Incredible music in London at an affordable price

Guy Lipman
Jul 14 · 4 min read

How to get cheap tickets to the Royal Opera House, the English National Opera, and the BBC Proms. The details are all up to date as at July 2019.

The Royal Opera House

This deal only works if you are a student. The Scheme is called Young ROH, but any school or university students are eligible regardless of age. It is free to join, and you can register at http://www.roh.org.uk/for/rohstudents/whats-in-it-for-me. You can book tickets normally (they go on sale to registered students before they go to the general public), but the best part of the scheme is when they email you about student rush tickets for the following day. This doesn’t happen for every opera or ballet, but it does happen for some brilliant performances.

When you get the email, you can go online (make sure you are logged in so it knows you are a student) and buy up to 9 tickets, anywhere in the house, for £10 each (these are often seats that would otherwise cost well over £100). And you don’t need to all be students — as long as you have one student card for every two tickets you have, you’ll be fine.

English National Opera

The ENO also put on some wonderful opera performances, all sung in English, at the Coliseum (just off Trafalgar Square). Their scheme for full time students and anyone under 30 is called Access All Arias. It is also free to join, and you can register at https://www.eno.org/your-visit/ways-to-save-offers/access-all-arias/. The scheme works differently to the Royal Opera House’s: they make a certain number of seats to every performance available for members, and you can book up to 2 tickets, for £30 each in stalls, £20 in the dress circle or £10 in the upper circle. The other ticket has to go to someone who is also a full time student or under 30. (Obviously if you want more than 2 tickets, you can just get one of your friends to sign up to the scheme as well.)

BBC Proms

The BBC Proms is an incredible series of concerts that takes place every summer, with at least one concert every day from mid-July until early September. Most of the concerts take place at the Royal Albert Hall (near South Kensington) — you can see details of all the concerts at https://www.bbc.co.uk/proms. You can buy tickets for normal seats online, but if you want to save money, they have a special tradition called promming. It is open to anyone (not just students or young people), and gets you entry for £6 or £7.12 without a seat, either downstairs in the Arena, or upstairs in the Gallery (at the very top). The Arena is much closer to the stage, but you may have to stand for the whole thing, especially if it is a popular concert. The Gallery has a lot more space, you can either stand and watch the concert, or sit or even lie on the floor (the acoustics are still great in the Gallery).

It used to be that everyone had to wait in line to get in, often arriving many hours before the concert to get a good spot in the queue. Now they have replaced that scheme with a queue number system — it is a bit complicated but I prefer it to the old system.

There are essentially four queues for each concert — Arena pre-purchased, Arena pay at the door, Gallery pre-purchased and Gallery pay at the door. Anyone with a pre-purchased ticket is guaranteed entry, and if you’re there before the doors open (an hour before) you’ll likely get in ahead of most of the people who pay at the door. They sell a certain number of pre-purchase tickets online at 9am on the day— these tickets cost £7.12.

If you don’t have a pre-purchased ticket, you can join the pay at the door queues and just pay £6. These queues do sometimes exceed the number of spaces, so it makes sense to get there early, especially if you care about where you get to sit/stand. When you arrive (any time from 9am), they will give you a paper ticket with a number, allowing you to leave and come back later an hour before the concert to take your spot in the queue.

Promming is an old tradition, and a lot of the people you’ll see in the queue are regulars (some have been promming for over 50 years!). The tradition and the people may seem a bit odd at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. And trying to cheat the system will be frowned upon.

If you have promming tickets from 5 concerts, you are eligible to buy a promming ticket to the famous Last Night of the Proms. For details, see link.

Written by

Fascinated by what makes societies and markets work. Undertaking a PhD in sustainable energy at UCL. http://guylipman.com.

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