Probably eligible for some disability benefit considering how many times it’s shot itself in the foot of late, the BBC has belatedly woken-up to smell the roses and has surmised it needs to act – and fast. How much difference a new DG can make to stop the rot is debatable; chances are his appointment has come too late in the day, but at least he appears to have hit the ground running. The roll-call of faux-pas made by the senior national broadcaster over the past couple of years is too comprehensive to go into here; but in an exceedingly short space of time, Tim Davie has reversed the ill-judged decision to mute the lyrics of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ on the Last Night of the Proms and has announced his intention to shake-up the corporation’s undoubted left-wing bias when it comes to its comedy output; he’s also declared that any high-profile BBC employees expressing a personal political opinion on social media will be reminded of the BBC’s commitment to impartiality before receiving the axe. Gary Lineker, beware – regardless of how virtuous renting out one of your spare rooms to an illegal immigrant may well be. For some reason, the old Harry Enfield sketch of a middle-class couple adopting a pet Geordie springs to mind, but there you go.

The Beeb has been controlled by the London-centric Woke elite for far too long, but Tim Davie’s appointment at the expense of the unremittingly useless Tony (Lord) Hall is no smooth transition. The new Director General has to confront a system that has seen the Oxbridge intelligentsia serve as recruitment material for the corporation for decades; all the talk of ‘diversity initiatives’ and diverting license fee funds into such idealistic schemes overlooks the fact that colour is not the issue – despite what the career-secure historian David Olusoga might say – but diversity of thought, opinion and class. Like the Labour Party, the BBC is not reflecting the views of those who continue to financially support it across the country, but instead obstinately echoes the enclosed bubble of the M25 clique whose insular outlook dictates the nature of its networked programming.

When it comes to comedy – one of the first targets addressed by Tim Davie – talk of left and right can be somewhat misleading in that many who are the butt of jokes on the likes of ‘Mock the Week’ wouldn’t necessarily regard themselves as on the right, anyway; sure, to the opportunistic North London-based Woke comedians that constitute the panellists on such shows, anyone who voted Leave or viewed the prospect of a Corbyn Government with dread is to the right of Hitler, but out in the real world the smug superiority of these unfunny hypocrites is regarded with indisputable contempt. The viewers (or listeners) aren’t as stupid as the programme-makers assume and can see through the patronising and condescending attempts at indoctrination via entertainment that the powers-that-be have been attempting for years. This is why campaigns along the lines of ‘Defund the BBC’ are gathering pace and why viewing and listening figures for shows aimed at educating the ill-educated masses are failing to set the ratings alight.

It’s worth remembering that the first electrifying rush of ‘Alternative Comedy’, with the likes of ‘Not the Nine O’Clock News’, ‘The Young Ones’ and ‘Blackadder’, aired when Bob Monkhouse, ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and Little & Large were still in production at the BBC. Forty years ago, the corporation was genuinely inclusive enough to encompass all concepts of comedy. This is something that has been lost along the way; perhaps the changing landscape of broadcasting over the last couple of decades has persuaded the BBC that the way forward is to become a niche broadcaster catering for one specific audience. However, this neglects the fact that the majority of the viewers and listeners that still broadly support the BBC belong to generations that remain loyal to the television set and the wireless; the youngsters the Beeb seems intent on fruitlessly courting tend to tune-in via different, less antiquated devices. This is why sacrificing one of the corporation’s few redeeming channels, BBC4, in the new DG’s overhaul would be a mistake; most BBC4 viewers, I suspect, still watch it on the telly rather than on the iPlayer. Ever since becoming an online-only incarnation, BBC3 and its appalling output (to anyone over 50) has completely suited its teen and twenty-something viewership with the unwatchable likes of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and so forth; but these are not products of loyalty to a particular broadcaster, and those who look forward to such trash will not do so if it’s only available via the TV. They’ll just find it elsewhere online. There’s a lot of it about.

