Must the BBC Proms drop Rule, Britannia?

Must the BBC Proms drop Rule, Britannia?


norman lebrecht

July 14, 2020

Chi-chi Nwanoku, founder of the Chineke! orchestra, is among the sponsors of a campaign to have Thomas Arne’s song ‘Rule, Britannia’ removed from the Last Night of the Proms because it was ‘written in 1740 at the height of British slavery, (and) is offensive in today’s society.’

Quite right.

The BBC should also remove ‘Jerusalem’ out of solidarity with BDS and the Henry Wood Sea-songs because they promote naval aggression.

Happily, the petition so far has gained fewer than 200 signatures.




  • Iain Scott says:

    Oh thanks for sharing I’m off to sign it now.

  • Stuart says:

    The petition includes the comment: “This offensive song is no longer relevant of our times. It’s presence serves to hold us back.” Music/opera/songs written long ago must be :relevant to our times” in order to be performed? In what way is it “holding us back”? Who is the “our” in “our times” and who is the “us” being held back? After statues are we going to purge the opera and oratorio worlds or irrelevant texts? Some task… Oddly, Rule Britannia is the ringtone on my phone. Don’t we have bigger issues as a society than feelings of being oppressed by a 280 years old oratorio? Are we really that fragile?

    • will says:

      Whoever wrote the title of the petition seems to be unaware of the difference between ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Rule, Britannia’. Also, one of the commenters seems unaware of the difference between it’s (it is) and its (possessive).

    • SVM says:

      I agree with Stuart’s important point that the obsession with being “relevant to our times” (with relevance often too narrowly defined) has become unhealthy. In intrinsic musical terms, ‘Rule, Britannia’ is actually a good song (unlike our national anthem, also by Arne).

      I also agree that we have “bigger issues” — these include the scourge of modern slavery, both home and abroad. And alas, some of the modern slaves *are* Britons — they can be found in the factories of Leicester and the Amazon “fulfilment centres” scattered across the UK, to name a few obvious examples. So actually, the song is highly relevant. Where are the petitions and boycotts against the exploitative multinational companies that are complicit in modern slavery?

      So actually, ‘Rule, Britannia’ is relevant and should remain, as an admonishment to us all to reflect upon slavery past and present. Maybe, somebody listening or singing along will be provoked into realising the disjuncture between the words and the reality, and actually do something to tackle modern slavery — maybe, a sweatshop worker will decide to down tools and go on strike, or a white-collar worker will decide to stop shopping on Amazon or Boohoo. And maybe somebody will start asking who or what is “Britannia”, and reliase that the concept excludes the majority of the British population. And then, it will have been worth it even on extrinsic grounds.

      And one day, if slavery is truly elimiated worldwide with help from the British navy (big stretch of the imagination, I know, but we can hope), we may earn the right to make a little adjustment to the words, substituting “humans” for “Britons”, so that the relevant line reads “humans never, never, never shall be slaves”.

      • OperaOrchPlayer says:

        Great – that’s a very interesting comment.

        It ties in with my point below, that these discussions should be promoted by the BBC so that when people sing Rule, Brittania! they can contextualise it. Then it wouldn’t be a meaningless, possibly offensive, hold-over from an era in which we British were slavers. It would have a changing but lasting relevance for the situations experienced by people now and in the future, and maybe you’re right – it could stand as a passionate declaration against slavery of all kinds in all nations.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Not fragile; just authoritarian.

    • Patricia says:

      I fear for Handel. All of that Old Testament…..

  • The View from America says:

    While we’re at it, let’s require Disneyworld to drop “It’s a Small World After All” because it’s so damned insipid — definitely offensive to the ears.

    • Miko says:

      ..hang on, wasn’t Walt Disney a raging antisemite?

      • Mike Schachter says:

        Correct but not a problem.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        That’s one cohort which has been on the receiving end of grief for centuries. Hang on: where’s their victimhood??? They were shunted off to a small piece of infertile land in the middle east and surrounded by nations who still want them dead. Kind of equivalent to the American Indian reservations, when you think about it. Where are their protest marches and demands for statues to be removed? And all the other persecuted minorities who headed to Ellis Island over a hundred years ago?

