Monday 22 April 2013

Discovery of ‘Beatles in Croydon’ Pictures Could Be Worth Thousands

New pictures of The Beatles have come to light after nearly fifty years of lying in an attic. The pictures are of the Fab Four performing at The Fairfield Halls in Croydon in April 1963 and then relaxing backstage in the Artist’s Bar after the concert. The pictures are potentially worth tens of thousands in licensing rights.

Andy Wright, the photographer, had forgotten all about the pictures he’d taken nearly fifty years ago until his memory was prompted by a new website at The website celebrates the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the iconic venue in South London which was opened in November 1962.

The pictures, and others taken at Fairfield by Andy, can now be seen on the website. They were taken by Andy when he was a fifteen year old schoolboy at Woodcote Secondary School in Coulsdon and keen on pursuing a career in photography. His father worked as a steward at the Fairfield Halls and he got the manager’s permission to allow his son to wander around with a camera. The week he chose for his ‘work experience’ was a fortunate one because, as well as The Beatles, Andy also snapped a young Shirley Bassey and Matt Monro. Andy now lives in Hertfordshire, and he did eventually realise his dream of becoming a professional photographer and started out with the Surrey Mirror.

As well as being a historical archive the website also asks Fairfield patrons, past and present, to submit their own pictures of Fairfield to celebrate the anniversary. Having seen this request when browsing the site Andy dug out the pictures, scanned them and sent them to Fairfield, not fully realising both their historical and monetary value. The pictures were received by Fairfield’s John Spring, a Beatles fan, who had been searching for pictures of the Beatles at Fairfield for years and had almost given up hope of ever seeing any. Having worked in the image licensing business in the past he put Andy in touch with the right people to realise their potential value.

Fortunately Andy had also kept the negatives and the pictures have now been registered with the world’s largest commercial picture library, Getty Images, which should see them generate a significant return for Andy from global licensing rights. Andy has generously allowed the Fairfield Halls to use them, free of charge, for their own purposes, by way of a thank you for giving him the opportunity to take them in the first place.

Andy says “I only had 12 pictures on my roll of film. Film was expensive back then. The picture of all four of them backstage (potentially the most financially lucrative) was taken with the last shot I had. They were very nice to me but they were a bit shattered after the concert. I went home on the bus, developed the pictures, and proudly took them into the school the next day. I still have the Rollei camera I took pictures with.”

The Beatles in Croydon:

The Beatles played three times in Croydon. The first was on March 21st 1963 when they supported Chris Montez and Tommy Roe. This was at the then ABC Cinema on London Road.

The concert on April 25th 1963, when these pictures were taken, was barely a month after the release of their first album, ‘Please Please Me’. The show comprised two performances (5.30pm and 8pm) as part of ‘The Mersey Beat Showcase’ mini-tour featuring acts from Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s stable. The tour also featured Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Big Three, Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas (it says ’Dakotas’ on the drum kit Ringo can be seen playing in the pictures) and Vic Sutcliffe. John Leyton was joint top billing with The Beatles. With an album heading for the top of the charts their stock had risen considerably since March but not quite enough to be sole headliners. Unfortunately John Leyton was taken ill and couldn’t perform so The Beatles ended up on their own at the top of the bill.

The Beatles later returned to Fairfield as part of a bigger tour on September 7th 1963, very much as the headline act and at the height of Beatlemania.

Therefore these high quality pictures taken on a Rollei medium format camera are of a relatively early Beatles concert. Three of the pictures show the band on stage from the left, right and centre of Fairfield’s concert platform. Other pictures show all four posing together backstage in the Artist’s Bar, Ringo and John being interviewed by a lady we believe to be a ‘Mrs Kirby’ and then there is also a shot from the Artist’s Bar showing waiting fans at the Stage Door gates. Fairfield Halls would be especially keen to hear from any Beatles expert that knows if the recorded interview by Mrs Kirby is still in existence.

Were you in the audience when the Beatles played at Fairfields Hall in 1963?  If so, Croydon Radio would love to hear from you!  
Croydon Radio, 1 Matthews Yard, Croydon CR01FF @croydonradio

Fairfield Halls:

The Fairfield Halls celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. There are effectively three ‘halls’. These are the 1800 seat Concert Hall (where the Beatles played), the 750 seat Ashcroft Theatre and the flat-floor Arnhem Gallery which acts as a 400 capacity standing venue. It’s always been a source of conjecture as to whether it should be described as The Fairfield Hall (i.e. just describing the Concert Hall) or Fairfield Halls (as in all three spaces). The public have always described it as ‘the halls’ and these days Fairfield tends to describe it as ‘The Fairfield Halls’ too. This is because it tends to be more descriptive of a ‘complex of venues’, which is exactly what it is.

The Queen Mother opened Fairfield on Friday 2nd November 1962. This was covered extensively in the press and praise lavished up Fairfield Halls ‘imaginative and bold design’. What wasn’t known was that Queen Mother had a fractured foot and the opening was nearly called off. After the ceremony she then attended the inaugural concert which was given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Malcom Sergeant, with the soloist being the famous Yehudi Menhuin.

Fairfield Halls continues to host international classical music, comedy, ballet, opera and a wide range of theatre. The 50th anniversary is being celebrated with the new anniversary website at and a number of concerts featuring, amongst others, the RPO, the LMP and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In three years time Fairfield will be undergoing a £25m redevelopment to ensure that it enjoys another 50 years as an international venue.

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