Tony Hall’s diary: the Proms, my walking obsession, and why the BBC is like James Bond

Plus: A worthy successor to the BBC Micro; and a behavioural science project at KCL graduation day

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

There’s nothing quite like a First Night — and last Friday we launched the Proms, the most celebrated classical music festival in the world, now in its 120th year. There’s the thrill of walking into the Royal Albert Hall for the first time; taking your seat with thousands of other music fans; the ‘heave ho’ chant from the Prommers; the quiet before the music begins. It’s a vast space, but it can also feel very intimate. So it was perfect for the opening concert with moments of quiet reflection in works by Mozart and Sibelius, as well as great walls of sound in Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. With almost 300 players and singers on stage — the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Singers, Symphony Chorus and the BBC National Chorus of Wales, all superbly directed by Sakari Oramo — it was just breathtaking. Speaking to Sakari afterwards, he was rightly exhausted, but elated.

It was an opening weekend like no other, with the Royal Albert Hall overrun with trolls, witches, and an awful lot of children — more than 600 on stage across two performances of our Ten Pieces Prom, and thousands more in the audience. This was the culmination of year one of a project we’re doing to bring classical music to every primary-school child in the country. The children had been inspired to produce their own music, art and dance — and, by the end, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

I love walking, and, rather like needing a fix of good writing before bed, I need a walk every day. But the gadget on my wrist has changed this into an obsession. My Jawbone fitness tracker tells me I need to cover 10,000 paces a day. So now I walk everywhere. I’ve done some meetings on the trot, and to demonstrate that I really am becoming a pace-nerd, I’ve even done turns around the town I live in, late at night, to hit the magic number. Mad? Possibly, but this is one case of technology genuinely transforming my too-sedentary life.

The other day we unveiled one of my favourite projects: the BBC micro:bit, launched 30 years after the original BBC Micro computer. It’s a tiny computer that fits in the palm of your hand. I’m now the proud owner of one of the first to come off the production line. We’ll be giving one to every 11- and 12-year-old child in Year 7 this autumn, working with schools and teachers across the country. It’s a collaborative adventure we’ve developed with 28 partners, including Arm, Microsoft, Samsung and Barclays. It has the power to change the way children think about their ability to make things happen — digitally. They’ll be able to code their micro:bits to create text, pictures and games across 25 LEDs. There’s a motion sensor — and technology that lets it sync with tablets, cameras, music players, and the gadget that’s most precious to any child — their phone. It can even control other devices such as robots and motors. We hope it will inspire a future generation of tech pioneers.

It was a privilege to be made an honorary fellow of King’s College London this week, the more so as I’m the first member of my family to go to university. Sitting there watching graduates and postgraduates getting their degrees from the principal made me think what an important marker in their lives it was — a moment framed on mantelpieces and walls the world over. How each student approached the big day varied hugely. Some said thank you; a few cheered; some teetered on terrifying heels, some dressed down; some raised their scroll to the audience in a gesture saying ‘Look what I’ve done!’ and some just shuffled off the stage quickly. A thesis for someone in behavioural science?

Right now, I’m off to the set of comedian Tracey Ullman to see her in action for her new BBC1 sketch show. The series marks a welcome homecoming for Tracey, who’s been on loan to the US for the past 30 years. According to the call sheet, she’ll be doing her Angela Merkel imitation when I visit — and I’m told she likes to stay in character all day. Must be on my best behaviour and remember to turn off the phone on set. The last thing I need is a stern ticking off from a fearsome politician. When Tracey spent the day as Dame Judi Dench on location last week, so talented are the make-up and prosthetics team that passing members of the public were fooled into thinking she was miraculously back from the dead as ‘M’ in the new Bond film. Of course Bond is world-renowned as a quintessential British cultural icon; an underappreciated force for good with his very special licence. Sound familiar?

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Tony Hall is director-general of the BBC.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • starfish
  • davidshort10

    Dare we ask how much money the BBC pays to the managing director of the Spectator, Andrew ‘Brillo Pad’ Neil, and whether the sum influenced having the director-general of his employing organisation write his boring Diary here?

  • davidshort10

    Fraser Nelson, who commissioned this blatant advertisement for the BBC?

  • ArtieHarris

    When my old man started walking every day – aged 65+ – he visibly lost a decade in age during the first six months.

    So, keep it up.

  • Lisa Danley

    Hello Every One out here, Are you seeking for a love spell to being back the one you love??

    I have decided that i am going to spend the whole day on the internet just to make sure that a lot of people are able to read my testimony about Dr.Sam who is a powerful and genuine spell caster, My name is Lisa Danley,I am from Stevenage,UK .I’m happily married to a lovely and caring husband ,with three kids. A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my husband .so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce.he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn’t love me anymore.So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the email address of the spell caster whom he visited.{salvationlovetemple@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn’t call me for the past seven months,gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there who have any problem to please contact him through this email address: salvationlovetemple@gmail.com .,,..,,,