Tony Hall announces greatest commitment to arts for a generation


Arts will take centre-stage across the BBC with a new topical strand taking audiences to music and arts events across the UK; a new digital offering; closer engagement with artists and institutions; more distinctive arts content across all the BBC’s outlets; and stronger leadership for the arts.

Speaking today Tony Hall said: “This is the strongest commitment to the arts we’ve made in a generation.  We’re the biggest arts broadcaster anywhere in the world – but our ambition is to be even better.

“I want BBC Arts – and BBC Music – to sit proudly alongside BBC News. The arts are for everyone – and, from now on, BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do.  We’ll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before – across television, radio and digital. And, we’ll be working more closely with our country’s great artists, performers and cultural institutions.”

The Director-General announced:

  • Strong, clear leadership for arts across the BBC with new internal appointments, along with a number of external advisory roles to allow leaders of the arts world to share their knowledge and insight with the BBC
  • A new strand, BBC Arts at… gives viewers a front row seat at Britain’s best arts and music events, including collaborations and partnerships with Shakespeare’s Globe, Glyndebourne and the Hay Festival
  • Three big initiatives which will be part of a new digital push – arts on BBC iPlayer, more on offer at BBC Arts Online and – in partnership with Arts Council England – The Space. As well as ambitious archive plans
  • Working closely with some of the nation’s finest writers, artists and performers including Zaha Hadid, Simon Russell Beale, Gemma Arterton, Akram Khan, Tom Hollander, Sir Antonio Pappano, Michael Craig-Martin, Darcey Bussell, Antony Gormley, Max Richter, Sir Simon Rattle and many more
  • New landmark series commissioned in collaboration with a number of Britain’s leading cultural institutions including Tate, National Portrait Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, Sadler’s Wells and The British Library
  • Major drama and arts collaborations including a further three filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s History plays for BBC Two from the team behind The Hollow Crown; and Dialogues, an exciting new initiative to showcase British writing talent on BBC Four
  • New commissions for young people and children including an animated music film for TV by Michael Morpurgo; a new collaboration with the Northern Ballet on a production of the Three Little Pigs for CBeebies; and an exciting observational documentary that lifts the lid on what it’s like to be a member of a working orchestra for BBC Three

Strong, clear leadership

Jonty Claypole has been appointed Director of Arts, and Bob Shennan becomes Director of Music. They will work across the BBC – joining up television, radio, iPlayer and online. They’ll be thinking globally, nationally and locally – driving the BBC’s vision for Arts and Music.

A number of leaders in the arts world have been appointed to share their knowledge and insights across the BBC:

  • Alex Poots and Manchester International Festival will become a creative partner with BBC Arts – encouraging and supporting new commissions, and new collaborations
  • Nicholas Serota, from Tate, has been appointed to lead a group of creative leaders who will act as a sounding board across the BBC
  • Vicky Featherstone, from the Royal Court, will join the group of creative leaders. She will continue to work closely with Kate Rowland and the BBC Writersroom, nurturing and championing new writers across radio, TV and online
  • Nicholas Hytner, formerly of the National Theatre, has been appointed to the BBC Executive Board

BBC Arts at… the best cultural events

Launching in May, the BBC Arts at… strand will give audiences front row seats at cultural events across the year – exhibitions, performances, festivals – showcasing the energy and excitement of Britain’s vast cultural landscape when and where it happens. This ambitious new strand will, for the first time, bring TV, radio and online together under a single banner, BBC Arts at…

The first events in the calendar include:

