Ally Pally toasts biggest year of music
North London’s Alexandra Palace is rounding off the biggest year for live music in its history as it celebrates its 150th anniversary.
The independent venue delivers events for capacities ranging from 1,000 to 50,000 across its Theatre, West Hall, Great Hall and Park. Its 10,250-cap Great Hall hosted two sold-out nights with Little Simz over the weekend (10-11 November), having already welcomed the likes of Four Tet, Fatboy Slim, Avril Lavigne, Carly Ray Jepsen, Pendulum, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and Badly Drawn Boy in 2023.
The venue has also been home to the BBC’s Later…with Jools Holland, which has recorded its last four series in the Palace’s Victorian Theatre. Acts such as Jorja Smith, Take That, Nitin Sawhney, Romy and The Last Dinner Party have starred during its current run.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the biggest year for music in our history”
In addition, the Palace’s outdoor series in July saw open-air performances from Bastille, Hozier and Ben Howard.
“It’s been an unbelievable year for live music at Ally Pally,” says Simon Fell, Alexandra Palace’s director of events and festivals. “The number and profile of artists playing here has been mind-blowing, and it’s been brilliant to offer such varied and diverse programme to fans.
“Since the 60s the venue has built a reputation as a go to place for music, but over the last decade in particular things have gone to another level. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is the biggest year for music in our history. And it goes without saying, we’re planning next year to be even bigger.”
Alexandra Palace will feature concerts by The Streets, Jessie Ware, The Prodigy, Ashnikko and Sleaford Mods before the end of the year, while Bombay Bicycle Club, Sampha and The The are lined up for 2024.
A joint-headline performance from Manic Street Preachers and Suede is also confirmed for Alexandra Palace Park on 18 July next year. Ally Pally named Dice as its primary ticketing partner earlier this year.
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Ally Pally’s Kaleidoscope axed due to high winds
High winds led to the last-minute cancellation of Alexandra Palace’s Kaleidoscope Festival.
The one-day event debuted in 2018, becoming the first ever festival to be held in the grounds of the North London venue.
The fourth annual event was due to to take place last Saturday (15 July), headlined by Hot Chip, having expanded its capacity from 10,000 to 11,000, but was called off at short notice following discussions with partners.
“We are devastated to announce that due to the Met Office’s Yellow Warning and the significant safety risks the forecasted high winds pose on Saturday 15 July, we have no choice but to cancel Kaleidoscope Festival,” says a statement from organisers.
“Our huge apologies go to all our ticket holders, we can assure you that we have explored every alternative option before making this extremely difficult decision. We are contacting ticket holders directly with details regarding refunds and other ticketing options.
“We made this decision based on a site-specific weather forecast provided by the Met Office and following consultation with partners”
“We made this decision based on a site-specific weather forecast provided by the Met Office and following consultation with partners, including the local authority, health and safety advisors, structural engineers and the emergency services. Ultimately, people’s safety has to be the priority.”
Other artists due to perform included Gaz Coombes, George Fitzgerald, Elvana, Girls of the Internet and Anthony Szmierek.
“To be unable to go ahead is heartbreaking,” adds the statement. “Our thanks go to everyone who supports Kaleidoscope, from fans and artists, to production teams and our local community.”
Hozier and Ben Howard will both play outdoor headline shows at Alexandra Palace Park this weekend as part of the venue’s Summer Series, with James Blake, Norman Jay MBE, The Prodigy and The Streets set for indoor concerts later this year.
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Dice secures Ally Pally ticketing partnership
Live event discovery platform Dice has secured its biggest UK venue partnership to date after being named the primary ticketing partner for London’s Alexandra Palace.
The independent venue, which delivers events for capacities ranging from 1,000 to 50,000 across its Theatre, West Hall, Great Hall and Park, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. It has upcoming gigs from Jessie Ware, The National, McFly and Fatboy Slim, as well as a summer series of outdoor events featuring Kaleidoscope Festival, headlined by Hot Chip.
Dice will also be the main ticketing provider for Ally Pally’s community events, such as November’s annual Fireworks Festival and Creative Learning programme, which deliver hundreds of activities each year. In addition, it will support ticketing of exhibitions and sports events at the Palace.
“We’re honoured to be working with such a historic venue, giving fans access to their incredible events, securely through Dice, without having to worry about crashing websites or ticket touts,” says Dice president Russ Tannen.
Dice says that more than 40% of its sales come via its Discovery tool, which recommends personalised events and suggested shows for friends to enjoy together.
“It’s a partnership we can’t wait to get started”
“Our events programme at the Palace has grown significantly in recent times, now attracting a million visitors a year, with every £1 we make going back into supporting our community projects and charitable objectives,” says Lucy Fenner, commercial director at Alexandra Palace. “We are looking forward to working with the Dice team to build on this huge progress and deliver fans more amazing live music, festivals and more. It’s a partnership we can’t wait to get started.”
Dice operates in markets including the UK, US, France, India, Italy, Spain and Germany. Launched in 2014, the company reported the biggest year in its history last year, with more than 55,000 artists and 10,000 venues and promoters using the firm to sell tickets to their shows.
Emma Dagnes, CEO at Alexandra Palace, adds: “As a charity and an independent venue, we want to provide truly amazing experiences to millions of people every year, whether that’s through hosting household names on our biggest stages, or via our extensive range of community events. Dice’s ethos and fan-first approach feels a great fit for this, and we are looking forward to working together as we continue to grow our cultural and entertainment programmes here at the Palace.”
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TikTok to stream Bicep’s Alexandra Palace concert
Bicep’s upcoming sold-out headline show at London’s Alexandra Palace is to be broadcast live and in full on TikTok.
The electronic duo will deliver their biggest-ever headline shows at the 10,400-capacity venue on 2 and 3 December, with the first night aired on their official TikTok channel (@bicepmusic) from 9 pm GMT.
The stream will be produced by PIXL and will include both on and off-stage footage, as well as four new songs.
The broadcast is part of TikTok’s #ElectronicMusic Presents series, capitalising on the popularity of the platform’s #electronicmusic hashtag which has amassed more than 3.4 billion views.
“Bicep are one of the most revered electronic acts to emerge from the UK in the last 10 years”
Bicep will become the face of the #ElectronicMusic campaign during December, following artists including Nia Archives, piri & tommy, and Shygirl.
TikTok this year partnered with festivals including Parookaville and Amsterdam Dance Event as part of its mission to support electronic and dance music on the platform.
“This LIVE is a huge moment for our #ElectronicMusic campaign on TikTok,” says Kira Ashwin, UK label partnerships at TikTok. “Bicep are one of the most revered electronic acts to emerge from the UK in the last 10 years and are an inspiration to aspiring producers and DJs up and down the country.
“This is set to be one of their biggest productions ever, and it’s an absolute pleasure to work with Bicep and their team to reach fans around the world who missed out on tickets to the sold-out show.”
Ed Sheeran announces global livestreamed concert
Ed Sheeran is partnering with Amazon Music for a global livestreamed concert from London’s Alexandra Palace (cap. 10, 400).
The singer-songwriter will showcase his new album ‘=’ during The Equals Live Experience, which will be broadcast worldwide via Amazon Music on 5 December at 20:00 GMT.
Five fans – including one guest each – are being offered the chance to attend the 90-minute “stunning visual performance” in person.
Five fans are being offered the chance to attend the 90-minute “stunning visual performance” in person
Those tuning in from home can do so through the Amazon Music app, the Amazon Music channel on Twitch, and Prime Video.
News of the live stream comes after Sheeran delivered a virtual performance from within the Pokémon Go app yesterday (22 November). A video of the show is available to view for eight days, until next Tuesday (30 November).
New funding rounds announced in UK
Millions of pounds worth of further grants and loans have been made available in England and Scotland to help the UK live industry recover from Covid-19.
Arts Council England (ACE) has opened applications for a second round of repayable finance for culturally significant organisations in England.
The programme, which is part of the UK Government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), aims to support those organisations as they transition back to a ‘viable and sustainable operating model’ during the 2021/22 financial year.
The budget for the second round is up to £100 million and the minimum amount that can be applied for is £1m. The final round of CRF grants, totalling around £300m, are expected to open for applications in early January.
Organisations who have previously been awarded a CRF loan are not eligible to apply for further CRF loans, while previously successful grant applicants can.
Last week, the Government and ACE announced the first-round recipients of the repayable finance scheme which included London venues the Royal Albert Hall (£20.74m) and Southbank Centre, while Alexandra Palace (pictured) was awarded £2,967,600 from the £60m Capital Kickstart Fund. The latest grants and loans marked a milestone £1bn in funding allocated.
Elsewhere, the Scottish government has announced an extra £13 million to provide further support for the events sector in Scotland.
Of this, £6 million has been committed for the establishment of a new fund which will open this week to support those event businesses which are critical to Scotland’s events sector, and without which the capacity to deliver major events would be significantly reduced.
“This [£13m] will help hard-pressed businesses going forward and ensure that they are ready to support the recovery”
The Pivotal Event Businesses Fund will provide grants from £25,000 up to a maximum of £150,000 to support approximately 50 to 100 event businesses whose primary role as organisers, suppliers, contractors and venues is critical to the survival of the events sector in Scotland, and upon whom the wider events industry and supply chain are most reliant for their own business and operations.
