20,000 EU Flags
20,000 EU Flags at the Proms
No-one should be surprised that music lovers want to express their solidarity with professional musicians over the issue of the damage Brexit will do to their livelihoods by shutting off the right to Freedom of Movement that has been so vital a part of our common European musical landscape for the past forty years or so. British musicians have benefited enormously from the Customs Union & Single Market and all music lovers in the UK have similarly benefited from the influx of players, singers and composers in the other direction. There’s no easy way to say this but Brexit is a disaster for the Creative Industries in general and music in particular. I and many others have written extensively* and in detail about the dangers for our sector, as have all our professional and representative bodies, details that I suspect most voters had no idea about when they participated in the 2016 referendum. I wholeheartedly support Prommers drawing attention to this by displaying European flags at the Last Night of the Proms. I wrote about the cooked-up fuss about the gesture at last year’s Last Night here: http://www.howardgoodall.co.uk/articles-press-etc/flags-at-the-proms-a-few-thoughts
And by the way, anyone saying that music and politics aren’t supposed to mix and that the pageantry of the Last Night of the Proms should be ‘just’ a concert reveals themselves, I’m afraid, as lacking in even basic knowledge of music’s history. They should acquaint themselves with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, based on a banned play proposing the subversion of the political order of its day, or with Beethoven’s similarly politically provocative Fidelio, or with the life and career of Giuseppe Verdi, who was an unabashed supporter of Italian independence, a political cause that he wrote often into his popular operas, or with Daniel Auber’s opera la Muette de Portici, a performance of which triggered the start of the Belgian Revolution of 1830, or with the socialist stage works of Kurt Weill, performances of which were disrupted by uniformed Nazi thugs, or with the hundreds of political pamphlets of Richard Wagner, or find out about Polish composer and prime minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski, or about Shostakovich and Prokofiev’s struggle with Stalinism, or, for that matter, enlighten themselves as to music’s pivotal role in the US’ Civil Rights movement. I could go on. Music – like life – is political. Music is internationalist, not isolationist, it celebrates freedom and progress, not authoritarianism. The waving of flags at the Last Night of the Proms is peaceful, inclusive and good-natured. That it should also carry a message of support for the musicians who make the Proms Festival what it is seems entirely justified and entirely in keeping with music’s long, colourful, open-hearted history.
*For more informaton: http://www.howardgoodall.co.uk/articles-press-etc/brexit-and-music-theme-and-variations
Howard Goodall CBE September 8th 2018