It includes rousing performances of Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia and Jerusalem always accompanied by a sea of union jacks, but this year’s Last Night of the Proms is also expected to offer a pro-EU backlash against Brexit.
The Guardian understands activists will be outside the Royal Albert Hall in force on Saturday handing out thousands of EU flags, which they hope audience members will wave instead, or even along with, the traditional red, white and blue.
Volunteers will be handing out the flags after a successful Crowdfunder campaign raised £1,175 in order to fund the protest.
It began as a discussion between like-minded people on Facebook. The woman behind the campaign, who asked not to be named, said the idea was “to have a celebration of what the EU does for music”.
She added: “We want to have as many flags there as possible which will send a message out to the world that we’ve not forgotten about the EU.”
The group now has around two dozen volunteers promising to hand out the EU flags, which they hope audience members will take in with them.
The Last Night of the Proms is rightly seen as something of a party, a fun event that celebrates British classical music. But the traditional sight of thousands of Promenaders enthusiastically waving union jack flags, whether jingoistically or more innocently, may not be to all tastes this year, especially since the vast majority of classical musicians opposed leaving the EU.
In recent years the Last Night of the Proms has been made a more international event by organisers. This year’s star soloist will be the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez, and the programme will include music by Borodin, Rossini, Donizetti and Offenbach.
But there will also be the traditional Fantasia on British Sea Songs, National Anthem, Auld Lang Syne and other British songs.
This year’s Last Night of the Proms could be a particularly sensitive event, bringing to mind 1990, the year that the conductor Mark Elder voiced concerns about traditional Proms selection in the year of the Gulf War and was promptly uninvited from taking charge of the concert.
A BBC spokeswoman said no changes to this year’s evening were taking place as a result of the Brexit vote.
The nationalism of the Last Night has been a subject of debate for decades. In 1969 the BBC controversially dropped Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia in the hope the event would have broader appeal to an estimated 40 million European television viewers.
An EU flag campaigner said she did not expect everybody to take one. “We’ll hand out as many as possible, we’ve got thousands. This is not really about the remain, leave debate, it is a celebration of what we’ve got now ... this is what the EU has done for music.
“I’ve been really surprised by the support. Someone contacted me asking to pledge £300 and I thought, wow, they really think this is worth doing.”
The Last Night has become an annual ritual but the former Proms director Sir Nicholas Kenyon, writing in the Guardian this week, said the season had always had a strongly international outlook.
He wrote: “The Last Night of the Proms goes around the world and represents us to the world. As we redefine our cultural identity in the wake of the Brexit vote, it’s vital that it shows us, like the rest of the Proms, as open, welcoming and innovative – and, above all, looking to the future of the artform.”