This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 02/04/2018.
Council leader: ‘What’s three months of delay when we will have a Fairfield Halls that lasts 50 or 60 years’
It was revealed previously the venue had to push back its opening date by three months to March 2019.
Croydon Council leader Tony Newman has admitted the “sheer scale” of the work at Fairfield Halls has led to its full opening date being pushed back, which means the traditional pantomime will not be going ahead at the venue this year.
It was revealed previously that the venue had to push back its full opening date by three months to March 2019, even though its complete reopening was originally pledged to be by the end of this year.
This means the venue will be unable to host the pantomime this year, which prompted Councillor Tim Pollard, leader of the Conservative opposition on the council, to say he is worried the audience for shows at Fairfield Halls will be lost because of delays.
Cllr Newman says that although the opening has been pushed back, the work that is being done will ensure the borough has a long-standing, top class cultural venue.
He said: “We took the tough decision to close it [Fairfield Halls] because it was crumbling to the ground and so we could complete all the work that needed doing. This [work] is now coming together.”
He added: “This is about bringing it up to the standard of South Bank Centre [in central London] and it will not just be for Croydon, but for all of south London.”
The frustrating delays, Cllr Newman added, have been down to the amount of work that needed to be done.
He explained: “The sheer scale from when they got in there was massive, and they had issues such as asbestos to deal with. It has taken longer than anticipated which is not unusual for a building of that size or age.
“What’s a few months’ delay on a building that’s going to last for 50 or 60 years?”
With the venue’s work not being completed this year, there is a concern that because of its closure and the forthcoming closure of the Whitgift Centre ahead of the massive Westfield/Hammerson redevelopment, there will be smaller numbers of visitors coming to Croydon.
Cllr Newman said there were many “exciting” projects in Croydon to come, however, such as new bars on Surrey Street.
It is anticipated Fairfield Halls will have a phased opening, with the Concert Hall opening this year, followed by the rest of the venue opening in March 2019.
Cllr Newman said he wants the whole venue to be used for community projects and events, as well as bigger shows.
“I would hope that we will see some community events in there first,” he said. “It will be a quiet beginning.”
No shows or acts have been confirmed for the grand opening next year yet, although Cllr Newman said he hopes to see it showcasing Croydon talent.