BBC rules out live audience at this year’s Proms

BBC rules out live audience at this year’s Proms


norman lebrecht

August 14, 2020

The BBC has issued final details of its makeshift, 2-week Proms to the BBC Music magazine.

The Proms will take place in the Royal Albert Hall but no effort will be made to admit even a handful of Covid-free, fully distanced audience members.

Considering the heroic efforts to stage mini-festivals with audience at Salzburg, Lucerne, Glyndebourne and elsewhere, this appears to be an excess of caution, if not a dereliction of tradition. The Proms are, first and foremost, about the audience, not the venue or the corporation.

Full details here.



  • Emil says:

    I really don’t understand the frantic search for an audience at all costs. 100 people are dying of COVID a day in the UK; the pandemic is still not under control, and the government seems completely uninterested in doing anything to bring it under control (apparently, opening bowling lanes is more of a priority).
    To open the hall would bring in heavy costs while budgets are slashed and not bring about any real enjoyment (see the excellent Alexander Chance’s blog post here about a Gesualdo Six concert: It’s ludicrous to imagine that bringing in 100 or 200 spectators in RAH would provide any kind of Proms atmosphere. What it would do is put staff and spectators at risk.

    The only way to reopen halls and other social spaces is to bring the pandemic under control. But the government preferred giving up and burying its head in the sand, and now we’re stuck with a pandemic and no music.

    • Allen says:

      “100 people are dying of COVID a day in the UK”

      Can you provide a source for that figure please?

    • Kretch Tango says:

      Thank you Emil. Concerts will not be safe until we have a vaccine and everyone has been vaccinated. Are people somehow not aware that we are in a deadly, devastating, terrible, and terrifying pandemic? Wear. A. Mask.

    • Andrew says:

      The actual figure is 18 deaths according to today’s official statistics on That’s people who died WITH Covid but not necessarily OF Covid. Time to get life back on track instead of this relentless doom-mongering depression that simply kills the economy, hope and people.

      • Mock Mahler says:

        “WITH but not necessarily OF”: I’m reminded of an exchange in ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. Brewer is counting up the number of people he has killed.

        Einstein: You cannot count the one in South Bend. He died of pneumonia.

        Brewer: He wouldn’t have died of pneumonia if I hadn’t shot him!

      • Alan says:

        Well said. As we celebrate VJ Day I am horrified at the cowardice I see in the UK every day.

      • Emil says:

        The UK government’s data is rife with inaccuracies and outright lies. Just yesterday, over a million tests disappeared from the data. The day before, 180 deaths were added to the tally (and the fact that there is still no comprehensive testing occurring suggests that the data should be taken with a big grain of salt).

        So 100 might be a rounding-up, sure, but 18 is a ridiculous undercount.

      • anon says:

        Andrew is broadly correct. It is my understanding that, in England, anyone who dies within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis is deemed to have died of COVID-19. It is an improvement on the previous methodology for England (which did not have the 28-day limit), but it is still a crude measurement.

        The official figures for the UK and its various subdivisions are published at:

        A glance at the graphs demonstrates that although cases are rising, they are still well below the peak in April, and they should be understood in the context of significantly greater testing (and a decreasing *percentage* of positive test results). Moreover, the present rise in cases is *not* being matched by a rise in hospital admissions (this suggests that COVID-19 is becoming less dangerous than it was a few months ago).

        A lot of medical professionals and epidemiologists are arguing that levels of immunity are probably high enough to prevent a massive second wave. Some go so far as to argue that there are regions that may already have herd immunity:

        Finally, leaving aside the question of whether or not London is nearly at herd immunity, one has to question whether the anti-COVID-19 measures may be costing more lives than they are saving. For example, there is no doubt that the NHS’s decision to suspend a lot of non-COVID-19 work is resulting (and will probably continue to result) in an excess of cancer deaths that could have been prevented/delayed by prompt diagnosis and/or treatment. It reminds me of the old medical cliché:

        “The patient has died, but the operation was a complete success.”

