'Popcorngate' snack squabble at BBC Proms concert: Popcorn dispute interrupts Royal Albert Hall performance
A night at the BBC Proms took an unexpected turn at the Royal Albert Hall, as a dispute erupted over noisy mid-performance popcorn snacking which allegedly nearly led to an altercation. The incident occurred during a performance of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmélites on Monday evening (Proms 2023, Prom 31).
As the cast prepared to enact the dramatic beheading of 16 nuns, a disturbance unfolded in the audience. Reports suggest that a man initiated the conflict by kicking the seat in front of him and commenting on the loud consumption of popcorn by two individuals.
Noted classical music critic and novelist Jessica Duchen shared her account with The Times, stating, “At the end of the row was a pair of American tourists who were munching on popcorn. I couldn’t hear or smell it, but behind them was a guy who was unbelievably abusive to them. We thought he might pull a knife on them.”
The altercation prompted an intervention during the intermission, with the conflicting parties reportedly relocated to separate areas of the hall.
Expressing frustration on Facebook, another attendee wrote, “WTF is the Royal Albert Hall doing selling POPCORN during the Proms? Involved in a near fight at one tonight. Ruined the first half of a superlative evening.”
Despite the fact that the Royal Albert Hall has been selling popcorn during the Proms since 2014, there has been a noticeable increase in patrons bringing it into the auditorium. The snack is available to purchase at outlets located in the foyers.
The BBC-organised classical music festival, an annual event running from mid-July to mid-September since its inception in 1895, attracts a diverse audience.
In response to the incident, James Ainscough, the chief executive of the Royal Albert Hall, addressed the matter, stating, “We’ve sold small packets of popcorn, along with crisps and sweets, in our bars since 2014 without protest. There were some words exchanged between two audience members at a Prom on Monday, and both parties then asked to move seats, which was arranged, but the incident seems to have been blown out of proportion on social media.”
He continued, “Different people enjoy different shows in different ways, so we always hope audience members will be considerate of those around them and polite when they speak to each other. We will continue to monitor the situation as we want everyone to enjoy this amazing Proms season to the utmost.”
Incidents like the recent clash over popcorn at the BBC Proms highlight the importance of concert etiquette. Want to make sure you avoid the most common pitfalls in concert etiquette? Check out our guide to classical concert etiquette so you can relax and enjoy the show. Or read our guide for infomation about how to buy BBC Proms 2024 tickets and the programme.