The Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences (known as the Royal Albert Hall) is a unique and successful charity incorporated by Royal Charter. It is a Grade I listed building, and receives no public funding for its running costs, partly owing to the way the building was originally funded by the sale of seats to Members who subsequently volunteered to financially support the Hall’s charitable objectives by agreeing to pay an annual contribution, or “seat rate”.
The original Royal Charter
Originally part of Prince Albert’s vision for the South Kensington estate which became known as ‘Albertopolis’, the Hall is one of Britain’s best-loved and busiest venues with around 400 events in the auditorium and 1000 in other spaces each year.
The Hall’s charitable purposes, following in the footsteps of Prince Albert, are the maintenance of the Hall for the nation and the advancement of the Arts and Sciences. Its governing documents are the original charter dated 8 April 1867, two further charters and four Acts of Parliament.
The Hall is governed by a Council (or board) of 23 Trustees and a President. The Trustees meet five times a year.
The Trustees delegate many of their functions to committees of Council members who report to the Trustees on their work. The committees cover subjects such as finance, the maintenance and improvement of the building, programming, marketing, human resources and fundraising.
Council meetings and the committees are serviced by the Secretary and Assistant Secretary to the Corporation.
The Hall has some 525 employees, led by a Chief Executive and an Executive team, who are accountable to the Trustees for running the Hall in accordance with the Hall’s charitable purposes and the strategy and policies approved by the Trustees.
An integral part of the Hall are its ‘Members’. They are today’s successors to those who subscribed to the building of the Hall. Originally, a ‘Provisional Committee’, chaired by the then Prince of Wales, was established to procure the design, financing and building of the Hall. When the Provisional Committee could not raise enough money for this, they invited ‘subscribers’ to invest in the project in return for seats in the Hall once built. These investors were granted 999 year leases of individual seats. Today some 1268 seats, out of the Hall’s total possible capacity of 5,272, remain in private ownership. Their owners are the ‘Members’. Some of individual Members can trace their ownership directly back to the original family subscriber. Their primary role in our governance is to elect from among themselves 19 of the 24 Trustees (including the President).
Member Trustees are elected for a term of three years. They may stand for re-election.
The Members elect annually the President from among their number, who represents the Hall and chairs all Council meetings of the Trustees.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, Imperial College, the Natural History Museum and the Royal College of Music each appoints one of the remaining five Trustees.
All Trustees are fully briefed on their duties as Trustees, including relevant Charity Commission guidance for charity trustees.
None of the Trustees, including the President, is remunerated for their services to the Hall.
Any surplus made by the Hall is retained and applied to fulfilling the Hall’s charitable purposes. The Members do not share in any surplus.
The Hall operates two subsidiary companies through which it undertakes its non-charity trading activities such as catering, merchandising and letting the Hall for private events. A charity event may sometimes also be promoted through a subsidiary company in order to mitigate risk to the charity. The subsidiaries’ profits are covenanted to the Hall.
Unlike any comparable institutions, the Hall receives no recurring grant funding. It is financed by the events held at the Hall, by philanthropic giving and by financial support from the Members.
The Members contribute by paying an annual ‘seat rate’ (currently £1,452 per seat). In order to ensure the financial viability of the Hall, the Members have, in addition, foregone their right to attend over 100 events each year. The Members also act as a financial backstop. They have been called upon to support the Hall on several occasions, particularly at times of special need.
Members are free to do as they please with the tickets allocated to them for their seats, as the seats are their personal property. They may dispose of them privately or return them for sale through the box office. By these means, they receive an income from their seats, the amount of which depends upon which tickets they choose to sell and how, and at what price, they choose to sell them. For those Members who are also Trustees, this gives rise to an authorised conflict of interest. To ensure complete probity at all times, the conflict of interest is managed by the operation of a Conflicts of Interest Policy, a copy of which can be found here.
Further information about our governance and how the Hall operates in practice is published each year in our Annual Report and Accounts, the latest of which can be found here
Frequently asked questions
1. How many seats do Seatholders own?
There are 1,268 seats in private ownership.
2. How many Seatholders are there?
There are currently 329 Seatholders.
3. What is the total audience capacity of the Hall?
The Hall can accommodate up to 5,900 when specific areas of the Hall are used as standing capacity.
4. What is the ratio of Seatholder tickets to promoter tickets for events (on an annual basis)?
Seatholders do not access all of the events which are staged in the Hall’s main auditorium. As such, their tickets account for 14% of all auditorium show tickets in the Hall annually.
5. What is the composition of the Hall’s Council?
There are up to 18 Elected Members (voted for by the Seatholders) and five Appointed Members, plus an elected President. The President and the Elected Members are themselves Seatholders – this gives them a unique perspective and a personal link to the Hall.
The five Appointed Members come from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport; Imperial College; the Natural History Museum; the Royal College of Music; and the Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (which is still the Hall’s landlord).
6. Can I become a Seatholder?
Yes. From time to time, Seatholders may choose to sell their seats on the open market and do so either privately, or with the use of a property agent to manage the sale. The Hall plays no role in the sale of seats and any transaction is private to the individual Member.
7. What happens to the tickets that Seatholders return to the Hall’s Box Office if they do not wish to attend an event?
A large number of Seatholder tickets are returned to the Hall’s Box Office each year and are sold to the public in the same way as promoter tickets are sold. These tickets account for around 60% of the total number of tickets issued to Seatholders.