London's Royal Albert Hall is opening its doors for a series of socially-distanced festive events this December.
The season will feature Christmas traditions including the Royal Choral Society and Handel’s Messiah, Christmas carols, The Nutcracker, Guy Barker’s Big Band Christmas and the family show, My Christmas Orchestral Adventure.
The shows will be presented under Covid-19 secure guidelines, with measures 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.
The Hall sold 121,229 tickets across last year's Christmas season, but there will only be 36,000 tickets available in total this year. Although it is impossible for the venue to return to viable operations and profitability with social distancing in place, the season will enable it to support the wider industry, stimulating the local economy and offering live cultural experiences.
It remains the case that socially-distanced performances are financially unviable in the long term
Craig Hassall, Royal Albert Hall
Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, said: “Six months on from enforced closure, and six months away from our 150th anniversary on March 29, 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 events will mark the Hall’s first concerts with an audience in nine months, on the eve of its 150th anniversary. In only its second closure since the Blitz, the Hall has forgone £18m in income, refunded over £6.5m of ticket sales, exhausted its reserves and cancelled all but the most critical building projects.
The Grade I listed venue has recently launched a £20m fundraising campaign to help it survive the Covid-19 crisis.