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Royal Albert Hall

Since its opening on March 29, 1871 the Royal Albert Hall has played host to a multitude of different events and legendary figures and has been affectionately titled 'The Nation's Village Hall'. As well as hosting the Proms every summer since they were bombed out of the Queen's Hall[?] in 1941, the Hall has been used for classical and rock concerts, conferences, ballroom dancing, poetry, keep-fit displays, education, ballet, opera and even a circus (Cirque du Soleil[?]). It has hosted many sporting events, including boxing, wrestling (including the first Sumo wrestling tournament ever to be held outside Japan) and tennis. It also hosts the annual Royal British Legion[?] Festival of Remembrance[?], held the day before Remembrance Sunday.

History

In 1851 a Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, London, for which a so-called Crystal Palace was built. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, to propose that a permanent series of facilities be built in the area for the enlightenment of the public. Progress on the scheme was slow and in 1861 Prince Albert died, without having seen his ideas come to fruition. However, a memorial was proposed for Hyde Park, with a Great Hall opposite. The proposal was approved and the site was purchased with some of the profits from the Exhibition. Once the remaining funds had been raised, in April 1867 Queen Victoria signed the Royal Charter under which the Hall was to operate and on 20 May, laid the foundation stone.

Designed by members of the Royal Engineers, influenced by ancient amphitheatres, the Hall was constructed mainly of brick, with terra cotta block decoration. The dome on top was made of steel and glazed. There was a trial assembly made of the steel framework of the dome in Manchester, then it was taken apart again and transported down to London via horse and cart. When the time came for the supporting structure to be removed from the dome after re-assembly in situ, only volunteers remained on site in case the structure dropped. It did drop - but only by 5/8 of an inch! The Hall was scheduled to be completed by Christmas Day 1870 and the Queen visited a few days beforehand to inspect. She was reported as saying "It looks like the British Constitution".

The official opening ceremony of The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences (its full title) was on 29 March 1871. After a welcoming speech by the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria was too emotional to speak, so the Prince had to announce that "The Queen declares this Hall is now open". A concert followed, when the Hall's acoustic problems became apparent.These were not properly tackled until 1969 when a series of large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs (commonly referred to as 'mushrooms') were installed in the roof to cut down the notorious echo.

Initially lit by gas (when thousands of gas jets were lit by a special system within 10 seconds), full electric lighting was installed in 1897. During an earlier trial when a partial installation was made, one disgruntled patron wrote to The Times newspaper declaring it to be " a very ghastly and unpleasant innovation".

The Hall has more recently undergone a rolling programme (1996 - 2004) of renovation and development to enable it to meet the demands of the next century of events and performances.

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