Music

Royal Albert Hall appeals for £20m in donations to avoid bankruptcy


The Royal Albert Hall has called for £20 million in donations to help it avert bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic.

The Kensington venue has lost £18 million in income, refunded more than £6.5 million in ticket sales and exhausted its reserves in the six months since closing its doors in March.

The RAH was not eligible for an emergency grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion arts rescue package, and has been advised to apply for a loan which, if successful, will arrive in December.

Government snubbed ‘crown jewel’

Craig Hassall, chief executive of the RAH, said despite the venue being held up as a “crown jewel” by the Government, it remained in an “extremely perilous position, with no way of replacing our lost income, apart from a Government loan which may or may not materialise.”

The Hall was told that is was not eligible for a capital grant from the arts bailout because “we are not a portfolio of nationally spread sites.”

Anoushka Shankar performing at the Royal Albert Hall (Photo: Mark Allan/BBC)

The rescue package “fanfare” had given “many potential donors the false sense that we are being sufficiently supported elsewhere.”

The Hall, which has placed 400 of its 500 staff on furlough, faces a “bleak future” unless it can secure not only a repayable Government loan, but also “urgent donations to plug our current £20 million shortfall.”

The Hall will be in a “mothballing” situation if it is not able to open properly next year, commercial and artistic director Lucy Noble told MPs on the Culture select committee.

Carol singalong planned

She said the venue was hoping to stage a “singalong” Christmas carol show at 50 per cent capacity this December.

The Hall has been given permission to reduce the social distancing between seating to one metre. But major shows need up to 90 per cent capacity to break even.

The collapse into bankruptcy of Cirque du Soleil, which would have staged a lucrative run of shows next year, had compounded the Hall’s perilous financial situation.

Without a firm date for when the Hall can reopen at the full capacity it requires to break even, the venue was in an “impossible position” and would soon be forced to make redundancies, Ms Noble warned.

She denied that staging the Proms without an audience in the venue sent a “damaging signal”. It has “given people hope”, she said. “You need months to remobilise… It was just too late, the news came too late,” she said of the Government’s announcement on allowing socially distanced, indoor audiences.





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