On the first Saturday of August each year Highclere hosts a concert with fireworks and cannons known as the Battle Proms.

The day before it all begins, my most important job is to ensure the horses are safely away from all the brouhaha in distant fields, including of course, Sheila the sheep.



Over the last 14 years the concert has built up a wonderful following and this year nearly 10,000 people arrived to picnic, watch the displays and listen to the music. Magically the overcast British skies cleared just in time and it was a beautiful evening. Everyone had flags and balloons and were in the best of spirits.


(C) Mark Langham

The event began with the a  Spitfire flying in from the east, banking above the Castle and climbing high above in a wonderful display whilst the orchestra played Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. It was rather emotional: it is such an iconic plane, and the noise of the engine and silhouette still evoked a pride in Britain’s fortitude and courage especially given the commemoration of the Battle of Britain, 75 years ago.IMG_4302
(C) Mark Langham

We had set out picnic chairs and tables early in the day which were now laden with hot soup and food, Pimms, Rosé wine, cheeses and coffee. It is an evening for everyone of every age, from five to ninety five. London friends of mine were taken back to their childhoods with the thrill of watching the huge firework display silhouetted against the cedar tree, arguing about who took the best photos on their phones. Children disappeared later in the evening looking for hot chocolate and more flags to wave.

The charity Combat Stress (the UK’s leading mental health charity for Veterans) was out in force hoping for donations from kind guests. This concert raises several thousand pounds each year to help support to ex-Service men and women and it is never more needed than today.

By the end of the evening the air had turned chilly, a reminder of the weather turning towards Autumn as everyone hurried towards cars. The stage was partially dismantled that night and the next day the Castle was welcoming lots of visitors again in its daily role as a Stately home and a part time film set for Downton Abbey. Any last scenes for the 6th series are being filmed elsewhere as ITV and the Downton team prepare for the screening of the first episode later in September.IMG_4365

(C) Mark Langham