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Pain, Proms, Park

What an eventful weekend! What a tiring weekend! What a painful weekend!

Pain. Some will, no doubt, say this was inevitable and they would probably be right. Friday evening I started to experience some nasty and constant pain in my right elbow. Having gotten little sleep I took myself down to the ‘Walk In Centre’ (what used to be Casualty or A&E before the cut backs) at Crawley Hospital first thing on Saturday morning. It was empty! It must be at least 10 years since I’ve been there and it has completely changed, the lack of queue being the most notable difference! That’s probably more a function of the time, though, 9AM on a Saturday! Anyway, tendonitis was the verdict. Too much typing. Rest it for a few days, take ibuprofen for the pain and inflammation. So, here I am typing was one hand, my off hand, and it is frustratingly slow!

Proms. This year Crawley Council, or whoever, decided against holding the now traditional Prom in the Park. Apparently they were starting to lose money on it. I’m not sure how, 12,000+ people paying £15-£20 to sit in Tilgate Park. Yes, they had to hire the stage and sound system but that’s got to be cheaper than the Albert Hall. Tilgate Park must have come for free and has a much bigger capacity than most concert halls. Then there’s the performers and site staff. The orchestra isn’t going to be much more expensive than at an indoor event with only a couple of thousand paying customers, is it? Then there is the money coming in from the concession stalls. I’m clearly missing something if they really couldn’t break even on the Crawley Proms. It’s a big shame but if the Proms aren’t going to come to us we’ll go to them…

Park. Hyde Park. Central London. To coincide with the famous Last Night of the Proms the BBC now organise a set of Proms in the Park concerts across the UK. The biggest, and closest, of which is the Hyde Park one. So up we trooped, on the train, to London Victoria. A ‘communications failure’ had closed the Victoria tube line (isn’t that the first sign you’ve lost an aircraft, spacecraft and so on?) so we braved the Circle and Piccadilly Lines! All was well and we exited the tube right next to the massive park (though we didn’t realise at first and had to ask a policeman…)

That’s when the fun really began! We queued up for about 20 minutes before someone came along the line telling us we were in the disabled only queue. There was almost a lynching! Our group wasn’t happy but we weren’t quite as murderous as some. We trudged off to find a much bigger queue and joined that, obviously 20 minutes later than we could have done if there were decent sign posts. This new queue didn’t stay a queue for very long before some official told us to stop queuing and join the throng that I thought were trying to queue jump ahead. Yes, instead of a neat couple of queues we became a disorganised crowd pushing down a funnel to a series of security check points somewhere at the front. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I imagine people with claustrophobia or crowd issues would have been greatly distressed. So far I was less than impressed with the organisation. Who’d have ever thought that Crawley would be more civilised than a Royal Park?! Fortunately things improved immeasurably once we were through the little more than cursory security.

Whilst we were erroneously in the disabled queue, earlier, another official looking person came along the line and told us we wouldn’t be able to take our fold-up chairs in (but didn’t tell us we were in the wrong queue). Worries on that front turned out to be unfounded and no issue was made as we entered – probably just as well given a large percentage of people had brought chairs, goodness knows what they would have done with them all! We set up camp a little way back, just to make sure no busybodies complained about us taking their view away. With half an hour or so to go we ventured off to find dinner, most of us stopping by the mobile fish and chips concession. At £4 for chicken nuggets and chips it was a little pricey but my hunger was such that it tasted more than worth it!

The venue had three vast screens that relayed images from the stage for those of us a few hundred metres back and before the concert started they gave a good number of trailers for upcoming BBC TV programmes. The new Robin Hood got top billing and CBBC programmes had the bulk of the time. Torchwood was nowhere to be seen. At least one BBC Three programme got a promo but my hopes were dashed. Come on BBC, isn’t it time to start the hype machine?

Anyway, I hadn’t gone there expecting any Torchwood references and nor was I expecting to see Chico or Chas and Dave! As with the old Crawley proms this one opened with an hour or so of pop music before the main event at 19:30. Ken Bruce hosted this warm up part. First up was Madness tribute band, One Step Behind. Next up, I think, was the real Chas ‘n Dave (and neither appear to have aged since the 70s!) The real crowd pleaser was Chico, though. I have to admit the former mountain goat herder isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself for comic effect!