Unfortunately, the arrival of any new Director General spouting grandiose statements that he intends to make sweeping changes to the BBC evokes memories of Alan Partridge’s nemesis Tony Hayes and his ‘evolution, not revolution’ maxim – to which Norwich’s most famous son responded with ‘I evolve, but I don’t revolve’. The threat of throwing out the baby with the bathwater is always present and Tim Davie needs to make sure the work that undoubtedly needs doing doesn’t damage the few remaining vestiges of what makes the BBC so unique at its best. Last night, I watched Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka deliver a mesmerising performance at the Proms – the kind of performance it’s inconceivable to imagine any broadcaster other than the BBC transmitting – and it reminded me just how vital it is that the BBC survives against all odds.

Ironically, considering it shifted the majority of its television output to the hideous ‘Media City UK’ white elephant in Salford in order to demonstrate its commitment to the regions, the BBC has summarily failed to uphold one of its traditionally strongest advantages over the competition ever since. All it seems to have done is export the enclosed London mindset to the provinces, no different from ex-pats patronising English themed bars in Spain. The effective cancellation of the multi-region ‘Inside Out’ series, in which local news stories are delved into with far greater depth than the 6.30 regional magazine shows will allow, has exposed how the Beeb has struggled to define what distinguishes it from Sky or ITV. Such programmes appeal to the precise audience the BBC needs to hang onto during Tim Davie’s regime; if it doesn’t, the arguments for its special treatment as a broadcaster will become even harder to defend.

As for the radio output, I do wish Davie would give Radio 4 a kick up the arse. The once-unmissable comedy strand of the station has become a platform for the worst excesses of Woke ‘humour’ of a kind that only provokes a titter amongst those who produce it; moreover, whilst I have no objection to general ‘diversity’ in voices heard on R4, how refreshing it would be for that word to include a wider spectrum than merely those who adhere to the Identity Politics dogma based entirely on ethnicity, skin colour and sexuality. Then there’s the current affairs issue, something that has caused the likes of ‘Newsnight’ and ‘Question Time’ to haemorrhage viewers this past year – your humble narrator included amongst them. Yes, there is a hell of a lot that needs doing; but Tim Davie appears to have made an encouraging and positive start. He might be up against the entire weight of the ‘W1A’ class at Broadcasting House, though someone has to at least try to take them on – otherwise, there is no justification for the BBC at all.

© The Editor


Lest we forget, this is an age in which Marks & Spencer can apologise on behalf of a brown-coloured bra because its name – tobacco – offended a customer for whom it evoked the spirit of George Floyd; yup, everything is racist in 2020, even lingerie. And if you reckon colour is merely skin deep, according to an edict issued by the British Library, that’s tantamount to ‘covert white supremacy’; mind you, I know someone who used to work at the British Library, and from what she told me of her former employers, they’re not quite as enlightened as this latest opportunistic PR stunt paints them. How surprising, as the preachers of Identity Politics are usually such open-minded souls. Yes, we all know by now that more or less every public body, corporation, company and cultural institution in this country is under the Woke yolk, so I suppose the situation becoming even sillier is a natural progression; but the thing with Identity Politics is that one can never give enough inches to the mob when there are so many miles to take.

Somewhat predictably, museums are again ‘reviewing’ their contents, debating whether to return some of their overseas artefacts to their country of origin because educating the public on historic civilisations and cultures is obviously racist too; the fact that a fair share of these exhibits emanate from some of the world’s most unstable regions means many could well have gone the way of Nimrud in Iraq had they not been ‘plundered’; but, hey, at least ISIS smashing them to smithereens isn’t racist. It’s so much better not to have wicked imperialists marching in and salvaging the neglected riches of the Ancient World when one can have home-grown philistines reducing them to rubble. The British Museum has now removed the bust of its 18th century founder from public display, and the institution’s director has also stated that we the British people need to revisit our troubled history; he’s German, by the way. Topf, wasserkocher, schwarz, as they say in the fatherland.

