Last night audience in Belfast too polite to complain about lack of Rule Britannia and BBC takes this as acquiescence

Baritone Gerald Finley and conductor Sir Andrew Davis during the traditional renditional of Rule Britannia on Saturday. But it was not shown on the screen in Northern Ireland. Screengrab from BBC
Baritone Gerald Finley and conductor Sir Andrew Davis during the traditional renditional of Rule Britannia on Saturday. But it was not shown on the screen in Northern Ireland. Screengrab from BBC

On Monday I wrote of being at Proms In the Park at Titanic slipways in Belfast on Saturday, where the Northern Ireland audience was deprived the Last Night ritual from the Royal Albert Hall: Rule Britannia.

My article attracted republican abuse and ridicule, with particular amusement at my use of the word deprived.

There were plenty of Union flags being waved by the Belfast crowd, as is increasingly evident at the Northern Ireland event. The audience loved the traditional rendition of Land of Hope and Glory, but there was no Rule Britannia. Picture William Cherry Press Eye

There were plenty of Union flags being waved by the Belfast crowd, as is increasingly evident at the Northern Ireland event. The audience loved the traditional rendition of Land of Hope and Glory, but there was no Rule Britannia. Picture William Cherry Press Eye

But that is what it was: we were nothing less than deprived of one of the highlights of the ‘last night,’ which is a magnificent rendition of Rule Britannia — always led by one of the great contemporary singers.

In a follow-on story the BBC said that the NI crowds know they will be getting a different night to London and implied that they have come to expect it.

They said: “The BBC Proms in the Park concert in Northern Ireland has always offered our local audience a diverse mix of live performances from home grown and internationally renowned artists, as well as some televised Last Night of the Proms moments across the evening.

“People attending the concert here in Northern Ireland are largely aware of this and it has been this way since it began locally in 2002.”

I believe that that is a misleading comment. My contention is that localising is fine up to a point, but the only typically ‘last night’ classic that Belfast was given, in a three hour local concert, was Land of Hope and Glory.

The growing number of people in Belfast who are turning up with Union flags would, I bet, love Rule Britannia.

Some years ago barely anyone in the Belfast concert turned up with a Union flag — perhaps half a dozen — perhaps fearful of being seen as sectarian if they did.

I suspect people are fed up with treading carefully in this way and now far more people wave the flag, in the spirit of the ‘last night’.

But they are too polite to complain at the fact that Belfast has been almost entirely stripped of any vestiges of ‘last night’, and so the BBC takes this as acquiescence in their butchering of the Albert Hall footage.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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