  • A celebration of Culture24’s Museums At Night, the UK’s annual after-hours festival of arts, culture and heritage funded by Arts Council England. Coverage of this event, which sees over 500 museums, galleries and heritage sites from over 200 cities and towns throw open their doors to the nation – will broadcast from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with Will Gompertz presenting an hour-long programme on BBC Two. BBC Arts Online will host exclusive coverage including a live stream of key events. There will be coverage of the event on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show (BBC Radio 2), The Verb (BBC Radio 3) as well as regional and local news across the BBC
  • BBC Arts at… will celebrate the opening of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. There will be a BBC Two documentary looking at the extraordinary and dark history of Jacobean theatre, and BBC Four will air the Playhouse’s first performance, The Duchess of Malfi, starring Gemma Arterton
  • BBC Arts at… Hay – this year there will be unprecedented coverage of the festival on TV, radio and online under one single banner, making the festival more accessible than ever before.  The One Show will be live from Hay for the first time; Martha Kearney will be broadcasting from the site; and Razia Iqbal will be interviewing major literary figures for three programmes, Talking Books on BBC World News. On Radio there will be more coverage than ever before with Chris Evans broadcasting  BBC Radio 2’s literary competition 500 Words from Hay; BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking, In Tune and The Verb will also be live on-site alongside BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, The Write Stuff and Four Thought. For the first time ever, BBC Radio 6 Music presenters will be on site: Cerys Matthews, Gideon Coe, Chris Hawkins, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie. BBC Wales will also host live coverage and highlights, and BBC Arts Online will capture a range of festival events
  • BBC Four will take audiences into the world of Glyndebourne in their 80th anniversary year and their new production of Der Rosenkavalier, directed by Richard Jones and conducted by the company’s new music director Robin Ticciati. The feature-length film will be an expert and critical insight into Richard Strauss’s much-loved comic masterpiece, in an anniversary year for the composer
  • BBC Four will be reflecting and contextualising the work of award-winning independent dance company Balletboyz: The Talent; and the channel will also air a new documentary in collaboration with the Voice of Black Opera Awards with Scottish Opera, encouraging new talent in opera to come to the fore. In A Knight At The Barbican, BBC Four will be dedicating an evening to the work of Sir Simon Rattle

Right across the year, BBC Arts at… will bring great events to the screen in new and innovative ways, working closely and collaboratively with leading museums, festivals and performing companies to give viewers and listeners the best seat in the house.

Other planned events include the Summer Exhibition with the Royal Academy of Arts in London presented by Kirsty Wark and Alastair Sooke and Generation with the National Galleries of Scotland. The BBC will also be working with the Liverpool Biennial, Manchester International Festival, Opera North, the Barbican and the British Museum.

There will be major coverage of the Edinburgh Festivals, including a performance a day online.

Expanded online coverage

BBC iPlayer will bring together the wealth and range of BBC Arts programming across all channels into a single arts category. In addition, iPlayer will offer selective, exclusive arts content including a programme premiere of the BBC Two series, The Story Of Women And Art, archive arts content as part of BBC Four Collections, and news coverage celebrating the Man Booker and RIBA Stirling prize-winners.

BBC Arts Online will be offering deeper, richer engagement online with a wealth of new material, streaming performances and events

, live and on-demand at some of the best events across the country. BBC Arts Online will offer expert opinion and aims to stimulate debate and audience interaction around the arts.

Highlights include:

  • An online partnership with the Royal Academy. BBC Arts Online will host exclusive online guides from newly-appointed Royal Academicians and prominent arts lovers who will select their highlights from the 2014 exhibition. As part of the Royal Academy’s collaboration with the Swedish artists Christer Lundahl and Martina Seitl and the LIFT Festival, where visitors will be taken on a part-real, part-imagined journey through the public galleries and hidden spaces of the Royal Academy, Lundahl and Seitl will create a new online version of their experiential artwork Symphony Of A Missing Room, which will give the user a unique and surprising tour of the Summer Exhibition
  • To accompany the BBC Arts at… coverage of Museums At Night, the audience will be able to get involved in Museums At Night with VanGoYourself, a brand-new online campaign calling for the nation to submit photos of their own recreated versions of classic paintings and share the matched results via social media
  • BBC Arts Online will also follow violinist Nicola Benedetti and composer James MacMillan as they join the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s first tour of India

The Space – the BBC’s ambitious collaboration with Arts Council England – will relaunch in the summer with a series of new partnerships and collaborations.

Ambitious archive collaborations

The BBC is digitising its fantastic archive for people to enjoy.

The BBC is working towards an ambitious partnership with Tate sharing art, archive and curatorial expertise. Over the next three years Tate and the BBC will explore ways to make archived film and audio recordings of rare artist interviews publicly available. This builds on the work that the BBC and Tate have already undertaken in rediscovering and publishing important filmed interviews with Francis Bacon and Henry Moore.