So, as ice cream manufacturers deliver lectures on illegal immigrants and Woke celebs line-up on the shore to embrace those fleeing the deadly war-zones of mainland Europe – though probably not giving over their spare rooms – I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised that Last Night of the Proms has provoked predictable debate in this fevered, f***ed-up climate. I remember writing a post on here either last year or the year before on how much I love the Proms, but I made it clear that I’ve never been a big fan of the Last Night; it bears little relation to the rest of the festival and gives a false impression of this Great British institution to the passing viewer. Considering the heavy investment the BBC has in the Proms, the jingoistic pomp of the Last Night must stick in the Beeb’s throat, so anachronistic is it to the corporation’s worldview – like granddad gate-crashing the last course at an Islington dinner party and treating the guests to a rant about ‘darkies’.

Last year, they attempted to drape the event in the rainbow flag and even opened proceedings with a new composition actually titled ‘Woke’ (instant classic); having ticked the LGBTXYZ box on the diversity checklist, this year the BBC is clearly having a crack at racism – and what could be more racist in the current catch-all meaning of the word than the self-indulgent, flag-waving patriotic excesses of Last Night of the Proms? Culturally governed as we are by those with an inbuilt hatred of our culture, I guess a good definition of institutional racism is the Last Night. A nation repeatedly informed it needs to carry collective guilt over the crimes of its long-deceased sons and daughters surely cannot expect the climax of the Proms to evade censure. After all, this is one evening of the year being handed over to a shameless celebration of a country’s past glories via a few irrelevant old tunes; it’s hardly a nationalistic call-to-arms heralding a declaration of war. It’s as harmlessly sentimental to the British as Republican ‘Rebel’ songs are to the Irish. However, one suspects the Beeb has been itching for an excuse to oust the traditional season finale medley of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Jerusalem’ for quite some time, and Covid-19 appears to have provided it.

Under normal circumstances, the Proms season would be in full swing by now. For me, it’s up there with Wimbledon as a summer signpost; but, of course, these aren’t normal circumstances. Just as many of the gaps in the TV schedules caused by cancelled sporting events were filled by rerunning memorable moments from the events’ pasts, the depleted Proms of 2020 has taken a similar approach. This year’s re-jigged festival has so far consisted of a kind of ‘greatest hits’ – with a smattering of new performances to follow shortly. Not that, as both listener and viewer, I’m complaining; the standard has been as high as ever, and if I hadn’t been informed beforehand that the majority of this year’s broadcast concerts were archive ones from the past 15 years or so, I’d probably be none the wiser. However, it would seem the Last Night will be going ahead as usual, albeit in some surreal, socially-distanced shape.

Initially, it was announced that the Last Night sing-along would be dropped, presumably because there’d be no chinless wonders packing the Albert Hall to sing-along. I wasn’t too bothered because I’m not especially keen on it, anyway. Then, following the expected outcry from the likes of the Telegraph and the Mail, the BBC said it would keep the medley, but only in the form of an instrumental version; again, I wasn’t too bothered because I think it works better as a purely instrumental piece, anyway. But I just knew the absence of an audience wasn’t the reason behind the decision. It would appear the scheduled conductor for the Last Night, who happens to be Finnish, had expressed his belief the event could do with a facelift – something to do with that renowned patron of classical music, George Floyd, I think.

At one time, opposition to such a move by the Beeb would be limited to the anticipated editorials from the Right side of Fleet Street; but in the internet age, everyone can have their say; and, as we all know, it doesn’t take much time to galvanise angry folk online. Promoted by the man who is the antichrist to the Woke brigade, actor Laurence Fox, a mischievous campaign was swiftly instigated to embarrass the Beeb by putting Vera Lynn at the top of what today passes for the charts; the song sung by Dame Vera was, of course, her version of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, and the response has seen the recently-departed National Treasure take over the entire top ten in Amazon’s best-selling songs. The Amazon music chart may or not be the actual top ten in 2020 – I’ve no idea; but along with an online petition signed by tens of thousands demanding the BBC reinstate the missing lyrics of the Last Night medley, the public reaction has highlighted once again the gaping chasm between those who pay the licence fee and those who impose it.

