SPI Steering Group member, Khris Raistrick, gives an insight into what he wants to queue for at the new Stanley Halls.
The past informs the present which shapes the future.
The Stanley Halls. There it sits on South Norwood Hill. A huge megalith to Edwardian philanthropism. A quirky set of public halls, seemingly bearing no relation to the mix of Victorian and modern homes surrounding it. Why is it there? What can we learn from it? What state is it in? What can we do with it?
It’s 2011 and a disparate group of locals have gathered. We stand back and stare at it, poke around inside, scratch our heads, hmm and say “you know, we can make something of this”. And now we’re blogging about it.
So, we’ll tell you ours if you tell us yours. Stories of Stanley of course! This is what we want for this blog, amongst any other thoughts, memories, feelings, dreams and schemes you may have about Stanley Halls. In an earlier incarnation of SPI communications, our quarterly newsletter – now overtaken by this blog as of today – there was a feature called ‘Stories of Stanley’. We will reproduce these in due course, starting with some fantastic memories from Ken Baker.
All very laudable, but why am I involved?
For my part, any contribution to the ‘Stories of Stanley’ series is not historical. But in a humble way, I hope I can help contribute to, as it were, future memories, future Stories of Stanley.
Indeed, it’s not even a story, but might explain why I am one of many volunteers working to make Stanley Halls a vibrant place once more.
When I chose to move to South Norwood in 2007, I looked around. Takeaways? Check. 23 in a 10-minute walk. Decent traditional butcher? Check. Good transport links? Check. Supermarket? Check. Library? Just round the corner from the clock tower. And so on. All mod cons were there except, for me, a place to…well, all the things SPI’s surveys have told us the people of South Norwood and beyond would like to see at Stanley Halls. Somewhere a bit arty, social, relaxing and somewhere to have a laugh.
My own take was on live music. There is a dearth of it in South Norwood, and even the Fairfield Halls only has spasmodic concerts. I checked out this mysterious but alluring venue on the internet – as it never seemed to be open – and saw that its capacity was 300.
Hmm…tricky. Having organised a few gigs before, I thought that 300 as a capacity was too big for small, ‘unknown’ bands, and too small for well-known groups who might command an audience of 1,000. So, having flirted with the idea of promoting concerts there, I gave up.
Fast forward to 2013, and a conversation with a relatively new but very welcome addition to the SPI Steering Group, John Treherne. John, by trade, really knows his onions when it comes to live performance. He works full-time in the business of live music and theatre, and when we had a post-meeting chat [no easy feat, because this particular session had been something of a marathon, discussing the finer details of how and when SPI would move forward with running this magnificent venue] I told him of my previous frustrations.
Immediately, he had the answer [or rather, one of many answers, because the SPI has no set agenda on what goes on in the Halls, only a desire to reflect the feedback that has been received – and live music is a major part of that].
“Tribute bands.” Two words, one of many possible solutions. There is a plethora of tribute bands these days that draw just the medium-sized followings that would suit the Stanley Halls. It is a popular genre these days, allowing fans of, say Abba – who will never reform, so my girlfriend says [and so do the band themselves] – to enjoy a decent replication of their music in a more intimate setting.
This is not of particularly personal appeal, but the point is this: We want to get the Halls used, and buzzing, and as our local venue, it might lead each one of us to do something we never thought we would do. I doubt I’ll be doing feng shui lessons at the Stanley Halls any time soon. But I might just be tempted by Australian Pink Floyd.