BBC archive from the landmark series Civilisation will also feature in an upcoming Tate Britain exhibition that explores the legacy of art historian and broadcaster Kenneth Clark.

BBC Arts Online will feature major archive partnerships with the Royal Academy, focused on seminal Summer Exhibitions past, and will, with Glyndebourne, look at the remarkable history of the Festival in its 80th anniversary year.

The BBC continues to partner with the Public Catalogue Foundation on Your Paintings, with continuing great success – highlights include 400k unique users in February.

Supporting writers and celebrating books

The BBC continues to celebrate great authors and their works and develop drama adaptations. There will be a two-part Imagine with Philip Roth for BBC One, and in his new BBC Two series Radical Lives, Melvyn Bragg brings viewers his insights into the lives of two radical writers, John Ball and Thomas Paine. Other forthcoming commitments to supporting writers and celebrating literature include:

  • The Shakespeare Project for 2016 – there will be further filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays from the team behind The Hollow Crown for BBC Two, Shakespeare’s Richard III, and Henry VI in two parts, executive produced by Sam Mendes, produced by Rupert Ryle Hodges, and directed by Dominic Cooke
  • The BBC will be working in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company and with other organisations across the UK such as Shakespeare’s Globe and The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to commemorate the life of Shakespeare in 2016. The BBC and the Royal Shakespeare Company will also be collaborating on ‘Dream 16’ as they take A Midsummer Night’s Dream on an epic tour to partner theatres across the UK, with Bottom and his friends played by local amateur companies and Titania’s fairy train by primary school children.
  • Ambitious new drama strand Dialogues brings together exceptional writing and acting talent to BBC Four. Led by the Almeida Theatre’s Rupert Goold, featuring new and established writers including playwrights, novelists and poets, each short form drama will focus on just two characters, capturing the intimate quality of theatre alongside the narrative power of the very best television
  • In New Writing on BBC Radio 4, the station will introduce 10 new voices to radio in a dedicated fortnight of dramas by first or second-time writers, produced in Bristol, Salford, Wales and London. The season will include the first radio drama from inaugural winner of the BBC Writersroom Prize, Simon Topping, with ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ as well as the first radio play from the actor and novelist John Lynch and several new ones-to-watch including Caroline Horton and Lee Mattinson
  • Three northern writers have been commissioned to make a new piece of work for BBC Radio 3’s The Verb in partnership with Arts Council England. The competition winners are Louise Fazackerley, Matt Miller and John Hamilton May who will receive mentoring from partner organisations including Writing Squad in Yorkshire, Contact Theatre in Manchester and ARC in Stockton-on-Tees and a place on an Arvon writing course.
  • There will be a night of drama celebrating Paines Plough on BBC Radio 3. The award-winning, internationally renowned touring theatre company will be celebrating their 40th Anniversary, and Radio 3 will host a Paines Plough Night at the BBC Radio Theatre recognising their contribution to British theatre and acknowledging Radio 3’s role in championing the best of new writing
  • For the first time, BBC Arts Online will capture the best of the BBC’s literary content with a dedicated section, Books On The BBC. Treasures from the BBC’s TV and radio literary archive will appear alongside a wealth of new material
  • A new series on BBC Four – The Secret Life Of Books – created in partnership with the Open University – will explore the creation of six great literary works by returning to the earliest texts and writers’ notebooks and letters. Simon Russell Beale will explore Shakespeare’s First Folio of plays, with a focus on King Lear. Other works to be featured are Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and The Mabinogion
  • The BBC Radio 2 Book Club will continue to showcase new and exciting writers as well as household names, making books accessible for all, in partnership with BBC Learning The Book Club lives predominantly within Radio 2’s Simon Mayo Drivetime but will have a family feel across the network, with other presenters joining in by discussing the chosen books

Breaking down the walls – working more closely with artists and performers

A range of experts and presenters are already appearing across the BBC.

BBC Four recently featured performance artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd on What Do Artists Do All Day? while Tracey Emin’s gave a uniquely personal insight into the life and work of Louise Bourgeois for Secret Knowledge.

Darcey Bussell, Tamara Rojo and David Bintley featured in the recent Ballet Season on BBC Two, while Cerys Matthews is a regular presenter on The One Show. In the future, the BBC wants to find even more ways for artists and performers to speak for themselves across the BBC.

