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'Rule Britannia' and Other Patriotic Songs Could be Dropped from Proms Over BLM Protests, Media Says

Patriotic songs are a favourite on Last Night of the Proms, which is organised and broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). However, this staple of classical music culture in the UK may soon see some of the nation's favourites removed from the line-up.

British patriotic songs could be dropped from the Last Night of the Proms amid rising Black Lives Matter protests and anti-colonial sentiment, reports claimed on Sunday.

35-year old Dalia Stasevska, who is poised to conduct the finale on 12 September, is believed to support the removal of national staples like Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia from the setlist.

A BBC source told the Times that Stasevska is a big advocate of Black Lives Matter and is seeking to modernise the event and provide a more inclusive spectacle following several months' protests against racism and symbols of UK colonialism.

"Dalia is a big supporter of Black Lives Matter and thinks a ceremony without an audience is the perfect moment to bring change", the source said.

Jan Younghusband, head of BBC music commissioning, said that the line-up which usually includes an array of patriotic songs is still being considered due to difficulties carrying out some performances.

"We have a lot of problems about how many instruments we can have. It is hard to know whether it is physically possible to do [Rule Britannia]", she said
"Some of the traditional tunes, like Jerusalem, are easier to perform … We also don't know if we'll be in a worse situation in two weeks' time".

Rule Britannia is typically performed by an orchestra of 80 musicians alongside a choir of 100 singers. Social distancing requirements, however, mean that this years Last Night of the Proms will be performed by a smaller orchestra of just 18 singers.

The songs are usually played to a large Union Jack-waving crowd at the Royal Albert Hall, but 2020's event will have no live audience due to the coronavirus outbreak.

BBC columnist Richard Morrison has called for Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory to be dropped due to them being"crudely jingoistic".  Writing in the BBC's Music Magazine he said that it would be "insensitive, bordering on incendiary" to perform the songs parallel to the Black Lives Matter protests - recently escalated due to the death of George Floyd at the hands of US law enforcement earlier this year.

Rule Britannia was written in the 1740s and is considered symbolic of the British Empire and navy during the colonial period. The line "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves," has often come under scrutiny due to the UK's involvement in the slave trade.

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