Find out more about events at the Royal Albert Hall during the 1960s.
For over 60 years the Institute of Directors annual convention has been synonymous with the Royal Albert Hall, and has attracted world leaders, change makers and some of the most iconic speakers from the business arena to its famous stage to forward-think and gain a competitive insight into the issues facing the business community. Prime Ministers, entrepreneurs, sporting legends and even astronaut Buzz Aldrin have spoken at the event.
This meeting was held at the height of the Cold War and public concern about a nuclear threat was very high. According to The Times (14 November 1961), 5,500 people attended the meeting. An overflow meeting was held in Kensington Town Hall. The main speakers were the novelist and playwright, J B Priestley, historian and broadcaster A J P Taylor, and the Labour MP Michael Foot.
The National Keep Fit Association (KFA) held its first National Festival of Movement, Exercise and Dance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1962. Attracting audiences of 6,000 and involving around 500 performers from regions around the country, the event aimed to promote the benefits of regular non-competitive exercise.
In 2006, the KFA celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with us.
The concert hall premiere of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra, Bach Choir and Highgate School Boys’.
Britten himself conducted the performance alongside Sir David Willcocks. The requiem interweaves the poetry of Wilfred Owen with the words of the Requiem Mass in a deeply moving and powerful work, written for the consecration of Coventry Cathedral after its destruction in the Second World War.
The Great Pop Prom of 1963 was the very first time that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones performed together on the same bill.
Prior to the event, the groups did a photo-shoot on the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Steps to the rear of the Hall. Paul McCartney later said; “Standing up on those steps behind the Albert Hall in our new gear, the smart trousers, the rolled collar. Up there with the Rolling Stones we were thinking, this is it – London! The Albert Hall! We felt like gods!”
‘The International Poetry Incarnation’ or ‘Gathering of the Tribes – Poetry Reading Festival’ was sometimes called the first British ‘Happening’, where beatniks met the emerging hippie culture.
The event was unlike anything that had taken place at the Hall before. Audience members were handed flowers as they entered and the arena quickly became filled with a marijuana smoking and heavy drinking crowd. The seventeen poets, including Adrian Mitchell and Allen Ginsberg, were not given any running order and the event ran for four hours.
A film, Wholly Communion by Peter Whitehead, documents the event.
Bob Dylan headlined here at the Hall for four nights at the height of his success on 9-10 May 1965 and 26-27 May 1966. His first appearances here were the final dates of his England Tour 1965, noted as being the singer’s last ever solo and acoustic tour. The 23-year-old’s set included The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Mr. Tambourine Man.
The singer-songwriter returned just over a year later for 2 concerts in 1966. The recordings from this tour were put out on Dylan’s live album The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert, finally released in 1998 after having been bootlegged for decades. Despite the album’s name, the recordings were not actually made at the Royal Albert Hall but at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall.
The Daily Mirror held the ‘Daily Mirror’s Gorgeous Girls Gala – The World’s First Mini-Skirt Ball’ to salute “The Gorgeous Girls of Britain”.
The 100 “Gorgeous Girls” were invited to the event as guests of the newspaper, along with celebrities. Music was provided by nineteen year old pop star Lulu, Acker Bilk and Georgie Fame.
Jimi Hendrix played three times at the Royal Albert Hall between 1967 and 1969. The first time he played at the Hall he played on the same bill as The Move, The Pink Floyd, The Amen Corner and The Nice.
When he returned to the Hall in February 1969, it was to play two nights supported by The Soft Machine. The event was filmed but due to legal wrangles has never been officially released to purchase.
The Royal Albert Hall was alight to the sound of ‘Rock and Roll’ when Bill Haley and the Comets came to the Hall for their one and only visit, supported by Duane Eddy. He played a fantastic set including Shake, Rattle and Roll, Rock Around The Clock and See You Later, Alligator.
The audience caused problems for the Hall’s management that night, refusing to leave the Hall after the concert. There were reports in the papers the next day of the rabble that had ensued.
British rock band Cream held their farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in November 1968. They were supported by Yes, an up and coming progressive rock band, and Rory Gallagher in a trio called Taste. Aside from the band’s reunion concert in 2005 it is Cream’s only official full concert release on video. It was originally broadcast by the BBC on 5 January 1969.
Cream reunited for a series of four shows in May 2005 at the Royal Albert Hall, at Eric Clapton’s request. Tickets for all four shows sold out in under an hour.
Organised by alternative art group The Arts Lab, ‘A Celebration in December’ typifyied the period of the swinging sixties in London.
Although nothing was planned, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were asked to appear. They sat on the side of the stage while musicians and poets performed. For their performance – ‘Alchemical Wedding’ – they climbed into a white cloth bag, remaining there while a man played a flute. Based on Lennon and Ono’s theory of ‘Bagism’, they sought to satirize stereotyping with the idea that the only way one could escape from being judged was to put a bag over their entire body.
Audience member Elizabeth Marsh removed her clothes during the event and when stewards tried to cover her up, other members of the audience also began removing their clothes.
The thirteenth* Eurovision Song Contest* took place at the Royal Albert Hall and was the first Eurovision to have been broadcast in colour, with some 200 million viewers around the globe.
The United Kingdom was represented by Cliff Richard with the song Congratulations, but lost to the Spanish song La, la, la, performed by Massiel, with Spain’s 29 votes to the UK’s 28. Congratulations went on to become a million best seller and No. 1 throughout Europe.
Deep Purple’s performance of Concerto for Group and Orchestra with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was almost certainly the first ever collaboration between a rock band a complete classical orchestra. Composed by Jon Lord, with lyrics written by Ian Gillan, the piece was released on vinyl in December 1969.
After the score was lost in 1970, it was performed again in 1999 with a recreated score and the New Symphony Orchestra instead of the RPO.
The Miss World pageant is the oldest surviving major international beauty pageant. The 19th edition of the Miss World pageant was held for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall and shown on the BBC. Fifty delegates vied for the crown won by Eva Rueber-Staier of Austria.
The Miss World Pageant was held at the Hall a total of twenty times between 1969 and 1988, but not without controversy. In 1970 the Pageant was disturbed by Women’s Liberation activists who threw smoke and flour bombs on stage and heckled the compere, comedian Bob Hope. Read more here.
1960s Spotify Mix
- I Wanna Be Your Man (The Rolling Stones)
- Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan)
- Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix)
- Louie Louie (Frank Zappa)
- Rock Around the Clock (Bill Haley and The Comets)
- Sunshine Of Your Love (Cream)
- Congratulations (Cliff Richard)
- Ride My See Saw (The Moody Blues)
- Yesterday (Petula Clark)
- War Requiem: xxvi. Libera Me - Requiescant in pace (Benjamin Britten)