No classical concerts in South London for at least two years

No classical concerts in South London for at least two years


norman lebrecht

January 10, 2016

It’s going to be bleak if you live south of the river.

Fairfield Hall, the only concert venue on the less fashionable side (except the South Bank Centre, which hugs the river), is to be shut for two years for much-needed refurbishment. At least two years, the authorities say. And no alternative venue is being booked.

Campaigners are up in arms. South London deserves better.

For some reason, no-one is considering it as a site for the Simon Rattle vanity hall.



  • Halldor says:

    It’s only a refurbishment, not a permanent closure. But hang on…I thought London was already over-provided with concert halls which it was struggling to fill; so much so that the building of a further one posed a serious risk of destabilising its oh-so-fragile arts ecosystem?

    Anyhow, fun to read this from the man who once argued that Liverpool didn’t need its own orchestra because Manchester was just down the road…

  • will says:

    “no-one is considering it as a site for the Simon Rattle vanity hall. ”
    of course not, that’s a ‘given’!
    Having said that, if only Londoners could be persuaded to travel to Croydon, they would find that the acoustics of the Fairfield Hall are far, far superior to those of the RFH, Barbican and of course the RAH. Let us earnestly hope that the ‘refurbishment’ doesn’t destroy the acoustics.

    • Albatross says:

      Buzz from the staff tells a different story. Being offerred “take it or leave it” redundancy packages.

    • Alexander says:

      Croydon is in London and has excellent public transport connections to central London. The question is whether a potential new audience can be persuaded to travel to Croydon from further afield than they do at present.

  • CathyB says:

    Blackheath Halls would surely beg to differ…

  • Alexander says:

    Great to know that something is finally being done about the dreadful condition of this venue. The hall, as stated above, is not actually bad, but the entire venue is just so depressing to go to that I’ve almost given up on it. The whole place needs to be dragged into the 21st century. I’d also like to see something done about the front-of-house staff. I appreciate that the stewards are volunteers, but they are not really Fairfield’s best asset. They are an increasingly elderly group, which is not a bad thing in itself, but it is, firstly, clearly not sustainable, and, secondly, I wonder whether having a younger team meeting the public (as is the case at every other classical music venue in London) would inspire a younger audience to begin attending concerts in Croydon. Again, there’s nothing with older people, of course, but it would be no exaggeration to say that within the next ten to twenty years a majority of the present core audience at Fairfield will probably be dead. The other change that I think Fairfield needs is a more ambitious artistic vision, which I am sure would also help to reach out to a wider audience. Current programming is rather heavy on concerts like “Valentine’s Eve Concert”, “A Night at the Classical Proms”, and “Opera Gala”, and popular repertoire such as Pictures at an Exhibition, Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5, Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3, Sibelius Violin Concerto, an Ellen Kent Tosca, and a local choral society’s Elijah. None of it is bad music, it goes without saying, but I do wonder whether Fairfield would not do better for itself if it began to present some more interesting and ambitious repertoire, such as the Second Viennese School, Korngold, Górecki, (Andrzej) Panufnik, Lutosławski, Penderecki, Messiaen, Pärt, Vasks, and Gubaidulina, complete cycles of string quartets by Beethoven, Bartók, and Shostakovich, a complete Mahler symphony cycle, semi-staged productions of operas by Martinů, Janáček, Wagner, Strauss, and Britten. I honestly think that this approach would help Fairfield to attract a larger and younger audience from a wider catchment area.

  • Una says:

    Croydon, South London? Thought it was Surrey? And in any case there’s a train that runs nearly every ten minutes and only takes 10 minutes up to Victoria from East Croydon that runs very late into the night, or into London Bridge, or CityThameslink Far less time that it used to take me from Bow to the Barbican for concert. Why do Londoners get so territorial about the River Thames? The fact that there have never been concerts in East London just gets blotted out! What a joy these days to live in West Yorkshire, and have Leeds 17 miles and Bradford 13 miles away. No one thinks that is far away on a train!! We also go to Manchester to see the Halle when they’re not touring!

    • Alexander says:

      Croydon is in the London Borough of Croydon, part of Greater London. The connection with Surrey is purely historical.

  • Una says:

    And about time that Hall were done up. Sung in there many times, and it was dreadful backstage, whatever about the seats for the audience! We’re getting St George’s Hall done up too in Bradford. So it’s Leeds Town Hall now for all visiting orchestras and Opera North’s Ring in April.