Saturday 20 July 2019

Identity politics and the BBC Proms

One of the major politico-cultural divides today, across our wonderful, largely blue planet, is that between proponents of identity politics and those opposed to identity politics.

The BBC, being massively 'socially liberal' in outlook, has gone full torpedoes ahead in tandem with the identity politics crowd, even to the extent that BBC Programme after BBC programme (pace Rob Burley) now proudly proclaims that they're going for 50/50 'gender' balance, and the BBC has recently openly advertised for BAME-only candidates for certain jobs.

I've had very little contact with the BBC's output over the past couple of weeks but on the rare occasions when I did listen to or watch their programmes I've heard a few of their linking, between-programme adverts for other BBC programmes and noticed, with renewed force, just how obsessively the BBC now pushes the identity politics angle.

Even the moon landing anniversary programme plugs I (incidentally) heard included an agenda-pushing race angle.

A re-dawning, newly-acute awareness of the BBC's 'woke', socially liberal, would-be-down-with-the-kids identity politics obsession can, of course, inflame a contrary, identity-politics-averse-yet-oddly-identity-politics-obsessed counter-reformatory tendency. That's definitely 'a thing'.

Thus, I worried myself about that after watching last night's First Night of the Proms, broadcast live on BBC Two before being shunted off to the outskirts of BBC Four for its second half.

I was determined to watch it because Janacek's glorious Glagolitic Mass is one of my (putative) eight Desert Island Discs and it was the climax of the concert.

So what to make of the fact that BBC TV had a glamorous not-too-old female presenter (no Miriam O'Reilly her!), a beautiful youngish female 'rising star' conductor (straight out of Countryfile central casting), an opening premiere by a glamorous young female composer (insufficiently famous as to not even merit her own Wikipedia entry), and commentary by a glamorous not-too-old female publisher? 

The mid-concert chat included a young, hip white man prepared to play the hipster goat and dance on national TV and a young, hip black man who immediately spouted the usual tropes about the glories of 'diversity' while sitting alongside the returning glamorous white not-too-old female publisher. 

(And these three, the BBC presenter announced, are to be regulars throughout the BBC's broadcast of the season.)

And, oh yes, the BBC broadcast last night inevitably wasn't in the slightest bit shy about promoting the fact that the female First Night conductor tonight was the first female conductor to conduct the First Night.

And nor has been the BBC News website: Conductor Karina Canellakis makes Proms history with stirring First Night has been its headline, focusing on the fact that "Karina Canellakis has made history, as the first woman to conduct the First Night of the BBC Proms.

Very BBC!

My review? 

Well, The First Night began with a world premiere - a quarter-of-an-hour choral/orchestral work about the 1969 moon landing by Zosha Di Castri.

I think posterity will agree with me in saying that, for all its and the BBC's efforts, it tried to amount to much but (alas) didn't amount to much.

Then came an underwhelming performance of Dvorak's lovely symphonic poem taming of a grim Grimm-like folk tale, The Golden Spinning Wheel. 

And finally, to redeem it all, a thoroughly passable performance of that magical, magnificent, muscular atheist Janacek mass.

But, returning to the original point of this rambling post, should such obvious BBC identity politics politicking, tick-boxing underpinning matter as far as the BBC's broadcasting of classical music goes?

Answers on a postcard please to Lord Hall.  Or to us below.

1 comment:

  1. It is unintentionally funny - listening to white middle class BBC presenters earnestly, no desperately, trying to keep a conversation going with Black rappers and consciousness-raising women poets on a programme like Loose Ends does give plenty of comedy potential.

    I'm guessing not too many Grime fans are tuning into Radio 4 at 6.15pm on a Saturday evening...but I'm probably just being racist.

    The BBC has basically gone full on in its attempt to destroy the Proms. The had an early attempt at destroying Last Night of the Proms but had to retreat. Then they decided to dilute its impact by making it a "music festival" rather than something centred on the classical music tradition. Pop and rock gets plenty of exposure elsewhere - it's classical music that deserves promotion by the state broadcaster through the Proms.

    I'm all in favour of classical music as something open to people from all races. But of course the quota-obsessed BBC just can't helping ruining everything with the quota approach.


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