BBC statement: ‘The Proms is not just all about classical music’

BBC statement: ‘The Proms is not just all about classical music’


norman lebrecht

March 10, 2021

Help publicise the Proms. It’s so much fun and not much to do with fuddy-duddy music.

From those ever-so with-it people who are running the BBC:



  • Bostin'Symph says:

    That’s one of the most depressing uplifting videos I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m all for the Proms being accessible, but the video seems to be a manifesto for what the BBC wants to do with the Proms. And classical music looks like it’s going to be sidelined at its own party. Sad!

    • Allen says:

      The Proms are already as accessible as can be reasonably expected.

      Let’s face it, this is not about accessibility, it’s about minimising the white/male/elitist/European/colonial/pro-slavery/any old BS content. The BBC is pushing its agenda as fast as it can. It will not cease until the Proms are unrecognisable, then the orchestras will go because they will not be needed.

      • Riccardo says:

        @allen – 100% right!

        Whenever an organisation sees a division that is prospering and succeeding – the failures think, “How can we mitigate our losses by associating ourselves with success?”

        And – sure enough, that will happen to the Proms.

        Question – why can’t it just be classical?

        Just be classical?

        WHY must is be musically and aesthetically diverse? Do we not have the opportunity to seek those arts elsewhere already?

        Beware Trojan horses.

  • A.L. says:

    Today’s cri de coeur: “Down With the British Monarchy”
    More offensive than anything is the odiously chauvinistic “Rule, Britannia!” which ought to be banned for good for its brazen imperialistic message. Anachronistic.

    • Matias says:

      Not sure what this has to do with the Proms, but perhaps the NYT should apply its considerable wisdom in finding ways in which the US could improve the quality of its own heads of state.

      • Andy says:

        Worry not, the forthcoming trial of Derek Chauvin will give the NYT plenty of opportunity to concentrate on real problems closer to home.

      • A.L. says:

        What does it has to do with the Proms? Easy. The anachronistic glorification of, and nostalgia for, Empire and its trappings. But not the consequences. Never the consequences.

        • Matias says:

          You must be a very humourless, small minded individual, failing to understand that the Last Night is just one concert, treated as an end-of-term party.

          It is not “nostalgia for Empire”, just a tradition which you clearly don’t understand, having its roots in opposition to the Barbary slave trade.

          Your call for it to be banned speaks volumes.

    • Geoff says:

      The writer responsible for that bit in the NYTimes also writes in the Guardian. Read it all.

  • Pianofortissimo says:


  • La plus belle voix says:

    Jumping up and down on stage dressed in a spacesuit was a stand-out moment and a career highlight? God help us all.

  • Luis says:

    Pretty pathetic but mostly useless. I understand that the BBC is nervous because it is trying to destroy it from politics. But it is regrettable that an extraordinary tradition like the Proms ends up undergoing a transformation that undermines its value in an almost embarrassing way. After last year’s regrettable episode, looking to blame for a female conductor without direct responsibility when what was being discussed was a revision of the nationalist topic, it suggests that the BBC is deeply disoriented. And that’s how your opponents want to see you.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Sorry BBC, but the Proms are known around the world as THE classical music event of the summer. When I’ve gone, I never, not once, went to hear jazz, rap, pop, Broadway or anything else. Poor Henry Wood! I wonder how many of the hip performers and workers even know who he was.

  • DML says:

    Sorry but the proms SHOULD be all about ‘classical’ music. ‘Popular’ music has myriad outlets! I’ve been involved in both but I hate the dumbing down of the proms – AND the BBC (which I also had some involvement in, many years ago).

  • Graeme Hall says:

    God how depressing. I’ve just renewed my TV licence but for the first time ever I did actually ask myself whether I wanted to or not. I watch next to nothing from the TV channels, Radio 4 has gone downhill and that just leaves Radio 3 which I do listen to, though since I have over 2500 CDs I could easily live without it.

    • Miranda Green says:

      I’ve been having exactly the same thoughts.

    • Stephen Diviani says:

      Hang on a minute, R4 during the pandemic has been a beacon of sanity and clarity, with plenty of excellent programmes like ‘Vaccinating the World’, ‘Science Now’, ‘More or Less’ and so on. I’ve avoided watching any television news because I can’t stand the way it privileges personal testimony/emotion over analysis. If it hadn’t been for R4 I think I might have gone bonkers. R 4 and the Spectator magazine kept me grounded when so many friends addicted to 24/7 television news seemed to be having breakdowns. So two cheers for the Beeb.

    • SVM says:

      A TV Licence is *not* required in order to listen to Radio 3 (whether live or catch-up).

