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Downing Street on Proms row: PM believes in tackling substance not symbols


By PA News

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Downing Street has waded into the controversy over the Last Night Of The Proms.

The BBC is said to be discussing whether to drop Rule Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory from the finale.

The Sunday Times said organisers fear a backlash because of the perceived association the traditional anthems have with colonialism and slavery.

Now Downing Street has entered into the controversy, while Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he had written to the BBC over the issue.

The Prime Minister believes in tackling the “substance” not the “symbols” of problems, a Number 10 spokesman said.

“This is a decision and a matter for the organisers of the Proms and the BBC,” the spokesman said.

“But the PM previously has set out his position on like issues and has been clear that while he understands the strong emotions involved in these discussions, we need to tackle the substance of problems, not the symbols.”

Culture Secretary Mr Dowden said that “confident, forward-looking nations don’t erase their history”.

He wrote on Twitter: “Rule Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory are highlights of the Last Night of the Proms.

“(I) Share concerns of many about their potential removal and have raised this with (the) BBC.

“Confident forward-looking nations don’t erase their history, they add to it.”

The audience enjoying the BBC Last Night of the Proms, at the Royal Albert Hall (PA)
The audience enjoying the BBC Last Night of the Proms, at the Royal Albert Hall (PA)

Dalia Stasevska, from Finland, is conducting the Last Night this year, with soprano Golda Schultz and the BBC Symphony Orchestra performing.

Actor Laurence Fox, who regularly criticises the BBC, wrote: “I feel so honoured to be British and part of the incredible and diverse modern nation we have become.

“Without the past, we wouldn’t be where we are today. I wish the BBC would stop hating Britain so much. #DefundTheBBC”.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage wrote: “So the BBC may drop Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory from The Proms because the Finnish conductor is too woke. Why not drop her instead? ”

The BBC said in a statement: “We are still finalising arrangements for the Last Night Of Rhe Proms so that we are able to respond to the latest advice in regards to Covid-19 and deliver the best offering possible for audiences.

“We have announced that conductor Dalia Stasevska, soprano Golda Schultz and the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform at the Last Night Of The Proms this year. Full details will be announced nearer the time of the concert (September 12).”

Wasfi Kani, chief executive of Grange Park Opera in Surrey, told The Sunday Times she would support the removal of the songs.

“I don’t listen to Land Of Hope And Glory and say ‘thank God I’m British’. It actually makes me feel more alienated. Britain raped India and that is what that song is celebrating,” she said.


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