Considering there are calls from some quarters on both sides of the Atlantic to establish ‘all-black’ universities – segregated education based on skin colour; wonder why nobody’s ever thought of that before? – it’s no surprise the Identitarian obsessions of academia have spilled over into the workplaces that many graduates of the leading universities are steered towards. The arts and cultural institutions are overrun with them, with the BBC being perhaps the most visible example to Joe Public in that it is subsidised by the bigoted masses. If the Beeb wants to diminish its standing even further by indulging in another narcissistic bout of self-flagellation, let it; but the patience of its paymasters can only be stretched so many times before it snaps completely.

© The Editor


Say the word ‘tennis’ to most people in this country and – unless they avidly follow the sport from Grand Slam to Grand Slam – chances are the first thing that springs to mind will be a certain leafy London suburb. Forget the Davis Cup or the US Open; for the majority of Brits, tennis means the Wimbledon fortnight, probably the only time all year they watch tennis – almost as if it’s the only time all year that the sport is actually played, with the world’s leading players cryogenically frozen in suspended animation for the other 50 weeks. Similarly, say the word ‘The Proms’ to most people in this country and images of the Last Night will immediately appear – all that patriotic bluster, flag-waving, jingoistic chanting and…oh, hold on a minute; isn’t that what we get outside the Palace of Westminster 24/7 these days? Why do we need to rent the Albert Hall for it?

It’s only natural, I suppose, that the large swathes of the population with little (or no) interest in ‘Classical’ music associate the oldest and most prestigious musical festival these islands can boast with its annual finale. For one thing, it’s the only evening of an event that spans two months to receive live coverage on the nation’s most mainstream of TV channels, BBC1. BBC4 and – especially – Radio 3 are there from day one, but come the Last Night, the home of ‘Homes under the Hammer’ gatecrashes the party and takes credit for it. No wonder so many imagine the Last Night is all there is to The Proms when their sole exposure to it comes via the platform they lack the curiosity to look beyond.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Wood, prominent Victorian conductor and co-founder of The Proms in 1895. Inspired by a visit to the Wagner festival at Bayreuth, Wood joined forces with Robert Newman, manager of London’s newest and most impressive concert venue, the Queen’s Hall, to stage a ten-week season of ‘promenades’. Such events had their roots in outdoor performances given in locations such as the notoriously decadent Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, combining serious works with more lightweight popular material. By the late 19th century, indoor acoustics were regarded as superior and purpose-built arenas were also less likely to attract the kind of miscreants prone to wandering in and out of pleasure gardens. The intention, however, was never to make music elitist, but to keep it accessible to all; playing it indoors simply placed it in a more civilised and conducive environment.

Amazingly, Wood continued to be the main conductor and organiser of The Proms until just a few weeks before his death in 1944. By then, coverage on BBC Radio (since 1927) had expanded the audience for (and awareness of) The Proms so that its popularity enabled it to soldier on during WWII. At the height of the Blitz, the home of the event from its inception, the Queen’s Hall, was bombed beyond repair and Wood was forced to relocate operations to the Royal Albert Hall. The famous bust of him that is regularly seen on the Last Night was retrieved from the ruins of the Queen’s Hall. Despite the panicky BBC withdrawing its financial support (and orchestras) at the outbreak of hostilities, music – along with all of the Arts – was quickly recognised as a vital morale-booster, and the retention of cultural pursuits was promoted as one of the factors we were fighting for. The founding of the BBC Third Programme in 1946 was motivated by similar laudable aims.

