I am delighted that the Royal Albert Hall has been offered a £20.74m loan from the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund announced in July – a desperately-needed lifeline from Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE).

As an independent charity, the Royal Albert Hall does not receive regular Arts Council England funding and we have not received one-off government grant funding to take us through this challenging year in which the Hall has foregone approximately £30m in income and additionally refunded £8.3m of tickets and £600k in fees.

This Culture Recovery Fund loan, for which there is a four-year interest and repayment holiday, will enable us to repay the £5m Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme (CBILS) loan we took in order to keep trading in November this year. It will also cover the net deficit we will see up until April 2021, and will allow us to restore our minimum reserves and operating finances to a level comparable to before the pandemic struck.

This loan is a lifeline, but we will not be able to recover from this seismic shock without the support of our audiences. I have been touched at the generosity and kindness of people who, during the pandemic, have donated the cost of their tickets instead of requesting refunds, who have renewed their Friends and Patron memberships, or who have contributed towards our fundraising efforts. Thank you. And thank you too to our Members, Honorary Fellows and partners who have stuck by us since we closed our doors on 17 March.

Out of adversity comes opportunity. So, while 2020 has undoubtedly been tough, we remain committed to Albert’s vision which was always about ingenuity and thinking about doing things differently. This is not how we would have hoped to celebrate our 150th birthday, but I am determined that the Hall will rebuild stronger and even better than ever. Prince Albert envisioned this building as a place for the democratisation of ideas to share the inspiration of the arts and science. I imagine that today he would be championing sustainability, diversity and innovation.

We know that the Hall will be needed more than ever after this period of upheaval and isolation; to bring people together, to change lives through music, to inspire and create moments of joy and togetherness. This £20.74m loan from the Culture Recovery Fund will help us to do all this once more.