Putting on the Proms: concerts and events manager

Helen Heslop in front of Tardis and Royal Albert Hall Helen Heslop is a fan of Doctor Who Proms

In the seventh of our series about the classical music festival, concerts and events manager Helen Heslop could write a book about the various things that haven't quite gone to plan during the Proms season.

Tell us about your job in a nutshell

I lead the Live Events team for Radio 3 and the Proms. The team is responsible for overseeing logistical planning of the Proms, which means ensuring the events go well for the audience in the Royal Albert Hall, as well as our broadcast audiences on Radio 3 and television. We run all of this from backstage at the RAH and work with [Radio 3 controller] Roger Wright and [acting Proms director] Edward Blakeman on the artistic planning of the season.

What are some of the challenges?

We have 76 concerts to put on in 58 days and some of them are very complex. The RAH schedule is really tight and sometimes tricky to make work for all parties.

Is there anything you do to prepare for the Proms season (apart from cross your fingers, of course)?

There is lots of advance planning. I have an amazing team who put it all into action.

How many concerts do you attend as a manager and do you get a chance to enjoy them?

It's about a third of the concerts - and sometimes more. I do very much enjoy seeing what we have been planning all year. The atmosphere is so wonderful at the Proms. It is hard to switch off completely, though, and I usually have one antennae out for things that may not be quite right.

David Attenborough David Attenborough played a floor polisher during the Last Night of the Proms in 2009
Tell us about a standout Proms moment

Over the 19 years I've worked on the Proms there have been many special standout moments. It's hard to pick just one. Some of the most special memories would have to be working with conductor George Solti before he died and also David Attenborough, who is such an inspiring person. The Doctor Who Proms have always been a favourite of mine too.

Has anything ever gone wrong?

I could write a book on all the things which haven't quite gone to plan over the years backstage at the Proms! To name but a few: a fire backstage, a whole truck of orchestral instruments being impounded at Dover by customs, stages not being delivered on the right day, power cuts and equipment failure.


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