When the Royal Albert Hall first opened its doors nearly 150 years ago, the genteel Victorian audiences that passed through its doors could have no idea that this memorial to Queen Victoria’s deceased paramour would grow into the busiest venue on the planet. Whilst its grand classical environs make it an obvious home for classical music, the birth of rock and roll saw it transform into a thriving counter-cultural hub with many of the most titanic figures in Rock such as Led Zeppelin playing their first blistering gigs within its hallowed halls. This has led to the Hall’s current rather unique reputation for combining high-energy feedback-drenched gigs and virtuoso black-tie classic with no real distinction between the two.
However, this isn’t enough for Lucy Noble, the Hall’s artistic and commercial director who has presided over the Hall develop into an events promoter in its own right. When talking to her for any length of time, it’s easy to see how passionate she is about the idea that the Royal Albert Hall should be immediately accessible to as wide a selection of people as possible and continue to grow and develop beyond what people would expect from a live music venue. The only thing that she finds challenging is fitting all the planned events into one year considering that the Hall averages approximately three events a day, with 1,401 performances split across the main and peripheral stages this year alone and 2019 and 2020 already nearly fully booked, it’s a clearly a valid concern.
Her current focus is Christmas which the Hall has completely taken control of with 27 consecutive performances planned which they are promoting in house, a bold move considering the amount of work, but one which gives far more autonomy to the Hall itself. The refreshed festive programme is therefore an unusually diverse one, from favourites like Handel’s ‘Messiah’ and a ‘Visit from Father Christmas’ (which already has over 3000 children on the waiting list) to the ‘Friendship Matinees’ that the Hall aim at older groups to encourages members of the community who would not otherwise have the opportunity to come to the hall tickets for only £5, to encourage a feeling of community (alongside the obvious pleasures of seeing a top-end show for under the cost of a Wetherspoon’s burger).
This ties into one of Lucy’s most central concerns that of promoting music education outreach programs in the community. “With educational policy not requiring students to take any creative subjects for GCSE, many instruments are becoming the preserve of those who can afford expensive private lessons” she warned. Partially in response the Hall has quietly been developing into one of the premier supporters of music education in the Capital. Whilst these programs were originally reserved for school children it has spread to encompass all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens. While programming is her main concern she has also taken on production and technical, and has overseen the six month installation of a 3 million pound sound system into the main stage to massively overhaul the quality of sound on the central stage by not relying on touring sound rigs. It’s this attention to detail that has kept the Hall running as long as it has and it’s part of what will be celebrated the still secret year of events planned for the Hall’s 150th birthday in 2021. If ever the Hall’s programming keeps expanding at the rate it has, it’s not hard to imagine it hitting 300 one of these days.