One of the most iconic music venues in the world, The Royal Albert Hall is one of the most well known buildings in the United Kingdom.
After the success of the Great Exhibition, organised by Prince Consort, Prince Albert, he proposed a permanent facility which was to be called Albertopolis. This was eventually to become the area around the Royal Albert Hall which included Imperial College, the Natural History Museum, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and other institutions.
The hall design was heavily influenced by the classical ancient ampitheatres. The dome frame was first assembled in Manchester then taken apart again and transported to London by horse and cart. The outside of the building has an 800 foot long terracotta mosiac frieze showing "The Triumph of Arts and Sciences" with Biblical quotations in a band above
Queen Victoria opened the music venue on March 29 1871, originally it was to be called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences but the name was changed to the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences when Queen Victoria carried out the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone in 1867, as part of the memorial to Prince Albert who had passed away six years previously. There is a further memorial to him across the road from the Hall in Kensington Gardens.
The Queen was too emotional to speak, so a welcoming speech was delivered by Edward, Prince of Wales.
The venue has long suffered acoustic problems and those problems were apparent at the inaugural event. Engineers attempted to solve the problem by hanging a canvass below the dome but it did not resolve the problem. It was jokingly said that the Hall was "the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice".
The hall has become affectionately known as "The Nation's Village Hall" and plays host for a multitude of different events, not just classical music. Boxing matches, Sumo competitions, tennis, UFC bouts, motor shows, circus shows and poetry recitals are just some of the events that have taken place.
In 1933 Albert Einstein led the "Einstein Meeting" at the venue for the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, a British charity.
During World War II the structure suffered minor damage but German pilots left the building untouched as a useful landmark.
The BBC Promenade Concerts (The Proms) were first performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1942 and after a brief relocation to Bedford in 1944 and '45, the eight week season of concerts have been hosted at the hall every year since. The Proms name emerged as an original practice of the audience strolling or promenading in concerts in pleasure gardens. Those who take the standing room on the concert hall floor for the last night of the Proms are known as Prommers. Tickets for the Last Night of the Proms, a fixture in the British cultural calendar in September are highly sought after. To pre book a seat evidence must be presented of attendance to five previous concerts in the season. The Prommers used to camp on the stairs of the hall for up to three weeks before the event to ensure a good position. This has generated a camaraderie between the Prommers who also raise money for charities and attend in fancy dress.
In 1949 the canvass awning was removed from under the glass dome roof and replaced with aluminium panels but it was not until 1969 the acoustics were resolved when large fibreglass disks, often referred to as "the giant mushrooms" were fixed to the roof.
The Eurovision contest was hosted in 1968 and from 1969 until 1988 the Miss World contest was held in the hall.
Many pop and rock acts seek out the chance to play the hall and a "Live at the Albert Hall" concert is considered an honour in the business. Pink Floyd, Shirley Bassey, R.E.M, Eric Clapton, Janet Jackson, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, ABBA, The Who, The Eagles, Adele, Kylie Minogue, Soundgarden, Audio Slave, Phil Collins, Muse and Mariah Carey are just some of the range of names to have performed there. James Last made no less than 90 appearances between 1973 and 2015 as the most frequent non British performer. Eric Clapton has featured at the venue in excess of 200 times.
The Guardian Newspaper compiled this collection of memories of Royal Albert Hall concerts from various world famous performers
The Royal Albert Hall is anything but an elitist venue and continues to deliver on the original aim to celebrate the triumph of art and science.