Craig Hassall succeeds outgoing chief executive Chris Cotton after a record-breaking 2015, in which the hall achieved its highest-ever level of income per show
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“These aren’t normal times”: The historic London venue has closed its doors to protect artists, audiences and employees, despite warning of "hugely damaging" consequences
By Jon Chapple on 17 Mar 2020
The Royal Albert Hall in London has become the first UK arena to completely shut its doors as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
“In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and following advice from government, we have taken the decision with a heavy heart to close the Royal Albert Hall from midday today, Tuesday 17 March, to the public until further notice,” reads a statement from the historic 5,272-capacity venue, which was due to host the Teenage Cancer Trust shows with Mumford and Sons, Stereophonics, Noel Gallagher and the Who next week.
“The safety and security of our artists, audiences and staff is, ultimately, all that matters.
“We’ve been here for the nation for almost 150 years in good times and bad. We exist to be open, to entertain, to inspire. Our doors are made to be open to the world and so it goes against everything in our nature to close them. But these aren’t normal times, and we find ourselves in the unique situation where closing our doors is the best way to look after the world.”
The statement goes on to say that while the impact of the closure will be “financially devastating”, it has committed to paying its staff while the hall is closed.
“Our doors are made to be open to the world and so it goes against everything in our nature to close them”
“The consequences of these national actions are going to be hugely damaging. The Royal Albert Hall does not receive regular government support and is dependent on income related to events, which will not be happening,” it continues. The lost income from closing the venue will be financially devastating.
“We invest millions of pounds every year just to look after our building, but our main costs are our staff, whose livelihoods are at stake. We have committed to pay our people through various closure scenarios, and any support you are able to give us would be enormously appreciated.”
British prime minister Boris Johnson has been criticised for advising – rather than ordering – music venues close amid the coronavirus crisis, with umbrella group UK Music stating that the industry needs “urgent clarity” and “swift action” from the government to mitigate the effects of the virus.
For now, however, the Royal Albert Hall is clear: in addition to closing the venue itself, its cafés, bars and restaurants are shut, its box office is closed, and its phone room will close tomorrow (18 March), with ticket holders contacted in “due course”.
“Take care of yourselves, and we’ll see you again when this is over,” the statement concludes.
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