The remaining funding will be used to set up a separate fund to provide broader support to businesses across the full range of the events sector, including the supply chain, and will be announced early in the new year.
The latest funding follows the £10 million announced by the culture secretary in July for the events industry, of which £6 million was allocated to the now-closed Event Industry Support Fund while £2 million was allocated to Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund currently being run by EventScotland.
“The events sector has faced severe challenges throughout 2020 as the restrictions necessary to contain the coronavirus pandemic have left most businesses unable to operate. While the arrival of a vaccine offers grounds for hope, the events sector and its wider supply chain will continue to experience difficulties for some time to come,” says culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.
“We were able to provide financial support for the events sector in the autumn but we have continued to listen and we acknowledge that further funding is required. This additional £13 million will allow us to help hard-pressed businesses going forward and ensure that they are ready to support the recovery when it is safe to operate again.
“Scotland has a well-earned reputation for delivering successful events at local, national and international level. We are working collaboratively with the industry to ensure that the sector has a future to look forward to and that we maintain our position as the perfect stage for events.”
Final £400m on the way as latest CRF recipients announced
Historic London venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Alexandra Palace and Southbank Centre are among the beneficiaries of the latest round of Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) spending, as the scheme marks a milestone £1 billion in funding allocated.
The Royal Albert Hall (5,272-cap.) and Southbank Centre, along with organisations such as the English National Opera, Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, were awarded a share of £165 million in low-interest repayable finance, with the Albert Hall receiving a total of £20.74 million from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE).
Hall CEO Craig Hassall says the loan is a “lifeline” that will enable the Victorian arena “restore our minimum reserves and operating finances to a level comparable to before the pandemic struck”.
Elsewhere, a number of venues across the country are receiving grants from the £60m Capital Kickstart Fund. They include the Alexandra Palace, which has been awarded £2,967,600 to enable its 10,400-capacity Great Hall to “continue with a diverse programme of live, Covid-secure events this winter”, and new Manchester arts venue the Factory, which receives £21m towards its completion.
“As well as providing a multi-use space for diverse arts activity,” the Factory will be the permanent home for Manchester International Festival, “which attracts visitors to the city from across the country and creates opportunities for creative freelancers,” reads a statement from DCMS and UK culture minister Oliver Dowden CBE.
“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs”
“Over the last nine months we’ve worked non-stop to make sure we can open the doors safely and keep the parkland well maintained to provide vital green space,” says Louise Stewart, CEO of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust. “There are many challenges ahead, but for now at least, thanks to this funding, we have some time and resource to deliver our route to recovery.”
The latest grants and loans come as the government makes plans to allocate the final £400 million of the £1.57 billion CRF. Further details of the final round, comprising £300m in grants and £100m loans to help companies “transition back to usual operating mode from April 2021”, will be announced shortly.
According to Dowden, some funding was held back in previous rounds (to enable authorities to assess the “changing public health picture”), and will also be made available to organisations at “imminent risk of collapse before the end of this financial year” in April.
“This government promised it would be here for culture, and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word,” says the culture secretary. “The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.
“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture, so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”
More information about the CRF is available from the Gov.UK website.
Ally Pally: “The entire industry is learning”
While the majority of the UK’s stages have remained silent throughout the pandemic, the team at London’s Alexandra Palace (more commonly known as Ally Pally) have been on a pioneering streak to achieve the opposite.
Since opening in 1873, the Grade II listed venue has remained open even throughout the war and took only a brief period of respite when the pandemic took hold in March before launching back into activity.
During the pandemic, the venue has produced Nick Cave’s Idiot Prayer live stream; hosted the Melody VR-produced Wireless Connect, and began delivering a modest programme of events for autumn/winter – all the while, acting as a charity base for the local community in Harringey.
Dubbed ‘The People’s Palace,’ director of operations at the venue Simon Fell tells IQ how that title has governed the way the venue is going about things now.
IQ: What’s it like behind the scenes at Ally Pally at the moment?
SF: For me, things are really busy as we sadly have a much smaller team now and still have events and film shoots etc happening whilst navigating our way through new restrictions, as well as trying to plan our way out of this in 2021.
Has it been difficult to work out the logistics?
None of it is rocket science. All the information is there in the government guidelines. Sadly, people have been bamboozled by so much change in legislation. We’ve made practical decisions on what we need to do; we scaled down the numbers, put in one-way systems, encouraged longer interval times, established three different exits and increased cleaning regimes. It’s about being pragmatic about what we can achieve safely.