  • Derek H says:

    Am I being too sceptical, or do others feel this video is manipulative and patronising?

    • La plus belle voix says:

      The Beeb probably just wants a few naïf students to stumble into the Proms office and work for nout.

    • Adrienne says:

      I find it extremely patronising, shoehorning in a few black faces so that BBC managers can have even higher opinions of themselves than they already do.

      The whole thing is grotesque.

  • Lex says:

    Perhaps it’s worth pausing a moment and thinking about what this video is trying to achieve and who its aimed at. People who already know about classical music, love classical music and work in classical music, don’t need a video to tell them what the Proms is (which by the way is clearly called a ‘classical music festival’ in the tweet).
    Yes, the video is quite heavy on the non-classical side of the Proms, but classical music is still there in plenty of the shots. This is a marketing job – surely the Proms is better able to market itself to a wide range of people if it has a wide range of people working in its marketing team? There are no doubt skilled marketers with limited classical music knowledge who could bring something to this role – I’m sure the Proms team already have plenty of people who are Classical experts. Any applicant worth their salt is going to do some further research and get a sense of the balance of content. Why not take this video for what it is – an effort to get a more diverse pool of applicants and see where that leads.

    • Will says:

      I agree with a lot of what you say, and we sorely need people to work in classical music marketing who can reach outside of our little world and bring new people into it – but is it necessary to mis-represent the content of the Proms to do so? The video says ‘Its not just Mozart and Beethoven’, but actually it mostly is, isn’t it?

      • Lex says:

        I agree that jarred a bit, but as someone who listens to lots of other genres too so did ‘ibiza music’ (which I assume was a reference to the Heritage Orchestra/Jules Buckley late night) and a few other things. Lots was a bit off-key to someone embedded in this world. Will it encourage some people to look at this role in more detail who would otherwise immediately have thought ‘that’s not for me’? Perhaps…and maybe that’s the point. If this were an ad marketing the latest edition of the Proms, I’d probably be jumping up and down about it along with everyone else, but I don’t think that’s quite the purpose of this. And look at it this way…it’s been one of the most-shared job ads I’ve seen in a while. You could call that a successful marketing campaign…

  • Duncan says:

    One of the main problems in this would be to define where exactly one would draw the line between what is acceptable in a Proms programme and what is not. For example, I think the Radiophonic Workshop Prom celebrating Daphne Oram and others was brilliant, and that might lead to, say, giving a nod of approval to a Prom by Gabriel Prokofiev with his turntables etc. And if we approve of that, where do we go from there? A Club Night at the Proms? These are just random examples that I think of as I write, but the real point is that music has fluid boundaries and it can be quite thorny having to work through this thicket of different styles and idioms.

    Like many of the other commentators on this blog I too dislike the encroachment of ‘pop’ styles, but on the other hand I loved the David Bowie Prom. The BBC certainly has ‘woke’ issues (I think that’s a terrible word!) which it is trying to impose and that is bound to have a backlash from those who feel the BBC’s is an over-the-top reaction. Yes I despair when I read that a Prom will be devoted to certain styles, but I also realise that music has to progress and that means concert programming too. The BBC Proms programming dept probably are in a no-win situation – damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Mind you, if I had to programme the Proms there would probably be lots of Elgar and Vaughan Williams and I bet that would ruffle a few feathers too…!!! I’d be out on my ear after one season!

  • Rob says:

    The BBC need to go and have a look at their own Proms Archive and see how John Drummond programmed the Proms in the 1990’s. It’s a classical music festival and that’s what the licence fee should be used for.

  • José Bergher says:

    This video artistically and visually is pure grotesque garbage from beginning to end.

  • hmmm says:

    Maybe some core repertoire classical music should be shoehorned in to the BBC’s various pop outlets- given how concerned they obviously are about wide representation

  • Marfisa says:

    The founder of the Proms, Robert Newman, said “I am going to run nightly concerts and train the public by easy stages. Popular at first, gradually raising the standard until I have created a public for classical and modern music.” It looks as though the BBC is going into reverse: lovers of classical music are being weaned away from the likes of Bartok, Debussy, Hindemith, Kodaly, Mahler, Rachmaninov, Schoenberg (to name a few of the modern composers Henry Wood championed), and trained to appreciate, by easy stages, Acid House or Slime Punk or Igbo Rap (credit Perhaps it is for the better …

  • Mystic Chord says:

    I suspect the BBC have an ulterior motive with this recruitment film.

