A new Fairfield Halls


By - Tuesday 22nd December, 2015

After the Citizens took a critical look at the council’s plans in our “Future of Fairfield Week”, council leader Tony Newman sets out the case in favour of refurbishing Croydon’s biggest venue


Image by Croydon Council, used with permission.

As council leader, let me nail a number of myths that have been perpetuated by those who should know better.

Fairfield Halls will reopen in 2018 and will be the pride of south London as both a cultural venue and a leisure destination of choice.

It would cost an extra £4.8m (money that the council simply does not have) to even attempt to keep it open during the major renovation project that we, as a council, and our partners are about to embark on. Those major works include the replacement of heating and ventilation systems, the removal of asbestos, and a total redesign of the stage access points.

We have a crystal-clear plan and vision for what we want the new Fairfield to be – a vision that, for legal reasons, we haven’t been able to fully articulate until now. Yes, we want to keep the best of the current Fairfield, such as its youth and community work, but we also want to see radical change.

We want to create a venue to serve the 21st century as proudly as the old Fairfield served the 20th

Personally, I’m tired of hearing about all the great acts that have played there in the past, even though I’m a fan of many of them, such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles. However, to quote Paul McCartney, that was ‘yesterday’, and it’s time that we looked to the future. We want to, and will, create a venue to serve the 21st century as proudly as the old Fairfield served the 20th.

So, in just a few years’ time, Fairfield’s concert hall will be buzzing, and not silent, as it currently is for more than 200 nights per year. Numerous other spaces within the building will be available for art and the creative industries to thrive, seven days a week. There will be affordable, good-quality restaurants and bars within the new complex, and we will ensure that we are working with promoters who will bring the country’s most exciting and contemporary performers to Croydon, as well as working with those more established acts.

Croydon is changing. It’s no longer in danger of becoming a sleepy dormitory suburb – it’s now on course to becoming a modern European city on the edge of London. And, with the major regeneration of Fairfield Halls alongside a brand new college and a public square on college green, we will have a cultural venue that our generation, and future generations, can be proud of.

Tony Newman

Tony Newman

Councillor Tony Newman is currently the Leader of the Council in the Town Hall, and Labour local government's national spokesperson on housing. Tony was a member of the previous government's home ownership task force, and has given evidence to a number of parliamentary committees on housing policy. He also served as Council leader from 2005 - 2006, was deputy chair of the Association of London Government from 2002-2005, and is currently a member of the Housing and Environment Board at the Local Government Association.

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  • Robert Ward

    If this is Councillor Newman’s idea of setting out a case and nailing myths then Croydon really is in trouble.

  • Gabriella Bush

    We have learnt nothing new from this! We STILL do not have details of a reopening plan. This is just a criticism of the critics who, thanks to vague statements such as the one above, still have many questions about the actual plans. We still have no answers regarding alternative venues in the mean time;what a reopening plan involves; who will run the venue.

    THE CONCERNS AND “MYTHS” HAVE STILL NOT BEEN ADDRESSED!

  • Mario Creatura

    Cllr Newman claims to be “open and transparent” but I can’t see that to be true with this detail-less article:

    The Croydon Advertiser summarised the questions that need answering well a few weeks back: http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Attempt-halt-Fairfield-Halls-closure-ends/story-28147264-detail/story.html

    - What’s going to happen to the staff who will lose their jobs?

    - Where will the apprentices go who will be in the middle of their training when Newman’s Council closes the Halls?

    - Why have the staff and management of Fairfield repeatedly had to find out their fate in the press and not through formal channels?

    - Why is there a plan in place to close the Halls, but no plan in place to re-open it again?

    - The closure announcement has lead to many acts and performers pulling out of scheduled events and going elsewhere, how will the Council get them back?

    - Who will run the venue when it re-opens? Will it be the expert staff already at the Halls?

    - Why not phase the Halls redevelopment; take longer; keep the staff on and everyone happy?

    - Why not listen to staff and management at the Halls and work with them to come up with a plan that’s good for the Halls?

    - The investment is welcome, but where in Croydon are we to find a 1,800-seater venue for the annual Remembrance Service? Or the hugely successful pantomime?

    There are more questions, but not a single one has been answered by our Council Leader.

    “Open and transparent”? If this is anything to go by he should change his catch-phrase to “closed and opaque”.

    • Y Bachgen

      One wonders whether Mario took the same view when the libraries were outsourced or when we spent £100s millions on Fisher’s Folly. I realise that this is the season for panto but please…!

