The Proms begin today, July 19, perhaps the quintessential British cultural event, held each year in several venues in London between July and September, though most notably at The Royal Albert Hall.
The word proms is in fact a shortening of the term Promenade Concerts, a cultural phenomena which had its origins in 18th century London, which took place in pleasure gardens where the spectators were allowed to move around the orchestras. The word promenade is a borrowing from the French language, meaning to walk.
Music for the masses
In the 19th century this style of concert moved indoors as well, leading eventually to the establishment of ‘The Proms’ on August 10 1895 at the Queens Hall, Langham Place by the well known impresario, Robert Newman.
The idea was to offer the experience of classical music to the general public, with lower ticket prices in an informal setting. It has to be said that the idea worked, with a comprehensive schedule of performances spanning over two months.
However, the Proms do have their detractors. For instance, I have heard it said more than once that they are too English. Whilst there is certainly a great deal of flag waving, a cursory look at the famous ‘Last Night of the Proms’, will reveal flags from all over the world.
What is more, much time and energy has been put in to diversifying the content, with the inclusion of world music, as well as folk music from all over Great Britain and Ireland.
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019
Rook on the roadside straight ahead
you step aside casually
only just avoid my wheels.
Is that why I smile at the mirror
see you promptly step back
to continue to pick and prod
and pull at roadkill entrails
some straitjacket driver provides?
Like the crow, the raven, the jackdaw—
few are as bright as you, so dark
in colour and reputation
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019
Walk with me
into the grey breaking dawn
where that sticking ridge of blue –
an English blue
rolls on into soft distances
and strange dancing names
Stand with me
by those set whispering stones
in a steadfast line –
a sore English line
of rasping pipes and howling socks
mouthing our memory
like a warning to tomorrow
a land forlorn to all but itself
Then help me to bury him
not on some crying strand –
in firm English land
where hallows’ calls are grounded
our grief laid open
in the whitening bones of heroes
on this high scoured hill
copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019, 2011
first published in ‘Poetry 24’ June 23 2011
There used to be an event, commencing in the late 1950s, famously called ‘The Spalding Tulip Parade’ in south Lincolnshire, England.
Every year much time and money was spent on creating a series of floats decorated with tulips to parade around the small Lincolnshire town, sponsored by local and national businesses. Tourists flocked there every year from many parts of the country and beyond.
Sadly those days have long gone now. However a ‘vestige’ of this former glory still remains in the numerous church flower festivals which still take place in early May.
I was particularly impressed this year by Donington’s flower festival. The explorer and cartographer who essentially mapped Australia, Matthew Flinders, was born in Donington in 1774. Recently his remains were discovered and there is a move to bring them back to Donington – you could almost feel the air of anticipation at this prospect.
Today many strong links remain with Australia; there are numerous visits from ‘down under’ too, both sides very keen to keep up and improve the cultural associations.
Let’s hope his remains return home soon and that a tasteful setting is created for the memory and legacy of the great Matthew Flinders of Donington, Lincolnshire.
Lychgates, also sometimes called resurrection gates, are a curious English (though not exclusively) phenomenon.
The name derives from the Old English word lych, or lich, meaning body, referring to entrance to the churchyard though which the body of the deceased was carried. This was seen as the beginning of the path towards resurrection by being buried in holy ground.
In medieval times, signs and symbols carried a lot of weight as most of the population were illiterate. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to think that signs and symbols don’t carry as much weight today. We just have to read and understand them.
English crime fiction author, Milly Reynolds celebrates England’s national day, which, rather conveniently also happens to be Shakespeare’s birthday.
Milly’s books simply could not be more English!
So, to anyone who thinks about England, has English roots, or who would like to recognise the positive side of this small country, which has contributed so much to the world – have a great day!
© copyright David F. Barker 2013
This is the cover of Milly’s new book, ‘Death for Art’s Sake’, soon coming out on kindle, and later on smashwords.
Eighth book in the Mike Malone series, this time Mike finds himself drawn into a macabre murder, all in the name of art…!
image © copyright Milly Reynolds 2013