Croydon's Answer To The Southbank Centre Has Reopened... And We're Utterly In Love With It

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 57 months ago

Last Updated 27 September 2019

Croydon's Answer To The Southbank Centre Has Reopened... And We're Utterly In Love With It
Inside the renovated Concert Hall

It's been described as Croydon's answer to the Southbank Centre*. But Fairfield Halls — which hosted everyone from Morecambe & Wise to The Beatles — gradually lost its sparkle over the decades, and closed up for renovations in 2016.

Following a £42m renovation, it's open once again. The main concert hall's regal red seats have been selectively refurbished, and now look just as smart as they did when Fairfield Halls opened the first time around, in 1962.

The walls are fully refurbished too, and re-decorated with new acoustic banner boxes (its renowned acoustics for classical and choral performances have, of course, been retained).

The original chandeliers — formed of elegant curved metal tubing in contrasting ivory and olive green — are refurbished with new shades, cut glass droplet 'jewels', LED lights and lowering mechanisms. The works were carried out by Dernier & Hamlyn, a Croydon company.

Dernier & Hamlyn also created three new double height chandeliers for the Sun Lounge — recreations of the 1962 originals, and based on black and white photographs, archive drawings and site investigation.

The Arnhem foyer feels fresh and airy (but again, keeping that marvellous mid-century vibe), and will host smaller, more casual performances.

There are also 50 new seats in the smaller Ashcroft Theatre, bringing it up to 800. Dame Judi Dench — who's trodden the boards here in her time — was there to reopen it.

The Ashcroft

Among the upcoming shows at Fairfield Halls are a Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performance of the soundtrack from The Italian Job; All Star Wrestling (the venue has a history of staging the sport); an evening with Lenny Henry, another with Sandi Toksvig, and a Cinderella panto.

Fairfield Halls's renovations cost £42m, a fair whack over the originally-budgeted £32m. That's caused some consternation among locals, while others thought the job couldn't be done at all. However, at the reopening ceremony, Croydon council's leader Tony Newman quipped: "This is a bad day for the naysayers that said this would never happen."

Whatever people's thoughts, the only thing to do now is get stuck into the glut of amazing shows, and make the most of the place.

*Actually, experts says Fairfield Hall's acoustics are better than the Royal Festival Hall's.

All images © Hufton+Crow