      • Mario Creatura

        The libraries remained open, so no (whereas Godfrey has mooted closing all but one of them). And the award-winning BWH that has lead to higher productivity among Council staff and that the current administration is happy to use? No problem with that either.

        • Y Bachgen

          And how much is Fisher’s Folly costing Croydon taxpayers in annual debt and other costs?

          • Mario Creatura

            As far as I understand it’s cost neutral to taxpayers as it used funds from CCURV. Cllr Newman promised to publish all the relevant documents, he hasn’t. Why not write and ask him?

          • Y Bachgen

            I shall.

            There’s no such thing as cost free by the way. But maybe you don’t know much about finance and economics. *Everything* has a cost. Either through debt financing of CCURV, through opportunity cost, etc.

            Fisher’s Folly was a basin glorious project.

          • Y Bachgen

            Can you confirm that Croydon hasn’t taken on any debt financing for the CCURV?

  • Sean Creighton

    I agree Tony’s article adds nothing new. There are still a lot of questions to be answered.

    It is interesting to note that it is only as a result of the concerns expressed that some answers are slowly being provided, like Cllr Godfrey saying that £0.5m revenue will be provided to the Fairfield Halls charity to meet its closure costs. That’s revenue which will mean £0.5m will have to be cut from other areas of funding – which ones?

    It would be helpful if Tony would explain how the interest repayments on the loan to cover the costs of refurbishment are to be paid for – is it out of revenue? And if so why can’t you borrow an extra £4.8m, whose extra revenue cost should not be much bigger. The result of a phased programme would be the retention of the staff team at the Halls, the on-going revenue stream, and a seamless planned expansion of activities once the works are complete.
    .
    No one would want to have the horrible job of making cuts that you and your colleagues are going to have to make, but there does have to be public debate about what are the options..

    Tony you need allies in making it clear to residents and businesses that the cuts your administration will have to make are forced on it by the Government. You gave an indication you would so do so – see my blog report https://seancreighton1947.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/has-tony-newman-woken-up-to-the-need-for-allies-over-government-forced-cuts/

    You did not use the Council meeting on 7 December to announce an initiative. Why not? With the mass petition against the end of the garden waste service, the wide concern beyond the usual activists about the closure of the Halls, the potential threats to libraries, and the annoyance that creating a clean Croydon has not turned out to be as easy as you thought, you are losing potential allies.

  • trypewriter

    Delightful that we start with… As council leader, let me nail a number of myths that have been perpetuated by those who should know better.
    Then move on to…
    Fairfield Halls will reopen in 2018 and will be the pride of south London as both a cultural venue and a leisure destination of choice.

    Is the second sentence one of the myths being nailed?

  • Stephen Giles

    From a council that is fast becoming Croydon’s own version of the Taliban, I don’t believe a word this leader of monkeys says!!!

    • Harley S

      Have some decorum, fellow. Your choice of language reflects badly on you and is disappointing to read.

      • Stephen Giles

        Never heard of you lad (I assume).

        • Harley S

          I haven’t been referred to as ‘lad’ for more than 40 years, so I shall take that as a compliment.

          If by ‘others’ you mean those who prefer decency rather than your choice of language, then I am happy to hold my hands up.

          Even if you disagree with Councillor Newman, surely there must be a better way to express yourself? I tend to think it lets oneself down when abusive language is used instead of robust argument.

          Perhaps you’ll mull over my words, as the editor seems to agree with me on this point? After all, it is the season of goodwill to all.

          • The Croydon Citizen

            The comment above has been removed as it contains both offensive language and has been deemed likely to stifle debate. Abusive, personal comments are contrary to the Citizen’s belief in an open and frank debate that takes place in good faith and with mutual respect. As the user in question has been warned about this behaviour before, their commenting privileges have been permanently revoked.

  • Harley S

    Councillor Newman, judging by the comments and week-long feature of articles all against your stance (all with footnotes to an anti-closure petition), one wonders why you have decided to write such a piece here.

    This is clearly a Conservative-leaning publication and one of the commentators even has the guile to call you a ‘monkey’ and likened you to the Taliban.

    Perhaps you would be better off getting your point across to a wider audience via a letter to editors section in the Croydon Advertiser or a frank interview with one of its journalists.

    I’ve seen no balance at all here. Very disappointing.