        I think we all know the answer to that!

        • V. Lind says:

          That’s a unique account of the formation of Israel — shunted off. Who did the shunting? Ever hear of boatloads of European Jews being turned back? By the Mandate authorities?

          Ever heard of Zionism, which precedes both World Wars?

          Ever hear of Palestinians, who were there already and driven out in order to create a new state? They didn’t even get a reservation — more still live in refugee camps in Jordan and elsewhere than in the Palestinian State, which was what was left to them after Israel was established.

          The rights and wrongs of it all are for another conversation, but read a little basic history. (And don’t confuse a book like Uris’ Exodus with history).

          Start with the fact that the whole “making the desert bloom” thing is mythmaking. There were olives and lemons and plenty other things growing before Israel came along.

          And a little more than statues got removed along the way. Think Deir Yassin.

    • Sisko24 says:

      Yes, it’s offensive to those of us who are not small. Why is height discrimination promoted by that ditzy ditty?

  • OperaOrchPlayer says:

    You’re going to be on the wrong side of this argument, Norman. Your sarcasm is misplaced and betrays your ignorance. In the slogan of the moment: educate yourself.

    The line “Britons never will be slaves,” by Thomson, is a clear, conscious and callous promotion of the attitude of British supremacy that prevailed at the time of its writing. An attitude that resulted in the subjugation of nearly 500 million people along with some of the worst atrocities in modern history. The complete lyrics celebrate the connection between Britain’s naval power and the slave trade, and the implication behind “nations not so blest as thee must, in their turn, to tyrants fall” is horrible.

    I am far from iconoclastic, and think that the Wood is a wonderful arrangement of Arne’s tune. But by singing and broadcasting these lyrics every year, whether consciously or not, the Proms are implicit in the promotion of British (and therefore) White supremacist beliefs.

    It’s time for that to change.

    • Culture for Ever says:

      Why stop at ‘Rule Britannia?’ Surely the whole canon of European notated music written under the patronage of emperors, kings, the aristocracy and Christian church should be banned from performance because of the possible tainted source of the patron’s resources. But then why stop at music; art by Velazquez and Rembrandt was created for colonialist patrons; and as for the Renaissance!! Unfortunately the effect of unbridled social influence is that there are no definable boundaries because everyone’s boundary is different. The social influencers might recoil in horror to be likened to Joseph Goebbels and PRAVDA, but are they so different in their propagandist embrace for a cause?

      • OperaOrchPlayer says:

        For a start, comparing Rembrandt with Thomas Arne does the former an injustice I think.

        The difference between the genesis and content of art by creators such as Velazquez, Rembrandt, Puccini, Rand et al, as I see it, is that those works are often demonstrably contextualised. They’re researched, debated, written and talked about. The discourse is in the public domain. They’re displayed alongside wall text that’s often contextually informative.

        Rule, Brittannia hasn’t had any of that scrutiny. The Proms doesn’t contextualise it. It’s merrily played whilst rose-cheeked, white-haired men and women wave Union Jacks and sing along in merry ignorance as cameras broadcast their unbridled ‘patriotism’ to the nation. Not a single word is broadcast that highlights the fact that, yes it’s marvellous music, yes the lyrics are stirring, but yes they are problematic and a product of their times. Be upfront about it and perhaps the “social influencers,” whoever they are, would be more forgiving.

        • V. Lind says:

          OH. FOR. GOD’S. SAKE.

        • George says:

          “Dear audience, we are now going to perform a song that you all love, and that you have been waiting for all night. But please understand, that this song is very problematic. So when you sing along to it and just want to enjoy the music, please keep in mind, that some people may be offended by it. We suggest you just listen and repent. And by the way, if you have not noticed, the lyrics are from a different time as well as the music. Both were not written this year, but many, many years ago. We are sure you did not know that.”

          Something like this?

