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Fairfield Halls operator goes bust days after venue’s closure

Fairfield Halls says goodbye, as it closes for a £30 million redevelopment. Photo: Desmond FitzGerald Fairfield Halls closed earlier this month for a two-year redevelopment. Photo: Desmond FitzGerald
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The charity that runs Fairfield Halls has gone into administration three days after the venue closed for a major two-year redevelopment.

It leaves a question mark over the future operation of the arts centre, as Fairfield Croydon claimed in February it would be engaged in the Halls’ future operations.

More than 220 staff have been made redundant by the closure of Fairfield Halls, which is owned by Croydon Council and is now undergoing a £30 million refurbishment that will create new, adaptable spaces for theatre and other performances.

While staff have been paid their wages in full, the Fairfield charity has been unable to fund redundancy payments as planned.

Chris Herron, joint administrator at Herron Fisher, said the insolvency marked “the end of the road” for the charity in its current form.

Herron told The Stage: “There isn’t enough money to pay everyone in full straight away, so Fairfield Croydon Ltd is insolvent, and we’re dealing with that process.

“There are things we can sell, possibly intellectual property as well as physical assets remaining. And we’ll be dealing with all the creditors, and this week with the employees.”

But he confirmed employees will eventually receive their redundancy payments in full from the government’s statutory service.

Herron also said the insolvency was unlikely to affect the centre’s planned reopening in summer 2018.

“In terms of holding up the refurbishment, I don’t think it should – they [the council] presumably will just carry on,” he said.

The two-year closure plan faced criticism from London Symphony Orchestra’s Simon Rattle, the Theatres Trust, and the Save Our Fairfield campaign group – who had all lobbied for a longer, phased development, which would have allowed at least one of the centre’s three buildings to remain open at a time.

Responding to the news, a council spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened to hear that the Fairfield trust [Fairfield Croydon] has gone into administration. We made a payment of £750,000 to the trust earlier this year on the understanding this would cover all the necessary costs of closure, including the staff, and it is very disappointing to learn today this is not the case.

“We hope this can be resolved in the speediest possible manner, and we have our sights set firmly on the future with the redevelopment of the venue.”

However, a spokeswoman for Fairfield Halls said the council’s £750,000 funds were “not sufficient” to support the centre’s programming and operations as well as the closure, which she claimed the money was supposed to cover.

She continued: “As with most major venues of this type it is common to receive local authority funds and also to run current account deficits. The funding from the Council for the last period was not sufficient to cover the balance sheet, redundancy and other costs directly caused by the forced closure.”

“The closure was planned and carefully managed, allowing the venue to continue offering shows, continue trading and continue to provide employment right up until the closure date,” she added.

The council is now in early discussions with “industry-leading theatre and music promoters and catering specialists” as potential venue operators. A formal appointment process will take place over the next six months.

This story was updated on July 21 to include a comment from Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd.

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