    • http://idioplatform.com/ Jonny Rose

      Perhaps he’s written here to provide the balance that you have been seeking.

      • Harley S

        Unfortunately there is no balance here as everything else written on this topic has opposed Councillor Newman’s view. He is swimming against the tide of this publication.

    • Tom Black

      Hi Harley, I was surprised to hear that the publication I co-founded is ‘Conservative-leaning’, particularly when not long ago, we were being accused of the opposite: http://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/citizen-left-wing/ I believe there’s a saying about how if both ‘sides’ are calling you biased, you’re probably somewhere in the middle.

      But on the issue of balance: to each their own. The Citizen always aims for pluralism, not balance – ie presenting the views of any who wish to contribute, not trying to make every single article a fair representation of all positions on any issue.

      Jonny is spot on that by writing here, Cllr Newman has been able to set out his case among some critical arguments against it. All of us on the editorial team were delighted he wanted to make a contribution, as he and other politicians from various parties have done in the past. If more people want to write articles critiquing the plans than in favour of them, it is not for us to pick and choose who gets published. Indeed, I actually sought out an interview with another council figure, who was unfortunately unable to speak to me or contribute an article. If the end result is not something that matches your definition of balance, then that is your prerogative.

      I would also advise caution before (implicitly) calling all critics of the plans ‘Conservative-leaning’. Sean Creighton, for instance, has been vocal in his opposition and continues to be so here in these comments – a read through his own Citizen submissions should be enough to convince you of his long record of anti-Conservative positions. Other commenters in this thread, and writers who have submitted articles, are also from a variety of political persuasions. While this includes some Conservatives, I’m fairly sure I spotted an anarchist in there, along with a couple of moderate lefties.

      On the offensive comment you mention, I’ve flagged it for action as I share your distaste – an understatement – and see no place on the Citizen website for vile remarks like it.

      Please feel free to contact me further if you’d like to discuss the Citizen’s exact model and policies – I’m the general manager. I can be emailed at tom.black[at]thecroydoncitizen[dot]com (email edited to avoid spambots), or if you’d like to talk more informally, I’ll be able to take phone calls to the Citizen’s telephone number (020 3251 0261) tomorrow.

      Thanks, and Merry (almost) Christmas!

      • Harley S

        Thank you for your response.

        Was there a particular reason why you included a link to the anti-closure petition underneath each article?

        I can’t imagine the Croydon Advertiser taking such a stance.

        I’m no expert, but I imagine this is not in keeping with best practice journalism?

        Was the link included at the behest of each writer?

        Such a stance highlights a poor editorial decision or, at worst, bias.

        I shall continue reading, and season’s greetings to you too.

        • Tom Black

          Thanks for the reply, Harley – I’m not intimately involved with the editing and publication of every article, but for what it’s worth, I was involved with Paul Dennis’ ‘The fall of Fairfield Halls’ article, and he did indeed request that the petition be linked to.

          Thank you for continuing to read the Citizen.

  • Y Bachgen

    It is an expensive drain on resources.

    In an age of horrendous local authority cuts, I do wonder where people would really rather spend the odd £800k/year subsiding middle-class people or maybe spend the money on the most vulnerable people in society who are facing the brunt of the cuts to services.

    Just think about the choices that have to be made. This is a choice. You may not like it but it is incumbent on you to decide where you’d rather the axe to fall. Who would you rather have less of coal services, eg for vulnerable children or elderly people.

    #JustAsking

    • Robert Ward

      Blaming Tory cuts to absolve themselves of all responsibility is standard procedure for Croydon Council. Let’s just take that as read.

      But the Council still has to make decisions how to spend what money it has. That’s what they are paid for. This requires options to be compared, in this case between a total shutdown and keeping the venue partially open through the period. There will be plusses and minuses for each.

      Fine to choose a total shutdown based on a sound assessment of the options but I see no evidence that such a comparative business case has been made. Councillor Newman mentions that something can now be revealed, but I have not seen anything that remotely looks like a business case.

      Whatever this is, it isn’t transparency. The questions on whether the decision is the correct one and whether Croydon Council is competent remain unresolved.

      • Y Bachgen

        I frankly don’t care. I didn’t see this much outrage from people when the library service reduced.

        Frankly of the Fairfield can’t manage without subsidy then it should close permanently. Or perhaps the good (and few) folk who use it might offer to buy tickets more often and pay more.

        In a choice between subsiding this and services for the vulnerable, I’ll choose the latter every single time.