After the War, gradual television coverage widened the audience of the event further, as did the arrival of the charismatic Malcolm Sargent as Proms Chief Conductor in 1947, a man who held the post for two decades. Traditionally, the Proms programme was to devote a different day of the week to a different venerated composer; under Sargent and William Glock (in the newly-created post of ‘Proms Controller’), the remit expanded to eventually embrace more avant-garde works in what was a contentious era for Classical as younger composers went off on something of a tonal tangent. By the end of the 60s, even the revolution in pop culture received the official seal of approval when experimental Jazz Rockers Soft Machine played, the first such act from outside the orchestral world to appear on the programme. The reputation of the event was by now international and it attracted most of the leading solo musicians, orchestras, composers and conductors of the post-war era; in the process, The Proms stayed true to its original aim, as TV and radio broadcasts gave far more members of the public than could be crammed into the Albert Hall the opportunity to see and hear the maestros and musical mavericks of the age.

I remember as a child that the front cover of the Radio Times was always given over to a painting of the Albert Hall either in the week the festival opened or closed; it was the latter, however, that served as a Proms introduction for those of us for whom Classical music was not part of the educational syllabus. And in a way, this was unfortunate, for the Last Night is an aberration in the Proms’ calendar, bearing little relation to the rest of the schedule comprising the previous couple of months. If the only time your average punter is exposed to The Proms is the Last Night, the impression given is not that of an inclusive, egalitarian celebration of the world’s greatest Classical works, but quite the opposite. I admit I was one of those punters once, recoiling from something that resembled a privileged, public school ball, midway between the Henley Regatta and the Tory Party Conference – lots of pissed-up posh people looking smug and begging for a punch.

I didn’t connect my early love of Holst’s ‘The Planets’ to The Proms because all I’d seen of it for years was the Last Night. It wasn’t until around 1999, when a bout of bored channel-surfing was interrupted by stumbling upon a performance of ‘Mars’, that I actually sat and watched a concert halfway through the Proms season. ‘Oh, there’s more to this than those chinless wonders bouncing up and down to Land of Hope and Glory, then?’ Damn right. Thereafter – and ever since – I’ve regularly tuned in to The Proms from July to September and witnessed some memorable musical moments along the way; the 2012 season in which Daniel Barenboim conducted all nine Beethoven symphonies stands out as a particular landmark, but there have been just as many individual soloists that have caught my ears and eyes – and I have to admit the clad-in-black female members of orchestras do have a habit of looking especially alluring on such evenings.

For some, the end of summer is marked by the final crack of leather-on-willow; for others, it comes when the clocks go back in October; for me, autumn officially begins when the Proms ends. You know summer’s over then. Tomorrow’s Last Night threatens to put an additional boot in by opening with a ‘Woke’ symphony. But for all the recent innovations of trying to broaden the event’s appeal by staging complementary concerts featuring non-Classical acts under the ‘Proms’ banner, for me it’s still the joy of seeing and hearing both familiar and fresh non-vocal masterpieces on a nightly basis for eight glorious weeks at the Albert Hall that defines this most special of Great British institutions. And, as the veteran music journalist David Hepworth recently pointed out, the price of tickets for many of the Proms concerts in the season is staggeringly cheap, certainly when compared to the astronomical cost of watching a leading rock or pop act going through the motions at the nearest soulless aircraft-hanger named after a corporation. Makes one wonder if Sir Henry Wood was right; could be Classical really is the ‘people’s’ music after all.

© The Editor


SummerRain didn’t stop play in the month that ended yesterday; July gave the nation its warmest spell of the year, even if the nation itself, like much of the world beyond Britannia’s borders, isn’t exactly basking in any sort of warm glow. A chill seems to be blowing around the globe that is considerably icier than your average summer breeze. Appalling acts of brutality committed in the name of Allah on European soil have complemented ongoing barbarous behaviour in the Middle East, whereas America appears to be engaged in a mini-Civil War, both on the streets and on the hustings.