        • Wesley says:

          “It’s merrily played whilst rose-cheeked, white-haired men and women wave Union Jacks and sing along in merry ignorance”

          If that’s what you really think about classical music audiences, then (a) you’re probably in the wrong job, and (b) you’ve helped me make up my mind about whether to bung a donation to my favourite London orchestra.

          • OperaOrchPlayer says:

            Wesley, I’ve played in my fair share of Proms and I can assure you the LNOP audience is unlike any other audience I come across at any other point in the year.

            There are tens of thousands of wonderful, kind, thoughtful people who enjoy what we do. Enough to fill our many theatres night after night. The exaggerated level of thoughtlessness and outright racism expressed by the commentators of this blog is thankfully a far cry from atmosphere of our auditoriums.

            I think I’ll stick to my career, thanks.

          • Iain says:

            “outright racism”

            Don’t you mean opinions you disagree with?

            It’s all too easy to attract an accusation of racism these days. So easy, in fact, that the word is rapidly losing impact. If there is any racism here, however, it appears to be of the anti-British or anti-English variety.

          • MDR says:

            The British aren’t a race, Iain.

          • Iain says:

            Come off it. If I posted cheap innuendos or made sanctimonious comments about French/German/Belgian/take-your-pick culture or traditions, I don’t doubt for one moment that several accusations of racism would be forthcoming.

            Hypocrisy is the issue here, not racism per se, and the Arts world positively reeks of it.

          • Wesley says:

            Of course “any other audience” isn’t presented with the opportunity to sing along to a well-known, audience-participation-encouraged tune. Or maybe in the concerts you give the audience is presented with such an opportunity and they just sit on their hands; which somehow I doubt. Or maybe you think the LNOTP is “just another concert” – in which case you’re definitely in the wrong job.

            Admit it. You’re a “liberal” who just doesn’t like the people who form your core audience. We’re white-haired, Brexit-voting loons who you despise. No matter – we won’t be buying opera tickets any time soon. How’s lock-down going for you so far?

        • Les says:

          ‘It’s merrily played whilst rose-cheeked, white-haired men and women wave Union Jacks and sing along in merry ignorance as cameras broadcast their unbridled ‘patriotism’ to the nation.’

          That sort of arrogant, patronising nonsense explains why the division between so-called elites and ordinary people is becoming wider. People are tired of the constant finger wagging from people who think they have something to teach everybody else.

          You are far more offensive than any Last Night could ever be.

          • OperaOrchPlayer says:

            I hardly think many orchestral musicians are part of the ‘elite,’ Les.

          • Allen says:

            You might not think so when you see your pay cheque, but I think quite a lot of people in this country probably perceive them as such.

            He has a point. Not exactly “horny-handed sons of toil”, regardless of how you might feel after 5.5 hours of Wagner.

          • V. Lind says:

            Nor many of the Proms audience.

        • Sue Sonata Form says:

          I think they would behave exactly like their Bolshevik forebears in the “forgiveness” department, since they’re fired up with exactly the same hatred and grievance.

        • James Weiss says:

          Music needs to be listened to, not “contextualized” you fascist tool.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        They are EXACTLY the same. And it’s worthwhile remembering that those German ‘social influencers’ were wholeheartedly embraced by the German middle class, public servants and intellectuals. The parallels today are frightening.

    • Jay says:

      What utter nonsense ….if one goes back in history there will always be something to offend someone.The song is part of proms history and today means nothing more than an excuse to take part in a ritual and should remain just that.There are so many more important things that offend the human condition that an old song carrying no contemporary weight means absolutely nothing;
      it’s a feel good righteous exercise for many people to be offended by something it gives them purpose.

      • OperaOrchPlayer says:

        Part of Proms history, huh?

        Did you know that Rule, Britannia! only became an annual occurrence after 1974? Doubt it, but it’s true.

        It’s hardly a great tradition of a great British event, it’s an invention of the 1970s. One of the many fashions from that decade I’d rather forget, alongside flares and ruffle shirts.

