One event after the Last Night of the Proms last weekend has prompted a need (or maybe its better to call it a desire) to post an epilogue to this season blog posts.
First, some context is needed.
I did unexpectedly engage with the Last Night of the Proms on Twitter. It felt like fun at the time.
It was a bit like the old days with Eurovision. Everything was up for grabs then. We could laugh about it online. Nothing was off-limits. Then things changed (for the right reasons). We started seeing the human element in television. These were real people on stage. It wasn’t fair to be personal about them. Celebrate the experience of the event. Don’t poke fun at the people participating in it.
What defines good fun and bad fun is a reflection of where you are on the political spectrum. I’d still argue that referring to an oboeist’s striking breathing technique in the way that I did at the beginning of the Proms wasn’t a personal dig at him (why would I seek to do that?) but quite understand that others may well think differently. I’m OK with that too.
I also recognise that drawing attention to a selection of Prommers who attended the Last Night of the Proms with a collection of teddy bears (the bears are, I now understand, part of a fundraising effort for various orchestras) may break the unwritten rule for classical music commentators that says ‘never criticise the audience’.
I broke all of those rules this season. I surprised myself. I’m not sure whether I feel a bit dirty about that. I can see my intent behind the teddy bear reference however. The inclusion of the shot has an unintended (or maybe it was intended?) to the broader TV audience who join the Proms on the last night. It projects classical music fans as being a bit weird. Its inclusion effectively ridicules classical music fans. Or at least it plays into a stereotype.
But credit where it’s due, I did acknowledge the striking piece of television during the Last Night that pulled-down from the ceiling, down to the orchestra. I avoided hyperbole but showed enthusiasm when I said “Shitting Christ, that is a gorgeous shot.”
A few days later, one of the production team commented on the thread who it was operating the camera that night.
But a matter of seconds after that, another message from the BBC Proms TV producer behind the coverage popped up. “Nice big up for Dave. But, I’m surprised you follow this bore, Chris!”
Taken aback, I sought clarification by responding to the producer in question. When the exchange with the original commenter continued it seemed fairly obvious that describing me as a bore was, as I originally feared, exactly his intention.
The offending tweets from Chris Goor and Ben Weston were subsequently removed. The following morning I discovered that the producer had blocked me on Twitter.
I can see how I might be a bore. I don’t especially mind being called a bore. One piece of feedback from the ESC Insight website about a podcast series I made a few years ago pretty much said the same thing albeit with a slightly more charming description. Wing-back chairs, pipe smoke, and slippers are the words that immediately spring to mind. Far more amusing.
And I can see how my criticisms of the BBC’s Proms coverage on TV (and radio don’t forget) probably won’t have gone down that well amongst the independent production team behind it.
Communications and PR at the BBC had in recent years always adopted a more feisty approach to responding to criticism. But it’s only the past couple of years I’ve noticed it become something named individuals do (presumably proudly). This wasn’t a BBC staffer (unless of course the producer’s account was a spoof – consensus points to it not being so) and, given that the production company isn’t subject to the BBC’s social media guidelines by virtue of being an independent business providing services to the BBC, I suppose that means the gloves can be taken off whenever is deemed necessary.
What I’ve struggled with over the past couple of days isn’t the descriptor, more the action. That you’d respond to a member of the audience (that’s all I am) by wanting to be seen as insulting that individual to a colleague is pretty low-down. I may have been critical in my writing, but I don’t think I’ve been personal. That’s important to me.
But why the struggle? Because in that one tweet one man has done more to damage how I perceive the BBC Proms than any programme, off-kilter performance, presenter, or over-reaching personal expectation.
Because the action of posting that comment, the intent, and the implicit message behind it, showed contempt. All in response to a compliment about a camera shot.
Between now and next year’s season I’m hoping that unpleasant taste the observation leaves in my mouth will eventually pass. Right now I’m unconvinced it will. Maybe that was the point.