The idea of a Proms in the Park event back in the mid-1990s was pooh-poohed by John Drummond who suggested he’d be happier watching the last Night of the Proms on telly than sit ‘in a damp park’.
But the old curmudgeon was proved wrong, and in 1996, 28,000 turned up at London’s Hyde Park to watch Sheridan Morley present a mix of classical and popular artists, with a live link-up to the Albert Hall for the second half of the Last Night.
Millions listened on BBC Radio 2. Such was its success that an annual event was born. By 2005, Proms in the Park had spawned sister events in Belfast, Manchester, Swansea and Glasgow, with each ‘region’ celebrating its identity through performances of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs.
Presenters such as Terry Wogan and Alan Titchmarsh sealed the Proms in the Park as a ‘middle-of-the-road’ event, while its broadcast was organised by BBC Live Events, rather than the BBC Proms department. Today, Proms in the Park thrives – last year’s featured soprano Aida Garifullina alongside Barry Manilow, Lighthouse Family and Chrissie Hynde, all accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra.