Croydon Council can now reveal the name of the preferred operator to run the new Fairfield Halls and restore it to a world-class venue when it re-opens in 2018 following a full refurbishment.
BH Live, the south coast’s leading leisure and event operator and social enterprise, was recommended as Preferred Bidder following a competitive tendering process which began in October 2016 and the report was approved by Leader of the Council, Councillor Tony Newman, on 11 April. BH Live currently operates 15 award-winning leisure and event venues across the south of England. It works with local authorities, key stakeholders and community partners to provide cultural, entertainment, sporting and business events at venues including Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre and more recently at Mountbatten Leisure Centre in Portsmouth. It also provides hospitality and event banqueting services across more than 40 venues, including London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
BH Live has pledged to deliver a fantastic range of artistic and cultural activities at Fairfield Halls, including theatre, drama, live music showcasing a range of genres, modern and contemporary acts, visual arts, international performances, classical performances including opera and ballet, comedy, dance and community events. Their proposed programme includes more than 800 performances, of which more than 400 will be community-based, firmly establishing the venue as the new cultural hub for Croydon. BH Live’s ambition for Fairfield Halls to be the heart of Croydon’s cultural community was supported by a clear and comprehensive strategy, set out in the bid, to inspire and develop new artistic talent. Proposals include creative partnerships with schools and colleges, outreach programmes, a theatre school and a diverse range of workshops, and other participation opportunities for young people. There are plans for a seasonal roller or ice rink to get the local community more active too. Another key strength of their bid was a strong emphasis on partnership working with local organisations, from community arts groups to businesses to other venues such as Boxpark and the operator of the new 2000 sq. m. art gallery, which will be developed as part of the wider College Green regeneration.
BH Live has a strong track record as one of the largest providers of conferences, exhibitions and events, with a wide experience of hosting events of all shapes and sizes, across a variety of audiences. More than 118,000 delegates attended their business events in 2015/16 and BH Live will introduce a calendar of festivals, conferences, public exhibitions, trade shows, banqueting, dance and fitness events at Fairfield Halls. Another highlight of the bid was exciting proposals for hospitality at Fairfield Halls supporting local suppliers and promoting provenance. The tempting range spans from a street food concept in the foyer to elegant fine dining for events and pre-show audiences – and even includes a new microbrewery with a wood-fired oven and craft beers brewed on site. All this was underpinned by the determination as a charity and social enterprise, to ensure Fairfield Halls is accessible for all.
Councillor Timothy Godfrey, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “This is fantastic news for Fairfield Halls and fantastic news for Croydon. We are transforming Fairfield Halls with a £30 million makeover, delivering a world-class entertainment venue in the heart of Croydon and we want a dynamic operator who will ensure it is both the huge success it deserves to be and financially sustainable for generations to come. We also want an operator who is enthusiastic about playing a strong and active role as a partner in our community; who shares our vision for Fairfield as the cultural heart of Croydon; is determined as we are ensure it is accessible to all; and is committed to developing and providing opportunities for new artistic talent. We feel that BH Live shares these values and I am therefore delighted to recommend and welcome BH Live to Fairfield Halls and to Croydon.”
“An exciting new chapter is ahead, adds Peter Gunn, BH Live’s Chief Executive. “We are delighted to have been selected as the preferred operator to return Fairfield Halls back to the community as a transformed and thriving cultural hub. As ambassadors of culture, leisure and events we will work with Croydon Council and the local community, to breathe new life into the venue and create a forward-thinking programme to encourage mass participation and enjoyment – one that is accessible and sustainable for the communities of Croydon and beyond. As a social enterprise, one of our defining differences is that the surplus we make enables us to invest back into the venues and services we deliver. It also enables us to provide a diverse programme of activities and events with broad appeal to maximise on the venue’s unique spaces, which will further boost audiences and participation.”
The refurbishment of Fairfield Halls started in summer 2016 and is now well underway. The council’s development company, Brick by Brick, has contractors on site carrying out the first phase of works to prepare the building for the main structural works which start next month (May).