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BBC PROMS SURVEY 2014

For some years Women in Music (UK) has been doing a survey of the numbers of women represented in the BBC PROMS season. The Proms is the largest classical music festival in the world. This year there are 59 evening orchestral concerts, as well as chamber music concerts, daytime events and late-night concerts. The audiences in the Royal Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast, many on television.

The figures for women in the 2014 Proms season are:

Composers:8/124 (6.2%)[Last year was 5.4%]
Living composers:8/35 (23%)[Last year was 16%]
No. of works by living composers:8/51 (15.7%)
BBC Commissions:1/11 (9%)[Last year was 23%]
Conductors:4/62 (6.4%)[Last year was 7%]
Instrumental soloists:16/50 (32%)[Last year was 30%]

The women composers are: Sally Beamish (main evening concert, substantial work); Unsuk Chin (main evening concert, substantial work); Paloma Faith (singer-songwriter, late-night); Helen Grime (main evening concert, short work); Laura Mvula (singer-songwriter, late-night); Roxanna Panufnik (main evening concert, shortish work); Dobrinka Tabakova (late-night, short); Judith Weir (lunchtime chamber concert, BBC Commission).
The conductors are: Marin Alsop (main evening concert); Han-Na Chang (Sunday matinee); (Sian Edwards (Saturday matinee); Rebecca Miller (short morning concert).

To analyse the results: Eight women composers is a larger number than usual, but I have included a new category of number of works by living composers, as the women have only one work each and a number of men had several, so this brings down the proportion of works by women. The best way to increase the number of women composers would be to give commissions to women. This year the figure is quite shocking: out of 11 BBC commissions and co-commissions only one is for a woman and that is for a solo piano piece! In contrast, the BBC has commissioned male composers to write 8 big orchestral pieces in the main evening concerts, with 2 other smaller pieces. Looking at the women conductors, only one of the 4 women will be conducting a main evening concert.

As last year, in order to put the figures in context, I have surveyed the 2014 - 2015 season of classical (mainly orchestral) concerts at the Southbank Centre in London. There are 168 classical concerts where details are available. The figures for women in those are:

Composers:6/140 (4.3%)Unsuk Chin, Anna Clyne, Tansy Davies, Olga Neuwirth, Stevie Wishart, Julia Wolfe.
Living composers:6/36 (17%) 
Works by living composers:7/53 (13%)
Conductors:1/78 (1.3%)Marin Alsop

So , as always, the Proms season is no worse, and perhaps rather better than other concert seasons.


Jennifer Fowler