Nigel Farage has lashed out at those waving EU flags, labelling claims of music as a unifying force as “airy fairy nonsense”.
Nigel Farage has labelled concertgoers who proudly waved European Union flags at this year’s Last Night of the Proms of being in denial about Brexit. His comments were likely sparked by widely broadcast TV footage showing a mass of blue and gold stars at the traditionally patriotic event. The former UKIP leader accused those who brandished the flags, paid for by a successful crowdfunding campaign, of making the event “all about them”.
“These people are still in denial over the referendum result,” Farage told the Guardian. “They are trying to make it all about them instead of a great concert. The British people want to leave the EU no matter how many flags they fly.”
“As for this airy fairy ‘music crosses all borders’ nonsense, music is also an important part of national symbolism in every part of the world.”
In advance of the Last Night of the Proms, Farage had told the Daily Express that he would be enlisting former UKIP donor Arron Banks to fund the supply of a large number of union jacks to counter the EU flags, though that plan seems not to have eventuated.
Earlier in the Prom season, the BBC and Royal Albert Hall had resisted calls to ban EU flags by some pro-leave groups.
A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC Proms is a music platform, not a political one, with the Last Night of the Proms offering a celebration of two months of extraordinary music making. As part of that tradition, flags are permitted in line with the Royal Albert Hall’s guidelines, and as in previous years, we are sure there will be a wide variety of flags on display.”
Anti-Brexit activists say they handed out approximately 7,000 EU flags to ticket holders and musicians at the Royal Albert Hall in a carefully organised, crowdfunded campaign. They did the same last year, in the wake of the vote to leave.
“I got chucked out of the Albert Hall three times last night for handing out flags inside”, Clive Lewis told the Guardian. One of the lead organisers of the Flags at the Proms campaign, Lewis said they had raised more than £4,000 from 250 members of the public.
A spokesman for the Flags at the Proms campaign told The Telegraph: “During the Age of Enlightenment, Mozart, Handel and Bach all lived and worked for part of their lives in London. Presumably under the Brexit dark ages, they would not be welcome.”
“We hope that the EU flags will remind the audience, the musicians and those watching from all over the world that music is a universal language that unites people, breaking down barriers and promoting communication, understanding, and peace.”
One of the most striking calls for unity came earlier in the Proms season, with outspoken Russian-German pianist Igor Levit’s heartfelt performance of Ode to Joy, the anthem of the European Union.
For the Last Night of the Proms, the Swedish soprano Nina Stemme impressed with the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, a set of songs by Weill and Gershwin and the traditional Rule Britannia, representing a programme of European and international composers.