Venue of the month

The UK’S best con­cert halls

BBC Music Magazine - - Live -

21. Alexan­dra Palace The­atre

Where: Muswell Hill, London Opened: 1875; 2018

Seats: 900

Few con­cert venues have been put to quite as many dif­fer­ent uses over the course of their ex­is­tence as has the Alexan­dra Palace The­atre. And that’s when it’s been in use at all. The 2018 re­open­ing of this mag­nif­i­cently or­nate au­di­to­rium – first with a BBC Prom in Septem­ber and then on a per­ma­nent ba­sis in De­cem­ber – marked the end of years of de­cline.

Orig­i­nally built in 1875 as part of the Alexan­dra Palace cen­tre for en­ter­tain­ment and sports, the the­atre opened with a per­for­mance of Of­fen­bach’s operetta Break­ing the Spell. Able to hold over 2,000 peo­ple, it be­came a pop­u­lar venue for opera, the­atre, con­certs and, in­creas­ingly, film show­ings.

Tem­po­rar­ily re­pur­posed as a chapel for for­eign de­tainees in World War I, the the­atre was then put to very dif­fer­ent use when the BBC took over in 1935 – as a car­pen­try work­shop and props store. The de­par­ture of the BBC and ar­rival of the Open Univer­sity in 1969 saw lit­tle change in its for­tunes, and when a fire dev­as­tated much of the build­ing in 1980, there seemed lit­tle hope.

A re­cent £18.8m lot­tery grant, how­ever, has helped to bring this once great venue back to life – nearly 80 years since its last per­for­mance.

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