DRAMATIC plans for the future of Alexandra Palace will be music to the ears of those who feared for its future.
On Monday the board of trustees approved plans to transform the iconic palace into a prestigious live music venue to rival the O2 and Southbank Centre.
Over the next three months management will search for a major music operator to help run the venue, put into place a fundraising strategy and begin the “master planning” which the board hopes will transform the fortunes of the dilapidated building with a chequered history.
Last month, former Haringey Council leader Charles Adje was suspended after being found guilty of misconduct over the bungled attempted lease of the palace. The decision was taken after it emerged he had failed to inform other trustees about a crucial briefing note which advised against the license for the palace being given to property developer Firoka. The company had been set to build a hotel and casino at the historic venue, as well as a restaurant, banqueting suite and business facilities.
An agreement which gave Firoka permission to run the palace on a 125-year lease was quashed by the High Court in 2007. An independent report found the council lost an estimated £1.5million as a result of the botched deal.
“It is very exciting and we hope Alexandra Palace will be known not just as the live music venue for London, but across the world,” said managing director Rebecca Kane.
“We considered the iconic status of the building and the heritage – this building was built in 1873 when leisure, entertainment and music were the core things happening here.”
The plan involves using the Great Hall and possibly the West Hall or theatre to host bands and artists throughout the year while the rest of the space could be used for other musical events, with hotels, bars and restaurants arriving on the back of the initiative.
“The Great Hall is London’s largest standing venue, able to host 10,400 people,” added Ms Kane. “We’ve been in decline so the challenge is redefining ourselves.” Trust interim general manager Andrew Gill revealed that £29m of investment is needed just to restore the deteriorating building – which has also been hit by two devastating fires – which has left more than 50 per cent of the existing shell unusable.
He also hopes that the planning process will take between six to nine months so that in a year’s time, they will be, “sitting here with a fully formed master plan with our key operator secured, then we’ll have a better sense of what’s in store in future.”