What are the logistical advantages of a venue like Ally Pally when it comes to restrictions?
And as soon as the pandemic hit, we needed a bit of time to get our heads around it and catch our breath. But very soon, we realised that one thing that we’ve got here is a huge amount of space. And that was the one thing that came out of all [the advice] – in space you’re safe. We followed the guidelines and in the hall, where we can usually fit 3,000 people, we’ve got a maximum of 700 so we’ve really scaled down the numbers but it’s a nice atmosphere – it works and we’ve only had positive comments.
“It’s about being pragmatic about what we can achieve safely”
What was it like having Nick Cave performing without an audience in the vast expanse of the West Hall?
It was brilliant and eerie. There was a video that came out of it of Nick walking through the building, this empty palace, and the team that had remained here during that time, looking after the space, really related to this person walking through an empty building before he started singing his atmospheric, solemn songs. Nick’s show captured a moment for us as a venue.
Is it financially viable to do small shows in such a huge venue?
It’s not financially viable at all. At the moment, we’re doing really small events that you would normally do in a 300-400 capacity venue. And that doesn’t substantiate when you’ve got many 200 acres of land and a building of this age that you need to upkeep.
What’s the value in doing events during the pandemic, if not for financial gain?
The little things don’t pay as much as the big shows, like exhibitions, concerts and festivals, but it’s important that we are doing them. They’re contributing to the palace more so than they would do if we’d have shut the doors. Also, it keeps morale in our industry alive and gives everyone hope. Every time you hear of a venue opening or doing something, there’s camaraderie and respect in the industry – even if previously they were your competitors. There’s nothing but positivity now.
“Every time you hear of a venue opening or doing something, there’s camaraderie and respect in the industry”
Ally Pally is somewhat of a bastion in the UK’s music scene. Is there a greater significance in keeping its doors open?
We are the people’s palace. We’re a huge part of the community here. We’ve been around since 1873 and never really closed at any point. We were open during the war and we’ve always had a place in society through the bad times and the good times. The venue is almost like the Sacré-Coeur of North London, sitting on top of the hill with its big aerial antenna, and I think when people look up and know that we’re open, it gives people hope. I think it’s as good for the local community, as it is for London as a music hub.
How will you utilise the knowledge you’ve accumulated from doing these events?
If DCMS turned around tomorrow and said: “Right what we need to do to open venues safely?” We can give them a case study and tell them what’s safe and what’s not. With the learnings we’ve made, we wouldn’t have to start from scratch. So we’re poised to open as soon as we safely can and we wouldn’t be making it up as we as we go along. The entire industry is learning.
“We’re poised to open as soon as we safely can and we wouldn’t be making it up as we as we go along”
What’s your approach for programming next year?
I think if there’s one thing that we feel a bit more confident with, it’s doing things outdoors. Outdoor events seem to be something that we’ve got a bit of control over ourselves. For 90-95% of indoor events we rent the space out to promoters but we do a lot of the outside stuff in-house, so we’re able to take that risk and make decisions ourselves rather than relying on someone else.
We work in the financial year so we’re looking at April, which is what the government has put down as their line in the sand. There’s nervousness but I’m sure a lot of people will want to start doing things again. On paper, everything’s looking positive. Going towards the end of next year, we’ve never had so many inquiries and bookings for concerts and music-related things.
Live music returns to some of the UK’s biggest venues
Some of the UK’s largest and most prestigious venues, such as the O2 Arena (cap. 20,000) and the Royal Albert Hall (5,272), are set to reopen their doors this winter for the first time since March.
The O2 Arena has announced it will host its first live music event for more than eight months on 5 December with British band Squeeze.
The socially distanced event will see the venue’s capacity reduced to 4,700, with tickets being sold in groups of twos, threes and fours only and a seating configuration which is in line with the UK government’s one metre plus guidelines.
Seats will remain empty between each group and one-way routes have been installed throughout the arena and concourse. The performance will end before 10 pm in compliance with the new curfew.
“We have been working incredibly hard to bring back events at The O2 and put measures in place to ensure our fans will have a safe and Covid-19 secure experience,” says Steve Sayer, GM and VP at the O2.
“At the moment, we’re only able to host under a quarter of our capacity in the arena, so this is not a long term solution for us or other venues and we continue to press the government for targeted support and guidance to get the live events industry and its supply chain back on its feet.
“The O2 was designed to give artists and fans the best live music in the world and we look forward to doing that again with Squeeze. As the O2 returns to live, it’s really fitting that a band from the local area are the ones to reopen our doors to the public once again. The whole team are excited to see them on our stage for the first time.”