        • Robert Ward

          I must have missed out when they issued the relative outrage meters.

          I agree the starting point should be for no subsidy. But there is also a judgement on whether a cultural offering creates enough economic benefit in the way of improved business opportunities elsewhere in the night-time economy and encouraging other investment in Croydon to justify some subsidy. Extra jobs and business rates help fund more Council activity.

          The Fairfield seems to have got into a downward spiral such that it is not able to attract either the performers or the audience to cover its costs. Putting the ticket price up is not going to solve that. The choice is then close it or invest. The choice has been made to invest. The question is then how best to do that, which is what the recent discussions have been about.

          Whether the Council has put the right level of resource into social services I don’t know. If your judgement is that there is never enough for that aspect, and any investment in anything that might improve Croydon’s cultural offering is a waste then there is no arguing with you.

    • CroydonSurrey

      only a drain cos its such a dump no one wants to go to!

  • Andy Hylton

    “Why she had to go…I don’t know, she didn’t say”, which is exactly what we are all asking after reading your special ‘Christmas message’. It is apparent that the Council’s plans and vision are as confused, as your misinterpretation of a classic Beatles songs.

  • Tim Pollard

    I presume I am one of the people Cllr Newman thinks ‘ought to know better’.

    And perhaps I will know better when he releases some answers to the questions that many concerned citizens are asking. Questions like…..

    1. Who do you see running the halls post refurb? What kind of activity will they be staging? What’s the priority? Amplified music, orchestral, comedy, plays, touring shows? Personally I wouldn’t be signing off a design until I knew the target operating model for the ‘new’ Fairfield and was sure that what we were building met its needs!

    2. What is the ‘new’ Fairfield’s revenue model? Is it going to be a commercial operator which will be turning away ‘unprofitable’ local hirers? Is the council expecting a rent for FH? Are they expecting the new operator to hit the ground running and be profitable straight away or will there be a period for which the operator is in rebuild mode and will therefore want a revenue subsidy? If they do, the ‘saving’ by not keeping FH open throughout will rapidly evaporate. And what does Cllr Newman expect the hundreds of local schools, churches and charities who currently fill the Fairfield to do instead, if the new operator doesn’t want their business?

    3. Does the now infamous Mott MacDonald report really advise the council to close FH for the refurb period or is that just selective reporting of a much more nuanced report? It is now quite clear that Cllr Newman’s promise of early-Nov to release the report ‘sooner rather than later’ was worthless and he has no intention of so doing – and we can make an educated guess as to why……

    4. What happens if the council gets part way through works before discovering that no operator will take on the building under the naive and wildly-optimistic terms that the council seems to be hoping for?

    5. What happens if the property market in London takes a tumble before the flats the council wants built to fund the refurb are ready for sale? Who is taking the risk on what must be a £3-400m whole project, when you add up the rezzie, the FH and the College?

    I could go on, but there’s really no point – this council administration has already demonstrated beyond doubt that it has no intention of answering any of these questions.

  • Susan Oliver

    Croydon is “now on course to becoming a modern European city”….so we need to shut down the organisation that puts on 400+ shows a year and forms the heart of Croydon’s cultural scene? It simply does not make sense.

    I agree that Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd could be improved but killing it off completely is not in the best interests of the taxpayer. Re-creating the operating organisation would be expensive and the tax-payers would have to pick up the tab.

    Going from 400 shows a year to nothing would be a big loss for the public. We would lose big shows (and a panto) for 2-3 years, which would be painful. There has been no answers from the Council in regard to what the sociological impact this would have, which is irresponsible planning.

    Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd is a powerful positive force in the town and the borough, and the public has every reason to question the desire to shut it down. Refurbishment is always difficult but there have been no attempts to work with Fairfield management to make the transition as painless as possible. We have no other choice but to be deeply suspicious of the motives of Newman and Godfrey.

    And by the way, don’t accuse me of political motives because I voted for all three Labour Councillors in my ward (Fitzsimons, Hay-Justice and Watson) as well as for Sarah Jones. I voted for them partially because of Labour’s strong support of the arts (Riesco, Warehouse) during the Tory reign so I feel totally betrayed.

  • CroydonSurrey

    Fairfields hall is run down and a tacky blight to the area. Just knock it down and rebuild it. The demand is there, i would love to go walk down the road and go to the theatre instead of the West End. People all over South London and north Kent & Surrey would come.