The origin of the Proms goes way back to before the BBC put their name to it in 1927. Founded in 1895 by Robert Newman, his vision was to deliver concert music to the masses by offering low ticket prices and an informal atmosphere.
Well we can safely say his vision was realised yet again, with another great and successful end to the BBC Proms season at this years Proms in the Park in Hyde Park. The ticket price was more than reasonable and the order of the day was about as informal as a street party in Liverpool for the Queen’s Jubilee back in 2012: drinks in full flow and general merriment being everyone’s main priority.
The event attracts over 40,000 visitors each year, every one of them armed with fold out chairs, Union Flag bunting, hats, and most importantly – flags. One could not possibly attend this event without a suitable stash of patriotic tat, in fact it is pretty much a requirement to even gain entry at the gates.
Which brings me to a little niggle of mine from this year. Unfortunately in light of some of the most awful events in recent terrible times, we have come to find ourselves with some of the lengthiest entrance systems I have ever known at Proms in the Park. I for one was waiting for 1.5 hours to even get to the first ‘checkpoint’. However just like the showers that (thankfully) blew over us, the extra safety measures would not dampen a British person’s queuing spirit. We did what we do best in these situations; open a bottle of bubbly and enjoy it from a plastic cup whilst wearing a hooded Barbour. The beautiful British banter that ensued was encouraged by the waiting ‘prommers’ and staff alike.
Once we did gain entry and the show began, the spirit of the crowd was instantly electric. Texas opened the show, and it was clear the crowd were pleased Sharleen Spiteri ‘hasn’t changed her mind’ about performing, and clearly ‘all still felt the same about her too’, singing almost every word to every song.
The sound in general was not up to scratch and the technicians needed to work on that, although according to the BBC Proms In The Park Facebook page, a number of concert goers were told that ‘nothing could be done’.
Other acts not only suffered the sound issues but were not so necessarily ‘in tune’ shall we say, (‘Steps’ I’m looking your way). ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ were furiously energetic on stage, making my four year old son look positively tortoise-like and later we moved to the more established acts, with Elaine Page and Gilbert O’Sullivan performing and Ray Davies giving us Kinks classics like “Waterloo Sunset” before the main link over to the Royal Albert Hall.
The finale at The Royal Albert Hall is ideally what everyone goes for and once singing positions were assumed, the flag waving began and the belting out of Proms classics Land of Hope and Glory, Fantasia on British Sea-Songs, Rule Britannia, Jerusalem, The National Anthem and of course finishing off traditionally with Auld Lang Syne.
All in all a spectacular affair that suffered at the hands of long but necessary queues and sound technicians that could have done more. Even with the addition of the many EU flags waved alongside the Union Flags – of which may I add, the EU flags were given out for free – they literally had to GIVE those bad boys away 😉 – the British spirit is still very much alive today as it was in 1895. A fair nod to Robert Newman, Sir Henry Wood and the BBC Proms, very much looking forward to seeing you all again next year!