Alexandra Palace has been saved from the risk of closure thanks to a £2.9 million grant from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage.
The funding, awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), will help offset the significant impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the Park and Palace.
The government grant will fund vital costs to enable the Trust to continue to maintain the listed Palace and 196 acre Park. It will also enable the organisation to deliver its programme of cultural events and creative learning activities that support some of the most vulnerable people in the community.
The vast heritage site is one of the country’s largest independent event venues which in a normal year delivers over 250 events, provides more than 20,000 work opportunities and contributes nearly £170m to the wider economy.
Ros Kerslake, CEO of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: ‘Alexandra Palace is a jewel in the crown of London’s heritage, with commanding views over the city, important parkland and the National Lottery-funded Victorian theatre. Like so many organisations that rely on visitor income from events, from snooker to summer festivals, the Trust was facing a perilous future due to the COVID-19 crisis. The leadership and the team at Ally Pally have done an amazing job in recent years creating a sustainable and important cultural destination serving some of London’s most deprived communities in the borough of Haringey. We are delighted to be part of helping them to survive and thrive through this difficult time.’
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: ‘Alexandra Palace has continued to reinvent itself as “the people’s palace”, despite many setbacks. Thanks to this funding from the Cultural Recovery Fund, it will continue to shine as a beacon of hope, providing employment and entertainment, as well as a green lung for the local community in the tranquillity of its surrounding park. Throughout the challenges of the past year, Ally Pally has continued to adapt, and prove that this iconic historic building has an important part to play in today’s world.’
Nigel Huddleston, Heritage Minister said: “Alexandra Palace is a cultural icon in London and has allowed us to witness so many legendary moments over the years. I am delighted that we have been able to support the site through our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund so it may continue to make history for years to come.”
Louise Stewart, Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust, CEO says: ‘We are hugely grateful to the NLHF, Historic England and DCMS for their critical support at a time when organisations such ourselves are facing overwhelming financial challenges due to the impact of the pandemic. We’d also like to thank all those in the heritage and cultural sectors who have worked with the Government to make this funding available.
‘Over the past 140 years Alexandra Palace has been home to some of the most iconic moments in modern entertainment history. The grant, together with support from Haringey Council and donations from the public, means that we can continue this legacy. It will ensure that these unique heritage assets, the Palace and Park, are cared for and we can deliver more experiences that entertain, inspire and educate, as well as providing crucial employment opportunities and economic benefit to our community. Over the last nine months we’ve worked non-stop to make sure we can open the doors safely and keep the parkland well maintained to provide vital green space. There are many challenges ahead, but for now at least, thanks to this funding, we have some time and resource to deliver our route to recovery.’
Award winning broadcaster, local resident and long-time Ally Pally supporter Lauren Laverne said: ‘This is such fantastic news. Ally Pally is so many things – an iconic music and arts venue, a vital hub for sport and cultural events and a beautiful green space with parkland the whole community can enjoy. Knowing its doors can stay open and that the music will play on is just wonderful.’
Ally Pally – which was built in 1873 as the ‘People’s Palace’, a home for entertainment for the population of London and beyond – has continued to demonstrate resilience and an enterprising spirit since first having to close its doors in March this year. Whilst a brimming schedule of public events underwent a significant cancellation and rescheduling process, the organisation has continued to find ways of making things happen within ever-changing sets of guidelines.
Throughout the pandemic the organisation has taken its creative learning programme online to deliver a host of art, literature, dance, poetry and music activities for young people, families, schools, disabled people and care home residents.
In April, when the venue should have been welcoming thousands of concert goers, the space was transformed into a vital food distribution hub. During the summer, its vantage point with amazing views across London made its outdoor terrace not only the most spectacular destination for a socially distanced pint, but also introduced live entertainment to the site once more with comedians able to perform live to eager crowds for the first time in months.
As lockdown eased local people flocked to the vast acres of parkland for a welcome change of scene. In July the birthplace of the BBC partnered with pioneering experiential tech company Melody VR to bring an immersive digital Wireless Festival to fans – something no other UK festival managed to achieve.
Nick Cave’s Idiot Prayer saw the musician, who has performed at the venue many times, alone at his piano in the vast West Hall, creating yet another significant cultural moment this year that seemed to encapsulate the mood and fragility of the time.
In September, working in partnership with the English National Opera, the first ever Drive-In Opera production was staged in the grounds. Another example of Ally Pally’s pioneering desire to entertain audiences and its readiness to adapt.
Further live performances got partially underway this autumn before the most recent lockdown was announced, and a programme of Christmas entertainment including Ice Skating, Santa’s Grotto, the acclaimed theatre production The Gruffalo’s Child and a film season will now animate the venue throughout the festive period. The recent announcement from the Professional Darts Corporation that the 2020/21 William Hill World Darts Championship will go ahead at the iconic venue, with fans, was also vital to the venue’s economic balance.
So not only does the successful funding application provide a lifeline, it means Ally Pally can continue to keep making things happen.
PDC Chief Executive Matt Porter said: ‘We’ve staged the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace since 2007 and the venue is both the perfect home for us and now synonymous with the event globally. Whilst the West Hall is the focus of the on-stage action, Alexandra Palace’s other facilities enable us to deliver a world-class event experience to tens of thousands of fans annually and also host broadcast partners, sponsors and media. We’re pleased to see Alexandra Palace receive grant funding, which is a boost for them just weeks before this year’s World Championship begins on December 15.’