Monday, 24 August 2020

Fury as academics and musicians brand Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory 'racist imperial propaganda'

The furious row over whether Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory should be axed from Last Night of the Proms in three weeks' time deepened today as the centuries-old patriotic songs were labelled 'racist propaganda'.

The BBC is said to be considering dropping the anthems from the concert on September 12 amid fears of criticism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement because of their apparent links to colonialism and slavery.

The songs are best known for being a triumphant finish to the BBC's coverage of the Proms each year, when thousands of flag-waving 'prommers' normally descend on the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, West London.

Conductor Dalia Stasevska, 35, who is from Finland, is said to believe this year's ceremony without an audience is 'the perfect moment to bring change', but critics have accused the BBC of pandering to political correctness.

During a debate on ITV's Good Morning Britain today, freedom of speech campaigner Inaya Folarin Iman insisted criticism of the two songs was 'absurd', adding that they bring 'a lot of people joy and happiness'.

However Kehinde Andrews, a black studies professor at Birmingham City University, claimed the line 'Britons never, never, never shall be slaves' from Rule Britannia is 'racist propaganda' from the days of the British Empire.

His comments have been echoed by musicians Chi-chi Nwanoku, who founded the first BAME majority orchestra in Europe, and Wasfi Kani, founder of Grange Park Opera in Surrey, who are also uncomfortable with the line.

It comes as:

  • A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: 'We need to tackle the substance of problems, not the symbols';
  • One musician suggested replacing the songs I Vow to Thee My Country or The Beatles' All You Need Is Love;
  • Flag-waving crowds will be absent from the Royal Albert Hall during the 125th annual Last Night concert;
  • The BBC refused to confirm reports that the songs could be dropped, but said plans were still being finalised;
  • Live performances start this Friday with a piece written by Hannah Kendall, 36, a black British composer.

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