The Fairfield Halls, Croydon’s cultural centre, is seeking its fourth artistic director in little more than three years, after it was announced today that Jonathan Higgins is leaving to take a position at another venue in Newcastle.
Higgins moved to Croydon in April 2022, promising to put the community at the heart of the prestigious south London venue which had endured a three-year shutdown for a controversial refurbishment, only to be hit by the covid lockdown from 2020 through to 2021.
Higgins’ time in charge may not have been transformational, but he has done much to turnaround the ailing fortunes of the Fairfield Halls.
The Fairfield Halls had become the multi-million-pound symbol of council mismanagement, after £70million had been squandered on a failed and incomplete refurbishment project that has been subject to a series of fraud investigations.
After less than 18 months in charge, Higgins has slowly helped the Fairfield Halls to regain some vestige of artistic credibility, with generally favourable reviews appearing in the mainstream media. Audiences continue to build, but still have some way to go before the “House Full” signs are deployed on a nightly basis.
He will leave his role as associate director soon after one of his biggest artistic coups – the performance in the Fairfield’s Concert Hall by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, with another six months of Croydon’s year as Borough of Culture still to run.
News of Higgins’ departure was released by BHLive, the Bournemouth-based leisure facility operators who manage the Fairfield Halls on behalf of Croydon Council.
Higgins is leaving to take up the role of chief executive of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in Newcastle. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time leading the team at Fairfield Halls. What a venue and what a town! It’s such a special place and is rightly recognised nationally and internationally as a superb venue,” he said.
“I joined the team as the venue was recovering from the pandemic and we’ve made some tremendous leaps forward in recent months. BHLive has invested in the team and venue in numerous ways, including, enlisting one of the UK’s biggest and best panto producers, reinstating symphony orchestral concerts, and we’ve also launched an affordable and accessible family entertainment programme. We’ve introduced community and charity pricing to encourage more local people to use and create at Fairfield.
“There is so much more to do, but I have every confidence that the committed and dedicated team that I leave behind will continue to drive forward at pace.”
Jon Workman, the CEO of BHLive, praised and thanked Higgins for his time in Croydon, saying that he had “forged excellent foundations to build upon”.
“We are working closely with the team to ensure audiences, customers and cultural partners continue to enjoy a diverse and accessible event programme,” Workman said, promising an announcement of Higgins’ successor “in the coming weeks”.
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