The BBC Proms encompass two months of concerts, from the traditional to the contemporary. Forget watching it on TV; if you want the real Proms experience, get down to the Royal Albert Hall and soak up the atmosphere.
1. Bag The Best Seat
Seated tickets for the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall can be booked in advance. Standing places are split between the Arena (at the front) and the Gallery (around the top). Standing tickets are sold at £5, while front circle seats start at £15. Every night, 500 standing tickets are sold on the door – make sure to get there early to secure a spot, and you must pay by cash. If you book tickets to five concerts you can enter the ballot for Last Night of the Proms tickets. But to make sure you don’t miss out, book now for the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall or the BBC Proms in the Park.
2. Use Public Transport
With limited parking in the area, opt for public transport. South Kensington and High Street Kensington are your closest Tube stations for the Royal Albert Hall; while those going to Proms in the Park in Hyde Park will find Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch the most convenient. There are also plenty of bus routes serving both venues. Make sure you leave plenty of extra time as stations and routes can be busy. Use TfL’s Journey Planner to plan your route.
3. Be Prepared to Queue
If you’ve plumped for the standing tickets, be prepared for some serious queuing. Keep a bottle of water to hand, an umbrella at the ready and adhere to the rules of no hopping in, no matter how chaotic the line is. Interesting pre-prom talks precede many of the concerts, so get there early to learn more about the artists and their work.
4. Dress Up (Or Down)
‘Promenading’, as the Proms were known when they started in 1895, was a glamorous affair; these days the dress code has relaxed a little. So what to wear for the Proms? While many love to glam up for the occasion, jeans and t-shirts are also perfectly acceptable. But maybe it’s best to keep the Union Jack shirt for the Last Night!
5. Mix Up The Music
Brahms and Beethoven not your thing? Check out the Late Nights Series at the Royal Albert Hall. There’s a stellar line-up of alternative music this year, such as the Pet Shop Boys, Laura Mvula and Paloma Faith. This year also commemorates the outbreak of the First World War with a focus on wartime music, plus a brilliant collaboration with the National Theatre and War Horse.
6. Wave Your Flag
It’s an emotional experience as thousands of ‘Prommers’ join together shoulder-to-shoulder to sing the National Anthem in Hyde Park under the stars or in the Royal Albert Hall, as the season draws to a close for the Last Night of the Proms. Swaying from side to side with your flag, or bobbing up and down is mandatory.
7. Embrace The Chanting
A little tradition that’s been going for years is the chants you’ll hear at certain points during the Last Night concert. The eccentric ritual goes when the stagehands bring a piano onto the stage, the arena prommers shout"‘heave" and the audience shouts "ho"… all part of the experience whether you're inside the hall or in the park.
8. Pack a Picnic
It’s not really a British summer without a picnic; so come rain or shine, spread out a blanket in Hyde Park and join the crowds in unpacking sandwiches and fold-up chairs during BBC Proms in the Park. If you don’t fancy buttering your own bread, order a hamper to pick up when you get there.
9. Immerse Yourself in the Music
The main Prom concerts are held at the Royal Albert Hall, and there’s at least one each day. With countless performances spread across the 58 days, there’s plenty of opportunity to discover wonderful new music and composers. The acoustics are completely different in the Arena right next to the orchestra than high up in the Gallery, where the music floats up to your ears. In quieter concerts, you can even lie down to really unwind and soak up the sounds.
10. Make New Friends
One of the best things about the BBC Proms – and one of the many reasons its festival veterans come back time and time again – is the sociable crowd. Strike up a conversation with the person in the next seat or in the queue – rumour has it even marriages have been made from these meetings.
Find out more about the BBC Proms 2014.