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Red Devils drop in to help mark 20th anniversary of Battle Proms

Crowds enjoy the Battle Proms
Crowds enjoy the Battle Proms

The Red Devils parachute team is to help lead the 20th anniversary celebrations for the spectacular Battle Proms at Burghley House.

The Army stunt team will drop into the grounds of the Elizabethan house to join audiences enjoying an evening of music, cannons, cavalry and a spectacular fireworks finale.

The informal open air picnic concerts have been running since 1997 and they regularly draw in crowds of around 6,500 people.

Costumed entertainers perform as Napoleonic soldiers for the audience and there is a fly over by The Grace Spitfire which performs aerobatics to music.

Adam Slough, 42, events manager for the Battle Proms, said: “We first started in 1997 and the show has grown year on year. Some people see it as a classical music concert done to fireworks. It is far more than that as we have cannons and cavalry.

“We moved to Burghley in 2005 have been there ever since as it’s such an amazing site. It has quite quickly collected a loyal and local following there.

“Some people follow us round the country to several concerts.

“We have tweaked and tailored our programme to respond to audience feedback and added extra elements such as the carefully choreographed Spitfire display to make the Battle Proms much more than just an orchestral performance.

“We take ideas and relationships that work and build on them, rather than trying to totally reinvent the production year after year.

“That’s why we’re still thriving and growing our audience after all these years.”

He added: “It’s very pleasing that people have taken to the event and that it has lasted for 20 years.

“As a special for the 20th anniversary year we are having the Red Devils parachute display team.

“It will be amazing watching them fall with Burghley House as the backdrop.

“We are looking forward to the 20th season and we are hoping to make it really special.”

Battle Abbey, in Sussex, was the backdrop for the first Battle Proms.

It has grown from there to be a premier picnic concert series performed at many of the UK’s best stately homes.

The idea stems from the early 1990s and talks between John Slough, a master gunmaker and restorer of antique guns at John Slough of London, and his colleague Dave Beeks.

The two provided cannons for performances at concerts of Beethoven’s Battle Symphony.

Beethoven’s piece was written in 1813 to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon’s French Army at Battle of Vittoria in the Peninsula War.

It features 193 shots from live cannon during the performance.

In 1997 John and Dave decided they should run their own concerts themed around the Battle Symphony with cannons firing during the piece.

The guns are also used for a performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture at the Battle Proms.

Members of the New English Concert Orchestra perform at every concert and over 40,000 people attended the shows nationally during the 2016 season.

Among the attractions set to thrill audiences at the Battle Proms is the Grace Spitfire.

The aircraft was built at Castle Bromwich, near Birmingham, and it served on the front line during the last year of the Second World War.

It is credited with shooting down the first Nazi aircraft, a Junkers 88, over the Normandy beach heads on D-Day just south of Omaha Beach and it made 176 sorties before the end of hostilities.

After the war it was used as a training aircraft in Ireland before it was placed into storage.

It was spotted there by Nick Grace who bought the aircraft and restored it.

Nick flew the aircraft and since his death in 1988 his mother, Carolyn, has flown it.

The iconic war time plane’s flight over Burghley House early on in the show always draws people to their feet.

The patriotic theme continues as the concerts finish with a Last Night of the Proms-style flag waving sing-a-long.

It was decided to use the popularity of the concerts to support the armed forces charity Combat Stress.

Last year alone the Battle Proms concerts and its supporters raised £47,000 for the good cause.

Emma Dexter, marketing manager for the Battle Proms, said: “Although the Battle Proms are very much a celebratory affair, we are mindful that pieces such as the Battle Symphony were written to celebrate battles in which lives were lost, and that war continues today in various guises.

“With so many of our audience joining us year on year, they have developed a real affinity with the charity, that has seen donations on the night grow exponentially over recent years.”

She added: “This takes the total raised since our partnership began to £287,663.89, and we fully expect to break the £300,000 mark during our 20th anniversary season!”

The Battle Proms reach Burghley on Saturday, July 8, with gates open at 4.30pm while the show will start at 6.20pm. Picnics can be taken to the event by members of the audience.

Adult tickets are £38 if booked up until the day before the concert or £43 on the day. Tickets for children aged between five and 15 years are £18 and they must be accompanied by an adult. Entry to children four and under is free.

There is also a £2 discount for former and serving members of the military.

Details can be obtained via 01432 355416, e-mail info@battleproms.com or visit www.battleproms.com

l Look out for next week’s ‘Money Can’t Buy’ Mercury competition.


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