        • Iain says:

          Note the weasel word “annual”:

          Proms 1967:

          Hector Berlioz
          Beatrice and Benedict – overture
          Carl Maria von Weber
          Concertino for Clarinet in C minor/E flat major, J109, Op 26
          Alan Rawsthorne
          Piano Concerto No. 1
          Richard Strauss
          Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks
          Edward Elgar
          Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 in D major, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’
          Felix Mendelssohn
          Scherzo in G minor, from Octet, Op 20 (orchestral version)- additional item, not originally programmed
          Benjamin Britten
          Soirées musicales
          Henry Wood
          Fantasia on British Sea-Songs
          Thomas Arne
          Rule, Britannia!
          Hubert Parry
          Jerusalem (orch. Elgar)
          National Anthem

      • Maria says:

        Yes, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot bring the latest.

    • christopher storey says:

      Opera Orch Player : Your comment is absolute nonsense. I suggest that YOU educate YOURSELF

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      The line “Britons never will be slaves,” by Thomson, is a clear, conscious and callous promotion of the attitude of British supremacy that prevailed at the time of its writing. An attitude that resulted in the subjugation of nearly 500 million people along with some of the worst atrocities in modern history.

      The most apt comment upon this egregiously unwarranted sequence of unhistoric fatuities was provided by Robert Dalban in Michel Audiard’s commendably named “Un idiot à Paris”:

      Roughly translated as:
      “I’m a war veteran, a card-carrying socialist and a publican. Which is to say, I’ve heard my share of idiocies. But such as these, never!”

      (Original French:
      « J’suis ancien combattant, militant socialiste et bistrot.
      C’est dire si dans ma vie j’ai entendu des conneries.
      Mais des comme ça, jamais ! »

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Shallow and silly. You know, the entrepreneurial classes cannot tolerate all this rubbish.

    • Patricia says:

      Oh put a sock in it. You really are a twit.

    • James Weiss says:

      What absolute rubbish.

  • Miko says:

    Lnop is not an old tradition, so hardly iconoclastic to suggest slaying this dinosaur. Let’s leave it in just for one more year:

    Rule britannia will never ring out with as much unintended irony as this time:
    A decrepit little jumped up banana republic, ruled by some poundshop far right fourth rate wannabes, steaming towards a Brexit/covid crapfest of largely its own design.

    Open the popcorn, what’s not to like?

    Ps: look out for the thousands of EU flags outside, “patriots”. That’s where “the will of the people” 2020 will express itself.

    2021: chuck it in the bin. Chichi is spot on.

    • Culture for Ever says:

      Miko, the outcomes of the European Referendum and the 2019 general election are the products of democracy. If you disparage the cultural system because of the outcome I suggest that now is the perfect time for you to relocate to Hong Kong to try an alternative.

      • Miko says:

        Hitler rose to power through democratic votes. 2016 and 2019 were triumphs of dog whistle politics. Spot the similarity, “culture for ever”?

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Better, North Korea. There everybody thinks the same, dresses the same and behaves the same. It would suit you right down to the ground. Just be careful about your style of haircut!!

    • Caruso says:

      Please comment more often; I like your style!

    • christopher storey says:

      Miko : I don’t know whether you live in the United Kingdom, but if you do , I am sure you would be far happier elsewhere in some nation that is not a “banana republic”. And isn’t that an offensively discriminatory term in itself ?

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      Feel the hate.

      • Miko says:

        Only for dog whistlers like you, Sue. Everyone else gets my lurv

        • Wesley says:

          Nah, you’re just a Brexit Derangement Syndrome sufferer. But it’s ok – we Brits understand that those on the Continent don’t have the democratic hinterland that we British have had since the 13th century, and that you’re used to taking orders from authoritarian executives (preferably ones controlled by other countries). We’ve been watching the Continent and munching popcorn for centuries, stepping in when, like exasperated parents, we see that European heads need knocking together.

  • Mystified American says:

    “Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves! Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.” I adore this music, but the words of the chorus are unpleasant and offensive in the context of the history and the concepts of dominance expressed seem antiquated and irrelevant today. Is belting out these words together at the Last Night of the Proms really an accurate or desirable expression of British national pride? How about coming up with a new set of words that more accurately express British pride in today’s society? Or simply retire the song from this very high profile international event.

