Behind The Curtain: Lucy Noble

Lucy Noble first set foot into the in 1996, during her studies at the Royal College of Music, which is located just opposite the iconic venue. She started as a steward, any live music lover’s dream job. In 1998, Noble left to work as programmer at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre, followed by a six-month stint at IMG Artists, where she managed the dance division.
Royal Albert Hall

“I missed being really close to the performance side,” she told Pollstar. In 2001 the job of lettings manager at the Royal Albert Hall came up. Noble went for it, got it and never left. Her job title has changed since then – she is now director of events – which is owed to the fact that the Hall has expanded its portfolio. Vastly.

“When I first started, we had about 250 events a year. My first task was to get the number of events up and to improve the relations with all the promoters,” she said. There had been a 10-year period in which the Royal Albert Hall banned rock and pop acts, so relations with some promoters were a bit strained. Pink Floyd lighting fireworks inside the 145-year-old venue, Frank Zappa playing the organ without permission and Deep Purple’s fans trashing the place might have to share some responsibility for that.

Thanks to the professionalization of venue security, the ban could eventually be lifted. Today, the main hall isn’t the only space where things happen. “This year we’ll do about 600 shows outside the main auditorium. We’ve got all these little performance spaces that we use, the main secondary one being the , which hosts 300 standing,” Noble said. The average ticket price for the main auditorium is around £37.

The ticket prices outside the main hall are around £10 to £15, which helps offer smaller artists a stage and attract new audiences.

Once up-and-coming acts reach enough people to fill the 5,272 auditorium seats, they have a chance of being selected for the Albert Sessions.

“We give them a cheaper rental, and in return they have to do some Education & Outreach workshops with us,” Noble explains. These workshops also fall under Noble’s area of responsibilities.

“We engage with around 150,000 people each year, from toddlers through to elderly people,” she explains. That includes storytelling, matinees, workshops or paying for a term’s worth of music lessons for children that show interest in learning an instrument but can’t afford it. There’s also music therapy taking place every Monday in association with Nordoff Robbins, helping children with autism as well as adults suffering from dementia. The Hall has its own band, the Albert’s Band, which goes out and talks to people about the history of the venue while playing evergreens for them to sing along with.

To Noble, it’s all about harnessing the power of music.

“There was one lady with Alzheimer’s, who hadn’t spoken for years. Suddenly she started singing along, she knew all the words. Music can unlock parts of your memory you think are gone.”

What may have been described as side projects a decade ago have become just as important as the Hall’s core program, Noble emphasizes. Most of the offerings as part of the outreach program are free, despite the Hall not receiving any government funding. “We risk millions of pounds each year to put on our own events. It’s part of taking control of our brand and program,” Noble says.

A film festival in autumn, film screenings with live orchestras, silent disco, skate contests, graffiti exhibitions, poetry slams and even the odd boxing match are all part of “making our own product.” Noble and her team went from 250 shows a year to about 1,500 events in 2016 inside and outside the hall. Of the nearly 400 concerts taking place on the main stage this year, she aims to promote about 55 to 60 herself.

“We’re not taking over. We’re not going to go into rock and pop and start competing with our customers,” Noble assures. Virtually every big name has played the Royal Albert Hall in its long history, and they will have a lot of memories to share when the venue turns 150 in 2021.

There are still a few candidates Noble would like to see on stage: Red Hot Chili PeppersFoo FightersMadonna.

And she adds: “I’d love to have  back. It will be 50 years this September since they played here originally.”