The Royal Albert Hall could be forced to shut permanently by March next year if it doesn’t receive urgent financial support, its boss has warned.
The venue is due to celebrate its 150th anniversary next year, but could be declared insolvent by early 2021 and forced to make widespread redundancies, chief executive Craig Hassall has said.
In an interview with the i newspaper, Hassall said the present situation was “the most perilous the hall has ever faced”.
It has already taken out a £5 million loan to weather the lockdown period, and will need between £5 and £10 million more to see it through to next year.
It also needs urgent guidance on reopening to be able to plan, Hassall said.
“The government support has been very oblique and vague. We have lobbied hard and consistently across the sector. But Oliver Dowden’s roadmap for recovery has no dates and nothing firm.
“There is no guidance from the government about when we can open or how we can open. Without that it’s impossible for us to trade – and that means the whole sector.”
Hassall also warned that until social distancing requirements were removed “the music industry is finished”.
He added that meetings with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport “haven’t been helpful”.
“I had one meeting with the department where we were all told to follow the guidelines. This was about a month ago. And we all said – the theatre industry, outdoor music, film, cinema – we can’t open with these guidelines.
“It’s not difficult. It’s not as though we’re not trying hard enough. It’s not possible. It’s operationally, financially and artistically not possible to operate within these guidelines.”
The Royal Albert Hall is the latest major arts organisations warning that it could face ruin without urgent help.
BECTU has estimated that it is already aware of almost 3,000 jobs across the theatre sector being put at risk as a result of the pandemic, describing it as “cultural vandalism beyond repair”.
The union has criticised the lack of government support for the arts despite continued warnings that time is running out to save the sector.