    • Jeremy Wardle says:

      ==How about coming up with a new set of words

      Yes, good idea. That’s more sensible

    • citicrab says:

      Are people really “belting out these words together” at the Proms? If so, two things come to mind: one, it must indeed be “a desirable expression etc.”, and two, British classical concerts patrons are much different from their American counterparts.

    • Leo Doherty says:

      It’s called censorship.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      It’s only one of the lines, but simply replacing “Britons” with either “humans” or “people” seems to solve things. Someone else can revise the other lyrics.

    • Allen says:

      If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. Problem solved.

      None of your business anyway.

    • Patricia says:

      Then there is Purcell’s Theatre Music, extolling Britain to “Fight and record yourselves in Druids’ songs.’ Clearly that must go, as the Druids were pagans. And Purcell, hmmmmmmm – White and British.

    • Jon says:

      It may be worth noting that it was the Royal Navy’s control of the seas in the 19th century that enabled it to bring an end to the Atlantic slave trade. It’s efforts began in 1807, but were ramped up in 1815, when the British established the ‘Preventative Squadron’ which patrolled the West African seas for the next 50 years.

      “The Royal Navy’s role in the suppression of the transoceanic slave trades represents a remarkable episode of sustained humanitarian activity, involving patient diplomacy and problematic wrangling over treaty arrangements, dangerous and exacting naval operations, and intense political debate at home questioning the cost and purpose of the patrols.”

      So the exhortation for Britain to ‘rule the waves’ had very positive benefits, even if those were unforeseen at the time of composition.

    • Eric says:

      Germany solved the offensive text problem by keeping Haydn’s tune and substituting the words of another stanza for Deutschland ueber alles.

    • Stereo says:

      And better than having that LGBT American creep singing at our LNOP

  • Gustavo says:

    PROMS sing-along whether or not:

    COVID rules the second wave!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    I’m afraid that someone will come to some kind of compromise, and keep the music while changing the text.

    • V. Lind says:

      Canada changed a couple of words in its national anthem a few years ago to make it “gender neutral.” I thought at the time it was unnecessary but harmless. I suspect if a very minor change could be made to Rule Britannia — there’s a challenge NL could set, just getting rid of the “offending” phrase without changing much else, including rhyme or meter — it would survive, as O Canada has.

      Both are prompted by the infantile insistence upon a political correctness whose assumption that it has reached the ultimate truth is about the most fascistic philosophy I could imagine.

      One day the tide will turn and people will manage to judge an idea on its merits, which may lean on rationality, decency and fairness rather than on the obeisance to any self-defined victim’s grievance.

      Meanwhile I would be outraged if a single element of the finale of LNOP were to be changed or excluded for some of these ephemeral whingers’ pleasure. God almighty, when are people going to stand up for their own beliefs, support their own traditions and history, instead of kowtowing over trivia? Not one person in a hall full of prommers, or any of those who listen at home and occasionally buy an album of LNOP, ever deconstructs that anthem. It is sung in full-throated joy and out of a sense of tradition, not any gloating over a historical wrong that has been righted.

      If a few words have to go, all right, but banning Rule Britannia would be the last straw in a long list of craven deeds by successive governments who have confused welcoming of newcomers to OUR countries with ceding our history and traditions to theirs. we stand to wake up in a country empty of statues, with numbered streets lest any name be associated with what may or may not be “wrong,” with no literature or music because attitudes have changed. It would probably be alluded to as a bleak house, except that author will doubtless have been expunged fro permissible reading matter.

      There comes a point where parents tell a child doing the same thing over and over, or pushing boundaries ever further, “That’s enough.” I think we’re there.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      That won’t be enough. It’s NEVER enough. You’ll see.

    • Gustavo says:

      I suggest using an Esperanto version together with a musical adaptation by Karl Jenkins.

