On Monday 16 September 2019, Dame Judi Dench formally re-dedicated the Ashcroft Playhouse at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls to her friend and Croydon-born fellow actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft.
The award-winning actress unveiled the People’s Picture, a giant commemorative mosaic by artist Helen Marshall, before taking to the stage in the Ashcroft Playhouse for a live Q and A with broadcaster John Hannam, and Ashcroft’s biographer and Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington OBE, with questions from local drama GCSE and A-Level students. She was joined by local spoken word poet Darren Randon from Well Verked ink, who performed a special commission.
This event kicked off a week of special events, marking the reopening of the iconic venue, following a multi-million pound Croydon council-led restoration.
The mural unveiling and Q&A was followed by a civic ceremony where the Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn formally opened the main venue and unveiled a plaque in his name, following speeches from the Leader of Croydon Council, Councillor Tony Newman; cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport and Councillor Oliver Lewis, and BH Live’s Venue & Artistic Director for Fairfield Halls Neil Chandler.
The audience enjoyed performances from Silvastone with the London Mozart Players, and Shaniqua Benjamin, spoken word artist and Founder of Young People’s Insight. Shaniqua performed a special commission, A Palace of Magic and Memories, dedicated to Fairfield Halls. Councillor Alison Butler, Deputy Leader of Croydon Council, then concluded the ceremony by formally handing over the keys of the building to operators BH Live.
Artistic and Venue Director Neil Chandler said: “To be custodians of this wonderful venue is a privilege and we are delighted to now begin what we are here to do, to deliver a diverse programme of arts, culture, events, entertainment and education for the people of Croydon and its wider communities.”
Councillor Tony Newman, Leader of Croydon Council, said: “Today is a great day for Croydon. We’re proud to have restored this magnificent building, but also to have transformed its cultural offer so that it truly reflects 21st century Croydon – exciting, vibrant, rich in opportunity and open to all.”