Britain remains caught in an uncertain cycle of post-Brexit paranoia, whereby an increase in recorded ‘hate crime’ is being blamed on the Leave vote whilst the bad losers continue to stamp their feet to a petulant beat because they didn’t get the result they wanted. As an intended antidote to the daily diet of despair, tabloids and online news sites are concocting an abundance of ‘who-gives-a-shit’ celebrity stories that are phenomenally banal even for the silly season, whereas the electronic baby’s dummy that is the Smartphone has encouraged its most extreme fanatics to take idiocy to an unprecedented level as they participate in a mass treasure hunt for the chronically stupid.

The Commons may have officially gone on a summer holiday, but ‘no more worries for a week or two’ is hardly applicable where the two main parties are concerned. As the honeymoon draws to its inevitable close, Theresa May’s in-tray will keep her busy during the break; and having taken a scythe to the Notting Hill Tories, banishment to the backbenches will not silence the likes of Michael Gove, with or without prominent Brexiteers being entrusted with the task of extricating the country from the EU. Labour, of course, have internal concerns to contend with as the ugly battle between the Parliamentary Party and the membership is poised to climax with September’s leadership contest. North of the Border, Nicola Sturgeon is tentatively drumming up support for a replay of 2014’s Independence Referendum, whilst Northern Ireland’s border with Eire is once again a worry in the wake of showing Brussels the back-door.

The Welsh impressed at Euro 2016, even if their semi-final defeat showered the team in the usual patronising plaudits that accompany a national side punching above its weight (’They’ve made lots of friends’ etc.); meanwhile, England’s dismal performance at the tournament has led to the unexpected appointment of Sam Allardyce, a man none of the preening prima donnas promoting shampoo and clogging up the team would want to meet down a dark alley, let alone in a changing room at halftime. At least Brits can cheer Andy Murray as the sporting standard-bearer yet again, following his second singles title at Wimbledon; and though not quite a household name equal, Chris Froome’s third triumph in the Tour de France should ensure his place amongst the greats of Kenyan…er, sorry…British cycling. With the Olympics imminent – Russian participation or no – and an England Vs Pakistan test series evenly balanced, the back pages still possess the prospect of national morale-boosting.

Now that school is out for summer, there will be an unwelcome increase in brats wherever members of the public are forced to congregate; that they are permanently chaperoned these days means they’re harder to avoid than they used to be, and I confess I do harbour some sympathy for the parents faced with no option but to keep them entertained in ways their own parents didn’t have to. Staying indoors will be the default comfort zone for many children, even if it won’t help obesity levels as their tablets transfix them. Mind you, try to get the kids of today to watch ‘The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe’ or ‘The Flashing Blade’ in daily rationed instalments and they’ll look at you like you’re an idiot. Probably.

At least there’s always the Proms – a cultured refuge from the madness. As a child, I was only ever exposed to the Last Night, imagining that jingoistic celebration of the chinless constituted the entire institution. Ironically, the household contained numerous Classical LPs, including Holst’s ‘The Planets’, with ‘Mars’ being a favourite soundtrack for battles between toy soldiers. And I owe my love of the Proms to that same suite, a televised 1999 performance of which prompted me to catch the festival earlier than its trumpeted finale for the first time. Since then, the opportunity to escape to the Albert Hall via the cathode ray tube (or whatever lurks behind the TV screen these days) is one I’ve enthusiastically embraced every summer. I actually applauded at the end of Beethoven’s Ninth when Daniel Barenboim concluded his memorable season in 2012, conducting all of Ludwig Van’s symphonies; it was the next best thing to being there, and long may it stay that way.

I admit summer isn’t really my favourite time of the year, and this summer has been especially traumatic. As a child of autumn, I actually relish the changing of the clocks and the transformation of greenery into orangery; I welcome the first switching-on of the fire and the drawing-in of the nights; night should resemble night, not an extended afternoon. Cold is something you can keep at bay by wrapping up, whereas even shedding clothes can’t defeat heat; the resumption of slumber uninterrupted by horrible humidity is something that can’t come soon enough for me – though I do appreciate I’m in a minority, a minority that couldn’t care less about Hiddleston or Middleton or Pokémon Go.

© The Editor