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‘This is a massive challenge’: Alexandra Palace faces £1m funding gap as it asks public to help plug lockdown shortfall

PUBLISHED: 09:07 27 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:44 27 May 2020

Chief executive Louise Stewart says it is

Chief executive Louise Stewart says it is "unthinkable" Alexandra Palace won't be there to welcome crowds once again come the end of lockdown. Pictures: Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace is facing a financial hole of at least £1 million this year as the economic toll of coronavirus on the arts and culture industry deepens.

"The palace has been through crises and massive challenges before, so it is extremely resilient." Picture: Alexandra Palace

Muswell Hill’s historic entertainment venue, which opened in 1873, needs to raise between £1m-1.4m by the end of 2020 and up to £1.5m next year if lockdown restrictions persist.

The palace, which every year welcomes 4m visitors and costs £3.6m to run, says it could be 18 months until it is able to resume its full repertoire of shows and be “financially viable”.

It has furloughed 96% of its staff but Alexandra Park remains open, creative learning programmes have moved online, Covid-19 food support continues, and drive-through opera is lined up for September.

The palace’s chief executive Louise Stewart said: “This is a massive challenge.

Pre-lockdown shot of the darts in Ally Pally's West Hall. Issues of social distancing remain central to the palace's reopening plans. Picture: Alexandra PalacePre-lockdown shot of the darts in Ally Pally's West Hall. Issues of social distancing remain central to the palace's reopening plans. Picture: Alexandra Palace

“It’s really difficult – nobody has a crystal ball.

“We don’t know when the crisis will end so we don’t know the severity or longevity of the impact at the moment.

“But the palace has been through crises and massive challenges before, so it is extremely resilient and has a huge amount of support from the local community and local business.”

Louise said the palace – which is funded by Haringey Council, donations and income from its own revenue streams – contributes £150m to the local economy every year so to lose it would be “unthinkable”.

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She was “absolutely confident we will still be here once this all finishes” and pointed to the palace’s fire of 1980, which destroyed swathes of its main building, as evidence of its ability to bounce back.

Yet Louise stressed that while the palace is itching to return, looking to countries such as Germany and Hong Kong for inspiration, it will only reopen when it’s safe to do so, and where social distancing can be maintained.

“Despite everything Ally Pally is going through, you can’t lose sight of the fact that over 35,000 people in this country have lost their lives,” Louise continued.

“So while obviously everyone at Ally Pally wants it to survive, we are very aware that this is a sensitive environment.

“The country hasn’t been through something like this for a generation or two, people on the frontline have lost their lives.

“We’re not just saying ‘let’s put some music on because Ally Pally needs it and to hell with everything else’ – that’s the last thing we’re thinking.”

During the early stages of the pandemic, the palace had been in discussions with the government to act as a coronavirus recovery hospital – akin to the Nightingale – but “thankfully” the capacity wasn’t needed.

Now, looking ahead, Louise said the palace is working on ways to reintroduce socially distanced events from as early as July, but in ways that would avoid a “second or third lockdown”.

She added existing grants from the government and entertainment industry were ill-suited to organisations of the palace’s size and scale, hence why it was calling on public support to stay afloat.

To donate to the Alexandra Palace fundraiser click here.


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