Saturday, September 10, 2016

Flag-waving in the worst possible taste

Yes, the Last Night of the Proms is upon us and the usual rows have emerged in the newspapers: is it a nasty chauvinistic flag-waving event or is it just a jolly party for people who have attended many if not most of the Proms concerts?

The only time I went to the Last Night was in the summer after my A levels when I had a season ticket for the second half of the series and, whoever was in the seats, the Arena and the Gallery was filled with people like me. That is, the second half really was just a party for people who loved music, went to the concerts and were celebrating the end of another successful series.

Since then, the Proms have gone from strength to strength but, in my opinion, unfortunately, the Last Night has become an institution on its own. There are people all over the world who are a little hazy what the Proms are but know for certain that there is a Last Night and it is wonderful or quite wonderful or whatever. The Proms in the Park all over the country is not a phenomenon I welcome - it erodes the quality of the music and makes it impossible to watch or listen to the Last Night in the Albert Hall. Still, many other people like the whole development and it is only one night of the year. I can ignore it all and usually do though I do listen and even go to some of the concerts. (Not the Arena any more but the Gallery sees my presence.)

This year another ingredient has been added to the brew of insane discussions: the anti-Brexiteers who are still fighting a lost battle. Various groups have raised money to buy lots of EU flags (because the Common Fisheries Policy and the European Arrest Warrant and the Common Agricultural Policy and legislation that can be initiated only by the Commission are essential to good music) to hand out to Promenaders. They can then wave them to their heart's content while everyone sings Rule Britannia to prove how much they hate nationalism and flag-waving.

The Guardian reports today that the plan seems to have gone ahead though how many of those blue flags with gold stars will be waved in a few hours' time is unknown. The comments made by the organizers (who do not care to give their names) are priceless in their stupidity:
In a statement, the organisers, who want to remain anonymous, said: “Music doesn’t recognise borders, religion, gender, age, status or creed and most orchestras, shows and music schools rely heavily on talented musicians from inside and outside the EU.”

They added: “Accordionist Romano Viazzani summed it up perfectly when he said: ‘Music is the universal language. It builds bridges and tears down walls’.”

On Saturday morning the team tweeted a picture of concertgoers with EU flags gathered outside the venue. They captioned the image: “First prom-goers arrive with EU flags in solidarity with musicians and music.”
Um yes. Musicians inside and outside the EU. So why do we need to wave EU flags and set up those walls and boundaries that the blue and gold flag signifies. And how does the Common Fisheries Policy fit in with music being international?

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