Monday, 28 January 2013

The Royal Institution in a spot of bother

It's sad, but not unexpected to me at least, that the RI has had to put it's historic headquarters at 21 Albemarle Street up for sale due to financial difficulties. This is the building known for being the place where Michael Faraday carried out his work, where ten elements including sodium were discovered, and most famously, where the rather wonderful annual Christmas Lectures are held.

A lot of these financial difficulties have been attributed to an expensive refurbishment of the building in 2008 which added a restaurant and conference facilities for hire. This was in part funded by the sale of a number of investment properties, but the new facilities have not been generating anything like the income that the properties were.

So the organisation has a problem and over the last two years has been trying to find a solution in the form of  long term sponsorship and endowments but to no avail. I can't offer much in the way of financial support but I'm good at stating the obvious which is thus:
Opening times
Monday to Friday 9.00am to 6.00pm (excluding public holidays) 
Museum opening hours
Monday to Friday 9.00am-6.00pm 
Café and Bar & Kitchen opening hours
Café: Monday to Friday 8.00am - 3.00pm
Bar & Kitchen: Monday to Friday 10.00am - 10.00pm
Yep, unbelievably it's shut at the weekend and bank holidays just when most people have a bit of spare time to head over and have a look around.

Now if I had a grand building in central London with a museum, lecture theatre seating over 400, and a bar and restaurant, I'd be making damn sure that it was being fully utilised and that means being open at the weekend. Like most in London, entry to the museum is free but then there's an opportunity to sell guides, membership, solicit donations, or whatever. Hold events and talks in the lecture theatre and conference rooms all day and charge for them - check out this lecture on the science of fireworks; who isn't interested in setting fire to things or blowing up stuff? That's exactly the sort of thing they need to host on a regular basis to get people, especially families, through the doors, and afterwards directing them towards to the bar and restaurant. You've then got a total "RI experience" and visitors can make a morning or an afternoon of it.

I doubt very much that my suggestions are the complete answer to the RI's financial woes, but putting my business hat on, I see some quality assets not being used to their full potential and missed opportunities not just to raise money but to also inform and educate.

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