BBC under fire for tearing down EU flags during Beethoven’s Ninth

BBC under fire for tearing down EU flags during Beethoven’s Ninth


norman lebrecht

July 31, 2017

Audience members at the Royal Albert Hall who waved EU flags during the finale of Beethoven’s ninth symphony last night were ordered by ushers to take them down.

A Slipped Disc correspondent writes: ‘RAH staff came in through the piece multiple times to tell people to remove them. It was a total distraction to the performers.’

‘It was an abysmal way to deal with a political statement at a classical concert; it turned attention away from the performance. There was no waving of the flags or anything that might be construed as distracting.’

EU flag being unfurled over rail

Another SD reader points out that it was the only EU flags that were removed.

The ushers had no issue with Welsh flags – waved for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales – or any other emblems.

During the Proms season, RAH staff act under instruction from the BBC.

The BBC is anxious about allowing pro-EU sentiment at the Proms ever since it got into hot water over Daniel Barenboim’s speech. Now the BBC has disrupted a Proms concert in order to cover its own back.


UPDATE: Who organised EU flags at BBC Proms?



  • RAZZ MATAZZ says:

    Oh, for pity’s sake. Is this what BREXIT has brought us to?

    • Monty says:

      No, it’s what people who can’t resist using a concert to make a political statement have brought us to. There shouldn’t be any flags waved at any of the concerts, other than the last night.

      • RAZZ MATAZZ says:

        As I was not present in the hall (and nor were any of the commentators below) , I have no idea what form this “political statement” took. On the face of it, it seems like a huge over-reaction on the part of the RAH and/or the BBC.

        • davealkan says:

          It was a huge – and disruptive overreaction.

          The flags weren’t waved except during the applause.

  • Halldor says:

    Interestingly, a source in the arena reports on Twitter that they were fairly distracting throughout – talking during the music to the extent that they were actually ‘shushed’ at one point by one of the soloists – and made their first attempt to deploy the flags during the scherzo, apparently under the impression that the Ode to Joy was about to begin. Seems the great defenders of our shared European identity don’t actually listen to much Beethoven.

    But as with Barenboim the other week, in these matters one hears what one wants to hear.

    • davealkan says:

      It was not during the scherzo they were unfurled, but during the Timp roll (first time) at the beginning of the finale – the orchestral variations.

      The flags weren’t waved and the distraction was exacerbated tenfold by ushers who kept on coming on in front of the stage to try and get them taken in.

  • Una says:

    There’s a difference between waiving a Welsh flag for a Welsh orchestra by a bunch of unthinking and silly Welsh visitors perhaps than bringing along a load of EU flags for a Beethoven Symphony that was not written for the EU but high jacked and now labelled as the EU national anthem. Either way it’s a total distraction for those who have solely gone there to listen to the music, payed a lot of money to hear a wonderful symphony, an upheaval and just disrespectful – and you wonder why people are there for such statement-making. Let them wave whatever flag they like on the Last Night as long as it IS just fun and not disrespectful to the music and to the performers.

    • Paul Davis says:

      I do agree, all flags should be waived!

      • davealkan says:

        The flags were draped over the front barrier and not waved except during the applause. The distraction was the continual inept attempts by RAH staff to get people to put the flags away. They kept walking on in front (!) of the stage and performers to try and do this.

        Whether or not the staff should have intervened, once it was clear the flags would be unfurled again and again, they should have left it, not started a petty and farcical battle over whether they would be unfurled or not.

        • Monty says:

          So the people with the flags knew that the ushers and BBC wanted them put away, but nonetheless defiantly kept unfurling more flags after they’d been told not to?

  • Tim Walton says:

    Yes, Flags should not be allowed other than at the last night. If the stewards don’t want them. I’ll them as it will save me buying a new supply of toilet paper.

  • Anon says:

    This year’s last night will be interesting.

  • Philip May says:

    I was so happy to see the European Flag there – it made my night that much more special. Thank You to those that waved and brought them.

  • Jan Roelfsema says:

    I was pleased to see many British people are pro EU. I just had a nice holiday in Britain and people I spoke to called Brexit foolish. There is no plan. People in the Royal Albert Hall who waive an EU flag give a signal: Britain belongs to the EU.