Posted by: secretperson | September 16, 2008

Proms – not Racist Afterall

After Margeret Hodge’s ridiculous criticism of the Proms last year for being not “diverse” enough, the Guardian’s Sarfraz Manzoor want to see for himself. Despite feeling uneasy at the start, he came out enjoying it. He concludes

There was a time when the Last Night of the Proms was the dominant version of Britishness, and in that guise, it is not surprising it made some feel uneasy. That is no longer true in today’s multicultural Britain. No one complains that the London Mela was excessively Asian, or that the Mobo awards are predominantly black, so does it even matter if the last night is overwhelmingly white? It would be wonderful if more non-whites were in attendance, if only because they would get a chance to hear some fantastic music; that more do not attend is hardly the fault of the Proms. But by the end of the evening I am convinced that, far from being anachronistic, the last night embodies so much of what I, and so many children of immigrants, love about this country. The evening is a celebration of Britain and music, two things I am happy to champion. But rather than being unpleasantly jingoistic it is benign, eccentric, impassioned and good-natured: the best of British.

I head home, Elgar echoing in my head, my heart filled with hope and not a little glory.

So next time some well meaning do-gooder white politician tries to be offended on other’s behalf just ignore them.



  1. “But rather than being unpleasantly jingoistic it is benign, eccentric, impassioned and good-natured: the best of British.”

    Eccentric? We saw nothing eccentric in it. Would this writer have said that if he’d attended an event held by an ethnic minority group? We doubt it.

    Patronising little… Gruniad writer. And, as usual, devolution inequalities do not exist – and he puffs his chest up and goes all “British” – something we find highly offensive.

    The bloke’s a twit – in our humble opinion.

  2. Hmm… I can’t help thinking that if I emigrated I would expect a “dominant culture” to be in place, although I would certainly hope to be treated with respect. And I wouldn’t belittle the “dominant culture” nor call it “eccentric”. I would probably have emigrated to the country I chose because I liked the culture – not because I expected it to frament and become “multi-cultural” because I was there. I absolutely abhor racism, but I do think that people – regardless of origin – have a lot of trouble striking the right balance. Is it right to belittle a minority? Of course not. Is it right to stereotype and call the majority “eccentric”? Of course not.

  3. I can see how you’d take offence at the word eccentric, but I take it as a compliment. Jeremy Paxman in his book on The English identifies eccentricity and its celebration as particularly English. It is emblematic of our individualism that the eccentric individual is celebrated.

    I still think the article is right. He isn’t (give or take the choice of word eccentric) insulting the Proms, or expecting it to include some Bollywood dancers, Chinese Dragons, Jamaican Steel Drums or whatever ‘diversity’ Hodge had in mind.

    I don’t think devolution inequalities were upmost in his mind in the article. Though they often are for me. I did notice that they had four ‘Proms in the Park’s so England had a seperate representation, as well as being the host for the main Proms. If only the government would organise the same way.

  4. Sarfraz came to England when he was three, as it happens, Donovan. The uneasiness of the Proms might be the rule britannia big britain stuff – which is rather distasteful if your are of Pakistani or (like myself) Irish heritage due to the whole Empire thing. I’d much prefer it if Sarfraz felt he was English rather than British. Unfortunately, people interpret “English” to mean exclusively WASP.

    It seems to me that eccentric is the nicest description someone can give you – who wants to be dull and boring? Give me eccentrics anyday! Another put-down is “little Englander” which seems a far better thing to be than a “big Britisher”.

  5. “Little Englander” – a badge we wear with pride. We’ve never felt part of all that Empire stuff. There’s a lot of English peasantry in our lineages and it seems to us that these folks spent a lot of time fore-lock tugging and being fed a load of bull by the “British” establishment.

  6. Yes we can all be little Englanders in the original sense of the word. Building a new Jerusalem is preferable to ruling the waves!

    I do sometimes wonder on the Irish theme Charlie raised, why British Unionists don’t campaign to bring the Republic back into the UK. It would seems consistent. Stronger together, weaker apart and all that.

  7. Well, British Unionism isn’t about consistency…

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