Number 10 defends “quintessentially British” Proms

The prime minister has praised the Proms after one of his ministers claimed they failed to promote diversity.

Arts minister Margaret Hodge provoked controversy yesterday when she said the Proms do not do enough to promote community cohesion.

At an event organised by the the thinktank IPPR, Ms Hodge spoke of “icons of common culture” which everyone can be proud of.

These include the Royal Festival Hall and Angel of the North but contrasted with the Proms, which she said did not attract a diverse audience.

“All too often, our sectors aren’t at their best when embodying common belongings themselves. The audiences for many of our greatest cultural events – I’m thinking in particular of the Proms, but it is true of others – is still a long way from demonstrating that people from different backgrounds feel at ease in being part of this,” Ms Hodge said.

But Downing Street said the Proms had done a good job, working with the BBC, to broaden its audience.

The prime minister’s spokesman insisted Ms Hodge did support the proms, as does Gordon Brown.

“The prime minister’s position on this is quite clear. He thinks the Proms are a good institution,” his spokesman said.

Mr Brown thinks the Proms are a “wonderful, democratic and quintessentially British institution,” he added.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, the former director of the BBC Proms, also criticised Ms Hodge’s comments.

Speaking to the BBC’s World at One programme, he said the minister had been “absolutely wrong” to use the Proms as an example of a lack of inclusiveness and diversity.

Sir Nicholas said: “The whole Proms season, beyond just the celebrations of the last night, includes young people – Margaret Hodge mentioned Nitin Sawhney and we have devoted a whole evening to him in the past and to many other people who range far and wide around the world of music.”

Conservative leader David Cameron also hit out at Ms Hodge, arguing: “It is a classic example of a Labour politician just not getting some of [the] things people like to do to celebrate culture and identity and a great British institution.”