    It is clearly aimed at young people without much work experience who will of course be only too glad to work for a nominal salary or the like in the hope that it leads them to ‘bigger and better’ jobs at the BBC and elsewhere. They are fairly blatant about this with the young lady at the start of the film.

    It is sad and neglectful that the BBC themselves don’t feel that the production of the Proms should be more prestigious.

  • The BBC are now telling us what type of music we are going to be permitted to listen to at the Proms.Well at least it will save me £3 per week when my licence fee is next due.

  • john Moore says:

    As Michael Winner might have said “Calm down dear!” This advert is purely designed to be inclusive, and the job would of course embrace all the diversity that is represented at the Proms nowadays and quite frankly the season is better for it. It may be worth remembering that the avant-garde jazz/rock fusion band Soft Machine played the Proms in the very early 1970’s. I can’t quite remember much outrage at the time, and we are 50 years on. Surely change is sometimes a good thing and to be welcomed! Music evolves and we must evolve with it. Mahler, Bowie, Meredith, CBBC, Tango …..This list goes on and on, just has music has and will do however much Sir Henry spins away wherever he is. I actually think he would approve of attempts to win a new generation of concert goers, by what ever means it takes!

  • M McAlpine says:

    Just downright embarrassing!

  • Miranda Green says:

    Shame! The Proms is no longer for me. There are so many venues for populist music. What about the people who actually love classical music. We are not monsters.

  • Donna Pasquale says:

    Well this advert was never going to get a ringing endorsement from Slipped Disc followers who ,lets be honest here, are in the main not interested in orchestral music.
    It’s an advert to attract people who want to promote and sell something and if the Proms gets a bigger and more diverse audience then these are the people that will achieve that.
    If you took the blinkers off it is an advert that has lots and lots of orchestral music featured.
    If they want to attract the Slipped `disc audience then it would be an advert full of boring men harrumphing that things are not what they used to be from behind their copy of the Daily Telegraph.
    Bravo BBC.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    Pathetic. Although I’m sure the Glastonbury Festival is planning a 5-day retrospective of the music of Roberto Gerhard…

  • Fleur du mal says:

    Such a relief it’s not all about classical music… What?

    This is a ridiculous PR move to get cheap labor from people who couldn’t care less about the premise of the festival, or about making musical performances of all kinds accessible. (Yes, there are festivals and venues created for most genres. No, the Proms focusing on music within the immensely rich and broad “classical” designation does not make it narrowminded, elitist, or monocultural.)

    The high point of working at the Proms was dancing around to nonremarkable music in an astronaut costume? I’m hoping that wasn’t truly the case for him, and rather something he was directed to say. Maybe the English National Ballet will have an opening for dancing astronaut interns.

    Pardon me while I face the insurmountable odds of finding any high caliber performances of non-classical music scheduled or broadcast throughout the world.

  • Jcf30 says:

    Setting aside the issue of whether the Proms is the place for ‘classical’ or ‘popular’ music (any distinction was certainly narrower in 1895 when the series began), what I find unfortunate about this video is that neither speaker is portrayed as being especially interested in any genre of music at all. Jessie by her own admission was only using the Proms as a career step to TV. (Joe, perhaps more worryingly for the BBC HR department, identifies a moment of literal anonymity as a career highlight.)

  • Ned Keane says:

    I think many are missing the point here. The job is not for artistic director of the Proms; it’s for (probably) young, media/creative types to join to promote the Proms. Hence, they need to attract people skilled in those areas, who may well be put off applying by classical music’s stuffy image.

    If candidates had a look on here to find out what kind of people they’d be communicating to, they’d probably run a mile…

    • Donna Pasquale says:


    • Fleur du mal says:

      There are plenty of young, media/creative types who don’t find classical music stuffy and work to make it more vital, central, and diverse. This ad, on the other hand, is perpetuating a damaging and exclusionary stereotype. This is not how you effect change in a culture unfortunately associated–sometimes validly, but more often not–with exclusivity and caste. Maybe they’d run a mile in an astronaut costume.

      This may not be a position announcement for Artist Director, but advertisements are understood to reflect an organization’s priorities and values.

  • Mark (London) says:

    The BBC have failed miserably to promote classical music ..not just western orchestral classical music in a meaningful way. So then it will just die in the form that it was designed ! Just another ‘popular music ” festival in the mix with many others ..that is how bbc sees it !

  • John Borstlap says:

    The video is a hilarious spoof to show the idiocy of the populist ideas about classical music.

  • Harry Collier says:

    Barbarians at the gates.

  • Chris Hawkey says:

    Dear me, who’s running the Beeb, 12 year olds?