Audiences can see Antony Gormley on What Do Artists Do All Day? tomorrow evening and a future episode will include choreographer Akram Khan; whilst Zaha Hadid will present an exploration of Russian artist Kazimir Malevich for a new Secret Knowledge film.

BBC Radio 4 will broadcast Playing The Skyline, three special programmes in which musicians take wonderful landscapes, place them on a musical stave – and play the skyline.

Landmark moments

A new take on Civilisation will be commissioned for the digital age and will air on BBC Two.

BBC One’s The Big Picture will air early 2015 with an accompanying display at Tate. Alongside this, the BBC will celebrate great visual art. Simon Schama will explore the history of Britain through portraiture in a five-part series, The Face Of Britain, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. The Story Of Scottish Art for BBC Scotland is a four-part series made in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland. And, the award-winning team behind Freud: Painted Life will make David Hockney: A Life In Pictures, a portrait of the life and career of Hockney drawing on his unseen, private archives for BBC Two.

BBC Two will be working with Royal Collection Trust on a major project around the Royal Collection, building on the current partnership building on the current partnership set up to mark to the anniversary of the Hanoverian accession.

BBC Three is developing a new three-part series, The Orchestras, that will shine a light on the rarely seen world of classically trained young musicians as they look to establish themselves in one of the country’s most competitive industries. The public will be able to engage with the musicians via a dedicated social media offering to accompany the series.

The One Show Art Competition is launched next month with an opportunity for audiences to see their work displayed at the Royal Academy. BBC Radio 1’s Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw will join the judging panel in this exciting collaboration with The One Show and the Royal Academy.

BBC Four makes a song and dance

In 2015, BBC Four will dedicate a year of programming to exploring the extraordinary power of song and dance across a whole spectrum of eras and styles. The Golden Age Of Singing will see Sir Antonio Pappano explore the story of the classical voice across the last 500 years; there will be a major new initiative to find the young dance performers of the future in BBC Young Dancer, with auditions and heats taking place across the UK and the final at Sadler’s Wells; and The History Of Contemporary Dance will bring together the dance community in a new documentary and special gala performance in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells.

Nurturing children and young people

An exciting artistic collaboration is coming to BBC Two next year for Christmas in the form of an animated television premiere. Mimi And The Mountain Dragon is an original story by Michael Morpurgo, with design director Sylvain Chomet, screenplay by Welsh poet Owen Sheers and soundtrack composed by Rachel Portman, performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. It is an animated music film for TV and also a theatrical event performed in the concert hall with a live orchestra. In addition, it will have a life in the concert hall, to bring a whole new generation of young people to orchestral music, as the BBC’s film of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra did so memorably half a century ago.

BBC Three will explore the classical orchestra next year in observational documentary programming that lifts the lid on what it’s like to be a member of a working orchestra. There will also be new projects with emerging artists.

After winning a Children’s BAFTA last year, this Easter CBeebies is continuing its collaboration with the Northern Ballet with a production of The Three Little Pigs. Mr Bloom (aka Ben Faulks), the Northern Ballet and children from local schools in Halifax and Wakefield will take the audience on a magical adventure with three very funny little pigs. Recorded at The Victoria Theatre in Halifax, Mr Bloom will be joined on stage by some familiar friends as he narrates the traditional tale. The story will be brought to life through a combination of narrative and dance, as audiences at home are encouraged to join in with the moves.

CBBC, working with BBC Learning, has commissioned Movie Maniacs, an inspiring children’s show about films and film-making. Movie Maniacs is a child-led film show that celebrates all aspects of movie culture with a series of left-field reports, inventive strands and wild stunts where children look at all aspects of film from a humorous, off-beat angle. BBC Learning will also create inspirational resources for schools around the series.

Chris Evans launched 500 Words 2014 on his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show in January, with help from the competition’s Head Judge Richard Hammond, with 118,000 entries submitted. Returning to BBC Radio 2 for its fourth year, and joined on judging the panel by Malorie Blackman, 500 Words asks children aged 13 and under up and down the UK to put pen to paper to compose an original work of fiction using no more than 500 words. The medal-winners will be revealed to the nation, in the grand final, live from the Hay Festival in May.

With thanks to BBC Media

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