20,000 EU flags to be handed out at the Last Night of the Proms

Pro-EU demonstrators activists hand out EU flags to concert-goers outside the Royal Albert Hall in London on September 9, 2017 ahead of the Last Night of the Proms concert

Anti-Brexit activists are to hand out 20,000 EU flags at this year's Last Night of the Proms after sparking anger with a similar stunt last year.

Remain campaigners claimed a publicity victory in 2017 when BBC TV pictures showed a sea of blue and gold stars at the traditionally patriotic event, with Nigel Farage accusing concertgoers who waved them of being in denial about Brexit.

And next month activists are to up the ante, handing out 20,000 flags - 13,000 more than were distributed last year.

The EU Flags Proms Team, who are behind the stunt planned for September 8, said they were doing it to raise the issues caused by Brexit to musicians, the majority of whom did not want to leave the EU.

In a statement, they said: "In 2016, following the European Union referendum, a number of prommers were concerned in case the Last Night was hijacked and used as a jingoistic celebration of Brexit.

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"So a group of music lovers crowdfunded a large quantity of EU flags to be waved alongside the Union Jack. We were keen to demonstrate that it is possible to be patriotically British at the same time as maintaining a European and internationalist identity.

"We raised £1,175 from 60 supporters in just 28 days, and our flags were enthusiastically welcomed by the Last Night audience. In 2017, we more than doubled our £2,000 target, raising £4,218 from 248 supporters.

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"So on September 8, 2018, for the third year running, the EU Flags Proms Team will be at the Royal Albert Hall, handing out 20,000 free EU flags to members of the Last Night of the Proms audience.

"We hope that the EU flags will be a timely reminder to the audience, the musicians and those watching the concert all over the world: music is a universal language which unites people, breaks down barriers and promotes communication, understanding and peace."

The group is spotlighting how Brexit will seriously damage the music industry in the UK. In particular, they say, freedom of movement and visa-free travel within the EU are vital for touring musicians and their support staff. Once Britain leaves the EU, it will no longer be possible to provide stand-ins for sick performers at short notice.

TV pictures of last year's concert, conducted by Sakari Oramo from Finland, showed large numbers of EU flags being flown inside the Albert Hall alongside union flags.

Many concert-goers held union flags and EU flags together as they sang along to Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 and Jerusalem.

But the display angered Farage, who said at the time: 'These people are still in denial over the referendum result. They are trying to make it all about them instead of a great concert.

"The British people want to leave the EU no matter how many flags they fly.'

The Daily Express reported before last year's event that Leave.EU leader Arron Banks had paid out £5,000 for British flags to counter the blue tide of EU standard wavers, although there was little evidence of that coming to fruition.

Earlier in last year's prom season, campaigners who unfurled large EU flags over balconies in the auditorium during a performance which included Beethoven's Ode to Joy, which has become an EU anthem, were ordered to put them away by venue staff.

A BBC spokesman said at the time: 'The BBC Proms is a music platform, not a political one, with the Last Night of the Proms offering a celebration of two months of extraordinary music making.

'As part of that tradition, flags are permitted in line with the Royal Albert Hall's guidelines, and as in previous years, we are sure there will be a wide variety of flags on display.'

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