Royal Albert Hall CEO Craig Hassall (pictured) says the 5,272-capacity venue’s 150th Anniversary programme, which will begin on 29 March 2021, will include performances by artists such as Patti Smith, David Arnold and Jon Hopkins, while KT Tunstall will lead a new mentorship programme for young female artists and Nile Rodgers will compose a pop anthem for the anniversary.
The announcement comes almost nine months since the venue’s doors were closed for the first time since the Second World War. Hassall says the impact of the closure of a venue that costs nearly £13m to maintain each year has been huge.
“This has been a terrible time for the world, for the country and specifically for the live music industry,” he says. “Since we closed to the public, we have foregone around £27m in income, refunded £7.5m of tickets, furloughed 80% of our staff and cancelled hundreds of performances.
“It hasn’t been unremittingly bleak – we have consistently focussed on what we can do rather than what we can’t. From our closure through to the end of August we streamed performances from 80 artists via Royal Albert Home, with a total global audience of more than 1.5m.”
He says the Albert Hall will continue to stream performances during the two-year anniversary programme.
Despite the financial impact of the Hall’s closure, Hassall says significant work had been carried out to improve the venue and further refurbishment plans will be actioned shortly: “This year, we finished a restoration of the Hall’s façade – a majestic piece of work, the fruit of years of toil by hundreds of artisans, craftspeople and dedicated building teams. I cannot tell you the joy with which I arrived today to see the gleaming building revealed in its full glory after suffering years of it being swathed in scaffolding.
“In March 2021, and thanks to support from Westminster City Council and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, work will start on improving the public areas around the Hall. We will be widening pavements, improving access, addressing security and safety issues – generally making the surrounds of our building more people friendly and returning the Hall to a setting more akin to the way it was in 1871.”
The Royal Albert Hall did not receive a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund. In a blog in March, Hassall says the venue’s management had applied for loans: “July’s announcement from the Chancellor of a £1.57bn support package for the arts and heritage was extremely welcome. However, our need was too great to apply for a grant (capped at £3m) so we have applied for a loan, and also for a CBILS loan, to take us through this devastating period.”
The Hall’s anniversary will also be celebrated by other institutions. The Royal Mint will issue a £5 coin to mark the milestone, while Royal Crown Derby, has produced a commemorative tea set in a design inspired by the Hall’s architecture.
The Hall’s anniversary book, with a foreword from Her Majesty The Queen, is titled A Celebration in 150 Unforgettable Moments, and published this month by Ebury.