May 16, 2021

The 150 years of the Royal Albert Hall, the agora of London society


London, Jan 29 (EFE) .- Like the citizens of Ancient Greece congregated in the agora, Londoners have had their meeting place for 150 years: the Royal Albert Hall, a building that has been the reflection most faithful of British society and its idiosyncrasy.

The building takes its name in honor of Prince Albert -the husband of Queen Victoria-, who, after the Universal Exhibition in London in 1851, wanted to create in the city “an egalitarian space, where lower-class people could learn about the arts. , politics, science or history “, explains in an interview with Efe the executive director of the Royal Albert Hall, Craig Hassall.

However, the prince did not see his idea materialize, as he died six years before this building inspired by the ancient Roman coliseums was inaugurated.

Oriented to the auditorium, Queen Victoria erected the Albert Memorial, a neo-Gothic monument that Albert himself tried to prevent because he felt “permanently ridiculed.”

PECULIAR OVAL SHAPE

In this century and a half of history, the Royal Albert Hall has become one of the best-known rooms in the world, since, in Hassall’s opinion, it is “special” and “different” from all the others due to its oval shape, which changes the “dynamics of the space” and brings the artists closer to the public in a more “community” environment.

An illuminated sign in the center of the stage commemorates his 150th birthday this Monday, as Efe was able to verify in a visit to the room. The auditorium, although empty, looks just as majestic from any angle, be it from the royal box, from the arena, or stepping on tables attended by some of the most prominent names on the global art scene.

Stars of yesteryear such as Jimi Hendrix or the Beatles have passed through there – who also dedicate some controversial lines to the audience in “A Day in the life” – or, more recently, Adele, whose live concert from the London Coliseum in 2011 is one of the best-selling music DVDs ever.

It was at the Royal Albert Hall where Massiel performed his well-known “La, la, la” in 1968, giving Spain the first victory at the Eurovision Song Contest, and where two years later British feminists interrupted the Miss World contest to denounce her character. “sexist,” Hassall says.

But its walls also witnessed the last speech that the German scientist Albert Einstein gave in Europe, the 80th birthday of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and even the “return to life” of the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, in a séance. that his widow organized in 1930, a week after his death.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOCIETY THROUGH A ROOM

The countless anecdotes of the Royal Albert Hall are a sample of how “it has reflected the British society throughout its history, either through music, or with events and demonstrations”, and has seen “many social changes”, Hassall asserts.

These mutations reach the current pandemic, which forced the doors of an auditorium that had only closed once in its 150 years of life to close, with the bombing of London during World War II.

The covid – acknowledges its head – “has had a great impact” on the finances of a private entity that subsists on donations from attendees.

For the London coliseum, which normally hosts 400 events a year in its main hall, the pandemic has resulted in losses of 34 million pounds (39.7 million euros or 47 million dollars), but even so, Hassall says that he will “get out of this” because he has “a lot to celebrate” on his 150th anniversary, which will extend his program until 2023.

As a non-profit association, they trust to act as a guide for the “new generation of artists who will give life to this building in the future”, which aspires to continue being the agora of contemporary London society, albeit with a larger space. , more environmentally friendly and totally safe in a post-pandemic world.

Raúl Bobé

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