Judi Dench ‘thrilled’ to reopen theatre in honour of mentor Dame Peggy Ashcroft

Dame Judi Dench has said she is “thrilled” and “delighted” to reopen a south London playhouse in honour of her mentor Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

The award-winning actress, 84, will kick off a week of events to mark the reopening of Ashcroft Playhouse at Fairfield Halls in Croydon on September 16.

The day will see Dame Judi sit down with broadcaster John Hannam for a Q&A about Croydon-born actress Dame Peggy in front of local drama students.

Dame Peggy Ashcroft (Michael Stephens/PA)

British author and theatre critic Michael Billington will also join the conversation to talk about the Bafta and Olivier award-winning actress.

Dame Judi said: “I’m delighted to be returning to Croydon’s Fairfield Halls to celebrate the life and career of my dear friend Peggy Ashcroft, and I’m thrilled to reopen the Ashcroft Playhouse in her honour.

“I hope new generations visiting the venue will discover her legacy and be inspired by it.”

The stage veteran previously visited Fairfield Halls on June 23, 1993 to unveil a display commemorating Dame Peggy’s life from 1907 to 1991.

When she returns in September she will read a specially commissioned poem and unveil a mosaic of Dame Peggy by artist Helen Marshall, made of hundreds of images of Croydon residents.

Ashcroft Playhouse at Fairfield Halls in Croydon (Fairfield Halls/PA)
Ashcroft Playhouse at Fairfield Halls in Croydon (Fairfield Halls/PA)

Dame Peggy first opened Ashcroft Playhouse as the Ashcroft Theatre in 1962.

During the ceremony she read a monologue by Sir John Betjeman called Local Girl Makes Good. In recognition of this, the new mosaic will be titled Girl Done Good.

Artistic and venue director Neil Chandler said: “We’re delighted to welcome Dame Judi Dench back to Fairfield Halls to reopen the Ashcroft Playhouse.

“It will be a special moment for us as we reawaken the history of the theatre named after iconic actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft, as well as celebrating the success of Croydon’s up-and-coming talent following in her footsteps.

“I encourage everyone in Croydon and surrounding areas who are supportive of the Arts to take part in the photo mural of Dame Peggy which will be hung in the Ashcroft Playhouse Foyer and be part of the history of Fairfield Halls.”

Councillor Tony Newman, leader of Croydon Council, said: “The reopening of Fairfield Halls will be a momentous occasion for Croydon and I am delighted Dame Judi Dench is coming back to Fairfield Halls to unveil the new Ashcroft Playhouse.

“I’ve no doubt her Q&A will be a unique and inspiring experience for those lucky enough to be in attendance and look forward to seeing many of our residents’ photos form part of what I’m sure will be a simply stunning mosaic.

“We’re proud Fairfield Halls’ cultural offer will reflect Croydon’s diversity and we are determined to ensure this fantastic venue offers something for everyone.”

A limited number of general sale tickets will be available for purchase from 10am on August 9.

Fairfield Halls members and mailing list subscribers may buy tickets on August 7.