Founded in 1895, The Proms is an annual 8 week summer season of daily classical orchestral concerts. Each season consists of more than 70 concerts in the Royal Albert Hall (how posh) with the final night of Proms held in Hyde Park (for us unposh) which is what I attended. And I have to say, it was the single handed, most British pride I’ve ever experienced in the UK.
Arriving at Hyde Park later in the day, I was overwhelmed by the sea of Union Jack and St. Georges flags, hats, tshirts, face painting and even a Union Jack unitard. The first challenge of the evening was to find our friends and in a crowd of close to 40,000…it proved a challenge. But we settled in amongst the other ‘Prommers’ (yes this is a real term), on our picnic blanket, with glass of champers in hand.
The final night usually takes place on the second Saturday in September and The Royal Albert Hall tickets are highly sought after (even though you’re required to have bought 5 tickets to The Proms series to even be eligible). To accommodate people and to cater for those who are not near London, The Proms in the Park concerts were started in 1996. Initially there was only Hyde Park but more locations have been added in recent years. Each location has its own live concert, typically playing the countrie’s respective national anthems, before joining in a live big screen video link up with the Royal Albert Hall for the traditional finale.
Traditionally the BBC orchestra plays throughout the night with guest appearances by celebrities like opera singer Katherine Jenkins and even Barry Manilow. The only feature that never alters is that just before 10pm Hyde Park and all the other Proms in the Park events join in the live video relay from the Royal Albert Hall for the traditional communal singing of Rule, Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and The National Anthem. But the main advantage of being in the Park versus Royal Albert Hall is of course the incredible fireworks display.
Overall, fantastic music, but what most people come for is the genuinely Britishness of the event. To see the flags waving and people on their feet holding onto each other swaying to Auld Lang Syne at the end of the night – makes me feel very British…innit.