      “Regulo, Britannia! Britannia, regu la ondojn!
      Britoj neniam, neniam, neniam estos sklavoj.
      Kiam Britujo unue, laŭ la ĉielo ordonis,
      Ekestis el la azura ĉefa,
      Ĉi tio estis la ĉarto de la lando,
      Kaj Guardian Angels kantis ĉi tiun streĉon:
      La nacioj ne tiel blasas kiel vi
      Siavice devas al tiranoj fali,
      Dum vi prosperos bonege kaj senpage;
      La timo kaj envio de ĉiuj.
      Vi ankoraŭ pli majestas,
      Pli timinda de ĉiu fremda streko,
      Kiel la laŭta eksplodo, kiu larmas la ĉielojn
      Servas sed ekradiki vian denaskan kverkon.
      Ne ridos, ĉi tiuj altrangaj tiranoj;
      Ĉiuj iliaj provoj klini vin malsupren
      Sed vekas vian sindonan flamon,
      Sed laboru ilian ve kaj vian famon.
      Al vi apartenas la kampara reĝado;
      Viaj urboj kun komerco brilos;
      Ĉiuj viaj estos la ĉefa temo,
      Kaj ĉiun bordon ĝi rondiras.
      La Musoj, ankoraŭ kun libereco trovita,
      Viaj feliĉaj marbordoj ripariĝu.
      Plej blinda insulo! kun senkompare beleco kronita,
      Kaj virecaj koroj por gardi la foiron.
      Regulo, Britannia! Britannia, regu la ondojn!
      Britoj neniam, neniam, neniam estos sklavoj”

      • Micaelo Cassetti says:

        Did you know that when Lehar wrote “The Merry Widow”, he was satirising one of the Southern Slav States?
        That doggerel above sounds suspiciously like Lehar’s “faked” Slavic dialect…
        Are we going to start taking a pop at what would have been Private Eye fodder at its time of writing.
        Esperanto… Pffft. Learn a REAL language that his it’s OWN literature, cuisine and traditions… Or take up a musical instrument.

      • Player says:

        Well, that trips off the tongue…

  • Leo Doherty says:

    Thomas Arne’s Rule Brittania, Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem and Elgar’s Land of hope and glory are signature tunes of brand GB&NI. The slave trade was abhorrent but we need to resist censorship.

  • Wurtfangler says:

    No need to worry. With this year’s conductor they probably won’t reach the finale anyway.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Interestingly ‘Rule Britannia’ was initially part of an anti-establishment piece performed in front of the then prince of Wales. Of course people with no sense of history and with an aching desire to be offended at the slightest thing will sign the petition. I would sooner concentrate on getting rid of slavery and forced labour in the world today of which there are millions of cases to be going on with.

  • George says:

    I am not from the UK. But of the most wonderful moments of my life was visiting the Last Night of the Proms and singing this song with thousands of people from different countries at the Royal Albert Hall, do many nations being united by having fun and enjoying themselves. The music is wonderful and I doubt anybody who enjoys this song is advocating colonialism today.

  • J Morris Jones says:

    A bit of trivia here – didn’t know this before: apparently Wagner wrote a ‘Rule Britannia’ overture in 1839! Not that often played, apparently.

  • Nigel Goldberg says:

    Oh please!

  • Anon says:

    Just signed—thanks for the heads up.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    Rule Britannia sounds very jingoistic. It would be a good thing if it is dropped.

    • V. Lind says:

      Recognise this?

      Aux armes, citoyens,
      Formez vos bataillons,
      Marchons, marchons !
      Qu’un sang impur
      Abreuve nos sillons !

      Traduisez, and get back to me.

  • Alan says:

    I wish the grown ups in the room would just say ‘no’.

  • Dave says:

    The elephant in the room is that it is the BBC, kow-towing to the Brexit party in all but name that now rules the UK, that would have to make this decision (which would have the gammons howling about the licence fee etc etc).

    It hasn’t got the balls.

  • Stereo says:

    Absolutely not.

  • John Humphreys says:

    Scrap the last scene from ‘Meistersinger’? Why not? Dodgy stuff with all that German nationalism. Remove everything which makes us ‘uncomfortable’ and we have no reference points – and in the case of the Proms last night would play into the extremists’ hands. Ridiculous petition – no intention of signing. Anyway there ain’t no last night of the Proms with all those right wing nutters singing their hearts out – Covid-19 has put paid to that.

