BBC backs down over decision to ban singing Land Of Hope And Glory during Proms

2 September 2020, 13:10 | Updated: 2 September 2020, 18:47

BBC has backed down over Proms songs being sung
BBC has backed down over Proms songs being sung. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

A select group of vocalists will now perform Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory at the Last Night Of The Proms, the BBC has confirmed - reversing a decision to feature just instrumentals of the pieces.

The broadcaster had earlier decided to play both pieces without voices following controversy over the lyrics' perceived historical links with colonialism and slavery, but announced on Wednesday it had decided to re-include them.

Live performances have been played at the Royal Albert Hall for the annual event - but, this year, without a live audience due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A BBC spokesperson noted the pandemic had resulted in a different Proms for 2020 that could not bring together "massed voices".

They added: "For that reason we took the artistic decision not to sing Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory in the Hall.

"We have been looking hard at what else might be possible and we have a solution."

READ MORE: Boris Johnson calls for end to 'wetness' after BBC axe lyrics to Proms songs

Instead, both pieces will now be performed by a select group of BBC singers in the Hall, while audiences will be encouraged to sing along from home.

"While it can't be a full choir, and we are unable to have audiences in the Hall, we are doing everything possible to make it special and want a Last Night truly to remember," the spokesperson said.

"We hope everyone will welcome this solution. We think the night itself will be a very special moment for the country - and one that is much needed after a difficult period for everyone.

"It will not be a usual Last Night, but it will be a night not just to look forward to, but to remember."

READ MORE: Orchestral version of Rule Britannia to be played at the Proms

Following the news from the BBC, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said he was "pleased to see common sense has prevailed" in a short post on Twitter.

The BBC's former director-general Lord Tony Hall had previously said the decision to play just instrumentals of Rule, Britannia! and Land Of Hope And Glory was a "creative" one - but later admitted that the decision to drop the songs due to their links had been a discussion.

The decision was made after Lord Hall was succeeded in his role by Tim Davie.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also weighed in on the discussion, saying the country was experiencing "an orgy of national embarrassment" about its history.

He said: "People love our traditions and our history with all its imperfections.

"It's crazy for us to go around trying to censor it. It's absolutely absurd and I think we should speak out loud and proud for the UK and our history."