Monday, 4 June 2012

Cock-up or conspiracy?

Yesterday (June 3rd 2012) saw the largest pageant ever on the Thames, in celebration of HMQ’s Diamond Jublilee. One thousand boats took part, including 10 ‘Music Herald Barges’. Thirteen composers were also specially commissioned to write music for some of these boats. It was a triumph of detailed planning and organisation, involving many agencies, and went off safely without major incident. It also succeeded magnificently in it's aim to do something truly grand, inclusive and ambitious to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Hats off to Adrian Evans, Pageant Master, who must now be heaving a huge sigh of relief.

The BBC had spent days recording interviews with some of the composers and musicians, and thousands of pounds clearing use of the live music on the day itself with the Musicians’ Union. Not to mention the countless meetings between the BBC, MU, orchestra representatives and the Thames Diamond Jubilee Trust, one of which I had the misfortune to attend.

The weather was, unfortunately, atrocious – on the boat I was on (the Georgian) the cellist was completely soaked by the end,  despite being under a canopy – yet all the musicians and singers performed brilliantly and thoroughly entered into the celebratory spirit of the event.

And what did we get on BBC? What appeared to be an extended version of the “One Show” with countless celebs talking about the event people had tuned in to see, rather than the actual event itself. Hardly any shots of the music boats, apart from a little from the LPO, and not even a single name-check for any of the composers, let alone some music. They even managed to cut away at the opening of Tower Bridge for the Queen to pass.

To say that I am disappointed with the BBC is a gross understatement. By any measure, the coverage was woeful. If you were one of the million people who were there in person it was a fabulous event – but anyone watching on TV in the UK (and around the world) saw and heard only a fraction of the sights and sounds of the day.

On behalf of all the composers, musicians and singers who were royally snubbed by the Beeb yesterday I would like to recognise your contributions towards the success of the event.

And, from me personally, I have two words for the morons at the BBC who (either through incompetence or conspiracy) chose not to feature us in any meaningful way:  screw you.


So here are the composers and lyricist who were commissioned to write music which was premiered at the event:

Anne Dudley


Carol Ann Duffy

Graham Fitkin

Orlando Gough

Gavin Greenaway

Christopher Gunning

Howard Goodall

Adrian Johnston

John Lunn


Julian Nott


Jocelyn Pook


Rachel Portman

Stephen Warbeck

Debbie Wiseman



If you are interested in hearing the music from the Georgian, there’s a link on my website.

Edit: 21.27 BST - My further thoughts on this here:  Cock-up or conspiracy II

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I knew the BBC coverage was utterly dire, but I had no idea they were also depriving us of so much original and wonderful music. What a travesty their coverage was. We watched Sky instead, as they showed the flotilla, but as to music, all we had was that poor drenched choir singing so magnificently at the end, mascara running down the ladies’ faces, hair like rats’ tails, singing their hearts out - truly moving..

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  2. Thank you for providing this insight into what went on, and many commiserations. I can't add anything to the comment above but feel equally disappointed and outraged on your behalf and on behalf of all the other composers, lyricists and performers. Your analysis of the coverage is spot-on. The One Show is perfect as a post-work daily magazine but absolutely no substitute for informed coverage of and commentary on a major event.

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  3. It probably comes down to money, since airing this music internationally would have cost the BBC a fortune. Maybe it was never the intention to let it go out over the world's airwaves. A little more transparency from the BBC would be appreciated, and I am sorry to learn that we in distant South Africa didn't hear this great idea come to full fruition.

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    1. The BBC negotiated extensively with the MU before the event and agreed to pay the musicians for unlimited background use and 5 minutes featured per boat. The payment to composers would have been coverered by the PRS Blanket licence and so would not have cost the BBC anything.

      So money does not appear to be the reason.

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  4. The coverage was appalling in every way. Everyone I've spoken to, musician or otherwise, feels the same. The music would have given some substance to talk about instead of the drivel we got. Thanks for setting out your points so clearly, providing pegs on which I can hang my disappointment and.... anger - a surprise to find that emotion about the BBC. Auntie, Auntie, why do you provoke such strong feelings? I tend toward incompetence rather than conspiracy as the whole thing had an amateur feel, even from old pros such as John Sergeant and Clare Balding.

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  5. The boats passed by in the background like wallpaper while the Presenters presented everything except the actual event - Shameful!

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