Robert Atkinson & Partners
- Original design
- Robert Atkinson & Partners, 1962
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme in July.
As the name might suggest, Fairfield stands on the site of a field that was used for a fair for five and a half centuries. It was a very famous fair. In fact it was so famous that it attracted every ne’er-do-well from miles around! The sober Victorian burghers of Croydon eventually decided to ban the fair in 1866. This was because they thought the fair had become far too troublesome.
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 to be developed as a greyhound stadium. Not being too keen on that idea, Croydon Corporation acted swiftly once more by buying up the land to ensure the stadium wouldn't happen.
A more morally acceptable use of the land was planned and a competition was held to design a new civic centre. A winner was announced and a grand prize of £500 handed over. This was a relatively cheap way of getting some leading architects to do a lot of work for a small amount of money, and undoubtedly they wouldn’t fall for it these days.
Unfortunately the public of Croydon (who possibly 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, and for several decades, our audiences have continued to enjoy classical music, drama, comedy and dance in Fairfield’s famous Concert Hall and Ashcroft Theatre.
Designed as a scaled down version of the Royal Festival Hall (with Hope Begenal acting as acoustic consultant on both projects), Fairfield has been described as the finest acoustic concert hall in the South East and has resonated (perfectly, of course) to a huge range of performers, each bringing their own unique magic and their own particular audience. All eager to share the special experience that is the essence of a live performance.
From soloists to symphonies, the Concert Hall brings out the best in both performers and audiences who come from far and wide, reflecting the richest variety of people imaginable.
This variety is further enhanced by the fact that our audiences have come to expect the unexpected from Fairfield. The huge range and scope of programmes put on means that a vast number of differing people and tastes are catered for. We are a well-loved venue in the classical music world and a much needed arts venue for the people of Croydon and the rest of Surrey. We hope you enjoy the Fairfield Halls, the 763-seat Ashcroft Theatre and the 400 sq m Arnhem Gallery, as much as we value its history.