all decided before the operator was chosen, so they could have little impact on this matter.

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  5. Thanks for the feedback. £10k for Stormzy would have been a bargain. 700 people paying £60 each in the Recreational would have made £42k without drink revenue. It seems like a no brainer.
    People would have happily paid £60 possibly more for an intimate gig like that. Anyway, if that offer still stands they should 100% do it.

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  6. dracardweig says:

    Programming, especially in the Ashcroft, has nothing really to do with Bournemouth. The same was true before the disfunctional refurb. The good programming always goes to Richmond, Bromley and Wimbledon and always will. The Bournemouth venues have some of the decent shows because they’re Bournemouth! And the idiot who decided to ADD seats to the Ashcroft should be dispatched to some galaxy far away – the problem with the Ashcroft was always the lack of intimacy with the back stalls (and circle) so far away in that shoebox. Greed led the decision of course. As for the back stage access, that’s one of the major things that killed off the Council’s ill-fated attempt to build an Arena! Parking is CRUCIAL as so much of the potentiaL audience come by car – many surveys years ago by the Warehouse and Ashcroft proved this.
    But of course Boss Tony was only obsessed by the NEW!

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