Head of Content, IFSEC and FIREX

Author Bio ▼

Charlotte Geoghegan (nee Wright) is Head of Content for the Protection & Management portfolio, which includes IFSEC and FIREX live events and IFSEC Global.com
May 21, 2015

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Exclusive Video: The Royal Albert Hall’s Security Operation

What are the security requirements and challenges of implementing top-of-the-range technology into a 19th century grade I listed building?

For episode two of Protecting London we head to the world-famous Royal Albert Hall and talk to Amanda Squires, Director of Operations, about security measures required at some of the most high profile events in the country.

Security measures for star-studded performances

Amanda’s operations team (which includes security) is around 300 strong and delivers close to 850 events per year, many of which bring world-famous performers to the Hall.

In the past year, the likes of Coldplay, Status Quo and Lang Lang have all graced the stage, adding to the Hall’s star-studded roster of performers. And it’s not just musicians you’ll see on the calendar – the venue also hosts sports events, film premieres and talks, which have introduced audiences to Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Professor Stephen Hawking and Bill Clinton amongst countless others.

“Some of the very, very high profile events can be very, very difficult from a security perspective”, Amanda tells us, and thanks to a huge amount of planning and close collaboration with the police, the security team controls a tight ship.

All events, even those without the added challenges of high profile performers, are subject to “very robust security assessments”. Amanda says “for most events, the security measures that we put in place may be very unobtrusive, they may not be seen by most of the people that come to the hall”.

But as the events become more high profile, security measures are ramped up and it’s not unusual to see dog teams search the building, search arches go up and roads being closed.

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Security at Gorbachev’s 80th birthday gala

Amanda uses to Gorbachev’s 80th birthday gala, which was held in 2011, to illustrate the challenges they can come across with high profile events.

“We had high profile VIPs from around the world, each with their own security detail, each with very much their own ideas of what their level of personal security should be.”

Again, she tells us about the importance of working closely with the police, as well as other agencies who all worked to robust security plans.

“There were some very difficult meetings, some very long meetings, and a lot of what I would term assertive diplomacy to make sure that the event ran smoothly.”

Getting VIPs in and out safely and discretely

There is an entirely different type of security request they get from VIPs too.
“Sometimes the security challenge can be down to a very high profile person who doesn’t want anybody to know that they’re coming to the building or that they’ve been here”; something which the Royal Albert Hall security team are highly experienced at facilitating.

Inside the iconic auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall

Inside the iconic auditorium at the Royal Albert Hall

[mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”14″ align=”left”]World class performers, sportspeople and statesmen who have appeared at the Royal Albert Hall include:

Wagner, Verdi, Elga, Pavarotti, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Sting, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Shirley Bassey, Adele, Jay Z, Kaiser Chiefs, the Killers, Mohammed Ali, John McEnroe, Frank Bruno, Einstein, Her Majesty The Queen, Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, Stephen Hawking… to name but a few.[/mk_blockquote]

CCTV and access control in a grade 1 listed building

The building itself dates back to 1871 and is grade 1 listed; which means all structural changes have to be approved by English Heritage, and have to be “ visually unobtrusive”.

So getting modern CCTV and access control systems in place can be a delicate procedure. And one the biggest challenges they face with technology in general, is the speed at which it becomes outdated.

“We have to be incredibly careful to make sure that every single penny we spend we’re spending on systems that are not going to become obsolete tomorrow, and we have to spend a great deal of time and resource on updating our systems.”

Benefits of organisational structure to security

It’s abundantly clear when speaking to Amanda that security is a well-oiled machine at the Royal Albert Hall; it’s an integral function within the close-knit, highly collaborative operations team.

Amanda credits the Hall’s organisational structure as key to protecting the building in the most effective way possible.

“I see that model of having everything together and everything very closely integrated as really, really important and it’s brought us some huge benefits.”

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