A Guide To The BBC Proms 2023

By Martha Davies

12 months ago

Everything you need to know about this prestigious London festival

If you’re a music festival fanatic, you’re probably clued up on this year’s big events, from Glastonbury to BST Hyde Park. But what about the Proms? As the world’s largest classical music festival, it’s definitely one for your cultural calendar – and we’ve got all the details for the 2023 edition.

A Guide To The BBC Proms 2023

Exterior of the Royal Albert Hall.

Image: Unsplash

What Is The Proms?

Short for Promenade Concerts, the Proms (known officially as the BBC Proms) is an eight-week summer festival which has been held annually in London since 1895. It is organized by the BBC and features a series of classical music performances along with free events including talks, workshops, readings and films.

The aim is to bring classical music to the largest possible audience. There are many rules and traditions highlighting this commitment to accessibility, from affordable ticket prices to the tradition of ‘promming’, which allows attendees to buy standing tickets on the day of each concert.

When Did The Proms Start?

The idea of accessible promenade concerts first emerged in France in the 1830s, but the Proms itself began in London on Saturday 10 August 1895. It was conceived by Robert Newman with the ambition of bringing classical music to the masses. Co-founder Sir Henry Wood conducted nearly every Proms concert for almost fifty years – the festival is formally named the ‘Henry Wood Promenade Concerts’ in recognition of his legacy.

Where Does It Take Place?

The Proms is held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and it has been taking place there since its inception. There are, however, other Proms venues across the UK: this year, you can find Proms performances at Guildhall Londonderry; Aberystwyth Arts Centre; Dewsbury Town Hall; Hall for Cornwall in Truro; Perth Concert Hall; and the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth.

You can also head to Sage Gateshead in the North East where you can experience the first ever weekend-long Proms festival, held in collaboration with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and conductor Robert Ames. 

When Is The Proms 2023?

This year’s Proms will run from Friday 14 July to Saturday 9 September 2023. A total of 72 concerts will be played at the Royal Albert Hall, plus more at the other venues around the UK.

What Is The Lineup At The Proms 2023?

During its eight-week stretch of concerts, the festival showcases a dizzying array of concerts. This year’s highlights include:

  • Two concerts conducted by Sir Simon Rattle with the London Symphony Orchestra
  • Performances by international orchestras such as the Budapest Festival Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra 
  • 11 Rachmaninov performances, to mark 150 years since the legendary composer’s birth
  • Orchestral collaborations with non-classical musicians including Rufus Wainwright and Jon Hopkins
  • A Bollywood Prom led by celebrated Indian singer Palak Muchhal, who will perform with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra led by Michael Seal 
  • 15 brand new commissions and co-commissions, shedding light on the work of extraordinary new composers.

You can filter the lineup by category, or take a look at the full calendar here.

Can I Watch Online?

You can catch the Proms on TV, iPlayer, BBC Sounds and radio.

Every Prom will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and most will be available to stream on BBC Sounds for 12 months. You can watch a selection of the concerts – including the popular First Night and Last Night of the Proms – on TV and iPlayer.

How Can I Get Tickets?

Seats in the Royal Albert Hall.

Image: Unsplash

Tickets to the festival went on sale in early June, and you can find seats for each of the concerts on the Royal Albert Hall website here. Standing tickets are also available for every performance. They are an integral part of the Proms, and are offered as part of the long tradition of Promming.

What Is Promming?

For every concert at the Proms – and even sold-out performances – around 1,000 tickets are reserved on the day as standing places in the Arena and Gallery, along with a handful of seats in the Choir. These special ‘Promming’ tickets can usually be purchased online from 10:30am each day.

Promming tickets are only £8, and all standing Promming tickets are unreserved, so you can choose where to stand when you arrive. You don’t actually have to stand, however: many people choose to sit or even lie down in the Gallery or the Arena. 

Is There A Dress Code?

While some concert-goers opt for formal attire, you can be safe in the knowledge that there is no dress code at the Proms, so you can rock up as you are.

Can Children Attend The Proms?

It is recommended that young concert-goers are aged at least five and over, although all children are welcome at the ‘Horrible Histories: ‘Orrible Opera’ Prom on 23 July, the ‘Relaxed’ Prom on 3 August, and the ‘CBeebies: Ocean Adventure’ Prom at Sage Gateshead on 23 July.

Children aged between seven and 18 are encouraged to attend the festival, and children’s tickets are half-price in any seating area of the Royal Albert Hall – excluding Promming tickets, and tickets for the Last Night of the Proms.

What Is The Last Night Of The Proms?

A magnificent festival must have a magnificent finale, and the Last Night of the Proms is certainly a memorable event. As the final concert in the long Proms calendar, it features a selection of musical hits before ending with patriotic British songs including Edward Elgar’s ‘Pomp & Circumstance March No. 1’, Thomas Arne’s ‘Rule, Britannia!’ and Hubert Parry’s ‘Jerusalem.’

Audience participation is encouraged during this lively celebration, and many attendees bring flags to wave. (There are even flagpole guidelines on the BBC website – if you’re curious, you can take a look here.)

How Can I Get Tickets For The Last Night Of The Proms?

£8 Day Promming tickets for the Last Night of the Proms can be purchased online from 10.30am on the day. Up to two tickets can be booked per person. 

For particularly eager Prommers, a limited number of Last Night Promming tickets (also priced at £8) are reserved for those who have attended five or more concerts in the Promming areas of the concert hall. These Prommers will be able to purchase one ticket each for the Last Night when they present their used e-tickets at the Royal Albert Hall. The tickets can be bought from the Box Office at Door 12, and they will be released at 9am on Tuesday 18 July, Monday 21 August and Monday 4 September.