The Royal Albert Hall has also shared plans to reopen this December, announcing a programme of 18 Christmas concerts including Handel’s Messiah, the Royal Choral Society, Guy Barker’s Big Band Christmas and My Christmas Orchestral Adventure.
“This model is not sustainable with such reduced capacities, we are opening because I believe this is what the country needs”
The events will mark RAH’s first concerts with an audience in nine months, on the eve of its 150th anniversary.
Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “Six months on from enforced closure, and six months away from our 150th anniversary on 29 March 2021, we are excited beyond words to open our doors to the public for what will be a joyful, stirring and historic occasion.
“It remains the case that socially-distanced performances are financially unviable in the long term. Although this model is not sustainable with such reduced capacities, we are opening because I firmly believe this is what the country needs.
“It is an investment into our future – to protect the jobs of our highly skilled staff, to stimulate the local economy and the wider arts ecosystem, and to fulfil significant audience demand.
“Christmas has always been a time of great celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, where people have come together since 1871 – from Vera Lynn at the end of the Blitz, to HM The Queen’s first public Christmas address. It is essential for us to carry on this spirit in what has been a year of disruption.”
The Hall sold 121,229 tickets across last year’s Christmas season. This year there will be 36,000 tickets available in total.
Elsewhere, Alexandra Palace (10, 400) recently announced a series of socially-distanced, indoor live events taking place this October and November. The arena’s autumn programme features comedy, theatre, a drive-in film club and a sold-out show with DJ Sasha.
Alongside the standard coronavirus regulations, the venue will be operating a table-only format with a maximum of six people at each table.
All three venues have adopted Covid guidelines including socially-distanced seating, e-tickets, deep-cleaning, staggered entry times to reduce queues, temperature checks, a face covering policy, and sanitising stations throughout the venue.
Classical Gas: A night at the opera, corona style
Following a performance to an audience full of plants in a Barcelona opera house, opera companies in Germany, the UK and the United States are turning to drive-in venues for their opportunity to restart business again.
Dusseldorf’s D.Live, a pioneer of the drive-in concert space, hosted its first-ever drive-in opera last week, with more than 70 performers taking to the 60 metre-wide stage at its Autokino Düsseldorf.
The evening saw the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (German Opera on the Rhine) perform excerpts from popular operas such as Carmen, The Barber of Seville, La Traviata and Nabucco, along with the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra to a sold-out, 500-carpacity crowd. Almost 2,000 spectators went to the event, with up to five people able to attend on a €50, one car ticket.
The performance was shown on the 400-square-metre screen with the audio transmitted to car radios via VHF (very high frequency) signals.
The opera is the latest in a long line of D.Live drive-ins, which have included live shows, DJ ‘club nights’, stand-up comedy routines, circus shows, weddings, a first communion and a pole vaulting competition, in addition to the traditional film nights.
“This gala by the Deutsche Oper am Rhein at the Autokino Düsseldorf was the first major opera event to be staged after a three-month break,” says D.Live CEO, Michael Brill. “International soloists, the opera choir and a big symphony orchestra on the huge cinema stage ensured a fabulous evening with plenty of spine-tingling moments.”
Opera companies in Germany, the UK and the United States are turning to drive-in venues for their opportunity to restart business again
Operas are set to arrive at drive-in venues elsewhere, too. A fully staged production of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca will take place in front of 600 cars in the grounds of former IBM complex Tech City in New York as part of the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice on 29 August.
The English National Opera (ENO) also recently announced a drive-in series, Drive and Live, which will see 90-minute versions of Puccini’s La bohème performed live to a 300-carpacity audience at Alexandra Palace Park in London.
The ENO will broadcast sound to cars via bluetooth and states it is exploring options for hiring static vehicles, so those without cars could also attend. The company also aims to set up socially distanced spaces for motorbikes and bicycles.
The opera will run from 19 to 27 September, with tickets costing £100 per car (four people maximum per vehicle). Fans can register their interest here.
The ENO has also announced plans for a series of socially distanced, scaled down shows at the 2,359-seat London Coliseum, following the UK government’s halving of the former two-metre distancing rule.
The new one-metre rule means the venue could operate at 48% of full capacity, rather than 20%, says ENO chief executive Stuart Murphy, with a two-seat, one-row gap between audience members.
Concert giant Live Nation is another to get involved in the drive-in live event scene, recently announcing drive-in concert series in the UK, featuring Dizzee Rascal, Gary Numan, Beverley Knight, the Streets and Kaiser Chiefs, and the United States, with acts such as Brad Paisley, Nelly, Darius Rucker and Jon Pardi.