        Returning to the matter at hand, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the largest music venues in the UK. Its amenability to social distancing is about as good as it gets anywhere. Lots of spaced-out public entrances, ample space for queueing in the immediate vicinity (despite some idiots having determined that it is no longer “safe” for the Arena queue to stretch along Prince Consort Road… but there is always Kensington Gardens on the other side), and considerable flexibility in the seating/standing arrangements (especially in the Arena and the boxes). It is absurd that the BBC is not going to permit even a small audience.

      • Miko says:

        The deaths lag 4 weeks behind infection. Over 1000 a week over last 5 days (est 5k in real terms)…and schools havn’t gone back yet.
        This disease is devastating to many thousands who do pull through, many with life changing organ damage.

    • Miko says:

      It’s worse:
      David Pickard (director of proms) is a Tory sycophant who is hell bent on pleasing his masters at the DCMS by ensuring those last two weeks (and especially the LNOP) goes ahead. Safety of performers not an issue: corner cutting to satisfy “editorial” (aka political) diktat.

  • Dr Huw says:

    Seems a little unfair to judge yet. The UK Government has only green-lighted socially-distanced indoor performances this morning.

    Agree that even getting, say, 1000 people safely in RAH would be magical at this time. Come on Auntie!

  • Concertgoer says:

    They might wish to rule out purple lighting too.

  • Rob says:

    The BBC know how to put on a show… for themselves.

    Land of covid and quarantine, mother of the free
    How shall we extol thee, and who’s paying the licence fee?

  • Ellen Owen says:

    At least the Last Night of the Proms promises to be a bit more civilised than usual without all those dreadful jingoistic songs and flags.

    • Micaelo Cassetti says:

      So hopefully no nauseating “Freude schone gotterfunken.”
      Have just acquired Glorious John’s (Italian father, French mother, and a true cockney!!) recording of Elgar 1 from 1970 Lynn Festival.
      I ADORE Europe (lived ten years in CH and A) , but no shame in being Anglo-Scot!

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      People having a bit of fun, you mean?! Oh yes, gotta put a stop to that. Why shouldn’t they all be as miserable as you?

      You know it makes sense!!

      • Amos says:

        Please feel free to have as much fun as you like milling about with like-minded pandemic deniers. The only restrictions are no masks and no social distancing. Enjoy!

    • Micaelo Cassetti says:

      Any Prom season without that tited “Freude schone Gotterfunken” would be much welcome too.

  • Amos says:

    Why do so many contributors refuse to acknowledge that the spread of an infectious viral disease is geometric not linear. Given that the virus is still active and testing with rapid turnaround non-existent except for the few special individuals the likelihood of exacerbating the problem is too great to warrant in-person indoor concerts. Great you’ll spread 1000 people in a space that usually accommodates 5 times as many but entering/leaving the hall and the risk to the players makes it unwise. Is the concept of sacrifice, especially in the US & UK, completely forgotten? Please no more that this is just like influ A.

    • V. Lind says:

      Thank you. For heaven’s sake, it would be very risky. And the rewards would be minimal. Leave it out — live performance at the Proms is not on this year. It does not matter what “other” places are doing. Look at the Mariinsky. Recommend that as a model?

      I live far from London but a lot of YOUNG people caught the virus here recently. They are the ones in pubs and restaurants, which are petrie dishes for infection. And they go out and infect others, innocently enough.

      Would you attend? I wouldn’t.

      • Amos says:

        It appears that the problem has been exacerbated by the fact that Brits can’t travel abroad for summer holiday and have inundated beaches at home. According to CNN on-line Brighton had to request people to stay away and clear tons of refuse from beaches. Pictures from St. Ives showed people shoulder to shoulder most without masks.

  • Miko says:

    Papadum papadum papadum papadum Papa dum, dum, dum, dum, DUM, DUM, DUM, DUUUM……Land of hopeless Tories etc (ad lib, ad infinitum).


    Fact is this is entertainment, its just not that important and certainly not worth risking lives for. The BBC are right to be cautious, as we should all be about mass gatherings until there is a vaccine in place that substantially reduces the risk of serious illness. Until then we have the radio. Fine by me

  • Barry says:

    Fine, you allow it for one, you allow it for all. Truth is, the majority of the population dont care anyway. Last night is just a jolly for a load of privileged students out on the lash.