BBC iWonder Guide

BBC iWonder Guide: Why do people wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms?

The BBC iWonder Guide is a new interactive-content format. It's designed to encourage simple curiosity about complex topics, and to appeal across several senses and media platforms, from print and TV to desktop and mobile. Launched in 2014, the format lends itself particularly well to questions in science, technology, history and culture, including music.

In its early days the iWonder team created six Guides on music topics relating to the 2014 BBC Prom season, each in consultation with a specialist advisor. Among this output was a Guide exploring the perceived oddity of the 'Last Night' with its longstanding social and behavioural conventions, crystallized in the question: 'Why do people wave flags at the Last Night of the Proms?'

My role was to provide historical context for the 'Last Night' phenomenon, suggest possible angles for probing its meaning, be responsible for the accuracy of factual information used, and do an on-camera interview. The completed Guide, presented by Katie Derham and produced by Graeme Kay, is constructed in eight short sections illustrated with fascinating archival clips, pre-1938 to 2013, each of which is accompanied by a downloadable transcript.

Don't miss seeing Sir Malcolm Sargent's Last Night speech of 1957 intercut with that of Marin Alsop in 2013. Or Jiří Bělohlávek's 'Rule, Britannia' performance of 2012 compared with Malcolm Sargent's of 1957. Sargent in the early TV age was indeed the main instigator of what modern audiences know as flag-waving at the Proms. Visual showmanship, not jingoism, is the root answer to the question.

'We could not have found the focus without you ... the original document you produced has formed the basis for everything in the Guide'

Graeme Kay, BBC Radio 3 multiplatform producer

Access and use the full Guide here.

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