United Kingdom

Royal Albert Hall will go bust next year without financial help

The Royal Albert Hall will go bust next year if it fails to secure millions in loans and donations, the chief executive has warned.

Craig Hassall said lockdown has cast the cash-strapped BBC Proms venue into its most 'perilous' crisis yet as it approaches its 150th anniversary. 

The dormant Kensington theatre has burned through £12million since it shuttered and has relied on a £5million rescue package to weather the economic hits of the virus.

But it is still in a race against time to raise a further £5million to £10million if it is to survive to reach the milestone. 

Forecasting a bleak situation of hundreds of redundancies, the Hall has turned to the public for donations to save the 'livelihoods' of its staff. 

The Royal Albert Hall will go bust next year if it fails to secure millions in loans and donations, the chief executive has warned

Mr Hassall lashed out at Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden for not setting out a comprehensive timeline for the beleaguered performing arts sector to reopen, leaving them in the lurch.  

'The Government support has been very oblique and vague,' the chief executive told the i newspaper.

He said ministers 'haven't been helpful' and claimed he only had one meeting with the Culture department a month ago.

Mr Hassall added that, under the Government's current direction for theatres, it would be 'operationally, financially and artistically' impossible for the Hall to reopen.

From August, the furlough scheme will place a greater financial burden on employers, who will be asked to split the costs of wages with the Treasury, before the scheme is wound down entirely by October. 

Faced with an existential crisis, the Royal Albert Hall has made a desperate plea for public donations.

Craig Hassall said lockdown has cast the cash-strapped BBC Proms venue into its most 'perilous' crisis yet and made a bleak forecast of hundreds of redundancies

Prominently displayed on its website, it asks: 'We are a charity with no regular funding from government and we rely on the income from our shows. 

'It costs us £12.7m a year to maintain our Grade I-listed building and £14.3m to pay our staff. We need urgent donations to survive this crisis.

'Without your support, the Hall and the livelihoods of our team are at risk. If you can, please join others in donating today.'   

Opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria, the Hall claims to be the busiest music venue in the world.

One of its most renowned events is the Proms, which is planning a 'virtual' opening and a final two weeks of live performances.

While artists have now been booked for the festival, social distancing restrictions mean they will probably perform to an empty venue on the Proms' 125th year.

Mr Hassall has lashed out at Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) for not setting out a comprehensive timeline for the beleaguered performing arts sector to reopen, leaving them in the lurch

The two weeks of live performances, to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Four and iPlayer, begin on August 28.

The Last Night - led by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska with South African soprano Golda Schultz - takes place on September 12.

BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four will broadcast Proms from the archive over six weeks before the fortnight of live performances.

BBC Proms director David Pickard said: 'The 2020 Proms will be a season unlike any other in its 125-year history.

'Music can be a powerful friend in difficult times and Sir Henry Wood's mission - to bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience, 'making its beneficent effect universal' - is more important now than it has ever been. '

The Proms will be fronted on TV by Katie Derham, Tom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d'Arby.

Jan Younghusband, head of music TV commissioning, said: 'Working within the confines of what we can do, we really hope the Proms on TV this year will deliver from the archive some of the iconic orchestral concerts of recent years.

'And the live concerts in August at the Royal Albert Hall will, we hope, be a positive start to being able to do more in the future.'

More than 350 musicians will be heard together, during the virtual Proms, in a Beethoven 'mash-up' after recording their parts from home.

Its creator, composer Iain Farrington describes the work as 'taking Beethoven's music and putting it in a musical washing machine to see which colours run'.

A number of composers will be asked to write works that respond to the worldwide situation caused by the pandemic, including for the Last Night.

Proms from the archive include the TV broadcast of the Radio 1 Ibiza Prom from 2015, featuring Pete Tong, Jules Buckley and the Heritage Orchestra.  

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