2012 has seen Croydon’s Fairfield Halls celebrating its 50th anniversary as one of south London’s premier arts and live music venues. The golden jubilee has also marked the next phase of a comprehensive technical upgrade, increasing its inventory of Yamaha digital equipment.
Fairfield Halls comprises three linked venues, the 1800-seat Concert Hall, the 750-seat Ashcroft Theatre and the multi-purpose Arnhem Gallery, which can host up to 500 people. Over the past five decades the complex has played a significant – if often understated – role in British performing arts history. These range from numerous ground-breaking performances and recordings to being where onetime staff members Raymond Burns and Chris Millar – aka Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies – met for the first time. Thus Fairfield Halls can lay claim to a pivotal role in the formation of original punk band The Damned… and therefore the entire genre.
The full refurbishment programme is costing around £27m and has seen Yamaha equipment installed in all three spaces. Staging a wide range of events, from stand-up comedy, via plays and pantomimes to all kinds of live music, a key requirement is that the systems across all three spaces are both flexible and intuitive to use.
The venue chose Orbital Sound as its partner for the upgrade project, who have supplied a system comprising a Yamaha M7CL-48 digital mixing console, three SB168-ES Ethersound stage boxes and a DME64N digital mixing engine with ICP1 intelligent remote control panel for the Concert Hall. Also supplied for this system have been two AD8HR eight channel mic preamp/A-D converters, an NAI48-ES 48 channel Ethersound interface and mini YGDAI interface cards, comprising two MY16-ES64, four MY16-EX and one MY16-AE.
An identical system – except for the NAI48-ES – is installed in the Ashcroft Theatre, while an LS9-32 was supplied by Orbital for the Arnhem Gallery last year.
“Our staff can work in any of the three venues and so it makes sense to have equipment with a common user interface,” says Chris Whybrow, Fairfield Halls Technical Manager. “In addition, we also have a lot of visiting engineers. We see a lot of Yamaha consoles being brought in by tours and we also feel that, of all the manufacturers, their digital mixers bring the experiences of working on analogue and digital consoles closest together. They are very intuitive to use, so Yamaha was the obvious choice.”
The most recent phase of the refurbishment has been in the Concert Hall. This saw the installation of a brand new PA system, with the existing system moved to the Ashcroft Theatre.
“It made financial sense to deploy the Concert Hall’s system into the Ashcroft Theatre,” says Chris. “The Yamaha DME64N in there gives us comprehensive system control, which overcomes any potential minor shortcomings in re-using the system. It meant that we could maximise our existing resources at a time when budgets are tight for everyone.”
The systems in the three spaces are all fully networked, while the Concert Hall and Ashcroft Theatre feature Yamaha ICP1 intelligent control panels for the DME64Ns, making for a remarkably flexible system.
“We have a selection of scenes programmed for both spaces,” says Chris. “It allows a huge variety of setups and system complexity to be recalled at the press of a button – from really straightforward sound reinforcement where no consoles or mixing engineers are required, through to every possible parameter being adjustable by an experienced engineer.
“For smaller productions, sound effects playback can also be done via the ICP1, while a range of different pre-recorded house announcements are also stored and can be played by non-technical staff.”
“The Yamaha equipment was the perfect solution to what Chris and his team wanted to achieve,” adds David Bartholomeusz, project co-ordinator and site manager for Orbital. “The key for me was to try and keep it as simple as possible. The Concert Hall and Ashcroft Theatre are very different spaces, the Yamaha gear made it possible to keep the user interface identical in both. It allowed for a lot of different options, while keeping the method of control exceptionally simple.”
Yamaha’s technical engineers helped with setting up of the networking DME matrix, assistance which David was very pleased with, and Chris is delighted with the system
“No other manufacturer really does this kind of thing as well as Yamaha, the built-in functionality and flexibility are excellent,” he says. “We are really happy with how the systems work throughout the Fairfield Halls complex.”