Another man not afraid to make an idiot of himself is the host Terry Wogan who presided over the main part of the Hyde Park Proms to brilliant effect. It was the turn of the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Carl Davis, to entertain us with more traditional Proms material. I even recognised a few of the musicians, by face rather than name, such as Angela Gheorghiu and, later, Nicola Benedetti. They must really be superstars of the classical music world if I recognised them from past front covers of the BBC Music magazine!
That was good stuff and, although not perfect, the sound system used to relay the music from the far away stage was a lot better than at the past couple of Crawley Proms. We had a bit of John Williams with the almost topical Superman theme and also Klaus Badelt‘s excellent Pirates of the Caribbean theme. I didn’t pick up a programme and am useless at remembering names of classical pieces so I can’t tell you what else we heard but most was good indeed.

Then something strange happened. Lionel Richie. Toward the end of the main section of the Proms Wogan announced that Richie had been working with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Interesting, I thought, and immediately imagined this old pop music person had gotten into classical music, like Paul McCartney. I was therefore a little surprised when the Prom in the Park turned into something more like Top of the Pops! Yes, Richie just did some of his old tunes. The crowd certainly liked it, though, but I think we’d already had enough of such music after the likes of Chico and Chas ‘n Dave..! Never mind, it was then onto the live link-up with the Albert Hall for the finale of Last Night of the Proms.

I’m normally of the opinion that over the top nationalism is a bad thing, indeed fanatical nationalism is probably a close second behind fanatical religion (often closely tied) for causing the most death and suffering in the world, past and present. Nonetheless I am willing to suspend those fears a little, for a bit, during the last part of the Proms. God Save the Queen? I don’t believe in the existence of any gods and I don’t believe a monarchy should exist but what the heck – it’s a good tune and it gets a party atmosphere going. You won’t find me waving any Union Flags during these tunes (I’m surprised none of my companions have commented on this in past years, in fact, as I’d happily be waving a flag for all the non-nationalist tunes but not for these). That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them because I certainly do. In this case we had the usual tunes but instead of ending on the 1812 with a massive firework display replacing the cannons we ended on the national anthem and a few, rather muted by Crawley Prom standards, fireworks at the end. Maybe that is why Crawley can’t afford to do the Proms anymore – the huge firework display cost too much and they couldn’t get away with reducing to these levels!

All in all it was a very good event. The entry could have been organised better and I think the pop music should probably be left for the warm up but I’m probably in the minority on that one. It was good to see and hear some of the foremost musicians in the world on stage before us, no longer are they just faces! It was also good to have the likes of Ken Bruce and Terry Wogan as the hosts, they are much more entertaining than the average local radio personality that the Crawley Proms managed to dig up! Not that it wouldn’t be much appreciated to see the return of the Crawley event in future years…

Oh, before I finish up I should add that I whole heartedly agree with the Albert Hall conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Mark Elder, who (in an overly long speech before the end) complained about the ridiculous over reaction with recent security clamp downs on air travel. But that’s another blog entry!

Hyde Park Promns

2 Responses to "Pain, Proms, Park"

  1. Hobbit says:

    In defence of Crawley Borough Council, only 5,000 people showed up at the last Prom. As for the flag waving thing – we just figured it was one of your wierd foibles 🙂

  2. […] As for the last point ‘fine balance between public value and market impact’, that’s a tricky one. Or is it? Let’s not forget the mantra – we’ve already paid for the BBC content. Yes, if they make classical music available free to every Licence Fee payer that could well cut into sales of commercially funded classical music. This sort of music is a special case, I suppose, as anyone with an orchestra can put out a CD of the same music. The BBC has some excellent orchestras, see my Prom in the Park blog entry for more details, but who pays for them? Us! Commercial competitors will have to differentiate themselves in some way. That is no reason to restrict us to our own paid for content! […]

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