Royal Albert Hall
Captain Fowke & General Scott
- Original design
- Captain Fowke & General Scott, 1871
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme on 21st August.
The heart of the Hall is the vast internal auditorium 185 feet wide by 219 feet long covered by a glazed dome constructed of wrought iron girders which, at the time, was the largest structure of its kind in the world.
Other notable features include the great Henry Willis Organ also, at the time, the largest in the world and, in tribute to its power and volume, described by a contemporary as 'The Voice of Jupiter'. Between 1921-1933 it was substantially modified and enlarged by the Durham-based organ firm of Harrisons and it was comprehensively restored by the London firm, Manders, between 2003-2004.
The distinctive exterior of the Hall, inspired by the architecture of Northern Italy, was built from some 6 million red bricks and eighty thousand blocks of decorative terracotta. Surmounting the exterior walls and above the balustraded smoking gallery, runs a continuous 800 foot long terracotta frieze composed of allegorical groups of figures engaged in a range of artistic endeavours, crafts, scientific and other cultural pursuits.
Between 1996 and 2004 a major refurbishment and remodelling of the Hall took place to adapt it to meet the needs of moderns shows and audiences at a cost of some £70 million.
The key to this programme was the excavation of a three and a half storey basement below the steps and gardens that lie to the South of the Hall, which houses a major loading bay so that scenery, sound and lighting equipment can be loaded in from trucks underground and out of sight and brought up into the auditorium on lifts. The excavation also accommodates plant rooms and performers' dressing rooms. New arena foyers, bars and lavatories were created and restaurant provision expanded. New function rooms were created at Grand Tier level and administrative offices and other non-public space concentrated behind the stage.
With the agreement of Westminster City Council, the road which previously encircled the Hall was stopped up at the South End and an entirely new South Porch was built to provide a day-time entrance to the building. Fresh air ventilation was introduced to the auditorium. The Hall’s famous pipe organ was completely rebuilt and refurbished, new decorative schemes and lighting were introduced in public areas and a number of investments were made to support the staging and broadcast of the shows themselves.
As a Grade I Listed building, every structural change had to be approved by English Heritage. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, this extensive programme of work was carried out whilst the Hall remained operational, closing for just two periods of four weeks when seating was replaced at Circle level and in the Stalls. Audience capacity was increased by the addition of an extra row of seats in the Stalls.
In 2008, one of two restaurants at Circle level was completely remodelled to create the stylish Coda restaurant and bar and a new function room was created at Grand Tier level.
In 2009, the Hall created a new state-of-the-art multi-use performance space above the West Porch. Known as the Elgar Room, this venue has already been used to host comedy, flamenco, world music, hush – the Hall's series for just signed bands, a classical coffee morning series in conjunction with the Royal College of Music, Late Night Jazz and post-show parties. It is also regularly used by children and adults participating in the Hall’s important Learning & Participation programme. This space originally housed the West Theatre which until the 1950s was the home of the Central School of Speech and Drama where, among others, Sir Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft and Dame Judi Dench trained as actors.
The development of buildings such as the Royal Albert Hall is a continuing process.
As we approach our landmark 150th anniversary in 2021, we are excavating a two-storey, double height basement to provide much-needed space for artists, crew and promoters. The excavation will also enable us to provide more facilities for our audiences within the Hall.
The project has been fondly nicknamed ‘The Great Excavation’, as a tribute to Prince Albert and Henry Cole’s historic Great Exhibition of 1851, the success of which funded the creation of the area we now know as Albertopolis.
The project will include the creation of dedicated public spaces to extend our vital, life-changing and inspirational Education & Outreach work as well as giving us space in which to bring our rich archive to life, sharing our unrivalled history of performance.
Also in anticipation of our 150th birthday, we are undertaking extensive renovation and cleaning on the North side of the building.
You can help us to build the future of the Royal Albert Hall. If everyone who visited our website this year were to give £4, we would raise enough to carry out the entire project, ensuring that this amazing charity thrives for the next generation of artists and audiences and continues to create unforgettable experiences for everyone
See www.royalalberthall.com for more information and to make a donation.