Royal Albert Hall’s Artistic/Commercial Director talks to Access about her venue’s new livestreaming scheme, and her work as Chair of the National Arenas Association.
How did you come to work in events, and your current position as Artistic and Commercial Director at RAH?
My family love music, so I was introduced to it from an early
age. Later I studied at the Royal College of Music and performed as a musician, but I was also involved in the industry on the organisational side. While I was at the RCM I worked as a steward at the Hall, and I remember seeing the woman who was doing what is essentially my job now and thinking, “That’s the job I want.”
In 2002 the programming department at the Hall was having a shake-up, so I went for a role there, and was appointed Lettings Manager. Two years later I became Programming Manager and,
in 2008, Head of Programming and Education. Later I was made Director of Events, which expanded to encompass several other areas, so I’m now the Artistic and Commercial Director. I look after the production and technical team, partnerships and sponsorship, the education & outreach programme and the organ!
Can you tell us about your plans for livestreaming initiative Royal Albert Home?
We wanted to do something to keep the venue’s spirit alive and to keep us in the public eye during closure – a project that would provide something for audiences at this difficult time, and also attract donations. Royal Albert Home promised to do all of that, as well as celebrating the diversity of our programme, supporting artists, and strengthening our relationships with management and agents.
The response has been amazing: a programme of world-class artists, interest from all over the globe, and more than half a million streams in the first fortnight. We even got a tweet from the Queen supporting the programme!
Do you think streaming events will persist once lockdown is over, or is it only a stopgap measure?
Yes, we’d like to continue with the series. That could potentially mean streaming major shows from the Hall alongside more intimate
sessions, with the latter coming from artists’ homes, interesting spaces around the building or our famous stage. It’s central to everything we do at the Hall that the shows we put on are accessible to the public, and this opens that up in a new way, making us accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
“Closures are putting a great strain on the finances of venues in the UK.”
Are you concerned the music venue ecosystem could be at risk?
Yes, I think everyone in the industry is concerned. Closures are putting a great strain on the finances of venues in the UK, both big and small. We’re working extremely hard to minimise the impact on staff and on the charity itself, but our remit is a challenging one – to promote the arts and sciences and protect one of the country’s most beloved buildings – and we need money to do that.
What kind of work do you do with the National Arenas Association?
I chair the NAA, which brings together 23 of our national arenas from across the UK. We discuss common topics and share good working practices.
It’s been interesting and, in these circumstances, certainly a challenge – when I took on the role last year, I couldn’t have anticipated chairing it through a pandemic.