Culture minister criticises Proms
LONDON (Reuters) - Culture minister Margaret Hodge stirred up a storm on Tuesday by criticising the annual promenade classical music concerts in London's Albert Hall as not inclusive enough for a modern multi-ethnic society.
The Last Night of the Proms each September sees hundreds of concertgoers in the hall and across the road in Hyde Park waving flags to patriotic songs like "Land of Hope and Glory," "Jerusalem" and "Rule Britannia."
But challenging the arts sector to better reflect modern Britain, Hodge said they were reaching too narrow an audience.
"The audiences for many of our greatest cultural events -- I'm thinking particularly of the Proms -- is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel that they are a part of this," she said in a speech to a London think tank.
The right-leaning Daily Mail described it as an "extraordinary critique of an event long viewed as one of the highlights of the cultural calendar".
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quick to express his support for the summer-long programme of concerts.
"This was not meant to be an attack on the Proms," his office said.
"In the view of Margaret Hodge, the Proms are a wonderful, democratic and quintessentially British institution which do a fantastic job to promote serious culture to millions of people and the Prime Minister very much agrees with that."
The BBC, which organises the concerts, said it stood by them.
"We are proud that the BBC Proms are world renowned for the way they combine excellent classical music with reaching the widest possible public audience," a spokesman said.
In her speech, Hodge praised other institutions for "creating the icons of a common culture that everybody can feel a part of" including the Angel of the North statue near Gateshead, Cornwall's ecological Eden Project and radio and television soaps including "Coronation Street" and "The Archers."
She said newly introduced citizenship ceremonies for new migrants taking British nationality should be held in historical buildings.
She also suggested the 500th anniversary next year of the accession of Henry VIII -- famed for his six wives and split from the Pope -- could be used as a pad for a wider debate on national history.
(Additional reporting by Katherine Baldwin; Editing by Steve Addison)
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