In 2016, the Royal Albert Hall welcomed in some 600 elderly dancers for two tea dances in our iconic auditorium. These events are just part of an expansive Education & Outreach scheme, run by Flo Schroeder, Education & Outreach Manager, who spoke to us about how her team works to bring the magic of the Royal Albert Hall to audiences of all ages.
As the age of the UK population increasing, there has been an ever-growing understanding of the impact that participating in the arts, and perhaps especially music, can have on our health and wellbeing. Especially in light of health and social care cuts, arts organisations and the events they are putting on for older people are becoming more important than ever.
We aim to put on two full-scale tea dances in the auditorium every year, featuring live big band and jazz standards from our incredible in-house group, Albert’s Big Band. These events give elderly audiences the chance to chat and socialise, and to take centre-stage on the floor of our iconic arena – a space that has hosted everyone from Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra to The Beatles, Adele and One Direction!
However these tea dances are just one part of an extensive programme for older adults at the Royal Albert Hall.
Each year, we additionally present the Friendship Matinee, a specially-programmed performance in the main auditorium that’s open to those who are part of a charity or community group, and may not usually get the chance to come here. This event gives them the chance to see a world-class performance in this legendary building for just £5.
In 2016, our resident ensemble Albert’s Band visited almost 2,000 people in 70 care homes, hospitals, day centres and hospices across London, through our Songbook scheme, performing a unique one-hour show that includes music from the likes of Vera Lynn, Cliff Richard and Shirley Bassey, as well as an interactive history of the Hall. This year, we’ll aim to visit 80 locations.
Plus, we hold access film screenings – next, An American in Paris on 28 June, which was arranged as a dementia-friendly event – and relaxed coffee club meetings for older people, as well as holding innovative music therapy sessions led by the charity, Nordoff Robbins.
Our Education & Outreach programme is essential to everything that the Royal Albert Hall represents as a venue and as an institution. We were established with a founding mission to provide a ‘central Hall for the arts and sciences’, that would nurture a love of music and a sense of community, and we remain true to Prince Albert’s vision.
Take a look at some of the most recent feedback from elderly participants of our Education & Outreach programme.
‘Our residents thoroughly enjoyed singing and dancing together, and afterwards had lots of talk about the old songs and memorable events in the past.’
Yi Xu, Forrester Court Care Home – Songbook session
‘Our participants really did enjoy it and for many of them it was the first time that they had attended an event at the Hall. In fact our eldest member Dolly, who’s 90, commented that it was not only her first visit to the Royal Albert Hall but also her first experience of a live orchestra! So thank you for providing our group with a set of lovely new memories and experiences.’
Georgia Bowers, London Bubble Theatre – Friendship Matinee
‘Just wanted to thank for your superb organisation and the lovely welcome you extended to everyone today. We really enjoyed the tea dance and do hope this will be the first of many.’
Carolyn and Don Noble, Tea Dance