A crowdfunding campaign seeks to encourage Prommers to take up the EU flag rather than the Union Jack.
The concert that caps off the BBC Proms – the world’s largest classical music festival – is seen as one of English classical music’s most patriotic nights. But this year, a group of anti-Brexit campaigners have used crowdfunding to raise money for thousands of blue European Union flags to hand out at The Last Night of the Proms in protest of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU. The organisers have raised £1,175 to pay for flags and have an army of volunteers ready to hand them to audience members outside Royal Albert Hall for Saturday night’s sold-out concert.
The popular Last Night is a festive celebration with the sell-out crowd encouraged to wave Union Jacks – as well as flags from other nations – and features a programme of popular classics that inevitably includes the patriotic anthems Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem, Rule, Britannia! and God Save the Queen. This year the concert will feature works by Offenbach, Rossini, Borodin and Britten and the star soloist will be Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez.
According to a report in The Guardian, the organiser of the protest – who asked not to be named – said the idea behind the EU flags was “to have a celebration of what the EU does for music.” Musicians, for whom working in both the UK and the EU is often essential, have been particularly vocal about Brexit.
MPs have called for the BBC to intervene, according to a report in The Telegraph, to prevent the Last Night being “hijacked by an attempted rejection of the will of the British people.”
But a spokesperson for the BBC has said: “Flags are a traditional part of the Last Night of the Proms and audience members are not prevented from bringing them into the Hall. The Proms is not a political platform and, as always, we are sure there will be a wide range of flags on display.”
This is not the first time, however, that politics has been present in the Proms. Last year protestors unfurled a banner reading “Refugees Welcome” during the Last Night and in 2013 the BBC was accused of censorship after editing a television broadcast to remove comments by violinist Nigel Kennedy that were critical of Israel.
The protest flags will apparently feature the EU flag on one side and the Union Jack on the other, in the hope that this will avoid alienating Leave-voting Prommers.
“The Last Night of the Proms goes around the world and represents us to the world,” wrote former Proms director Sir Nicholas Kenyon in a piece for The Guardian titled God Save the Last Night of the Proms post-Brexit earlier this week. “As we redefine our cultural identity in the wake of the Brexit vote, it’s vital that it shows us, like the rest of the Proms, as open, welcoming and innovative – and, above all, looking to the future of the artform.”
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