Fairfield Halls’ artistic director has resigned from the job less than six months after the arts centre reopened following a £40 million refurbishment.
Neil Chandler has quit his role with BH Live, the leisure centre operator which took over the management of Fairfield Halls post-redevelopment, as it emerges that the venue achieved just 26% occupancy in its first three months of reopening.
A statement from BH Live confirmed Chandler’s departure, and said: “After the successful relaunch of Fairfield Hals and delivery of its opening programme, Neil Chandler, venue and artistic director, has left BH Live to pursue another opportunity.
“We are sorry to see him go and thank him for his contribution at Fairfield Halls. We wish him every success in the future.”
His next move has not yet been announced, however BH Live said recruitment for a successor was underway.
Last summer, Chandler spoke of his ambitions to develop the council-owned Fairfield Halls as a “local powerhouse for quality theatre” with Talawa as a resident company, and that the multi-arts venue would become Croydon’s answer to the Southbank Centre.
Chandler was head of operations at Fairfield Halls between 2009 and 2011 and returned last year as it prepared to reopen after a three-year construction period.
The work overran by a year, and its current estimated cost of £42.6 million far exceeds the original £30 million budget.
In council documents published this week it is revealed that ticket sales at the Croydon venue totalled 88,000 between September and December 2019, translating to just 26% of available seats.
The halls’ business plan included a target of 45% for this period, acknowledging that the first six months of operation would be a “bedding in period” and subject to “teething troubles”, however the confirmed sales fall short of this.
The report prepared for Croydon council’s scrutiny and overview committee also highlighted a number of customer experience issues including a lack of car parking, signage and “general comments about refurbishment quality and snagging”.
However, it argues that these could be resolved when a new car park opens this spring and as final works, including refurbishing the seats in the Ashcroft Theatre, are completed.