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For some years Women in Music (UK) has been doing a survey of the numbers of women represented in the BBC PROMS season. The Proms is the largest classical music festival in the world. This year there are 58 main evening orchestral concerts, as well as chamber music concerts, daytime events and late-night concerts. The audiences in the Royal Albert Hall are of many thousands, and all the concerts are broadcast, many on television.

The figures for women in the 2016 Proms season are:

Composers:8/116 (9.2%)[Last year was 12/116]
Living composers:7/40 (17.5%)[Last year was 11/30, 36%]
BBC Commissions:6/15 (40%)[Last year was 4/15]
Conductors:5/58 (8.6%)[Last year was 2/50]

The women composers are: Lera Auerbach (30' work in main evening concert); Sally Beamish (lunchtime chamber concert); Charlotte Bray (22' work in main evening concert); Anna Clyne (daytime children's concert); Helen Grime (two 8' works); Emily Howard (20' work in main evening concert); Iris ter Schiphorst (8' work in main evening concert); Galina Ustvolskaya (14' work in main evening concert).

The conductors are: Marin Alsop (3 concerts); Jessica Cottis (children's concert, repeated twice); Karen Gibson (late night Prom); Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla (main evening concert); Simone Young (main evening concert)

To analyse the results: Although the total number of women composers has gone down from last year and the proportion of living women composers to living men composers is half of what it was last year, there are some redeeming features. The number of BBC commissions and co-commissions has gone up (and how can the position of women in the Proms improve if not?). Last year there were 24 works by living men which were 15 mins or longer and NO works by living women of that length. This year there are 20 substantial works by living men and 3 by living women.

The number of women conductors has gone up, but from a low base of 2 to 5.

It is fair to say that the representation of women in the Proms season looks unlikely to return to the days of only a few years ago, when it seemed to be acceptable for women composers to number 1 or 2 and for there to be no women conductors at all. These numbers of the past were unremarked on by anybody except Women in Music (UK).

Jenny Fowler

NOTE: Anyone is welcome to quote these statistics, but please mention the source. The figures for past Proms seasons are also available on the Women in Music (UK) website.

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