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Re-wiring the Electric Proms

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Lorna Clarke Lorna Clarke | 14:33 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

I can't believe it is the fourth BBC Electric Proms already! I still remember launching the first event with The Who, Paul Weller with Amy Winehouse, Kasabian and the late great Godfather of Soul -James Brown.

I'd like to say it has got easier, but it hasn't really, just smaller. New issues always come up, usually from the BBC itself. We simply cannot afford to keep it the same size. The music business is also suffering with marketing budgets reduced and promotional touring budgets slashed. Suddenly I'm having heated conversations with tour managers about rehearsal space prices, catering prices; "will sandwiches be Ok?" and "do you really need that many rehearsals?"

We need impact for less money said the BOSS. Focus on known headliners that the broadcast teams want on TV and Radio.

March 2009:
Have dinner with David Arnold (created the Kaiser Chiefs' show for EP in 2007). He's in the middle of producing the new album from Dame Shirley Bassey, her first in 20 years. He's very excited about the project. When he gets excited, you get excited. He's the reason I started playing music again. Anyway, she wouldn't do it would she? Mark Cooper gets on a plane to Monaco. She likes him. Alan Yentob goes to Monaco. She likes him too.

So we've announced this year's event and sent out the press release. We only had budget for four headline shows this year. We can't afford a support slot for every headliner, that would add thousands in Musicians' Union fees. We've managed to keep our film initiative though; New Music Shorts. Florence & The Machine and Metronomy inspired films commissioned from brand new film makers. The bands have agreed to play on the night in the Studio Theatre space at the Roundhouse too. This is a real coup. We book Florence in May.

July 2009:
Smokey Robinson with the BBC Concert Orchestra agreed. We go to recce the hotel suite and mail him pictures as we can't afford their actual choice. Emma persuades the hotel to throw in a complimentary steam room for him. Many, many late night transatlantic calls later...
Smokey's Team: 'Yes. No. Maybe'
Smokey: 'Definitely not as I've changed my manager and my mind... What was the event again?'.
Later on...
An American accent on the phone: 'I'm the new manager for Mr Robinson'.

Start from the top...
Me: 'Paul McCartney's done it before. And Burt Bacharach.'
Smokey's New Manager : 'OK yes, sounds good. You have permission to speak to my legal team.'
A team of lawyers! Gulp.

Tears of a Clown with at least 18 strings? Mike Townend will arrange the new music charts. Amazingly no orchestral charts exist of Smokey's music. Just agreed with Andrew Connolly, the BBC Concert Orchestra manager, and Mike Townend that we really should put the harp player back in the orchestra for Smokey's night.

We sign contracts with the other headliners in August. Dizzee Rascal's had an amazing year and launches his fourth album soon. He's consistently creative, refusing to be pigeon-holed.
Doves are one of the most thoughtful bands we've worked with, they'll be supported by fellow Mancunians Magazine (whose lead singer is flying in from the Far East to play). Doves will also be joined on stage by a massive London based Bulgarian choir.

Still trying to work out how we get all the musicians that Trevor Horn would like on the stage for the Robbie Williams show! Hopefully it'll be the second show this year with a harp.

September 2009
Ticket requests from the most unlikely places, constantly. For instance, Magazine want to see Smokey. Politely explain to all the ticket requesters they are not my tickets to give away.

More requests: Dame Shirley's dress may need a special lighting plan; Robbie currently has 38 musicians on stage ; Trevor's politely asked for no curly BBC sandwiches please, such a nice man; and a US Football ticket request for Smokey's band whilst they are here. Sorted.

The Electric Proms team are behaving a little strangely. Talking to themselves about making accurate budgets and risers for choirs.

It is a great line up, but as we always say 'until the Diva sings, its work in progress'. The Electric Proms will be here in a hot minute. Then we get Electric Proms flu. Happens every year.



  • Comment number 1.

    i love the electric proms and think it improves every year. i loved the doves show this year. fantastic stuff especially with the bulgarian choir. the smokey robinson show was brilliant. electric proms gives me an opportunity to see shows by artists that i would probably struggle to get tickets for.

  • Comment number 2.

    The proms may have got smaller but thankfully it still fully covers a spectrum of music, whilst always throwing up a few little surprises. The fact that the proms manages to bring together classic and contemporary artists, the credible and the popular is what makes it such an important date on the music calender. I'm not sure if its location or artists or the collaborations (probably all of them together) but the proms doesn't feel like a music festival it feels like a genuine and important cultural experience.


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