Bafta-winner Scanlan joins calls for new bosses at arts centre

‘Things are far from perfick at the Fairfield ‘Alls’ says the award-winning actress who plays Ma Larkin, as the campaign to sack BHLive gathers momentum. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Time for change: BAFTA-winner Joanna Scanlan says she’s been let down by what has been allowed to happen at the Fairfield Halls

Joanna Scanlan, the BAFTA award-winning actress, has called on Croydon Council to back calls from some Mayoral candidates in next week’s elections and terminate the operating contract for the Fairfield Halls arts centre with BHLive.

Scanlan, the star of The Larkins and After Love, possibly has a better understanding of the shambolic way her local council is run: for seven years, she was a cast member of The Thick Of It, the programme that gave the world the word “clusterfuck”.

Now, in true Ma Larkin style, Scanlan has gone public to say that “things are far from perfick at her local arts centre”.

Scanlan has added her voice to the mounting concerns surrounding the Fairfield Halls, which the council placed in the hands of Bournemouth-based swimming pool operators BHLive in 2017.

Scanlan says she moved home to Croydon five years ago in part because of the attraction of having such a prestige arts centre on her doorstep.

“I have sadly been let down by what has happened in this wonderful opportunity of refurbishment and re-energising of Fairfield Halls,” Scanlan says.

“I think the reason for that is partly that it is being run by a company that is essentially a leisure centre company, based in Bournemouth. They are not local.”

Empty: the foyer at the Fairfield, which was supposed to be a bustling, lively place, is usually closed under BHLive

Scanlan’s video, Broken Promises, has been produced by a committee formed of various local arts groups, who want to the management of the venues to be transferred to a Croydon-based arts trust.

The video features archive clips from four and five years ago, when the refurbishment was being carried out, and council executives and Labour cabinet members, such as Ollie “Shitshow” Lewis, were making all kinds of promises about the future of the Halls and arts in Croydon, most of which which have been broken.

It even includes a clip of Colm Lacey, the witless chief exec of failed housing company Brick by Brick, who spent £67million on a refurb that was supposed to cost £30million, and yet they didn’t even manage to finish the job, and ultimately managed to bankrupt the council.

Scanlan and her Croydon arts campaigners think that there is a better way of doing things. “I’m proud of Fairfield Halls. I think it’s a wonderful building,” Scanlan says.

“Exciting work amongst people that goes on in this incredible town… but it’s not happening in this venue, and it’s not happening through this venue.

Happy families: Joanna Scanlan, as ‘Ma’, with her Larkins co-star Bradley Walsh

“This is an arts centre that could rival any in the world, frankly. It’s built with incredible scale and ambition. An ambition that is matched by the artistic community of this town.”

The video explicitly criticised BHLive for taking millions of pounds in Arts Council grants and payments from Croydon Council to help prop up their leisure business on the south coast.

Scanlan adds her voice to five of the candidates standing for Croydon Mayor when she says, “I think this arts centre should be run by a local trust.”

Notably, one of the candidates for Mayor who has opted against calling for BHLive is Labour’s Val Shawcross, whose party colleagues, including Lewis, over-saw the shambles of the refurbishment and installed BHLive as operators.

Croydon is London’s Borough of Culture in 2023.

Read more: ‘The damage to the Fairfield Halls reputation is severe’
Read more: Fairfield Halls’ £70m fiasco: ‘BxB didn’t know what it was doing’
Read more: Millions of questions for BHLive over Fairfield grant aid
Read more: Council paid £1m compensation for unfinished Fairfield Halls

Become a Patron!

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 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Art, Ashcroft Theatre, BH Live, Borough of Culture 2023, Fairfield Halls, Music, The Wreck, Theatre and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bafta-winner Scanlan joins calls for new bosses at arts centre

  1. Pete Jenkins says:

    Well said Ms Scanlon. Oh for the good old days when things actually happened, and worked and people were proud of the Centre.
    Let’s hope that the new Mayor (whoever he/she will be) will stick to their word and SACK ‘EM.
    Then there is Planning…. Purley Pool….. etc, etc, etc.

  2. Dave West says:

    The question that’s always been in my head is did the individuals really believe those grand statements? Few people set out to do a bad job after all. My feeling is that they did at the time, but most were not competent enough to deliver them, whilst others put personal gain over the promises they had made to the public. When things started to go wrong, the cover-ups began and it then became too career limiting to stop the lying.

    However the reality is that very few people in positions of power suffer the full consequences of their actions. The issues often fall on the employees who end up losing their jobs because the organisation has been bled dry or the potential beneficiaries who never see the benefits they were promised.

    Unfortunately for Croydon, we elected a council of a different flavour from a vindictive Government that brooks no dissent from it’s views (even if you’re the Archbishop of Canterbury commenting on moral matters) and have the misfortune to be in the south when political correctness (in the literal sense) demands that it is the north that must be funded. We could expect more help if we were a red wall council in the north of England.

  3. Bevan Morris says:

    How can Croydon Council appoint a group of architects within the council to do a refurb of the Fairfield Hall who haven’t even built a loft conversion, go hugely over budget, trigger a Metropolitan Police fraud enquiry and this get completely the wrong people in to manage the building. Is there any part of the process the council didn’t fully screw up?

Leave a Reply