Kicking the Prommers to the ground is poor form

17 Jul

BBC PRoms 2013Reading performing artists putting down their own audience never makes any sense to me. Chris Gillett wrote a blog post for Sinfini (the Universal Music financed quasi blogging effort. Apparently tasked to demystify classical music…). He  explains his dislike for older prommers and their rudeness. I have mentioned many times my experience from the two Proms seasons I worked at the Royal Albert Hall as a Steward on Twitter. And I will make it clear that I am not the biggest fan of the ridiculous “sporting” element introduced by the hunt/cattle run for the front of the arena. A lot of the hoggers are smelly, unpleasant people who are there more to be seen than to listen. But they are a minority. His assertion that by abolishing the season passes the crowd would change or be magically younger/different is naive if not ridiculous. Who has the time to go and queue for the Proms? Only the unemployed, students or the retired (sons and daughters of oligarchs are invited to Grand Tier Boxes). So the demographic for the front few rows will look identical season tickets or not.

His conclusion: Now, I’m no great fan of any movement that attempts to make concert-going more appealing to the young at the expense of the middle-aged and elderly. Why should the young have everything their own way? But I really think the Proms needs a shake-up, to break the stranglehold the ageing, die-hard prommers now have on this extraordinary festival.
Seems totally over the top and verging on the disingenuous.

The Proms may have many faults, including a ridiculous sense of self-worth but at least they are truly accessible with the £5 standing promming tickets. And I have taken the opportunity to see many great orchestras and soloists over the last decade for such a small charge. As a Steward I had to intervene many times when arena prommers verbally abused foreign visitors for not following their arcane rules, but this small minority that bullies newcomers exists in any closely-knitted group.  Using such a minority as a shorthand to project our own ideas about what an audience has to be, leads us to some very predictable conclusions.

Classical music circles get into a navel gazing mode rather frequently when they start pondering the older age of their audiences and overall access.The age of the audiences should not be the main object of fascination but the size. Orchestras, opera houses and concert halls should strive to bring in many people from whatever age and background. The senseless pursuit of a mythical group of youngsters that will instantly fall in love with classical and opera is a construct perpetuated by the very people who are meant to help make venues all-embracing in reach. Maybe the ulterior motive is that talking about age is much more convenient because it absolves them from responsibility in looking into their price structures and ticket distribution. Because the  main two reasons for not going to concerts is the failure of music education in schools and the unreasonable ticket prices at certain venues. With the recession biting, potential audiences are very price sensitive.

The Proms with offering nearly 1.000 tickets for £5 at every concert are giving a low cost entry to a world of music seen as unreachable or elitist. Can we celebrate this very fact and refrain from giving in to victimising the faithful punters that attend every season? Despite a wholly unsuitable venue and scorching temperatures the Albert Hall is near sold out for most events. Lets stop this self hating nonsense and wish Mr Gillett good luck the next time he steps on that stage as a comprimario or as a plaything for a new composer. Lets spread the love of good music and stop these nonsensical divisions and finger-pointing.

Update

It seems that pointing out to C G that ignoring the fact that he offended far too many people by being petty and presumptuous and avoiding to respond to any tweets addressed to him…made him unfollow and block me on Twitter. A little hissy fit that makes a great addition to this silly little attention seeking attempt from the grubby Sinfini site.

CG Twitter

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3 Responses to “Kicking the Prommers to the ground is poor form”

  1. tom lovelace 17 July 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    interesting post George 

    Onwards,,,

    ________________________________

  2. davidunderdown95 18 July 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Third time lucky, hopefully.

    I think (hope) I’ve always remained polite both with other prommers and stewards (no matter how sorely tried). I have wondered though how much training new stewards are given in managing the arena and queues? As I commented on Chris’s post, I do think some more proactive management would lower the temptation for regulars to try and take matters into their own hands. As it is, currently there is rarely a steward actually in the hall in the front left hand area, the fact that there is one outside stopping people coming up the front steps is useful to an extent.

    I think some sort of preference for particular areas of the hall is inevitable, and though some people do try to make it more complicated, it doens’t seem unreasonable that those prepared to queue longest have the greatest choice of where to stand. It just wouldn’t occur to me to come into the arena moments before a concert starts and expect that I might be able to stand right at the front where there are clearly already many people.

    There is also perhaps some scope for an exchange of ideas with Wimbledon, perhaps the only other event with a somewhat similar mass queuing culture (I wonder what would have happened a few Sundays ago if someone tried to push their way on to Murray Mount, or whatever name one prefers to use). At Wimbeldon everyone is given a printed number on joining the queue (so far, so like the Proms), but rather than being on a scratty cloakroom ticket, it’s on a nicely printed card, which also has all the queue rules (which are fairly basic and commonsense) printed on the reverse. No-one can reasonably claim they don’t know what’s expected of them then.

    • George aka OperaCreep 18 July 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      Apologies for taking three attempts…I wonder what nuclear meltdown has been occurring at WordPress HQ! Thanks for persevering.

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