I was in a spectacularly bad mood yesterday. Not angry, but unbelievably demotivated and de-energised. Or, unbelievable for non-spoonies, but hey!
There wasn't much on TV. An exception being the Last Night of the Proms. Ugh. For two months over the summer, the BBC sponsors a series of 80+ concerts covering a wide variety of non-commercial music. By non-commercial I mean music that isn't recorded, performed and marketed with the main purpose of producing profits for the record and other companies. Of course, these non-commercial forms of music have to provide a living for those who make it and cover the associated costs.
The Proms are funded largely from the television licence but few are shown on TV. All concerts are broadcast live on Radio 3; 3 or 4 concerts a week - barely a third - are shown live, delayed or recorded on BBC2 or BBC4. For as long as I can remember, the second half of the Last Night has been broadcast on BBC1, traditionally between Casualty and News-followed-by-Match of the Day.
For some reason, even in this age of remote controls, and time shift and on-demand TV, it seems to matter which channel a programme is on. I find this attitude intensely paternalistic to the point of being patronising.The first half, which often contains some decent music, being shown on BBC2 and the second half, which never contains anything of musical value, being shown on BBC1, is just ugly.
The consequence of this is that the numerous people who more or less define "TV" as what's on BBC1 and ITV1 actually think 'The Proms' are entirely about the vomit-inducing Last Night*. One would have thought that the phrase 'Last Night' would have been a clue, but obviously not.
Of course, I realise that, as with most things, many people don't pursue the thought any further and so it doesn't matter.
However, there are people who see the phrase 'Last Night of the Proms' and, rather than asking 'Are there other nights?' decide to go into an ill-informed, ignorant rant. It's a bit like when I decided to condemn the Edinburgh Festival as being a militaristic glorifying of slaughter that rode roughshod over the millions of people thrown into poverty by Thatcher. I was thirteen, so can be forgiven for thinking that the televised Edinburgh Military Tattoo was synonymous with the Edinburgh Festival.
I sometimes enjoy the LNoftP, generally the first half more than the second. It depends a lot on the programme, and to a large extent on the singing soloist. I wasn't drawn by the programme and as the week and the day wore on, so did the realisation that I don't actually like Renée Fleming. I didn't see her star turn before the interval, but I ended up catching her in all her awfulness screeching her way unmusically through Rule Britannia, which is awful enough to start with.
Ah, Rule Britannia...
Every year, the unimaginative right-wingers roll out some trite cliché about patriotism, without ever expanding on what patriotism means. Something about being proud to be British, without giving any reason why.
I think it may be something about being born somewhere in or near a geographical area whose temperate climate and helpful geology allowed people several hundred years ago to do more than just subsistence farming (same also goes for Northern France, much of Germany, the Low Countries and areas of Central Europe).
This freed up time to pursue other activities such as philosophy and engineering which contributed to the society which exists now for these non-philosophers/non-engineers to demonstrate their superiority to people in arid or cold climates whose ancestors struggled to eke out a living against the odds. Yeah, makes me well proud!
Even worse, is the caricature that is televised. The television cameras focus almost exclusively on a small number of people at the front of the arena and an even smaller number in the Grand Tier boxes. I don't have a clue who these people actually are or what they do with their lives, but the mind-numbingly dull repetitiveness of showing the same apparently upper-class twits year after year hammers a home a message that is clear to most non-attendants and is totally at odds with the purpose and reality of the Proms - *This is not for you*.
It doesn't matter how often Nicholas Kenyon/ Roger Wright or Uncle Tom Cobbley talk about the cheapness of tickets and 'accessibility', the one image that the BBC unleashes on the mass undiscriminating audience is 'This is for a small number of social inadequates whose parental money has bought them into a world we don't want you to share'.
I think it's truly horrible. It puts people off going to 'The Proms' because they get anxiety attacks about 'dress code'. For every other Prom, the Dress Code is...whatever. (I tend to favour light cotton trousers and an equally light cotton top, and usually take a cardigan for when I'm waiting at bus stops afterwards; people in evening dress tend to stick out like sore thumbs). The perception is of a club, where admission is only if you fit the bill. The reality is far from that.
Even more depressing is that it is the same music - more or less - year after year. Throw in a couple of pieces, and then go through the same old tired old routine. And this is basically the only music of any genre that gets performed on 'Prime Time' BBC1 nowadays (apart from lip-synching to a pre-recorded track for the chat shows and other commercial advertising slots that a small selection of mainstream commercial pop/rock artists are permitted to do).
Any suggestion by someone to change the format would be met with howls of outrage. As I don't go to the Last Night party, I have no right to intrude on other people's fun. It's a tradition that's been done for years so must continue to be done because it's a tradition that's been done for years. I'm ashamed to be British. I don't have to watch it.
I am probably 'quite posh'. Both my parents are graduates and I grew up in one of the most prosperous areas of the country***. I went to a Grammar School and onto a 'Russell Group' University filled with Oxbridge rejects. I passed my twenties working for an organisation that characteristically recruited people of a remarkably similar background. I don't feel the urge to adopt an artificial strained accent or dress in a certain way in order to project my imagined superiority, but, otherwise, I think I fit neatly into 'quite posh'. I find the image of the Last Night repulsive and alienating, a club to which I don't wish to belong, so I can only imagine how it comes across to many other people.
This year I only watched about twenty minutes, which was really twenty minutes too much, in between some reasonably good but hardly memorable films.
*Back in July, a conversation with someone who had obtained tickets somewhat at the last minute for the Simon Boccanegra Prom inspired a comment form someone who said they 'always' go to 'Last Night of the Proms' of their local garden centre, or whatever. It was the wrong context for me to reply what I was thinking 'You think I care?' or to attempt a tedious explanation of the significance (for us) of Simon Boccanegra.
**I'm not even sure what bits of British I am. I clearly include Irish; there is a my bogus claim to Polynesian (because of my ancestor who was born the daughter of ex-convicts on Norfolk Island); and family myth and legend includes French Hugenots and Spanish Armada. Recent TV viewing has led me to wonder if there is traceable Norman or Anglo-Saxon. I would love to do a DNA test that can indicate whether this is so. Or indeed if they can actually identify any pre-Saxon or pre-Roman Britishness by DNA! It would help me determine whether or not I'm British and thus, how 'proud' I ought to be.
*** Altrincham & Sale West invariably features in the top ten of the most prosperous Parliamentary constituencies