An executive producer of BBC Songs of Praise has compared singing Rule, Britannia! at the Proms to Nazis shouting about gas chambers.
Cat Lewis – the chief executive of production company Nine Lives Media which produces the programme – spoke out on Twitter about reports that the BBC was considering dropping the song, and others, because of their colonial overtones.
Ms Lewis wrote on the social media platform: “Do those Brits who believe it's OK to sing an 18th century song about never being enslaved, written when the UK was enslaving and killing millions of innocents, also believe it's appropriate for neo-Nazis to shout, ‘We will never be forced into a gas chamber.’”
She was referring to the line in the song, “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves”.
She later claimed: “I believe slavery was Britain’s holocaust. We should apologise for it properly and yet at the moment, we have NO memorial to enslaved people in the UK. We should not celebrate slave owners.
“And we should not sing in a gloating way that Britons will never be enslaved, when we were responsible for enslaving so many.
“We should have anthems which celebrate what is truly great about the UK, which we can all sing and this will help unite our country.”
Do those Brits who believe it’s ok to sing an 18th Century song about never being enslaved, written when the UK was enslaving and killing millions of innocents, also believe it’s appropriate for neo-Nazis to shout, “We will never be forced into a gas chamber.” #RuleBritannia— Cat Lewis (@catrionalewis) August 25, 2020
Traditionally, Rule, Britannia! is performed at London's Royal Albert Hall every year at the Last Night of the Proms, which will be held on September 12.
It was reported by the Sunday Times that the BBC had initially considered dropping patriotic songs such as Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory, after guest conductor Dalia Stasevska said it was “the perfect moment to bring change”.
However, following criticism – including by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Prime Minister – the BBC announced the songs will be played but not sung. The Proms will have no audience this year due to coronavirus.
A BBC spokesperson told the Mail: “For the avoidance of any doubt, these songs will be sung next year.
“We obviously share the disappointment of everyone that the Proms will have to be different but believe this is the best solution in the circumstances and look forward to their traditional return next year.”