Find out more about events at the Royal Albert Hall during the 1990s.
Stonewall is the largest British charity for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality. Founded in 1988 to protest against the Section 28 amendment, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting’ homosexuality, Stonewall went from strength to strength and in 1994 they hosted the first of seven Stonewall Equality shows at the Royal Albert Hall.
Performers over the years included Elton John, Lily Savage, Alison Moyet and Sting amongst many others.
This event saw the European premiere of Walt Disney’s film remake of the 101 Dalmatians cartoon. For the premiere the Hall was projected with 101 ‘spots’ of light from Kensington Gardens.
The event was to raise money for charity and the stars of the film who attended the premiere included Joan Plowright, Glenn Close and Joely Richardson.
Canadian entertainment company Cirque du Soleil arrived at the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in 1996 with a show called Saltimbanco.
Since then they have returned to the Royal Albert Hall almost every year with seven different shows, becoming a post-Christmas treat for thousands of families for a spectacular show that appeals across the generations.
Nelson Mandela visited the Hall only once in his lifetime during a 4 day state visit by the then President of South Africa as a guest of Her Majesty The Queen. In order to repay her hospitality, instead of the usual state dinner, he chose to entertain her with an evening of music and dance entitled ‘Two Nations Celebrate’.
The visit to the Hall started in typical Mandela fashion, with the great man doing a walkabout, meeting and greeting a great many staff with his customary warmth. Her Majesty, Prince Charles, Mandela and his daughter then adjourned to the Queens’ Box to watch an evening of performances by South African artists Bayete, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Hugh Masekela, also featuring Phil Collins, Quincy Jones and Tony Bennett.
Mr. Mandela, abandoning his preferred bright shirt for a formal black silk one for the occasion, swayed and clapped to the music, joined by HRH The Prince of Wales and HM The Queen.
The National Television Awards (NTAS) were hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald at the Hall until he retired. The very first award ceremony here was watched by 14.5 million viewers and included a special appearance by The Spice Girls.
In 2000 the Awards were the scene of an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction when Judy Finnegan of ‘Richard and Judy’ fame unknowingly flashed her bra at the 2001 National Television Awards as she collected an award with her husband Richard.
In 2008, David Tennant shocked audience members after he announced at the National Television Awards via a live video link that he would be leaving Doctor Who after playing the role of The Doctor for a third series.
Spice World, a musical comedy film, was released in 1997 and starred British pop girl group The Spice Girls. The lighthearted comedy, made in a similar vein to The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, depicts fictional events leading up to a major concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
The film ends with the Spice Girls arriving at the Royal Albert Hall for their performance and running up the South Steps to the Rocky theme tune. The girls reach the Hall’s stage and perform their song Spice Up Your Life to a full audience.
The film premiered on 15 December 1997 and proved to be a hit at the box office breaking the record for the highest-ever weekend debut for Super Bowl Weekend (25 January 1998) in the US.
Diana, Princess of Wales, made her last visit to the Hall in her role as Patron of the English National Ballet for a gala performance of Swan Lake. It started out as an evening at the ballet, which Diana adored.
In her chic, strappy cocktail dress — by Jacques Azagury — she caught the eye of a fellow guest, Mohamed al Fayed. Over supper, the colourful Harrods tycoon suggested she and her boys William and Harry might like to holiday with him and his family at his house in St Tropez.
In July 1995 the Caribbean Island of Montserrat was devastated by a previously dormant volcano, forcing two-thirds of the island’s population was to flee.
George Martin, the Beatles producer, owned the famous AIR recording studios in Monserrat where many famous musicians had recorded music and conceived the idea of a fundraising concert for the people of Montserrat. The concert starred musicians such as Phil Collins, Ray Cooper, Carl Perkins, Jimmy Buffett, Mark Knopfler, Sting, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, and Midge Ure, all performing for free.
Proceeds were used for immediate relief and also helped fund the building of a new cultural centre in Montserrat. On its completion in 2006, George Martin gifted the centre to the islanders.
The Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards first came to the Hall in 1998, hosted by Spice Girl Mel B and American actor and stand-up comedian Bill Bellamy. Performers and speakers included Sol Campbell, All Saints, DJ Trevor Nelson, Lennox Lewis, Chris Eubank, Chaka Khan and E-17. B.B. King won the special Lifetime Achievement award.
Most of the categories were open to a public phone vote, and the awards were televised nationally on Channel 4. The MOBO’s came to the Royal Albert Hall six times in total, hosting a huge array of stars including Destiny’s Child, soul legend Sam Moore, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Janet Jackson, Kool and the Gang, 50 Cent and George Benson.
This concert in 1999 was to pay tribute to Linda McCartney, wife of Paul McCartney, who had passed away from cancer in April 1998 at the age of 56. Linda McCartney was an American musician, photographer and animal rights activist and this concert was organised by her great friends, musician Chrissie Hynde and television writer Carla Lane.
The event was hosted by Eddie Izzard and included a whole array of talented musicians including George Michael, Marianne Faithful, Sinead O’Connor, Heather Small, Tom Jones, Elvis Costello, Johnny Marr, and of course Paul McCartney, who finished the concert on a moving rendition of Let It Be.
In 1995 Professor Stephen Hawking became the second Physicist ever to sell out the Royal Albert Hall. The first Physicist had been Professor Albert Einstein in 1933, on his way through England after being forced to flee Germany by anti-Jewish laws.
Professor Stephen Hawking, who was already a famous personality due to the success of his book A Brief History of Time and frequent appearances on television, sold the Hall out in days and ticket touts operated outside. He refused a fee for speaking, instead choosing to give all monies raised to a Motor-Neurone charity.
He spoke about his new book Does God throw dice in black holes? and baffled his critics by ending the talk with a typically controversial statement: “God”, he said finally “still has a few tricks up his sleeve.”
The first Sumo wrestling tournament ever to be staged outside Japan in the sport’s 1500 year history took place at the Hall in 1991 as part of the Japan Festival.
The correct clay for the sacred dohyo (wrestling ring) was tracked down to a quarry near Heathrow, while a huge drum and the ceremonial canopy, the yokata, were shipped in from Japan. The most expensive seats for Sumo were cushions on the floor around the dohyo. The top 40 rikishi (wrestlers) competed, including the two yokozuma (grand champions) – Asahifuji and Hokutuomi.
The main attraction was Hawaiian Konishiki, the heaviest sumo wrestler ever, nicknamed the Dump Truck and weighing in at 37.5 stone (238.25 kg). The Hall had to have the backstage lavatories weight-tested, chairs reinforced and extra-large showers fitted.
Named ‘Generations’ after the 1994 film of the same name, the largest Star Trek convention ever staged welcomed the full cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation including Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis. Over 10,000 fans (many of whom were in full costume) attended the event which included a Q&A session with the cast, autograph opportunities and vendors selling limited edition items.
As a result of the success of Generations, a second event was held at the Royal Albert Hall the following year, marking Star Trek’s 30th anniversary and welcoming stars from ‘The Original Series’, including William Shatner, Walter Koenig and George Takei.
1990s Spotify Mix
- Love Changes Everything (Michael Ball)
- Spice Up Your Life (Spice Girls)
- Sultans of Swing (Mark Knopfler)
- Real Gone Kid (Deacon Blue)
- Another Man's Woman (Supertramp)
- I Think I'm In Love (Spiritualized)
- Impact [The Earth Is Burning] (Orbital)
- If I Only Had Time (Joe Longthorne)
- Lucky Man (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
- One Day More! (Les Misérables)