I was saved by Fairfield

By - Monday 16th May, 2016

Amie Salmon reminds us that there are human stories like hers behind the headlines surrounding the Fairfield closure, and appeals for care to be taken in whatever decisions are made

Photo public domain.

My story is unique. Not uncommon, but unique. It’s uniquely mine.

In September 2013, Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd offered me an apprenticeship in ‘Technical Theatre’. I thought: ‘finally’. I saw it as my last chance to achieve something. When I came to Fairfield I was suffering. I was young but felt old, I was painfully shy, and I was afraid that these new people would see how broken I was and turn me away. I had spent many years lost, which came as a result of having gone through a series of events that began with the loss of my dad when I was 18. I was let down by the higher education system, which didn’t do enough to support me during my times of grieving and illness. After years of trying to make my university career a success, I knew that it was time for a change. I’m so thankful to my mum for suggesting that I look into apprenticeships.

I remember with such clarity how I felt going into my interview – for the first time I was unafraid, as I had nothing left to lose. I’d spent the summer going to interview after interview, all of which were unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. I recall sitting outside the interview room at Fairfield with another candidate, who sat in a suit holding his portfolio close to him. I had no real experience to speak of, just a desire to learn and be a part of an environment that I had once enjoyed. (When I was sixteen I attended the Brit School where I studied acting, a desire that I soon abandoned as I withdrew into myself).

These strangers saw something in me that I’d long forgotten

I remember my first day and sitting in the foyer of Fairfield with two other fellow apprentices (only one of which enjoyed and endured it with me and has done to this day – he’s my best friend. The other was replaced a short while later after deciding that technical wasn’t for them). As we sat and got to know each other, I made a promise to myself that I would do something every day that was brave, something that I could be proud of. I started by asking questions. I’m sure that my colleagues, most of whom I consider friends, will tell you that I never stop asking questions, but I like to think that I ask the right ones. Most of the time.

My confidence quickly grew as I became aware of what I could achieve and what it was like to feel appreciated in a workplace. These strangers saw something in me that I’d long forgotten. They trusted me to do a good job. My knowledge isn’t just owed to my great colleagues, but to those who’ve passed through our building and taken the time to pass on their skills. There are always people out there who will take the time to teach. This industry isn’t as closed off as one might have believed.

I’ve been exposed to many opportunities: spending a summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; being a panel member for a seminar at Women of The World conference; working on Blood Brothers and pantomime; attending a reception at Admiralty House for females in STEM subjects; becoming a mentor to new generations of apprentices.

I do hope that our home is taken care of, and given the effort and affection many others have shown it

I still suffer from shyness. I still struggle to like myself. I’m still poor and common. Currently I’m struggling with illness and facing the prospect of being made redundant from the most supportive job that I’ve ever had. However, my life is richer. I have amazing friends who truly value our friendship, not just in Croydon but all over the country. In some rare cases, across the sea. I’ve seen places and done things that I might not have before this job, for work and socially.

My heart breaks because I finally found a home, somewhere that I not only belong but somewhere that I thrive. It hurts more because I know that I’m not the only one. Thousands of children and performers and technicians and workers and future apprentices and audience members will lose the opportunity to understand what makes Fairfield so special. We are a community of people who welcome others into the fold with hopes to give them an unforgettable experience. I do hope that our home is taken care of, and given the effort and affection that many others have shown it. All of us face a personal battle every day, and I’m damned if anything will stop me from supporting the future of Fairfield Halls.

Amie Salmon

Amie Salmon was recently promoted Senior Technician of the Ashcroft Theatre at Fairfield Halls in Croydon, after being one of the first apprentices of the award winning scheme at Fairfield. Aside from her obvious love for the theatre and other live entertainment, she enjoys getting engrossed in a good book or television show. Occasionally she writes a bit too. One of her proudest moments, thanks to her apprenticeship, was being able to be part of a panel at the Women of The World conference at the Southbank Centre.

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  • Helen Hampton

    Thank you for being bold enough to share this account Amie – this is the human story of the closure of this place that we all love. When Jo Negrini said ” it’s just a building” she couldn’t have been more wrong or shown less understanding of what an arts venue actually is. As I said in a previous letter to the Council, it is a living, breathing entitiy with history, laughter and music held in its walls, and that is not something that can just be stopped and started at will, and the team of people who make it all happen, whether technicians, front of house or volunteers, are all a part of that.
    We’re going to continue to fight for Fairfield’s existance – I have grave fears for its future, but really hope that I’m wrong. However, since the Council have their fingers in their ears its difficult to do anything other than fear the worst. Whatever happens though, I hope you find a new ‘family’ in a new theatre where you will be valued and respected as you are here. Good luck.