  • John Reeve says:

    We do not wish to remove our ancient traditions or songs
    It our country and people come here and must live with them.

    • Stephen Maddock says:

      John Reeve Who are you suggesting has ‘come here’? And who are the ‘our’ in ‘our country’?

  • Patrick John Gordon Shaw says:

    Chi – Chi – DOES sound like something you might see in a zoo – should possibly stick to conducting her orchestra + rejoice in the fact that she possibly has citizenship in the ‘green + pleasant land!’
    NOTHING wrong with the Last Night of the Proms in its present form. Indeed I think it has flourished thus since before HER birth.

    • Stephen Maddock says:

      Patrick John Gordon Shaw that’s a pretty offensive comment in all kinds of ways but on the point of fact: the Last Night of the Proms in something like its current form dates back to the early 1950s – it was Malcolm Sargent (NB Not Henry Wood) who made the jingoistic finale an annual fixture. The Proms were already 60 years old by then, and Rule, Britannia was over 200 years old. So just as with the Colston statue in Bristol (late 19th century) and the statues of Confederate generals in the US (many dating from the 1950s), this is not a matter of unbroken historical traditions dating back to the time of their creators. We get to debate and decide today which parts of our past we choose to celebrate, and those choices carry meaning.

      You (and a few others on this post) could perhaps also reflect on whether white people (if indeed you are) telling people of colour what they can and can’t reasonably regard as racist is a good look or not.

      • V. Lind says:

        What about people of colour saying white people are inevitably racist? I have been in room after room, debate after debate, lecture after lecture, where that has been the message.

        I am not at all sure that the word “reasonably” is in play enough.

      • Steve says:

        It is a matter of art. Are we in favour of destroying things we disagree with? Well the Taliban were when they came across two thousand year old statues of Buddha which were “oppressing”them. Hardly a role model methinks.

  • Allen says:

    “Happily, the petition so far has gained fewer than 200 signatures.”

    Now soared from 191 to 197.

    Nothing to worry about.

  • JLF 82 says:

    I see that Chi-Chi also says of the song that “it’s presence serves to hold us back”, with the incorrect apostrophe on “its”. And she says relevant of our times, not relevant for or to our times. Good for her! Let me say on behalf of thousands of others how pleased I am to see the casual lack of good grammar. It is like putting the wrong note values on the stave. Doing away with these tired rules is a sign of contemporary relevance. We should all sign a second petition telling the excellent writers of the programme notes for the Prom concerts not to bother to check their copy any more.

  • Brian Jones says:

    What does BDS have to do with this – is there some sort of link? The Israel Philharmonic certainly hasn’t played at the Proms since 2011.

  • Don Fatale says:

    It’s rather like the Colston statue situation. Why does the establishment wait for people who are not invested in British traditions to push for something that decision makers should have been resolving many decades ago?
    As a country our identity is built upon so many antiquated customs and we get upset when anyone points out how antiquated and out of touch this is.
    I can live without Rule Britannia (more specifically the words) along with much else that occurs on the Last Night.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love the past, especially the music, but that doesn’t mean I think our cultural customs should not be altered to become more relevant and less of a cringe.

  • marcus says:

    Just tried to click on the link-says the petition is no longer available. Wonder what happened to it.

  • Jazz Man says:

    So what about “Land of Hope & Glory” – the words are “Wider still and wider, may your boundaries stretch”. – isn’t that contentious as well. The thread is as ridiculous and nonsensical as the post!!

  • Gustavo says:

    Why is British music so little universal?

    Even the Planets sound like Auld Lang Syne and Pomp and Circumstance.

    • Wesley says:

      Yes, I’m sure that’s why so many international conductors have recorded The Planets.

      I’m sure it’s also why there are so few internationally renowned orchestras from the UK and so many from France, Italy, Spain – oh, hang on a minute…

    • Eric says:

      As Anthony Burgess once said, “too many larks ascending”.

