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BBC PROMS SURVEY 2015

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 58 main 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 2015 Proms season are:

Composers:12/116 (10%)[Last year was 6.2%]
Living composers:11/30 (36%)[Last year was 23%]
Living composers by duration of works:81 mins/704 mins (11%)
BBC Commissions:4/15 (26%)[Last year was 9%]
Conductors:2/50 (4%)[Last year was 6.4%]
Instrumental soloists:19/62 (30%)[Last year was 32%]

The women composers are: Eleanor Alberga (3 min work in Last Night, BBC Comm); Tansy Davies (main ev.concert 7 min work); Alissa Firsova (main ev.concert, 10 '); Cheryl Frances-Hoad (chamber concert, 7'); Evelyn Glennie (chamber concert, 5'); Helen Grime (matinee concert, 10'); Betsy Jolas (matinee concert, 12'); Joanna Lee (matinee concert, 7', BBC comm); Anna Meredith (early ev. concert, & early ev. concert, 5', BBC comm); Arlene Sierra (chamber concert, 8'); Shiori Usui (matinee, 7', BBC comm); Grace Williams (main ev. concert, 15'). The conductors are: Marin Alsop (two concerts incl. Last Night); Susanna Malkki (main ev. concert).

To analyse the results: The number of women composers is higher than usual - 12, beaten only by 14 in 2012. As usual though, one has to qualify the figures by pointing out that women are usually included in the chamber music concerts and daytime events, rather than the main evening concerts. Only 3 living women composers are in a main evening concert. Only 4 women composers received BBC commissions (although even that is much better than last year!) One of the striking things this year was the discrepency between the durations of works by living women compared to those by living men. I have included durations in the figures above, and these can be compared to the many living men who have substantial works in the main evening concerts - such as orchestral works of 45', 40', 34', 30' and so on. There are 24 works by living male composers which are 15 mins or longer. There are NO works by living women composers longer than 12 mins.

Women conductors remain very low. Last year had 4, this year only 2, although Marin Alsop conducts two concerts, one of them on the Last night.

It is fair to say that the representation of women in the Proms season looks unlikely to return to the days of only a few years ago, when it seemed to be acceptable for women composers to number 1 or 2 - numbers which were unremarked on by anybody except Women in Music (UK).