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INSPIRED Blog Series: Stanley People’s Initiative and Stanley Halls

Posted on 22 February 2021

Written by:

Deborah Ajia

Our latest blog series is a space to celebrate projects that are championing and enabling civic leadership and cross-sector collaboration in relation to shaping buildings, open spaces, homes or neighbourhoods. 

Especially during these strange times, it is key for us to band together within communities and use our diverse skill sets to tackle problems and issues that affect us all. One of the first of such projects that came to my mind, was of a local theatre venue with quite an illustrious history. 

I visited Stanley Halls for the first time in 2018. I was scouting for an event venue and I’d never heard of the hall but it had lots of potential. I really enjoyed learning about its history and community ethos.

The main space in Stanley Halls was completed in 1903, while the nearby clock tower and upper Stanley Halls were completed in 1904, and the local technical trade school was finished in 1907. The building originally served as a public hall and was funded by inventor, manufacturer and philanthropist, William F. Stanley. Stanley was an avid lover of knowledge and often studied Architecture and Theology among other subjects in his spare time.

He was passionate about providing the area of Norwood with a “well needed pubic hall”. His vision for Stanley Halls was the promotion of ‘Justice, Liberty and Science’.

Culture and learning have always been connected to the complex. One of the first events to take place in the hall was a supper and show for the workmen who built the hall, and their families. Later on in the 1950’s a throng of events including weddings, local jumble sales and a Psychic Festival were hosted within the hall.

In 2012, the local community decided to apply to take on the building from Croydon Council as a community asset transfer, as there were competing visions for the future of the lower and larger half of the complex.

Stanley People’s Initiative was established in 2013, and the group took over responsibility for running Stanley Halls in 2015, when they signed a 35-year lease with Croydon Council. This was a grand result for the charity born to save this part of the historic Stanley Halls complex, and hopefully to find a new use for this extraordinary set of buildings.

You can read more about the spectacular efforts of staff and volunteers cleaning and renovating the site here.

In 2021 the hall has rebranded and launched a new identity for the halls, Stanley Arts seeks to forge a new image for itself while establishing itself apart from Stanley Tech, and to highlight its status as one of the trailblazing centres for the arts, community and culture in South London.

Stanley Arts aims to be one of South London’s premiere arts and performance venues, providing the local community with a vital home for cultural expression and discovery. They seek to uplift and amplify under-represented voices, providing artists of colour and LGBTQ+ creatives with a platform to reach out to audiences across South London and beyond.

Stanley People’s Initiative’s goal was to retain a part of their local history while preserving a local space in which the community could gather, create en mass and/or immerse themselves in culture. A number of workshops, theatre and music performances still happen in the hall, though currently the majority of shows are remote. Shared and multifunctional buildings like these, that act as hubs for education, fun and flair, are one of the things that help communities thrive and prosper.

Stanley Halls is a Grade II listed Edwardian arts venue in South Norwood, very close to Norwood Junction station. Find out more about the venue and their current events here.