The gender bias at the BBC Proms

Nicholas Kenyon needs to stop being so complacent (Not enough women? Well ... July 3). Instead, he should apologise and start addressing the gender bias at the Proms. The absence of female composers is indefensible, but the figure of 15% for female instrumentalists featured as soloists is in many ways more shocking.

The picture becomes worse if one focuses on British artists. Apart from two recorder players in a chamber-music concert, only one female British instrumentalist features as a soloist in this year's Proms, in 73 concerts. There are almost 20 British men. This is disgraceful; unlike with composers and conductors, it cannot be argued that there are fewer women to choose from. British women have equal representation at all levels of the music business, and most well-known British soloists are women. The two biggest-selling concerto CDs in the UK in 2005 were by British women and the Barbican's Mostly Mozart festival of 18 concerts features six female instrumental soloists, four of them British.

As things stand, the Proms do not reflect the reality of British musical life. They are certainly not the "best of a musical culture", as Kenyon claims. Yet they get a disproportionate amount of airtime and press coverage. It is scandalous that the BBC should support an event exhibiting such clear gender bias.

Letter from Chris West in today's Guardian

Photo is of Joanna MacGregor, one of the many female soloists not appearing at this year's BBC Proms. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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Music gets in the way of running BBC Proms


Pliable said…
I guess we should be thankful that at least Nicholas Kenyon has given the soprano part in the excerpts from Idomeneo at the Proms First Night tomorrow to the reassuringly feminine Barabara Frittoli.

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