The Royal Albert Hall has launched an urgent public appeal to raise at least £20 million to help it survive its enforced closure as a result of the pandemic. Its doors have been closed since 17 March 2020.
The Royal Albert Hall, in London’s Kensington, might have been described in government references as a ‘crown jewel’ that must be saved, but it can not apply for any grants within the £1.57 billion arts and heritage sector emergency fund from the government.
The fundraising appeal was launched at the same time as representatives of the charity were giving evidence to the DCMS Select Committee on the viability of performance venues to open adhering to social distancing rules.
The appeal is explicitly asking for public donations “to help ensure its survival”. The venue is one of many arts venues to be facing this challenge.
Previous £6m annual surplus
The Hall relies on revenue from events, annual contributions from seat-holders; and donations from organisations and members of the public. Ordinarily, it would expect to make approximately £6 million surplus each year. All of this is invested into the Grade I-listed building and into its education and outreach programme.
When the venue had to close its doors in March, it lost 96% of its income overnight. In the six months since then, it has:
- lost £18 million in income
- had to refund over £6.5 million of ticket sales
- “exhausted its reserves”
- and cancelled all but the most critical building projects.
Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, explained: “Six months on from enforced closure, and circa £18m down in lost income, we are not eligible for any of the Government’s emergency grants. This leaves us in an extremely perilous position, with no way of replacing our lost income, apart from a government loan which may or may not materialise.
“We raised concerns months ago about the potential for independent, unfunded organisations such as the Royal Albert Hall to miss out on government support, and especially having been held up by Government as a ‘crown jewel’ that must be saved. With millions of pounds of essential building work called to a halt owing to COVID we had hoped to be eligible for a capital grant but have been informed that, as we are not a portfolio of nationally spread sites, we are not eligible for this scheme.”
He added that the ‘rescue package fanfare’ had given many potential donors “the false sense that we are being sufficiently supported elsewhere”.
He concluded: “The Royal Albert Hall now faces a bleak future unless it can secure not only a repayable Government loan, but also urgent donations to plug our current £20m shortfall.”
The Royal Albert Hall is approaching its 150th anniversary in 2021.
Main photo: © Royal Albert Hall