  • Novagerio says:

    What’s next? Forbid the Chopin “Black Key-Etude”?

  • Frederiek Van Bergen says:

    Right, let us better remove all crybabies

  • Pat says:

    Chi-chi knows what “culture” is relevant to our times and her “orchestra”is doing very nicely in “ Britains Got Talent” need we say more?

  • Herbie G says:

    Novagerio, you are absolutely right. The Black Keys etude should be banned immediately, but you have only scratched the surface of this. Have you not noticed that there are fewer black keys than white keys on a piano? This is a shocking manifestation of white domination over the black races. All our pianos should be destroyed immediately and new ones should be built with the colours reversed. (I have seen keyboards of very old instruments with that colour scheme, which just shows how the slave mentality has dominated keyboard instruments since the age of the British Empire.)

    Have you also noticed that in all musical scores there is more white than black on the page? Another evocation of outdated attitudes that have held back black people from progressing, achieving good educational qualifications and earning good salaries!

    This brings to mind an anecdote about Max Reger, whose scores have so many notes on them that a critic observed that, when composing orchestral works, he should do so by making white marks on black paper! Three cheers Max, for striking a blow for our hard-done-by bretheren – let’s raise a statue of him immediately.

    Don’t these morons realise that the issue here is the murderous brutality of the American police force, supported by a paraniod, illiterate, megalomanic fake president who is clinically insane. All these slavery-obsessed and statue-destroying hoodlums achieve is to take the focus away from that issue and arouse the animosity of the rational majority, as well as inciting the BNP to come out of the shadows, where they have been skulking for the past two decades or so, and into the streets.

    Beside the institutionally racist USA, this country is a paradise. Yes, of course there is prejudice here, but nobody will ever change that unless we introduce an Orwellian dictatorship where thoughtcrime is an imprisonable offence. However, during the past 60 years this country has enacted legislation to outlaw racist acts and ensure that our minorities enjoy equal rights. We have free state education, the NHS and a welfare state. None of these is perfect, but everyone has the freedom to live (largely) wherever they want and those of any colour, creed or political persuasion finding this country wanting in any way should find the best alternative and try living there.

    Our freedom includes the right to turn down the education offered to all and spend one’s life disrupting the classes, roaming the street or playing computer games at home. But then they can’t complain if the others achive the status of Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Marcus Rashford, James Cleverly and their like, who worked hard to follow their chosen careers.

    Until today, I would have included among these names Chi Chi Nwanoku, founder of the Chineke! orchestra – a magnificent band of non-white players who are playing works by non-white composers, and someone whom I have always admired. How disappointing, nay disgraceful, that she has now lent her name to this twaddle (nevertheless accepting the Order of the BRITISH EMPIRE to boot!). I remember when the BBC rightly sacked Mark Elder from the Last Night of the Proms for his political machinations but I fear that the BBC will, as always, kow-tow to this insanity. I do hope I shall be proved wrong.

    • Micaelo Cassetti says:

      A valid and interesting point re piano keys. However, on the concert platform, shiny black pianos seem to dominate! I fear white pianos may be associated with the likes of Barry Manilow (a great musician, judged by his own standards…) – and when did you last see a modern burr walnut Steinway?
      I think we must be told (off..), lessons must be learned (cont. p. 94)…

    • Steve says:

      Exactly and perfectly put. Also, the UK changed a 500 year legal precedent forbidding double jeopardy to finally bring justice to the killers of Stephen Lawrence. For God’s sake let’s give some credit for that.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    To be dropped because it was written at the same time as slavery was at its height. Goodbye Handel, too.

    • Allen says:

      Which slavery?

    • Anonymoose says:

      Not just for that reason, surely? I’m trying to recall a British patriotic song written by Handel, but my mind is a blank. Any thoughts? Would coronation anthems or the Dettingen Te Deum count?

  • Andrew Johnson says:

    Maybe – maybe not.
    But all this bollocks – and is it bollocks – is making racists from the moderates. Be afraid of the white backlash – be very afraid.