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A Bit Of Nostalgia, An ‘Extraordinary Venue’ Turns 150: Royal Albert Hall Unveils Anniversary Program

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A Bit Of Nostalgia, An ‘Extraordinary Venue’ Turns 150: Royal Albert Hall Unveils Anniversary Program

 By: Gideon Gottfried

Photo By: J Collingridge

The Royal Albert Hall’s auditorium.Neil Warnock, global head of touring at UTA, told Pollstar, “I don’t think there’s another auditorium in the whole world that is like the Albert Hall.”

London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall has unveiled the initial program for the upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations. Pollstar spoke to the program’s curator Neil Warnock, UTA’s global head of touring.
 
The celebrations will begin on March 29, 2021, exactly 150 years since the building opened its doors, and continue into 2022. 
 
 
Looking forward to a year of celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall in 2021Gideon GottfriedLooking forward to a year of celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall in 2021From left: Craig Hassall, chief executive, Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director, and Neil Warnock.
Government mandates in reaction to COVID caused the Royal Albert Hall to close its doors for the first time since the second world war. During 
Yesterday’s press conference, Dec. 3, the venue’s chief executive, Craig Hassall expressed his determination to not let that interfere with the Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
 
“Since its opening, this extraordinary venue has borne witness to, and played a central part in, seismic cultural and social change. The interests, manners and social mores of the people may have changed, but this beautiful building and what it represents remains the same a century-and-a-half later: a meeting place, a reflection of contemporary Britain, and a home for exhilarating live performance and events of international significance,” he commented.
 
Hassall thanked “the whole creative industry, our dedicated staff and all of the artists involved for their support in announcing this programme today.”
 
Neil Warnock, global head of touring for UTA, is chairing the Hall’s anniversary committee. His first show as an agent representing his own act at the prestigious building was Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Sept. 24, 1969.
 
He’s lost count of how many times he’s been back since, either with one of his artists or as a fan.
 
Ella Fitzgerald.Ella Fitzgerald.With the Count Basie Orchestra, in aid of The Prince’s Trust and The British Deaf Association. 7 March 1990.
“Looking back over 50 years, 600 times, easily,” he estimated, “I’m a very frequent visitor. Let alone coming in as a punter and being here for other shows. There’s so many wonderful artists that play here, and I just want to see them in this setup, under these circumstances only the Royal Albert Hall offers.”
 
Pollstar wanted to know whether Warnock, who has been touring the world extensively, has ever encountered a venue that was run in a similar way, or was comparable in terms of heritage and overall prestige.
 
“I suppose Radio City Music Hall in New York has got that feel, although that’s 6,500, a bit bigger in its overall structure. And the Lincoln Center in New York, I guess,” he answered, adding, “But neither one of them have got the connectivity that’s in the Albert Hall, because of its shape. The intimacy between the stage and the audience is so prevalent, such a big part of the occasion. 
 
“I don’t think there’s another auditorium in the whole world that is like the Albert Hall.”
 
 
The Royal Albert Hall receives no government funding whatsoever. It is funded by private individuals and entrepreneurs, who bought boxes and individual seats when the Hall was in financial straits in its early days (a fascinating story in itself). A lot of those seats and boxes are still owned by the same families who bought them 150 years ago. 
 
 

 

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