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A short film narrated by Mick Jagger featuring crowds, happiness and the sheer thrill of being together has been released to kick off the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Royal Albert Hall.
The Rolling Stones frontman reads from WH Auden’s poem For Friends Only in the 90-second clip, an emotional tribute to live music after a year without it.
The film, directed by Tom Harper, intersperses poignant images of the empty venue with more than 40 pieces of concert archive footage dating back to 1933, some of it never seen before.
Jagger, 77, said he was delighted to be be asked to narrate. “Without doubt, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the greatest concert venues in the world,” he said.
His recollections include a 1966 Stones concert that began with what was effectively a mini-riot. Norrie Drummond wrote in his review for the New Musical Express: “Keith Richards was knocked to the ground, Mick was almost strangled, while Brian Jones and Bill Wyman took to their heels, followed closely by dozens of determined fans. Charlie Watts sat quietly behind his drums watching the scene.”
Wonderful memories, said Jagger. “Once or twice it did get a bit wild, with enthusiastic fans joining us on stage and almost bringing the show to an abrupt end, but we soldiered on and had a great time.”
The film also includes snippets from Led Zeppelin performing in 1970 and Diana Ross in 1973. Previously unseen footage includes performances by Jimi Hendrix in 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1970, and Chris Cornell in 2016.
Harper, best known for directing War & Peace on BBC1 and the films The Aeronauts and Wild Rose, said that, like so many, he had desperately missed live performance.
“There is something electric and fundamentally human about the shared experience of being in a room surrounded by other people, part of an audience,” he said. “The Royal Albert Hall is a magnificent building even when it’s empty, but what makes it truly special is the connection it fosters through those shared experiences.”
He hopes the film will be seen as both a celebration of a glorious past and “the sense of anticipation of some of the things to look forward to when we can be together again”.
The film is entitled Your Room Will Be Ready, from Auden’s poem as read by Jagger:
“Distance and duties divide us,
But absence will not seem an evil
If it make our re-meeting
A real occasion. Come when you can:
Your room will be ready.”
The film also includes Albert Einstein’s speech against the Nazis delivered in 1933 and the return of boxing to the hall in March 2019 with Anthony Yarde’s victory over Travis Reeves. There are also concerts by Shirley Bassey, Jacqueline du Pré, Luciano Pavarotti, Freddie Mercury, Adele and Stormzy.
Precisely when live performances can return to the hall, a charity, remains the great unknown. Its doors remain closed for the first time since the blitz and will still be closed on 29 March, its official birthday. It estimates its loss in income to be £34m after more than 330 auditorium shows were cancelled.
The film is the beginning of celebrations that will stretch through to 2022. They include a new staging by the choreographer Matthew Bourne of his show The Car Man and shows by artists including Patti Smith, Gregory Porter, Brian Wilson and Alfie Boe.