It is 100 days since we closed the Royal Albert Hall’s doors and so much has changed in that time.
All of us at the Hall are watching on with great sadness as theatres and venues across the country struggle to survive. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are on the line and we see each of these as a colleague in an extended family of the arts and cultural sector.
It was the right decision to close theatres and venues. Coronavirus has proved to be a huge risk to life and it would have been unthinkable to have continued to run as normal. The human cost of this pandemic is a tragedy that will be mourned long into the future.
But as many lockdown measures begin to ease, the Hall and venues like us find ourselves in a perilous situation.
Primarily, the arts and culture are an intrinsic part of what makes life worth living, but in these worrying economic times we understand the need to also recognise economic value.
Live entertainment and theatre generates £11.25 billion in gross value added each year. Our sector contributed over £1 billion in VAT in 2019 alone and supports over 600,000 jobs, from on-stage talent to temporary bar staff.
It is a huge part of our country’s rich culture, not only for those who live here but for the millions who visit the UK to experience it.
Our financial problem
It costs £12.7m a year to maintain our Grade I-listed building and £14.3m to pay our staff. In the 100 days since closure we would have expected revenue of £11m but instead we have been refunding nearly £5m worth of tickets, most of which were sold last year.
The Hall is a charity with no regular government funding. We are taking out a £5m CBILS loan, and our staff’s livelihoods have been saved until now by the government’s Jobs Retention Scheme. As we have sadly seen from the Birmingham Hippodrome, Nimax, Cameron Mackintosh and the Theatre Royal Plymouth, redundancies throughout the sector are a very real possibility if it is not extended until concert halls and theatres can safely open.
We are also hugely grateful for funds that have come through the generosity of our audiences from donations in lieu of refunds and through our Royal Albert Home series.
Despite this support and the loan, we will have depleted all our reserves and project that, if we are unable to reopen, we will run out of cash by early 2021.
Operating under social distancing?
Under the latest distancing rules our capacity would be reduced to around 36%. In order for us to break even, and therefore be sustainable as a charity, we typically need a capacity of between 80-90%.
Some one-off events will be viable, and we are working to find these and other ways to generate income. The BBC will be able to host live concerts here for the final two weeks of the 2020 Proms season for instance, with or without a socially distanced audience. However we cannot viably reopen for the vast majority of events.
What we need
We are working with other institutions in the sector and government in the hope we can find a way forward for the Hall.
In short, we would like to see a clear conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing, alongside a comprehensive business support package.
The business support package should, most urgently, include an extension of the furlough scheme and support for the self-employed to prevent mass redundancies.
We are hopeful that government will look to measures such as those seen in South Korea and being trialled by Andrew Lloyd Webber at the London Palladium to find innovative ways to enable venues to reopen safely, and for solutions such a health passports to be considered.
How can you help?
We are so grateful for all the generous donations from you – through Royal Albert Home or from those of you who have donated the cost of your ticket instead of asking for a refund. Thank you so much.
You can still donate to the Hall here, but what we really want to see is the Hall thriving again, and standing on its own two feet. So when we are able to reopen, please buy tickets, come and share time with friends and family, and remind yourself what makes the Royal Albert Hall one of the most uplifting and wonderful places in the world.
We opened our doors in 1871 and they have remained open for everyone ever since. Countless millions of people have cheered, gasped, cried and celebrated together.
We strongly believe that the Hall will be needed more than ever after this period of upheaval and isolation, as we proudly bring people together once more for shared experiences in 2021, our 150th anniversary year.
Please support the Royal Albert Hall during the coronavirus crisis.
Donate online now or text 70490 with the following:
5ALBERT to donate £5
10ALBERT to donate £10
20ALBERT to donate £20
Registered charity No.254543. Text-to-donate operates via major UK networks only and cost the donation amount plus one standard rate message.
We also have a range of retail products available to order online. All proceeds will support the Hall through this hard time: