“ Address: Park Lane / Croydon / CR9 South London / England „
Having lived in South London all my life I have rather taken for granted the fact that venues like this are on my doorstep. At times I have seen the adverts for acts appearing here, and thought "Why on earth would they do a performance in Croydon?". But truth is Croydon is easy for a lot of people to get to, especially if you live further south, not so close to London's main venues.
So I've mentioned they attract some pretty big names, I'm not talking Madonna, but I mean big names in comedy in particular. Like Jimmy Carr, Freddie Starr, Ruby Wax and Tim Vine just to name 4 that you can currently buy tickets to see.
Getting tickets - you can either go to the halls yourself, or do it by phone (thankfully not a premium rate number just a 0208) or online. If you don't go to the venue, you will incur a booking fee - not quite as hefty as the likes of the O2 or Hammersmith, but still (I know I keep saying it) this is only Croydon for goodness sake.
Ticket prices are (generally) considerably less than the larger London venues (now I'm seeing more of the attraction to Croydon), with comedy gigs at an average ticket price of £20.
The actual venue itself is ok. It's pretty run down and could do with (at the very least) a good lick of paint. There is a small shop that sells (way) overpriced sweets and a bar that serves (some) beverages. I say (some) that way because it's a very small bar given the size of the venue and the number of potential customers, so the selection is limited. There is also a cafe area but this has often closed by the time the evening performances are on.
The two main areas of Fairfield are the Concert Hall and the Ashcroft. So they can run two decent sized events at the same time. I know that they can also cater for parties and weddings, and some schools hold their annual proms here. I have seen one party in action and to be fair, the whole area was done up very well, and looked very grand and impressive.
In terms of being disability friendly, I think the options for seating are limited. The building is old and built way before any such regulations were in force. I'm sure they do make adaptions for people with disabilities, because they have to, but I would advise checking out details in advance.
The website is pretty basic. But it does everything it needs to. You can see what is on when, and quick links to genres of entertainment, e.g. comedy, dance etc. Purchasing tickets is easy enough online, but I think a little more time and money could be invested in pimping up their website so it feels a bit more professional.
Getting to Fairfield is easy enough. There are good transport links to Croydon with two mainline stations (East and West Croydon) within close proximity. Many buses service Croydon. And there is also the tram link. For those who want to drive, there is ample underground parking (expensive though), however, Croydon streets are pretty tricky to those who are unfamiliar with them, and the street signs are never that clear. So plan in advance would be my advice.
But of course, this review would be amiss if I didn't mention the best thing at Fairfield Halls every year - panto! It is always wonderfully tacky, and incredibly popular!
Tom Hanks loves Croydon.
So, from everything you've heard about Croydon, what possible link could there be with Tom Hanks? It's wrongly considered the chav capital of south London; childhood home of both Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Kate Moss; June Brown (who played Dot Cotton in Eastenders) and that rude girl from Big Brother. Well, read on.
What better way to enjoy the festive cheer than go to a Carol concert, I thought. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were scheduled to play at the Fairfield Hall's, in central Croydon on Saturday 13th December, so I thought I'd book some seats. As I've been there many times before, I feel that I know it well enough to review it for Dooyoo.
They claim to be South London's premier Arts, Entertainment and Conference centre. How they quantify the term premier, I'm not sure.
~ Some history ~
The Halls were built in the early 1960's. They consist of a concert hall, the Ashcroft Theatre (named after Peggy Ashcroft herself), the Arnhem Gallery civic hall (as Croydon is twinned with Arnhem in the Netherlands) and a small art gallery.
Many famous faces have performed here along the years, from the Beatles to Mott the Hoople and more recently the likes of Shakin Steven, Status Quo, Robert Cray and Coolio. Not to mention Darren Day in Panto a few years back.
~ Getting there ~
The Fairfield Halls is situated in the centre of Croydon on the A212, which is a busy dual carriageway. The car park underneath the Halls has ample parking although it can be pricey for a long period of time, and is accessed via the A232 Barclay Road. It's also within a ten minute walk of East Croydon train station and numerous buses serving south London stop right outside.
To make a booking you can log on to their website (http://www.fairfield.co.uk/start.htm) for which a £2 booking charge is payable for each ticket or in person at their ticket office, for which there is no charge. I tend to go in person, a £2 surcharge seems a little steep to me.
~ Inside ~
We arrived for the Christmas concert with about ten minutes to spare. As you enter the lobby, through two sets of sliding doors, the ticket office area is on your right hand side. To get to the concert hall you pass a bar on the left which seemed quite popular with the pre-show audience. Here, on the ground floor is where you will also find the Green Room Restaurant, although we had decided against eating here before the concert. We then headed up to the first floor, via a central staircase of about twenty stairs. We waited in turn at the top of the stairs to show our tickets to an elderly gentleman who directed us to the right hand side corridor with a big smile. Other people in turn were directed to the left, or asked to continue up the stairs to get to their seats. Having arrived at the stalls entrance door, a young female usher then looked at our tickets before telling us the quickest way to our seats.
Behind the stage of the concert hall were about seven or eight rows of seating which was in three sections. In the larger middle section sat the Wimbledon Choral Society. Either side of the choir was seating for the public. Being in such close proximity, sitting here would probably mean you heard the acoustics in the Hall better than anywere else, although a big drawback was that the two vocalists Mary Carewe and Michael Dore who performed with the Orchestra that night sung mostly with their backs to you. We were sitting in Row H of the stalls and thus were almost at eye level with both the Orchestra and soloists. Very good seats I felt.
From memory I believe there are six boxes in the concert hall besides the other seating. There is a gents toilet along the first floor corridor and to use the ladies I had to carry on up to the second floor. Inside was rather small with three cubicles, one of them being a larger disabled one. I'm not sure if there were any facilities for the wheelchair bound on the ground floor.
And as for Tom Hanks? Film buffs may know that this very same concert hall was used as a brief location when Tom's character Robert Langdon gave a speech in his film The Da Vinci Code. You can see the hall for yourself in the first ten minutes of the film where Langdon is giving a talk to students about symbols.
He may not love it but I'm sure he couldn't have found anything to complain about at the Fairfield Halls.