Published On: Tue, Aug 25th, 2020

BBC Proms: PM says time to stop ‘cringing embarrassment’ about UK history | UK News

Boris Johnson has said it is time to stop “our cringing embarrassment” about UK history after the BBC’s Last Night Of The Proms was thrown into controversy. 

Media reports had claimed the annual celebration of classical music was considering dropping “patriotic” songs Land Of Hope And Glory and Rule Britannia! due to their perceived association with colonialism and slavery.

“If it is correct… I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarassment about our history, about our traditions and about our culture, and we stop this general bout of self-recrimination and wetness,” Mr Johnson told reporters.

Revealing that he had been advised against speaking out on the matter, he added: “I wanted to get that off my chest.”

General view of the Royal Albert Hall in London during the Last Night of The Proms.
The Royal Albert Hall in London during the Last Night of The Proms

The Sunday Times reported the BBC had discussed dropping several traditional songs as Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska was “keen to modernise the evening’s repertoire and reduce the patriotic elements”.

It said the BBC was “yet to agree” the final programme but was aware about the “ongoing debates over race equality” following recent Black Lives Matter protests.

The broadcaster has since said orchestral versions of the songs will still be performed and the event – which is going ahead without an audience – will include “familiar, patriotic elements”.

The song Rule Britannia! includes the line: “Rule, Britannia! Britannia rules the waves; Britons never, never, never, shall be slaves.”

But some senior politicians raised concerns about the reported change, with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeting that he had raised concerns with the BBC.

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