The Fairfield Halls is a famous arts, entertainment and conference complex in Croydon, UK. It was opened in 1962.
Fairfield stands on the site of a field that was used for a fair for five and a half centuries. Therefore regular fairgoers were greatly surprised when the sober Victorian burghers of Croydon banned the fair in 1866. This was because the Council thought that the fair had become far too troublesome and it was attracting the wrong ‘type’ into Croydon.
In 1866 the land was bought by the Brighton Railway Company and as late as 1933 the site was used for sidings and workshops. There was a rumour that the site may revert back to a place of dubious entertainments, this time a greyhound stadium, so Croydon Corporation acted swiftly once more and bought up the land to ensure this wouldn’t happen.
A competition was held to design a new civic centre, a winner was announced and a prize of £500 handed over. Unfortunately the public of Croydon, who probably favoured the dog track idea, did not share its council’s enthusiasm for the centre and in 1938 the plans were shelved ‘having regard for the international situation’. Indeed ‘spin’ was around even then. As a result work didn’t start on Fairfield until the 1960s.
The Queen Mother opened Fairfield on Friday 2nd November 1962. She then attended the inaugural concert which was given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Malcom Sergeant, with the soloist being one Yehudi Menhuin. Since then the famous names that have appeared at Fairfield over the years are too many to mention. Fairfield is also a thriving meetings and conference venue as well hosting balls, parties and other celebrations for the people of Croydon.
Fairfield is comprised of three parts:
The Concert Hall can seat 1794 people and its acoustic quality is internationally recognised. Hence it has seen many recordings of live concerts.
The Ascroft Theatre seats 763 and was opened on November 5th 1962 by Croydon-born actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft, after whom it is named. The opening ceremony included the reading of a monologue specially penned by Sir John Betjemen.
The Arnhem Gallery, originally conceived as an art gallery, was named after the town of Arnhem in Holland. In the foyer of the Arnhem is a tribute to the WWII battle fought there and immortalised in the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’. The Arnhem Gallery proved impractical as an art gallery and was soon converted into a banqueting area. Indeed Queen Elizabeth II herself sat down to lunch in the Arnhem Gallery on June 21st 1983.
In 2012 Fairfield Halls celebrated its 50th Birthday and the researching, scanning and publishing of a number of archives on e-hive and via a new website at www.fairfieldatfifty.com were all part of the celebrations.
The Fairfield Halls is currently closed whilst undergoing at £30 million refurbishment and is planned to re-open in 2018
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